There’s nothing better than the feeling of putting on runner’s slides, sandals or flip flops after a long run!
It’s not just the open air and ventilation – it’s the freedom and comfort that they can offer to aid your recovery.
But sandals, slides and flip flips (aka. “thongs” in Australia) often get a bad rap due to their lack of support and cushioning.
Wearing recovery slides for runners can have lots of great benefits though, if you choose the right ones.
So we’ve decided to put together a list of Physiotherapist-recommended runner’s slides, sandals and flip flops for recovery.
Key features to consider when buying open shoes for runners
Sandals and open shoes have been around since before Roman times – Roman soldiers used to fight in snowy mountainous terrain in leather sandals! #badass
So it seems fair to go through the features of different designs of some open shoes and what they offer.
This image compares the main design features of sandals and flip flops. We’ll cover recovery slides separately.
The design of a sandal allows for a relaxed foot as the foot doesn’t need to grip or brace to hold on to the shoe.
They’re bound around the ankle to keep them in place and may offer different levels of cushioning and arch support (the pictured pairs don’t have either cushioning or support).
By comparison, the flip flop (aka. “thong”) on the right of the image doesn’t secure itself to the foot.
Rather, the foot needs to grip the toe piece by slightly scrunching the toes.
Flip flops can also offer cushioning and stability (again, both absent from the pair in the image).
Runner’s slides are a separate consideration as they can actually fit into both categories.
A well-fitted slide will secure itself to the foot by having a snug fit and shape that wraps slightly around the foot and heel.
A loose fitting slide will need the foot to brace as it lands in order to hold the shoe in place.
Pros and cons of open shoes for runners
The key features of runner’s slides, sandals and flip flops are how they’re secured to the foot, the cushioning provided and the level of support.
Slides, sandals and flip flops for recovery
A well-fitted recovery slide or a sandal is great for this as it doesn’t take any extra work to hold it in place.
Add some cushioning to that and the muscles don’t have to absorb impact on foot strike.
With support, the muscles won’t have to work as hard to maintain the foot position as you walk.
So the best runner’s slides for recovery are snug-fitting, cushioned and supportive – we’ve got some great choices for you below.
This type of runner’s slides or sandals can help with tendon issues and bone stress injuries (in their early stages), for example Tibialis Posterior Tendinopathy or Calcaneal (heel) bone stress reactions.
Slides, sandals and flip flops for training value or recovery
Sometimes you actually want to the foot to stretch out to help recovery, or you want the muscles to work harder to develop strength.
In that case, you’re looking for a shoe that requires some work from the surrounding muscles.
A flip flop will strengthen the toe muscles as they’ll need to work harder to hold on to the shoe.
A flatter shoe (ie. less supportive) will allow the foot to stretch out, which can be really helpful for those with minor arch tightness issues.
And a less cushioned shoe will make the foot muscles and quads work harder to absorb the foot’s impact on landing.
So if you’re looking for recovery slides, flip flops or sandals to stretch out tight muscles, you’d choose a flatter design.
If you’re looking to train your foot muscles to get stronger, you’d opt for the flip flop (thong) design with the piece between your toes (incidentally, that piece between the toes is called a “toe thong”, thus the Australian name for flip flops).
If you’re looking to strengthen around knees, an unpadded hard shoe design would theoretically help but there’s better ways to strengthen your quads (um, like a strength program).
Remember though, if your muscles are constantly tired and fatigued, you need to work on recovery before you can work on strength. If your hip muscles are already exhausted, trying to make them work harder after a run is only going to add to the problem.
In that case, you can start with runner’s slides or sandals for recovery, then as your symptoms improve, switch to a runner’s flip flop for strengthening.
The best recovery slides
The best recovery sandals
The best recovery flip flops
The best shoes for strengthening your feet
Disclaimer for The Best Runner’s Slides, Sandals and Flip Flops
**Special note: this article has Physiotherapist-recommended products with affiliate links to trusted vendors, selected for their fast & reliable service and great prices. The article was written prior to sourcing the affiliate links and the links in no way influence our recommendations.