Recovery Shoes for the Triathlete

What footwear (shoes) do you wear between workouts? (this includes work shoes)

Did you know footwear (shoes) worn between workouts is as important as running or cycling shoes during the workout?

Did you know that recovery footwear (shoes) can have as great an impact on injury prevention as those chosen for the workouts?

What is recovery? It’s the time between one workout and the pre-workout time before your next effort.

As a coach, it’s amazing how many conversations I have about knees, back, hip, pelvic, shoulder, and neck joints.  Yet, the feet are as important or more important than all of them. Constantly I see athletes quickly shift from a workout (especially run) directly into an unsupportive work shoe or worse, flip flops or heels. Undoubtedly they are experiencing, at the least, incomplete recovery of the feet.

Know your feet

  • What are the structural needs of your foot. Do you require orthotics?  It is important to recognize the foot has (4) arches. A medial, longitudinal, navicular, and metatarsal. One or all of these need TLC!
  • How strong are your feet?  Ironically, many could benefit from foot strengthening exercises. As we land or push off in stride rate or pedal stroke, the foot must play a significant role in every moment. If the foot lacks conditioning, there will be compromise. This can be a cause of “shin splints”.
  • When was your last pedicure?  Not just about toenails, skin care of the feet is critical to maintaining health of the overall system. Callouses should be monitored and lotion applied to dry cracked skin.

Characteristics of good recovery athletic footwear

  • Does the support of the shoe mimic the needs of your foot? For instance, if you wear orthotics in your running shoes, do you have arch supports after the workout?
  • Does the shoe offer compression?  The recovery shoe industry is growing as public awareness develops. Top coaches and athletes agree that compression is a fantastic recovery aid and presto.. there are shoe companies trying to deliver. The challenge is, of course, not everyone has the same shape and size of foot.  At this time the Salomon and KSwiss shoes are highly reviewed. I don’t have personal experience with either one. Instead, I chose a compression SOCK (not just a calf sleeve) and open shoe (Birkenstock. others like Oofos).
  • Does the material breath? Not all memory foam materials are the same. This is also true of footbeds that are “cushy”. Some hold body heat which is not great for recovery and reduction of edema (swelling). In addition, if the feet continue to sweat toe fungus and other skin conditions can develop.
  • What is the heel/toe drop?  For those new to this idea, that means the amount of elevation the heel has over the toe.  Some shoes are 0mm (many barefoot and minimalist shoes) and others are up to 12mm.  Somewhere in the middle is the correct drop for you. If you run in 0-4mm, you may discover the 10+mm recovery works very well as it aids in relief of the achilles tendon and calf muscles. If you run in a 8+mm shoe then you may need to mimic that for recovery. For the later group (8+mm)I have found that going to a 0mm is too aggressive and (over time) can be structurally challenging to other parts of the body (ie back).
  • What is the material longevity of the foot bed? Many shoes offer a “slipper” feel but the foot bed breaks down very quickly. If you are wearing your recovery shoes long periods during the day, this is very important to consider.
  • Suggested options:
    This is not an advertisement for any company nor an exhaustive list. However, it an about thinking through the process of evaluating what’s in your closet.
    OOfos OOah Slide, Addidas addissage II slide, Montrail Lithia Slide, Birkenstock Arizona, Superfeet FLP

Work Shoes:
Quality work shoes follow similar ideas but there are differences.

  • For instance. you don’t want compression factors. Instead, the toe box needs to be wide enough for forefoot movement.
  • Insure there is minimal Heel/Toe drop – no matter who you are. Sorry ladies, I’ve yet to find a “heel” that falls under the optimal category.  We all wear them (yes, me too!) and must know the challenges of doing so.
  • The material should be more rigid and not “slipper (isk)”.  It’s important to remember that athletic recovery shoes assume the foot is in a compromised and/or swollen state which means you do need to allow for reduction of size. Quality work shoes work to help support the foot and must be a more stable design.
  • Does the shoe have a removable inner sole for an OTC (over the counter) orthotic? If necessary, can you use a 3/4 insole instead of full length?
  • Suggested companies: Mephisto, Ecco, Born, Clark, Dansko, Birkenstock, Finn Comfort
    This is not an advertisement for any company nor an exhaustive list. However, it an about thinking through the process of evaluating what’s in your closet.

As with running shoes, it is a good idea to change or at least evaluate your recovery shoes often and change if necessary. I’ve had my Birkenstocks for years. Admittedly I avoided their dated look but after (2) foot surgeries, I am a believer and have them as my evening slippers at home.

Happy Feet are Fast Feet!

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