From compression socks to salt tablets, here’s how to optimise your marathon recovery.

Well done! You’ve just finished a marathon, and now you’re wondering how to recover before your legs get heavy and you eat enough pasta to fuel a week’s training.

A lot of first-time marathon runners don’t know how to recover correctly. They finish their race, head to the pub for a quick pint or two to celebrate and then indulge in a massive meal before heading to bed. And while we encourage you to celebrate – running a marathon is an enormous achievement – there are certain things you can do to make the recovery process that much easier.

This article explains what to do from the minute you cross the finish line to 3-6 days after your 26.2 event.

How long do you need to recover after a marathon?

Recovery ability varies from person to person. One runner may need 3-5 days of rest, while the other may need upwards of 1 week. 

You should take off at least 5-6 days before returning to very low-intensity running. If you try to run and do too much too soon, you increase your injury risk and only delay your recovery.

Continue reading for tips on how to optimise your recovery in the best way so you can return to running sooner.

How to recover after a marathon 

The second you cross the finish line, you’ll likely want to stop. But as tempting as it may be to lie on the hot tarmac, do your best to keep moving.

Walk off the marathon legs for the next 10-15 minutes. If you have the energy, you can do a short and very low-intensity jog. The goal here is to lower your heart rate, flush out any toxins and lactic acid, and control blood flow. You’ll improve your recovery and reduce your injury risk by doing this.

Once you’ve cooled down, get changed into some clean and comfy clothes — if you don’t look like Adam Sandler on a regular outing, you’ve done something wrong. If your legs are screaming at you, you might want to apply a cream such as the Styrkr cooling sports cream — it’s anti-inflammatory. It reduces inflammation and improves circulation for better recovery.

Eat and drink something

After your run, the last thing you probably want to do is eat. You may feel sick or nauseous, and your stomach is full of energy gels, sweets, and insufficient water.

If possible, do your best to get some quality carbohydrates. If that’s a struggle, eat whatever you can, but avoid very sugary snacks and energy drinks. You want to replace your depleted glycogen stores — it’ll help you feel better and will improve your recovery.

Make sure to drink plenty of water as well. There’s a very good chance you’re dehydrated, which won’t help when you’re already feeling sick. Top up your fluids and avoid that post-run pint (as tempting as it may be).

If you have cramps, salt and sodium will help. STL07 hydration tablets contain 500mg of sodium, 100mg of potassium, 25mg of magnesium, and 15mg of calcium. You can also take a hydration tablet during your run to boost performance and prevent those race-stopping cramps.

Later that day

A few hours after the race — and perhaps after a short nap — try to stomach more food. By now, you’ll likely have more of an appetite. Take advantage of this and sit down for a meal. 

Choose something that contains a mix of carbohydrates, proteins, veggies, and fats. Don’t overthink it! If the lasagna looks good, have the lasagna. If the tomahawk steak is calling your name, answer it. 

Eat something and reward yourself for completing the 26.2 miles. Continue to drink plenty of fluids. Also, don’t try to drink too much water at once. Instead, aim for at least 440-500ml an hour.

Take an ice or hot bath

If you want to fast-track your recovery further, take an ice bath. Cold exposure will help remove waste products from the muscles and deliver freshly oxygenated blood to improve your recovery. If you’re not a fan of the cold and that sounds like torture, a hot bath can help alleviate muscle soreness.

Try and get plenty of sleep

You’d think that you’d have no problem falling asleep after running 26.2 miles. But ask any marathon runner, and they’ll tell you just how difficult it can be to fall asleep. Your legs are twitching, adrenaline is in your system, and you’re thinking about your race.

If you can’t sleep, don’t stress it. Do something to relax, whether reading a book, journaling, stretching, or listening to soothing music or an audiobook. 

The worst thing you can do is watch the clock, scroll through Instagram or TikTok, and pump your brain full of dopamine.

1-3 days after finishing the marathon

The day after your marathon, you’ll likely wake up with DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness). This muscle soreness and fatigue typically lasts between 3-5 days.

Walking, using the toilet, and doing basic tasks may be painful. But it will go away! As they say: pain is temporary, but the pride of running your first marathon is forever. Okay, they don’t say that, but you get the point!

As tempting as it may be to stay in bed or on the sofa binge-watching your favourite show, get outside and do some active recovery. It can be anything from a short walk, a gentle swim, or a bike ride.

Low-intensity exercise sends freshly oxygenated blood to the muscles to improve recovery. Avoid anything too taxing.

Furthermore, in the following days, eat plenty of carbohydrates to replenish glycogen stores and enough protein to help repair and rebuild muscle damage. Again, don’t overthink it! A well-balanced diet is what you need.

Wear compression socks to improve recovery

One study investigated the effect of compression socks on functional recovery in marathon runners. Runners were randomly assigned to one of two groups: a placebo group who wore socks (that looked like compression socks) and a control group who wore below-knee compression socks. The results found that wearing compression socks (21–28 mm Hg at the calf) for 48 hours after a marathon significantly improved recovery by as much as 6%.

Make sure to get a pair that fits well and contains the right amount of compression to receive the benefits.

Get a massage

One study investigating the effects of different recovery strategies following a half marathon found massage and cold therapy to be more effective than active and passive recovery.

If possible, skip the massage at the event and have a massage 1-2 days later. A massage will help flush excess lactic acid and muscle waste out of the body. You can also self-massage using a foam roller, massage gun, or by doing static stretches.

3-6 days after finishing the marathon

In the next 3-6 days, keep up your active recovery. Even a small walk can help reduce those DOMS and improve your recovery. Avoid running for at least 5-6 days, but stay active.

On days 5-6, if you feel up to it – the keyword here being “if” – try a short 15-20 minute run. Look for any aches, pains, or discomfort. Keep it very low-intensity and no higher than zone 2. 

Slowly add more runs to your training, but listen to your body. Prioritise rest and avoid speed sessions, long runs, or hard intervals for a while. Let your body recover by providing everything it needs — active recovery, plenty of nutrients, lots of water, and plenty of sleep.

A few extra recovery tips 

  • Don’t just sit on the sofa – prioritise active recovery 
  • Gradually return to running and strength training
  • Prioritise sleep
  • Get in the water (swim)
  • Take plenty of hot baths


How do you recover faster after a marathon? To recover faster after a marathon, drink plenty of water, eat to replenish your glycogen stores, take an ice bath, and wear compression socks for up to 48 hours.

What helps sore legs after a marathon? Compression socks, massages, and hot or cold baths can help sore legs after a marathon.

What is the post-marathon syndrome?

Post-marathon syndrome can leave you feeling lost and aimless. Because you’ve been training for months with a goal and now have achieved it, there’s a “what’s next” mentality.