The Best Foam Rollers Tested & Reviewed

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Searching for Foam Rollers? Take a look at the best Foam Rollers for 2017, Pros & Cons and what to be aware of before buying them online or in a store.

There are so many things to love about running: the challenge, the struggle, the health benefits, the competition, the feel of your stride, the fresh air and of course the runners high. But with all these benefits comes a cost, or costs. An unfortunate number of runners have experienced these costs in the form of injuries. And beyond injuries there is simple wear and sore muscles that can affect you day in day out. Smart runners know they have to take care of their bodies if they want them to perform, and that means using every tool available to make sure you stay in tip top shape.

Top 3 Picks

TriggerPoint GRID
  • TriggerPoint GRID
  • 5 out of 5
    Our rating
  • Original GRID design
  • Price: See Here
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OPTP PRO-Roller
  • OPTP PRO-Roller
  • 4 out of 5
    Our rating
  • Soft Density
  • Price: See Here
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Bodygear Grid Roller
  • Bodygear Grid Roller
  • 4 out of 5
    Our rating
  • Firm high density
  • Price: See Here
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Now the average runner can enjoy some of the same recovery benefits of pros. Below we’ll review and discuss some of the best foam rollers on the market in 2017. If you have any interest in happier muscles read on.

Foam Roller, LuxFit Premium High Density Foam Roller

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If there is such as thing as a market standard for foam rollers this is probably it. This is a great roller for physical therapy, before or after running or post-yoga workout. Constructed to be extra firm this is the answer for sore and worn out muscles. The extra firmness helps to apply stronger pressure and give you something akin to a deep tissue massage. Comes in three different sizes and includes a one year warranty, it’s hard to go wrong with the Luxfit.
Pros
  • Extremely well reviewed
  • Extra firm
  • Affordable
  • Comes in 3 sizes
  • Has a solid warranty
  • Great for stabilizing muscles and improving balance
Cons
  • Somewhat generic looking

OPTP PRO-Roller Soft Density

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A great foam roller for beginners. The OPTP Pro Roller is comes in different sizes including a quite long 36 inches and is softer composition than many foam rollers. This makes it easy to position the body on and a softer touch for those unfamiliar with using this type of equipment. The tagline here is more relaxation than deep muscle work. If you know what your needs are the user feedback is almost unanimously positive. Give it a shot today and see the difference it makes!
Pros
  • Large variation in sizes
  • Light textured finish for a nice tactile touch on the skin
  • Closed-cell cross-linked foam technology, high quality
  • Easily washable
  • Good cost-to-value ratio
Cons
  • Higher priced
  • A bit soft

TriggerPoint GRID Foam Roller

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If you want performance and a bit of high octane massage from your roller the TriggerPoint Grid is probably one of, if not your absolute best bet. Although there is a bit less actual foam on the body of this roller it won’t let you down. The ribbed rolling surface of the Grid promises a targeted massage that hits just the right spots. This roller is also constructed in a way that is meant for heavy use, so it keeps it shape nicely even years down the line. Depending on the type of density you’re after there are a few different options from this manufacturer. All of them are quality.
Pros
  • Compact size
  • Delivers targeted massage
  • Highly Durable
  • Trusted by massage therapists and trainers
Cons
  • Slightly pricey

The Original Tiger Tail Muscle Roller Massage Stick

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Technically not a foam roller, but is effectively producing the same results in many ways — the Tiger Tail is simply too good not to mention. Many of you will be familiar with this product, those who aren’t are in for a treat. This slim and easy to use massage roller is a great way to work your legs over post-run. 500 Amazon great reviews don’t lie.
Pros
  • Great for preventing or reducing sore muscles
  • Comes with easy to use pamphlet
  • Rubber hand grips allow you to put good pressure on desired area
  • Durable, quality manufacturing
Cons
  • Limited functionality when using by yourself

Rolling With It Eco-friendly foam roller

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Don’t let the slightly cheesy name fool you, this is a simple yet highly effective foam roller. It’s constructed with an eco-friendly EPA approved foam material that will hold its shape well over time. With this roller you won’t need to worry about flaking or chipping either. Available in two sizes, depending on your body type and needs.
Pros
  • Made with eco-friendly EPA  approved foam
  • Budget friendly
  • Has multiple size options
  • Durable
Cons
  • May not last as long as some of the higher priced options

Exous Bodygear Grid Foam Roller

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Light and easy to transport with you, the Exous is a great foam roller to get you going. Its external grips are perfectly designed for feet and if you are ever uncertain it comes with access to an accompanying instructional video. Great roller for those starting out.
Pros
  • Made from high density EVA foam
  • Good for feet
  • Medium sized
  • Light and portable
Cons
  • Challenging to use around head/neck

Criteria for picking out The Best Foam Rollers.

