From running to lifting weights to sitting at a desk all day, there are a lot of things that can make our bodies tense and sore. Foam rolling is a great way to give your muscles some relief. It's essentially like getting a massage, except you can do it yourself. Foam rollers vary in size, texture, and density and it's important to pick the right foam roller for your body, experience level, and situation.
To make this process easier for you, we picked out our 10 favorite foam rollers to buy online. If you read further, we included a buying guide approved by a professional trainer that is full of helpful tips! Our top pick is LuxFit's Speckled Foam Roller, a smooth and dense roller that's great for rolling out sore muscles or integrating them into a workout. Keep reading to see the rest of our picks!
If you've ever massaged a sore muscle, you know the "hurts so good" feeling that accompanies it. Foam rolling is essentially this, but using a foam cylinder to get hard-to-reach muscles like your hamstrings, glutes, and back.
While limited scientific studies have been done on the effects of foam rolling, early research and anecdotal evidence suggest that it has multiple benefits.
It can help relieve sore muscles and reduce inflammation. When paired with stretching, it has been shown to increase the range of motion. It also may be helpful for easing back pain and other tension in the body.
Foam rollers are great tools for warm-ups and recovery. I foam roll before, and sometimes after, every workout. A term you will see a lot with foam rollers is self-myofascial release (SMR), which means to loosen tight muscles and knots.
Foam rollers will help reduce post-workout soreness and prep your body for workouts where tight muscles could lead to further injury. Foam rollers can also be used for additional exercises and stretching that can be incorporated into your mobility and exercise routine.
When choosing a foam roller, it is important that you consider things such as length, diameter, density, and texture so that you can find one that meets your needs and provides the best comfort.
When choosing a foam roller one of the most important aspects to look at is the density. Density can be broken down into three categories: soft, medium, and firm.
If you are a beginner, have sensitive muscles, or just prefer a less intense massage, a soft density roller is for you. The soft density has more give and cushion to provide comfort as opposed to a deeper massage. Soft foam rollers are made from polyethylene to allow movement between your muscles, bones, and the roller.
A soft density roller is best for those who are new to foam rolling or those who need lighter pressure. The softer material will flex more to the body while still offering enough to add a light massage to the muscles. These are best for seniors and beginners. I would not recommend these to those who exercise regularly.
If you're looking for something you can use for self-massage and exercise, a medium foam roller is your answer.
Made with closed-cell polyethylene or ethylene vinyl acetate (EVA) foam, this roller is firm enough to provide a deep massage while still having a moderate cushion. Medium-density rollers are stable for core strengthening in yoga and pilates classes.
Medium-density rollers are usually going to be a safe middle ground. Most people who exercise regularly - but not necessarily with high intensity - would benefit from using a medium-density roller. You get the benefits of massage from these, but it doesn't dig as deep. Medium-density rollers are not as painful to use as high-density rollers.
If you are more experienced with foam rollers, a firm density roller is for you. Firm rollers are usually used by athletes or individuals who often struggle with tight muscles or intense workouts.
Firm rollers are great at releasing the tightest muscles. Most high-density rollers are made from closed cell EVA or expanded polypropylene (EPP). They can sometimes have a solid plastic core, which provides additional support beneath the foam.
Firm rollers are typically what most gyms carry. They will apply the most resistance and pressure for those looking to use SMR to release knots and tight muscles.
These are usually the best option for most individuals who are more advanced exercisers or athletes due to the deep tissue massage they provide, which can be painful and unbearable for most. High-density rollers also tend to be more versatile because of their durability.
When it comes to the texture of a foam roller, different textures serve different purposes. A smooth roller is the most basic design. Smooth rollers provide even pressure across the entire length of the roller. This would be a good choice for beginners or individuals who like less intense pressure.
These may be a good choice for someone who needs a gentler roller to ease their pain. This is a great choice for those with back pain, for example. Smooth rollers also have the most versatility and can be used for an infinite amount of exercises.
If you're looking for a deeper massage, choose a roller with dimples or ridges. The dimples on the roller target the trigger points in the muscles and relieve muscle tightness. Keep in mind that a dimple foam roller may be painful if you're not used to a concentrated massage. The intensity that a roller with ridges can provide is great for runners who need more pressure to relieve their tight muscles.
Smooth foam rollers are an overall great tool. These are the most common ones you'll find, particularly in gyms. Smooth foam rollers are also the most versatile.
