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Workout recovery tools are an important part of any fitness routine. They can help you feel better by relieving muscle pain, reducing tightness, and boosting mobility. All this can improve your performance and reduce your chance of injury.
Some examples of recovery tools are massage guns, personal massagers, foam rollers, Epsom salts, compression socks, and menthol creams.
In addition to enhancing your workout recovery, these products may be useful in helping you unwind after a long day of travel, school, or work.
Here are Healthline’s picks of the 9 best workout recovery tools of 2022.
- Best compression socks: Physix Gear Sport Compression Socks
- Best unscented Epsom salt: up&up Epsom Salt
- Best scented Epsom salt: Dr Teal’s Pure Epsom Salt Muscle Recovery Soak
- Best topical pain relief: Icy Hot Medicated Pain Relief Liquid
- Best massage gun: VYBE V2 Percussion Massager
- Best heated massage pad: Renpho Shiatsu Neck & Back Seat Massage Chair
- Best stretch strap: Gaiam Restore Stretch Band Strap
- Best medium-density foam roller: Gaiam Restore Compact Foam Roller
- Best firm-density foam roller: TriggerPoint Grid 1.0 Foam Roller
To select the best post-workout recovery tools for your needs, consider how much time you have, how you’re feeling, and your recovery goals.
If you’re accustomed to short, active sessions, consider using a massager, foam roller, or stretch strap. If your muscles are super sore directly after a workout, you can opt for a gentler routine and do a deep tissue session when your muscles are more relaxed.
You can also do a self-massage using a topical menthol product.
When time is on your side, you can opt for longer, passive sessions.
For example, you can take Epsom salt baths a few times per week, wear compression socks while elevating your legs, or sit or lie down while using a neck or back massager.
How we chose
To determine which workout recovery tools to include on our list, we considered the following factors:
- Value. The products offer plenty of quality and value for the cost.
- Brand reputation. All the products included have been vetted to ensure that they meet Healthline’s medical and business standards.
- Customer reviews. We selected products that have mostly positive customer ratings. There’s nothing like consulting folks who have actually used a product to find out all its best features — and where it might be lacking.
- Price. We know budgets can vary, so we included options at a variety of price points.
Best compression socks
- Price: $
Slip into a pair of compression socks after your workout to alleviate soreness and swelling.
This pair from Physix Gear provides a gentle massage, which many people find soothing and relaxing. A few customers report that they have higher energy levels due to improved blood circulation.
A few reviewers mention that their socks didn’t fit true to size, so that may be something to keep in mind as you shop.
Additionally, there may be risks associated with compression socks for some people. Read more from Healthline about factors you should consider before purchasing compression socks.
Best unscented Epsom salt
- Price: $
Taking an Epsom salt bath post-workout allows you to relax as you let go of pain and soreness.
For a no-frills option to alleviate tired, aching muscles, check out this affordable up&up Epsom salt that isn’t scented.
The magnesium sulfate contains no additives, so it’s a good option for people who have sensitive skin or fragrance sensitivities.
You can always add other ingredients to your bath, such as essential oils, vegetable oils, or baking soda, to suit your needs.
Best scented Epsom salt
- Price: $
Dr Teal’s Pure Epsom Salt Muscle Recovery Soak offers excellent value for the price, giving you a spa experience in the privacy of your home.
This particular blend contains arnica, menthol, and eucalyptus, which may help soothe tired, achy muscles.
While many people appreciate the smell, this blend does contain artificial fragrances, which may irritate people with skin and fragrance sensitivities.
Best topical pain relief
- Price: $
Containing 16% menthol, Icy Hot helps alleviate sore, painful muscles and pain associated with sprains, strains, and aches.
The fast-drying liquid comes in a convenient rollerball bottle for easy application. You can apply it to large areas or target smaller areas that need immediate relief. As you rub it into your skin, you can give yourself a gentle massage for further relaxation effects.
Use this product sparingly and be sure to do a patch test before using it, since some customers report that it can burn and irritate the skin.
Be sure to check with a healthcare professional before using Icy Hot if you’re pregnant.
Best massage gun
- Price: $$
Offering lots of quality for the price, the VYBE V2 Percussion Massager is a fantastic tool for targeting stiff, sore muscles to alleviate muscle tension, break up muscle knots, and improve mobility.
Suitable for your entire body, this massage device has six vibration speeds and comes with three massage tips for small muscle groups, large muscle groups, and deep tissue massage.
Though the massager comes with two rechargeable batteries, many reviewers say that the battery life doesn’t last long enough.
Another potential downside users note is that the device is loud when it’s running.
