A foam roller is a simple, affordable tool used to ease stiff, tired muscles, relieve pain and soreness, and increase energy and mobility. Whether you’re feeling tender from a hard workout or stressed by sitting or standing all day at work, a few minutes with a foam roller can make a world of difference in your fitness and wellbeing.
Foam rolling is a self-administered myofascial release (SMR) stretching technique that uses your body’s weight to create pressure that smooths and lengthens the connective tissue that surrounds your muscles, relaxing “trigger points,” or knots, and increasing blood flow. SMR not only relieves tightness and pain you may have right now, but regular use can also help prevent inflammation and injury in the future.
Stretching your muscles may not seem like the biggest deal in a daily routine, but experts argue it’s equally as important as building your strength or boosting your cardiovascular fitness.
So—be sure to take the time to “roll out!”
Note: Don’t use a foam roller if you have a serious muscle injury without talking to your doctor or physical therapist first.
Which Foam Roller is Right for You?
There are four important attributes to consider when selecting the foam roller that’s right for you:
- Length: Foam rollers come in longer and shorter lengths. Longer rollers may be good beginners because they’re more stable, and they’re useful for larger muscle groups like your back. Shorter rollers may be better for smaller spots on the body like your neck or your calves, and they’re easier to carry and store.
- Diameter: Most rollers are five to six inches in diameter. Using a roller with a diameter of three to four inches will give you a deeper pressure.
- Density: You can often tell how firm, or dense, a roller is by color. A white roller is generally more lightweight and softer, while a black roller is usually very dense and very firm. More dense rollers give you more intense pressure. Density is also a factor in durability — a softer roller may not last as long against the wear and tear of daily use.
- Texture: Texture will impact the intensity of SMR. A smooth surface will provide even pressure along the entire length of the roller while pressure from textured ridges and knobs will be felt more deeply in places, like fingers digging into your muscles.
Best for Deep Tissue Massage: Gimme 10 Foam Roller
This spiked roller, with its triple grid massage zones, mimics a physical therapist’s fingers, palm, and thumb. This durable roller, made from EVA foam, provides a medium intensity massage that’s easy for beginners. It’s lightweight, just 1.3 pounds, and 13 inches long by 5.25 inches in diameter.
Gimme 10 Foam Roller for Deep Tissue Massager for Muscle and Myofascial Trigger Point Release
This spiked roller, with its triple grid massage zones, mimics a physical therapist's fingers, palm, and thumb.
Best for Back Pain: Realign Back Wheel
This back wheel has precise grooves and ridges that follow the natural contour of your spine to pinpoint your back and lumbar pain. The wheel is 13 inches in diameter and 5.5 inches wide and it weighs 4.1 pounds. It’s made from a durable material that will support a weight of up to 300 pounds.
Realign Back Wheel: Trigger Point, Yoga Wheel, Foam Roller, Deep Tissue, Back Massager, for Mobility and Back Pain Relief (Blue/Grey)
This rolling wheel has precise grooves and ridges that follow the natural contour of your spine to pinpoint your back and lumbar pain.
Best Overall: TriggerPoint CORE Foam Roller
This foam roller, with its multi-density GRID pattern and solid core design, gives you moderate compression for a great massage with minimal discomfort. The EVA foam construction will withstand years of repeated use. The roller comes in four lengths, all five inches in diameter.
TriggerPoint CORE Foam Massage Roller with Softer Compression for Exercise, Deep Tissue and Muscle Recovery - Relieves Muscle Pain & Tightness, Improves Mobility & Circulation (12''), Gray
This foam roller, with its multi-density GRID pattern and solid core design, gives you moderate compression for a great massage with minimal discomfort.
Best Firm Massage: ProSourceFit High Density Foam Roller
This foam roller, made from high-density EPP foam that’s able to withstand repeated use, has a simple design that offers an effective and inexpensive way to get a high-pressure massage. This roller comes in four lengths, all six inches in diameter.
ProsourceFit High Density Foam Rollers 24 - inches long, Firm Full Body Athletic Massage Tool for Back Stretching, Yoga, Pilates, Post Workout Muscle Recuperation, Black/Blue
This foam roller, made from high-density EPP foam that's able to withstand repeated use, has a simple design that offers an effective and inexpensive way to get a high-pressure massage.