The Science Behind Recovery Shoes: How Do They Work?

The Science Behind Recovery Shoes

After a long run or a strenuous day on your feet, it can be tempting to kick off your everyday shoes and collapse right into bed. When your feet are sore from lots of movement, having shoes off might feel like the fastest track to recovering them.

But what if you had a pair of shoes that made foot recovery even more comfortable?

With recovery shoes, you can finish your day strong, move through your active recovery routine with ease, or simply make your feet more comfortable while they bounce back to their sore-free state.

What Are Recovery Shoes?

First of all, what is a recovery shoe?

Recovery shoes are a type of footwear that is designed to help your feet recover after more intense physical activity. They’re meant to be more comfortable than your standard shoe, encourage pressure distribution, and often provide a massage-like feel while you walk.

The Biomechanics of Foot Recovery

Biomechanics in this context refers to the way your feet and legs move. During physical activity, we’re pushing our bodies, and it’s important that we’re doing so safely. The recovery process helps our bodies adjust back to equilibrium with these main aspects:

  • Impact reduction and shock absorption
  • Pressure distribution and equalization
  • Enhanced blood circulation

What are recovery shoes, then? They’re the shoes that help ensure your recovery is safe, comfortable, and effective.

Impact Reduction and Shock Absorption

One of the main goals of a recovery shoe is shock absorption, which reduces the pressure placed on your body from the impact of walking, running, or physical activity for an extended period.

The bottom of recovery shoes are extra thick and cushioned, with special material designed for additional shock-absorbing properties than the average sneaker. The added support of a good recovery shoe absorbs the kinetic energy created from the foot’s impact against the ground, and redistributes it. This means the shoe absorbs the excess strain, so the impact on your body is reduced.1

Impact reduction is essential in recovery, as your body has already endured some strain from your workout or long day on your feet. With added shock absorption, you’re alleviating pressure from your already tired feet and legs, which helps aid in injury prevention and also allows you to feel relief.

Pressure Distribution and Equalization

Along the same lines of shock absorption is equalization. Recovery shoes work to distribute the pressure against your feet and joints more evenly to add stability and comfort.

A good recovery shoe is contoured to best fit your foot and support your body during the recovery process. This may include features such as a high arch, a high sidewall, or a deep heel cup. These are designed to maximize foot contact, so the pressure is distributed evenly throughout the entire foot rather than excess strain on one specific area.

These features also encourage stability, as your foot is secure and equalized in the contour of the footbed of the shoe. This can help alleviate fatigue and further aid with injury prevention.

Enhanced Blood Circulation

The footbed of a recovery shoe is often textured. While this is comfortable and provides a massage feel for your foot, there is an added bonus: blood circulation.

In the same way that a general massage improves blood circulation, your recovery shoes do, too. The texture provides varied pressure against the bottoms of your feet, which encourages blood flow and the release of pressure in those areas. This then allows new blood to flow in.

Blood circulation is incredibly beneficial for post-activity recovery. That increased blood flow supplies the worn muscles with fresh oxygen while also removing the waste accumulated during intense movement.

Impact on Muscle Fatigue and Soreness

One of the greatest benefits of recovery shoes is that they can reduce muscle fatigue and soreness in tired feet.

We know now that recovery shoes work to enhance blood circulation by massaging the pressure areas in your feet. This blood circulation is the crucial process of reducing muscle fatigue and foot soreness.

The increased blood flow helps rebuild muscle tissue, allowing for a faster recovery while reducing muscle fatigue. Increased blood flow also relaxes the muscles, reduces stiffness of the body, and can reduce the inflammation in your feet.

The extra shoe cushioning also helps with support and shock absorption. It takes much of the pressure off your joints so your body can focus on rest and your muscles can repair and heal. All of these factors work to ease the pain and soreness in your legs and feet, especially after a long day.

EVA Foam and Cushioning Technology

You may have seen EVA listed in the product details during your search for a comfortable pair of recovery shoes.

EVA is short for ethylene-vinyl acetate and it is a stretchy foam similar to rubber. EVA foam has many uses, but it is commonly found in footwear like performance and recovery shoes.2

EVA foam is lightweight, flexible, and can be molded to form-fit your feet. Along with providing comfort and support, EVA cushioning technology is incredible for shock absorption. With EVA foam, recovery shoes are able to soften the impact against your feet and joints when you exercise.

