Best Recovery Methods to Ease Muscle Soreness

Runners often have their own "miracle cures" they swear by to relieve leg soreness that can crop up after a difficult or long run. But what really works to cure those aches--and what doesn't? We asked experts for their take on popular methods so you can feel fresh-footed in a flash.

The Cure Refueling
The Verdict Do it

Hydrating post-run is critical. Dehydration slows down all recovery body functions. Drinking H2O replenishes both cell and blood volume and helps regulate body temperature, which can enhance recovery, says Allan Goldfarb, Ph.D., an exercise physiologist at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro.

You must eat, too. "A 4-to-1 ratio of carbs and protein eaten within two hours of exercise is ideal for recovery," he says. (Or, try one of these 10 Best Post-Workout Recovery Bars.)

More: 15 Hydration Facts for Athletes

The Cure Ice bath
The Verdict Try it—maybe

Research on whether sitting in a chilly tub reduces post-run achiness is mixed—some studies report it helps; others say it makes no difference. Jason Karp, Ph.D., author of Running a Marathon for Dummies, says there is some evidence that cold water can lessen exercise-related muscle damage and inflammation, so it could benefit you after a particularly intense or long run (like a marathon) where your muscles have experienced the most damage. But if you're not up for the teeth-chattering treatment, don't feel compelled. However, "spot icing" to reduce pain and inflammation in an acute injury, like a twisted ankle, is smart.

The Cure Stretching
The Verdict Try it

Post-run stretching has its merits--it can improve range of motion and flexibility. But just don't expect it to ease your pain, says Stacy Sims, Ph.D., an exercise physiologist at the Stanford University School of Medicine. A Cochrane Summaries review of 12 studies reported that post-workout stretching reduced soreness by one point on a 100-point scale.

More: 5 Key Stretches For Runners

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