Textured foam rollers are better for those who are looking to target trigger points or particularly difficult knots. I would recommend smooth foam rollers for beginners because textured rollers can apply deeper pressure.
There are many diameters, lengths, and shapes available. You may want to purchase several depending on what you need!
If you are looking at a full-size foam roller, it usually measures 36 inches in length and six inches in diameter. This size is ideal for larger muscle groups like hamstrings, quads, or your back. The length is ideal for exercises where you align the roller with your spine for a deep massage, like pilates, and also for physical therapy.
I personally prefer full-size foam rollers. They're easier to use when you go through a routine to roll your entire body. What I also like is that you don't have to focus on just one part or side of your body.
For instance, you can roll both of your (upper leg/thigh muscles) at the same time. I also love to roll out my back in the mornings if I'm tight after sleeping awkwardly the night before. This is difficult to do with a smaller roller.
If you're interested in taking your foam roller with you to pilates or on a weekend away, you may want to consider getting a travel size. Most short rollers have the same diameter as a full-size roller but feature a length of 12 to 18 inches. The shorter design is ideal for targeting smaller areas like calves or glutes. They're more often used to stretch the legs and feet.
Not every gym is going to have foam rollers, and no one wants to carry around a large piece of equipment. Small foam rollers are great because they're easy to toss into a gym bag or bring along when you travel.
Small foam rollers are also great if your gym has larger, smooth rollers but you would like something that's textured and can target your muscles and knots differently.
If you are in physical therapy or struggle with your sense of balance, being lower to the floor might be in your best interest. Choose a smaller diameter of four inches to have more control over your foam roller and target shoulder muscles better than a larger roller would.
Smaller diameter rollers are good for some of the smaller muscles or areas, such as the back of the neck, that you want to roll but cannot target as well with a larger roller. A smaller diameter may also make it easier to balance when rolling or if you are using it for exercises that work your deep core stabilizers.
People who struggle with strength or elderly individuals can consider a half-round foam roller. When laying it down with the flat side the roller won't easily move out from under you. Simply lying on the half-round roller will release tension as you grow comfortable with the roller.
Half-round foam rollers are good for those who struggle with balancing, but they're also great for core exercises. Laying your body on them lengthwise, you can practice exercises that require deep core muscles.
Advanced users can also flip them onto the curved side for exercises that require more stabilization.
Not all foam rollers are created equally. Each foam roller is constructed to determine the longevity and primary location of use.
For a high quality but inexpensive option choose rollers made from EPP foam beads. Their durability and affordability make them ideal for users of all levels.
On the other hand, rollers made from EVA foam have excellent durability. These foam rollers are designed to endure repeated use in gyms and to withstand any weight category. Individuals using them at home can have peace of mind that their roller will have a longer life span than any other foam roller.
Certain foams will warp and bend over time like polyethylene (PE), and some denser foam like ethylene-vinyl acetate (EVA) will maintain form and shape over time.
Another thing to look for is whether it has a plastic center, which would reinforce its structure further. Typically, your soft- to medium-density rollers will be made of PE, and your high-density rollers will be made of EVA.
If you're not completely sure what texture or size you would like or you don't want to settle on just one type, a set is for you. Most sets come in different textures and sizes to target different each muscle group.
Some foam rollers have extra features that may help target specific areas or problems. For example, heated foam rollers promote circulation and target blood flow to specific muscles. This ultimately reduces muscle fatigue and soreness later.
Vibrating foam rollers are very effective in pain management, as vibration therapy has been known to decrease muscle pain significantly. They have also been proven to improve range of motion and reduce the risk of injury.
It is worth noting that these foam rollers can be heavier than a foam roller without these features. However, the extra weight is definitely worth it if you're looking to decrease pain or increase circulation as much as possible. These are especially helpful for athletes or those with high-intensity workouts.
Sets are a great way to save money while getting a variety of tools. Look for foam rollers that fit additional rollers within one another for multiple options. Other sets may offer tools that will help reach muscles the roller can't, such as a double lacrosse ball (also known as a peanut), which is great for your feet, neck, or creases in your back.
Other tools to look for are muscle rolling sticks for more pressure, bands or straps to work flexibility, and textured balls to work the feet, the hands, or other difficult-to-reach muscles.