Orthotic Support for Arch and Heel

Orthotic insoles are a foam medical solution designed to help treat foot and ankle conditions like overpronation (flat feet). They work to correct the alignment of the foot, encouraging proper joint movement while alleviating pain.3

The contoured properties of recovery shoes may provide some relief to those with overpronation by offering ample arch support and a deep heel cup. This design allows the foot to lay securely on the footbed without rogue movement to keep the foot stable and comfortable.

Temperature Regulation in Recovery Shoes

You know those nights when sticking one foot out from under the covers is the key to a comfortable sleep? Recovery shoes achieve that same goal.

Our feet play a major part in regulating body temperature.4 During physical activity, your temperature increases, which means as your body recovers, it’s also working on cooling you down.

Wearing the right shoe during recovery may be just the thing to help this cooldown process. To promote cooling in a particularly warm climate, choose a recovery sandal like our Rejuvenate Recovery Sandal. Or, choose a recovery sneaker that’s designed with breathable materials.

Whatever the form, recovery shoes and their lightweight nature are breathable, so your shoes aren’t trapping excess moisture and your skin feels cooler. Cooling down your feet is one of the fastest ways to regulate your body temperature after a hard workout.

Comparing Recovery Shoes to Standard Footwear

There seem to be many similarities between recovery shoes and standard footwear. Your performance shoes are also designed for maximum comfort, so what’s the difference?

  • Recovery soothes; standard supports – Standard performance shoes are designed to support your feet during exercise, work, or other high-movement activities. Recovery shoes are specifically designed to regulate blood circulation after a long workout, reduce foot swelling, and ease the stress from your joints.
  • Recovery shoes work overtime – Recovery shoes often have extra cushioning, greater shock absorption, and more flexibility than that of a standard performance shoe. These features work to take as much of the pressure off your feet as possible, allowing your body to rest.
  • Recovery shoes shouldn’t be worn all day – Standard footwear and performance shoes are made to be worn for long hours at a time to support your feet during the hard impact of a workout. By contrast, recovery shoes are not meant to be worn all day, or even a longer extended period for that matter. Their use is intended solely for passive recovery, as well as active recovery periods in some cases. This also helps prolong the life of the shoe and its healing effect.

With these main differences outlined, you can keep an eye out for some key features when on the lookout for the best recovery shoe.

Key Features to Look for in Recovery Shoes

So you’ve asked “what are athletic recovery shoes?” and are now beginning your search. When looking for your ideal recovery shoe, here are a few key features to look for:

  1. Recovery shoes with sufficient arch support so the bottoms of your feet are supported after your workout.
  2. Lightweight and breathable designs like mesh, holes, or open-toed shoes.
  3. A textured footbed to give your feet massaging relief while also promoting blood circulation.
  4. Adjustable straps so you always have the perfect fit despite the post-workout inflammation.

While everyone’s ideal recovery shoe may look different, those are just a few features that will maximize anyone’s recovery routine.

Choosing the Right Recovery Footwear for Your Needs

When you’re picking your recovery shoe, keep those key features in mind to find what’s right for you.

If you’re planning on practicing active recovery and keeping your body moving after a workout, choose a comfortable shoe that is contoured and breathable to get you through your active recovery exercise with ease. And if you are new to this concept of exercise and are wondering, “what is active recovery?”, we’ve got you covered!

If you’re planning on passive recovery and are just looking to get out of those sneakers, choose a recovery shoe with plenty of cushioning.

If you know you need extra arch support to help mitigate any chance of foot pain, the recovery shoe with ample cushioning under the arches may be the choice for you.

Rock Recovery With Vionic

What is recovery footwear? The very thing you need to maximize comfort during your post-workout or post-activity recovery. Whether it’s to feel a relieving massage against your feet or to help alleviate soreness, recovery shoes are here to help you make the most of your rest.

Here at Vionic, we’ve got the recovery shoes for you. Our Rejuvenate Recovery Sandal includes a molded EVA footbed with a high sidewall and a deep heel cup for stability and added support. It even has a textured footbed to add a foot massage with every walking step. With Vionic, you’ll transform your recovery experience and put yourself on track to maintaining healthy feet.



  1. “The Science Behind Insoles in Shoes.” Medium. 17 September, 2023.
  2. “What is an EVA foam and its common uses?” Foam Sealant. 256 May, 2015.
  3. “What are orthotics and how do they benefit you.” Neuhaus Foot and Ankle
  4. Diller, Kenneth. “Beat the Heat Through the Hands and Feet.” UT News. 5 September, 2019.

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