A foam roller can be an amazing workout recovery tool. The best foam roller can help smooth out the tension and kinks that build up from daily stresses, such as sitting most of the day while working. And if you’ve been working out at home, a foam roller might be the closest option you have to a massage until your local spas reopen.
Foam rolling is extremely popular in the fitness world since it’s used to increase range of motion and help ease muscle tightness and muscle soreness. Foam rolling is kind of like using a rolling pin on your muscles — it can feel intense at first, but if you are consistent with the practice, it will aid in muscle recovery. Plus, the process will feel good, and you’ll notice less muscle tension and soreness over time. Further, a muscle roller can be used for deep tissue massage, to loosen up a tight muscle, for myofascial release, to increase blood flow and more.
When shopping, you’ll want to select a foam roller based on your needs and personal preferences. If you have an injury or experience chronic pain, you don’t want to use a roller that is very dense or firm. Firm rollers are designed to give you a deep massage, which is helpful for athletes with tight muscles. If you travel a lot you may want a compact roller that is easy to pack in a suitcase, but if you plan to use it at home, a bigger roller is easier to use. Luckily, foam rollers come in a variety of textures, density, and sizes to fit your needs.
Below, fitness trainers and a physical therapist share their tried-and-true top foam roller picks, which we update periodically. If you’re looking for the best foam roller for your needs, we’re here to help you find it.
The TriggerPoint Core foam roller is good for people new to foam rolling since it’s a bit softer than other rollers. TriggerPoint designed the grid pattern on the roller to mimic a massage therapist’s hand so it feels like you are getting a massage at home.
“I love the TriggerPoint as you’re able to roll out your entire body, including your back,” says Holly Roser, certified personal trainer. “This foam roller will help loosen up your iliotibial band (IT band) which is one of the most important locations to foam roll to avoid knee pain. I love this foam roller as it doesn’t wear down like most foam rollers will over time, in addition, it releases the muscle adhesions faster, as it’s applying more pressure to the muscle fiber directly.
“For the best results, hold the foam roller on one spot for 30 seconds, it should feel tender and maybe slightly painful, which is normal. Roll out your quads, hamstrings, calves, glutes, upper and lower back to reduce muscle soreness and increase mobility.”
This Luxfit foam roller is a no-frills roller perfect for if you don’t want to spend a lot but still want the benefits of foam rolling. The smaller size foam roller is good for travel, too. This is a high-density roller, meaning it will feel pretty firm — you may want to start with a softer roller if you’ve never used one before or have any chronic pain or injuries.
“The Luxfit High Density Foam Roller is effective, durable and affordable,” says Heather Marr, certified personal trainer and co-founder of Liftologie. “It comes in several different sizes, with the smallest size (12 inch) priced just under $9. The Luxfit is lightweight with a very firm texture and smooth surface. This makes it a great choice for those looking for a less intense roller that still gets the job done.”
The Vyper 2.0 is a vibrating foam roller — which sounds a bit weird — but the vibration helps blunt any pain or soreness. You can think of it kind of like a massage gun and foam roller combined.
“I love this roller because it vibrates and melds into the fascia, opening up the muscle spindles,” says Brooke Taylor, certified trainer and founder of Taylored Fitness. “It aids in improved performance and recovery returning the body to a neutral state and breaking up the adhesions.”
The OPTP Pro-Roller is a softer foam roller that measures 36 inches in length. Although this roller takes up more space because it’s so long, you can do a lot more with it — like lie on it to help release your spine and roll both of your legs easily at the same time.
“This roller is soft but still supportive,” says Heather Jeffcoat, physical therapist and founder of Fusion Wellness PT. “Many foam rollers are too hard for my patients that have chronic pain. This version allows them to get a comfortable postural stretch and later transition to release work on the same roller without all the direct pain a firm roller can cause.”
The TriggerPoint Grid foam roller is a firmer foam roller that is actually hollow on the inside. It’s firmer than the Core roller, but has the same grid design that is supposed to mimic a massage therapist’s hand.
“I love the TriggerPoint performance Grid foam roller. I think it has the best combination of foam firmness and texture of all the rollers I’ve ever tried,” says Pamela Kalechofsky, certified stretch therapist at Stretch Relief and yoga instructor. “Some are way too hard, some too soft, others don’t have the trigger points positioned perfectly the way this one does. And I also love the size, it’s amazing.”
“I like this one for my patients that have specific peripheral spots like their quads or calves that require some extra pressure to get in and release the tissue,” Jeffcoat says. “This foam roller has firm knobs and softer rows so you can adjust the level of pressure over the area. It’s also hollow, so it travels well.”
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The information contained in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as health or medical advice. Always consult a physician or other qualified health provider regarding any questions you may have about a medical condition or health objectives.