Here are the top 10 best foam rollers that are loved and recommended by users. We've included a range of densities, textures, and sizes so you can find the right one for your needs.
*Please note that these products were chosen after extensive research by mybest writers. The choices are not necessarily affiliated with or recommended by Esther Leonardo.
Speckled Foam Roller
Wheel Foam Roller for Back Pain Relief
Flex Foam Roller
Deep Tissue Massager with Spinal Channel
5 in 1 Foam Roller Set
Heated Foam Roller for Muscles
Vibrating Foam Roller
High Density Foam Roller
Bravo Morph Foam Roller
Best for Physical Therapy Patients
Best for Relieving Back Pain
Best for Beginners
Best for Relieving Sore or Stiff Muscles
Best for a Full-Body Recovery
Best for Sensitive Muscles
Best Heated Option
Best for Deep and Customizable Massages
A Semi-Hard Roller for Heavy Use
Best for Easy Handling When Traveling
|Available lengths||12, 18, 24 and 36 in.||not specified||12 and 36 in.||12.75 in.||12.4 in.||36 in.||13 in||11 in||36 in.||14.5 in.|
|Diameter||6 in.||6in, 10in, and 12in||3 in.||5.25 in.||5.4 in.||6 in.||4 in||Not specified||6 in.||5.5 in.|
|Material||Polypropylene foam||EVA and ABS plastic||EPE foam||EVA foam||EVA foam||EVA foam||Not specified||EVA||EVA foam||Not provided|
|Set of||1||3 or 4||1||1||5||1||1||1||1|
|Available lengths||12, 18, 24 and 36 in.|
|Available lengths||not specified|
|Diameter||6in, 10in, and 12in|
|Material||EVA and ABS plastic|
|Set of||3 or 4|
|Available lengths||12 and 36 in.|
|Available lengths||12.75 in.|
|Available lengths||12.4 in.|
|Available lengths||36 in.|
|Available lengths||13 in|
|Available lengths||11 in|
|Available lengths||36 in.|
|Available lengths||14.5 in.|
Aside from post-workout recovery, many people get a foam roller to help relieve back pain. However, it's important to know how to use one correctly to avoid injuring yourself. In this video from Howcast, personal trainer Amanda Edell shows you how to use a foam roller to reduce lower back pain.
If after reading our Buying Guide you still have some unanswered questions, read on for more information!
There are a lot of ways to use a foam roller. First of all, they can be used to either warm-up before a workout, recover after one, or both! Using it before a workout can be effective because it allows you to assess your body.
If you have any sore or tight spots, this helps you target them before your workout. This pre-workout assessment also helps your circulation to avoid injury later. After your workout, you will typically already know the area you want to target.
If there is a problem spot, try to roll back and forth on it until you feel it soften. Be gentle! Foam rollers can be used almost anywhere on your body, but most notably your hamstrings, quadriceps, upper back, illiotibial band, and your latissimus muscles. You can target any of these areas by lying on your back, side, or stomach and using the foam roller to roll back and forth over that area.
Something important to note is that you should be using the foam roller on soft tissue, not on bones or joints.
While there is nothing that indicates you can't fall asleep with a foam roller under your back, it wouldn't have the same benefits as using one while you are awake. In fact, it might be uncomfortable!
Using a foam roller before going to bed can be extremely helpful in getting better sleep. If you do gentle exercises before you climb into bed, your improved circulation and relieved muscles will improve your sleep. However, if you are asleep and therefore not using the foam roller to roll, it won't have the same benefits.
Esther says, "If you're new to foam rolling, be sure to look up different ways to roll out your muscles. Foam rolling can be used as a part of your warm-up but can also help after a hard workout.
Take note of areas that are particularly painful, and rather than shy away from them, be sure to treat these with a bit more attention. This usually means that you have knots and tightness that needs to be addressed. However, do not forget to roll all parts of your body.
Sometimes tenderness and pain in one area can be the result of you compensating for something else. In addition, pay attention to any pain that radiates through your muscles. This could indicate that you are heavily compensating for a weakness or imbalance in your body, or it could be something that you may want to have checked by a professional.
In cases such as this, I usually start with my chiropractor or massage therapist to see if my hips, neck, or spine are misaligned. They'll help me work through these issues."
If you're looking for some more options that can help you work out, look no further! Check out our links for some suggestions.
For more recommendations of foam rollers, check out Amazon's best-selling foam rollers.
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