Foam rollers continue to gain popularity amongst sports people as more training professionals help their clients in understanding their importance. The industry is still adapting the coming up of this new sporting item that helps a person do their own deep tissue massage. Commonly known as “self-administered myofascial release” (SMR). The process lets you use your own body weight, precisely controlled, to help stimulate and relax your muscles. The process of using the roller can be uncomfortable, but massaging knots (also called trigger points or myofascial adhesions) may help free your muscles of their grip. Some athletes report increased range of motion, improved blood flow and decreased recovery time after foam rolling.

The benefits of using a foam roller are:

Warming Up

Before any intense exercise you should always warm up. It doesn’t matter if you’re going into a yoga class, running a marathon or weight lifting. A foam roller has become a vital part of my warm up. Kneading your muscles with a roller will help improve blood flow to prime your muscles for whatever you’re about to do. This in turn helps to reduce injuries. Using a foam roller should be added to any athletes stretching routine. No matter if it’s before a game, a workout, or a marathon, it’s important to get those muscles warmed up so they are ready to perform.

Recovery (SMR)

Deep tissue massages have long been known to be beneficial after working out. While self-myofascial release isn’t as effective as myofascial release (foam rolling versus deep tissue massage), rolling does imitate a deep tissue massage for a fraction of the cost. Self-myofascial release improves blood flow which brings oxygen and nutrients to your muscles which in turn improves recovery time.

It’s important to have the best foam roller so that you can be able to fully benefit from using it. We came up with the best foam rollers for after a careful analysis of this sporting tool. While doing this we considered the below factors that play an important role in the functionality of a foam roller.

Factors considered were:

Body Part to be Used by the Foam Roller

When choosing the foam roller that is right for you, the first thing to consider is which part of your body will it be used for the most. Think of which size works best for working with that body part (back, leg muscles, etc.) and go from there

Foam Roller Density

Foam rollers come in different densities, which is a primary factor in how effective they are at deep-tissue massage. Using a roller that is too soft can provide inadequate pressure while a foam roller that is too hard can cause bruising and trauma, which can result in pain and have a negative effect on your performance.

Below are some of the foam roller density and how effective they are for different sporting activities.

Soft Density

The soft version offers a great cushion for Yoga and Pilates. The soft texture makes it difficult to find the central point and is a bit difficult to balance. This feature is very handy if you are training for balance and strengthening your core muscles. The soft density can be perfect for helping you get the most out of your workout!

Standard Density 

This type of foam roller is a mix between the firm and the soft versions. This is a great beginners’ choice. This is the most versatile type and can be useful in exercises and massage. When used as an exercise tool, it gives good feedback and balancing on top of it can be relatively easy. It also gives adequate cushion to maintain awkward poses. Standard density rollers can also be used for self-massage. It can reach adequate muscle depth and help to break off tight knots and trigger points in the muscle. With practice and good technique, you will find this soothing for your aching back!

Firm Density 

There are deep muscle tissues that are hard to reach. Even with proper techniques, massaging the deep muscle tissue can be difficult. But, if you have a firm density foam roller, this problem can be easily solved. Firm density foam rollers are designed for those hard to reach areas and give you better relief. Athletes often favor this over the standard density. Extra firm: for some people, firm is not enough, and they opt for the hardest version for their relief.

Foam Roller Surface Texture

Some rollers have ridges and knobs that allow you to apply different intensities of pressure and to do a more targeted massage. Other rollers are smooth.

Smooth rollers: This basic design provides even pressure across the entire length of the roller. A smooth foam roller is a good choice for someone who is just getting into rolling because the pressure is not as intense as with a textured roller. Also, smooth foam rollers are typically less expensive than textured rollers.