Best heated massage pad
- Price: $$$
Sit back in comfort on the Renpho Shiatsu Neck & Back Seat Massage Chair, which may help alleviate post-workout soreness, reduce muscle tension, and enhance relaxation.
It provides three intensity levels to deliver a shiatsu massage to your neck, shoulders, and back. The massager also gives you the option to target specific areas.
This heated massage pad is portable and fits on most chairs, which is convenient if you want to use it in multiple places.
However, some users report that the massager is too intense, even at the lowest setting.
Best stretch strap
- Price: $
Combining stretching and low resistance, this strap by Gaiam helps you go deeper in your stretches so you can alleviate tightness and soreness after an intense workout.
You can also use it to build strength while increasing flexibility and range of motion.
The stretch strap features six numbered loops that you can use to gradually increase the intensity of your stretches. It comes with a useful guide that explains how to get started with a post-workout routine.
However, a few customers report that this strap doesn’t provide enough resistance, and others say it’s too short for their needs.
Best medium density foam roller
- Price: $
The Gaiam Restore Compact Foam Roller provides enough pressure to alleviate muscle stiffness without causing pain.
The lightweight, compact design is perfectly portable and works well on smaller areas such as your neck, arms, and feet. However, you may need to roll your legs individually.
You can read more about Healthline’s favorite foam rollers here.
Best firm density foam roller
- Price: $$
Ideal for myofascial release, this foam roller has a patented multi-density surface that provides firm compression to target muscle knots. The TriggerPoint Grid 1.0 Foam Roller may help increase mobility, boost circulation, and alleviate tight muscles.
The compact design is small enough to fit into your gym bag for quick post-gym sessions. Plus, you can fill the hollow center with items to save space.
What are the benefits of using recovery tools?
Melissa Prestipino is a licensed physical therapist and certified personal trainer in Sparta, New Jersey.
“Recovery tools, such as foam rollers, massage guns, and massage sticks, help to increase circulation and blood flow, which helps to decrease post-exercise soreness,” Prestipino told Healthline.
“They can also help to alleviate tightness, reduce inflammation, and aid in tissue repair. Recovery tools can also promote greater flexibility and range of motion.”
What recovery tools are best for runners?
The best recovery tools for runners are foam rollers, massagers, and Epsom salt baths. Stretch straps are also great options.
Kelsey Decker, StretchLab XPRO for Xponential+, told Healthline, “A stretch strap is a great tool to recover after a high impact exercise such as running. It helps to release tight, sore muscles while also improving overall range of motion and reducing post-workout recovery time.
“A stretch strap helps runners to get into a deeper stretch than they could accomplish without a recovery tool. Specific areas include the quadriceps, hip flexors, hamstrings, and calves.”
Decker said that runners can also use a stretch strap to do proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation stretches.
What recovery tools are best for CrossFit?
The best recovery tools for CrossFit are those that will work on deeply releasing muscular tension and tightness to increase flexibility, mobility, and range of motion.
These include foam rollers, massagers, and compression socks. Epsom salt baths are also a fantastic choice.
Are there any dangers of using recovery tools?
If you have any chronic pain or recent injuries, it’s important to talk with a professional before using any recovery tool. During that conversation, you can ensure that the tools you want to use are appropriate for your condition and that you use them correctly.
Prestipino told Healthline that it’s important to use recovery tools as directed to avoid any side effects.
“If you plan to use recovery tools due to chronic pain, make sure to consult your local healthcare practitioners ahead of time,” she said.
Prestipino advises people with cancer to avoid recovery tools unless they are cleared by a doctor. She also said to avoid using a recovery tool if you have an infection or open wound.
“Using recovery tools such as compression stockings or devices would be contraindicated for conditions such as congestive heart failure, to avoid putting too much strain back on the heart,” she said.
“People prone to or [experiencing] deep vein thrombosis (DVT) or a blood clot would never want to use a recovery tool which could increase the chance of dislodging the clot.”
She said that people with osteoporosis or low bone density should be careful with tools such as massage guns to avoid bone injury.
“Recovery tools can cause further damage to muscle sprains or ligaments,” she said. “If a person has decreased sensation, such as with diabetic neuropathy, they should not use recovery devices in those areas.”
Workout recovery is an important part of your fitness plan. After each workout, take a break and let your body recover.
Create a collection of workout recovery tools that you can have on hand to easily move through a recovery session. Your session may include anything from a 10-minute massage gun session to a 30-minute Epsom salt bath.
It’s helpful to have a variety of tools and techniques available so you can intuitively decide what your body needs based on the type of workout, your time frame, and how you feel.
Always listen to your body and reach out to a healthcare professional or fitness expert if you feel you would benefit from support or guidance.