Reconfiguration of radial distribution networks is the basis of supply restoration after faults and of load balancing and loss minimization. The ability to automatically reconfigure the network quickly and efficiently is a key feature of autonomous and self-healing networks, an important part of the future vision of smart grids. We address the reconfiguration problem for outage recovery, where the cost of the switching actions dominates the overall cost: when the network reverts to its normal configuration relatively quickly, the electricity loss and the load imbalance in a temporary suboptimal configuration are of minor importance. Finding optimal feeder configurations under most optimality criteria is a difficult optimization problem. All known complete optimal algorithms require an exponential time in the network size in the worst case, and cannot be guaranteed to scale up to arbitrarily large networks. Hence most works on reconfiguration use heuristic approaches that can deliver solutions but cannot guarantee optimality. These approaches include local search, such as tabu search, and evolutionary algorithms. We propose using optimal informed search algorithms in the A* family, introduce admissible heuristics for reconfiguration, and demonstrate empirically the efficiency of our approach. Combining A* with admissible cost lower bounds guarantees that reconfiguration plans are optimal in terms of switching action costs. © 2012 IEEE.