Foam rollers are a great fitness rehab tool for helping relieve muscle soreness after intense workouts and improving your flexibility and range of motion.
The best foam rollers keep their shape after many sessions of heavy-duty use, provide the level of pressure you need to loosen up muscles, and are built to last.
They work by using a technique called self-myofascial release, which is essentially self-massage, to identify and treat sore muscle areas, and to help prevent injury.
Our top pick, the TriggerPoint GRID Foam Roller, features a unique surface that offers varied points of pressure to help with knots and specific trigger areas, has a weight limit of 500 pounds, and is made of durable EVA foam.
As a roller derby player, I get my unfair share of muscle soreness and stiffness — nothing compares to the pain felt after an intense derby tournament. Though my teammates always used foam rollers to work out their soreness, I thought they looked silly rolling around the floor. After speaking with personal trainers, massage therapists, physical therapists, and reading through plenty of scientific research, I quickly sang a different tune.
It became abundantly clear that foam rollers are a smart, cost-effective way to relieve sore muscles and loosen up any stiffness. Whether someone looks funky rolling around on the ground or not is irrelevant; their benefits far outweigh the odd looks.
Indulge in a self-massage
Foam rollers work using a technique called self-myofascial release (SMR), which is basically a fancy way of saying self-massage. You start to feel muscle knots and tightness when the fascia covering the muscles is restricted. A foam roller lengthens the fascia an is essentially an inexpensive way to get a massage where and when you need it most.
Foam rollers come in all shapes and sizes, but the ideal size is generally about six inches in diameter and around 36 inches in length. This allows you to work most muscle groups and to use the roller in workouts. If you want to do deeper muscle work or target knots, textured foam rollers are an excellent solution.
While most rollers work using gravity (e.g., your body pushing down on the roller to produce the massaging pressure), there are several handheld solutions that fit easily in your gym bag, too. There’s plenty of variety to suit a wide range of use cases and users.
We should note that you may be able to use your health savings account (HSA) or flex spending account (FSA) to purchase a foam roller. Some plans require you to buy your roller from a physical therapist, chiropractor, or other medical professionals, so make sure you check with your provider before buying.
To help you find a foam roller best-suited for your active lifestyle, we evaluated a number of different options before choosing which are the best currently available. In the end, the foam rollers we included are easy to use, effective at relieving muscles, and highly durable.
Here are the best foam rollers you can buy:
Best textured foam roller: TriggerPoint GRID Foam Roller
Best vibrating foam roller: Hyperice Vyper 3 Speed Vibrating Foam Roller
Best affordable foam roller: LuxFit Premium High Density Foam Roller
Best stick foam roller: Original Tiger Tail Massage Stick
Updated on 3/11/2020 by Rick Stella: Added another bullet point above the introduction to include more information on what a foam roller does and how it benefits users, added sub-headers to break up the introduction and focus on what self-myofascial release is and how some foam rollers are HSA and FSA eligible, checked the availability of each pick, and updated the prices, links, and formatting.
The best grid-textured foam roller
The TriggerPoint GRID Foam Roller is the smart choice when you want to massage your knots or trigger points with several different surfaces.
The TriggerPoint Grid Foam Roller is made of ethylene-vinyl acetate (EVA) foam of varying densities and has a hollow core. EVA absorbs impact, is resistant to water and other elements, and is also easy to clean. The unique surface pattern of the Grid helps with rolling through kinks, knots, and tight muscles.
The Original Grid is 5.5-inches in diameter and 13-inches long, but you can get it in a number of different sizes. The Original has a weight limit of 500 pounds and comes with instructions as well as access to an online instructional video. TriggerPoint backs the quality of the Grid with a one-year warranty.
Pros: Multi-density, durable, keeps its shape, 500-pound weight limit
Cons: Might be too short for some tasks
The best vibrating foam roller
If simply rolling on a foam cylinder isn’t enough for your aching muscles, the Hyperice Vyper 3 Speed Vibrating Foam Roller might be just what you need.
The rugged outer shell of the Hyperice Vyper is made of polypropylene, which transfers vibration well, and features sixteen small ridges that dig into soft tissue. It measures six inches in diameter by 15-inches long and weighs four pounds. There are three intensity settings that range from 28 to 38 Hz. The Vyper is approved by the TSA for carrying on board flights, and it is backed by a one-year warranty.
Two of the high-profile owners of Hyperice are pro football running back Adrian Peterson and NBA star Blake Griffin, and other pro athletes in several other sports have tested and given the Vyper their seal of approval.
Pros: Offers an intense deep tissue massage, built to last
Cons: Expensive, short, complaints of it not holding a charge after a few uses
The best foam roller on a budget
If you’re interested in giving foam rolling a try but don’t want to spend a lot, the LuxFit Premium High-Density Foam Roller is your best option.
The LuxFit Premium High-Density Foam Roller is made of two-pounds-per-cubic-foot-density molded polypropylene foam, which repels liquids. It measures 6-inches in diameter and comes in three lengths: 12, 18, and 36 inches.
LuxFit manufactures this foam roller in the United States and stands behind its quality with a one-year limited warranty. The Premium High-Density Foam Roller is the least expensive option on our list. So, it’s no surprise that it doesn’t come with any extras, like instructions or booklets.
Pros: Affordable, three size options, one-year warranty
Cons: Certain materials may slide along the surface without rolling, doesn’t include any extras
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