Textured rollers: Mimicking the hands of a masseuse, ridges and knobs on a foam roller can provide more precisely targeted massage to work out knots in your muscles. Many rollers include a variety of texture so you can find the right amount of pressure.

 

Foam Roller Shape and Size

Foam rollers are available in a range of shapes and sizes.

Length: Long rollers (around 36 inches) are versatile and a good choice for your first foam roller. They work well for your back because they are long enough to span your entire back when placed perpendicular to your spine. They’re also more stable than shorter rollers when you’re working on your quads, hamstrings and other body parts. Shorter lengths (around 24 inches) work well to target smaller areas like arms and calves. The shortest lengths (around 4 – 12 inches) work well for portability and in workout areas with limited floor space.

Diameter: Most rollers are 5 or 6 inches in diameter, which is a comfortable height for easing your body onto and then rolling under control. Some people choose 3- or 4-inch diameter rollers for deeper, more targeted massage.

Half round foam roller: These look like a foam roller that has been cut in half lengthwise. They are used for leg and foot stretches, and to massage the arches of the feet to relieve the symptoms of plantar fasciitis.

Foam-covered roller massagers (sticks): Similar in shape to a rolling pin, these rollers are used primarily on legs for more precise pressure regulation and muscle targeting. Flexible roller massagers are great for massaging your upper back.

Foam balls: These allow precise targeting and pressure control, and work well in curved areas of the body, like the lumbar area.

If you’re just starting out with using a foam roller, choose one that’s on the softer side. As your technique improves and your muscles adapt you can progress to using a denser (harder) roller. Denser rollers are also better for long-term use because they’re more durable. Softer rollers can get permanently deformed after lots of use, which is an indication that it’s time to replace the roller. The color of the roller can give a hint to its density, with white being softest and black hardest. Blue and red rollers typically are medium density. This can vary by brand, though. A simple way to test is to squeeze rollers to assess their relative firmness.

OTHER FACTORS

Apart from the above factors, we also went ahead to look at other factors that are also considered when choosing out the beats foam rollers for a sports person.

Type of Foam Rollers

There are different forms of foam rollers in the market and each one is made to suit the different fitness needs of a trainer. Here is a basic list of the different types of foam rollers that are available and which one might be right for you.

Standard, white foam roller. This is a usually 3 feet long and 6 inches in diameter. This is the easiest and gentlest of the foam rollers. It can be used on almost anyone. This is a good one if you have not started foam rolling because it hurts too much. While it still may be uncomfortable on this one you will find that it is much less then on the more aggressive foam rollers.

Black foam roller. This looks just like the white foam roller, but uses a higher density foam. This is one I recommend purchasing to have as your go-to foam roller if you are injured and cannot tolerate one of the firmer foam rollers. This will maintain its form and still provide you with a great roll out.

The Grid. This is a step up from the black foam roller. It has very little give to it and if you are nursing a sore muscle it can be painful. This is not a great starting point, but it is a good roller to have when you move past being able to tolerate more than just foam.

Firm rumble roller. You need to be healthy to have this, but it is a fantastic tool for any athlete. I highly recommend purchasing this model or the extra-firm as your go-to, everyday roller. This is excellent for getting into hamstrings and gastroc muscles that may be sore as well as helping to correct illiotibial band issues and piriformis pain.

Extra firm rumble roller. This is the most aggressive foam roller on the market. Yes, it has extra firm spikes on it. A better self-massage tool does not exist. It will aid in keeping your muscles pliable and ready to go. This one should only be used when you have worked your way up to it, it can be very painful.

 

Frequency of Use.

How often will you be using the roller?  The more frequent the use, the denser the roller should be, as it will be more effective for a longer period of time. Choose a less dense foam roller (i.e. solid foam) for infrequent use or for a beginner… choose a PVC core for more intensity and longevity.

 

Intensity of the SMR

The intensity of foam rolling is typically likened to the intensity of an aggressive deep tissue massage.  Beginners may want to start with a softer roller and graduate to a more aggressive roller as you become accustomed to rolling. Firmness and texture of the roller will determine the aggressiveness of the massage.

 

Features of the Foam Roller.

Different brands have different features and benefits. There are a number of different sizes, lengths and textures, each having pros and cons. Consider a compact roller if you will be traveling to and from the gym or on road trips. Consider a longer roller if you are going to be keeping it at one location. Different lengths can be geared towards specific movements. Textured rollers tend to be more aggressive for deeper muscle tissue.  Different shapes and grooves will have different densities and allow for blood flow and varying intensity.  Hollow rollers also allow for storage of gym clothes, towels etc. when you are transporting it to and from the gym.

 

Price.

Foam rolling is a very cost effective form of therapy. Determine your budget, but have an open mind.  The one that works best for you may be more or less than what you had planned.  Keep in mind that you get what you pay for.  More effective rollers that will last a long time tend to cost more initially, but will pay off in the long run.

FAQ

Several questions pop up when shopping for this effective SMR tool. Some of them are addressed below.

What type of foam roller should I use and when?

Hard: For a deep tissue massage or core stability workout due to firm construction
Soft: For yoga, pilates and stretching. Great for studio use.
Short rollers: Easy for PTs to carry around, easier to pinpoint troublesome areas the body
Long: perfect for pilates and yoga. An aid for balance and stabilization due to the length.

Which material is right for me?

Reebok synthetic foam: Non-slip surface and very easy to clean. The close cell construction allows a degree of ‘give’ while ensuring they keep their shape.
Escape Polyurethane: A step up from synthetic foam Polyurethane has a firmer, more durable construction. Easy to clean and the Polyurethane coating will remain hygienic even with intensive use as it doesn’t absorb sweat or dirt.
Grid EVA: Made from less foam than traditional foam rollers this solid environmentally friendly EVA roller is easy to clean and lighter than other foam rollers thanks to the hollow middle.

What is the difference between a traditional foam roller and the Grid?

Distrodensity™ zones: the grooves on the surface of the Grid act like a human hand to give a deeper self-myofascial release (SMR)massage.
The hollow center has two real benefits:
1. It is environmentally friendly as the roller uses less foam
2. Makes it perfect for traveling.
Full training programme developed around the Grid for SMR and SMRT-CORE – a programme to build core strength and conditioning.

Should I buy more than one type of roller?  

If you want to do stretching and yoga moves as well as a deep tissue massage you would benefit from a soft roller as well as a hard roller. This also allows you to progress your client from a soft to a firm massage which is essential for SMR development.

How often and for how long should I roll?

There is no set amount of time, but daily for 5-10 minutes would be awesome.  I know making the time for this might be tough, so I tell myself, and my clients, that anything is better than nothing.  Two minutes of rolling out the legs is better than not doing it at all.

What’s the Best Foam Roller for You?

Ultimately, it depends on your needs as to what makes the best foam roller for you. As a marathoner and an experienced foam roller user, I prefer a much harder foam roller option such as the Rumble Roller Black and Blue while someone less experienced will often prefer (and should prefer) a softer option that is easier to use.

 

Foam rollers are simple devices that allow you to perform massage or self myofascial release on yourself post workout. Some key benefits are: this process generally helps to relieve muscle tension , increase the flow of oxygen to the muscles,decrease recovery time and improve range of motion. In the past these techniques and devices were left to the world of professional athletes and trainers.Recent information, technology, and availability of affordable products have introduced foam rolling to a wider audience.One tip I generally like to share is to try the foam rollers at your local gym or fitness studio before making a purchase. That way you’ll get a good sense of the type of foam roller which is the best for you and you can try out a few.

Sources

  1. Editor, Which Foam Roller Material Should I Choose, Fitness Website,
  2. Kate Halse, Top 10 Best Foam Rollers for Fitness and Massage, Sporting Website,
  3. Editorial Team, High Density Foam Roller Review, Sporting Website,
  4. Mike Kabbani, Critical Foam Roller Review (RumbleRoller vs The Grid), Fitness Website,
  5. Editorial Team, OPTP Soft Foam Roller: the Right One?, Lifestyle Website,
  6. Editorial Team, Foam Roller, Lifestyle Website,
  7. Carrie Anton, Review: TriggerPoint GRID X Foam Roller, Consumer Website,
  8. Robert Mitchell, RunJunk.com Clips: The Stick vs Tiger Tail Massage, Youtube,
  9. Heather, The Self Massage Showdown: The Foam Roller vs The Stick, Shoes Website,
  10. Stefan S, Best Foam Rollers Reviewed and Tested, Wrestling/ Boxing Website,

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