Personal Masseuse: The 8 Best Foam Rollers

Aug 15, 2015

Category: Gear

Self-myofascial release (SMR) might not be a term you’ve heard, but if you are ready to take your fitness game to the next level, increase your muscle acuity, and stay in peak condition, then it’s a phrase you’d be wise to get familiar with. What it boils down to is a kind of self-massage, muscle stimulation, and exercise that comes from using foam rollers to keep your muscles loose and release trigger points; keeping your body stimulated, relaxed, and ready for action.

Like any other kind of fitness routine, there is a right way and a wrong way to do self-myofascial release. Sadly, either way is a little bit painful because you’re working out knots in your muscles. However, when you’re done, you can either feel like king of the octagon or end up on the ground, injured, uncomfortable, and worse off than you were before. To help guarantee that you don’t turn into a puddle of suffering goo on the floor of the gym, you need to have the right equipment to amp your personal massage. That means getting one of the 8 best foam rollers.

PROCIRCLE 4-inch Grid Therapy Mini

PROCIRCLE 4-inch Grid Therapy Mini

Pro: Easy to carry and transport
Con: Small

Wee One: 4 inches high with a 5.5-inch diameter, this is the choice for the guy on the go who wants to keep his body elastic during business trips or those 15-minute power pump sessions in the morning. While the small size limits the mobility of the Mini, it also makes it adept at targeting specific sore spots to work the kinks out of especially tender trigger points. Inside is a hard core with a very minimal layer of EVA foam that won’t give you much protection, so don’t push too hard or dig too deep. Utilizing smooth lines as well as a pressure grid this can get deeper into the tissue than a standard flat roller, so consider having it as a spot-rolling supplement if you tend to prefer smooth-style rollers. [Purchase: $12]

Well Essentials High Density Foam Roller

Well Essentials High Density Foam Roller

Pro: Inexpensive
Con: Not meant for heavy use

Best Basic: Not everyone needs to stretch and spread all of their muscles. The average person who sits at a desk all day long might just require a little something to help keep their spine straight and relieve some of the tension that ordinary life brings. For these folks there’s no reason to spend a lot. This basic flat foam roller is no slouch, but also won’t beat up your body the way that heavy-duty athletic rollers will. 6 inches around and either 18 or 36 inches long, you’ll find that this will help work out the crimps in your back and legs that develop from too much time in an office chair, on the couch, or in your car. Can also be used for some low-impact workouts to help strengthen your core and tone up a flaccid frame. [Purchase: $15+]

Fitness Solutions Smart Roller with Massage Stick

Fitness Solutions Smart Roller with Massage Stick

Pro: Highly durable
Con: Hard

The Rub Down: You won’t find a lot of give in either the foam roller or the included massage stick since these are meant more for physical therapy and actions that need a stiffer, less forgiving platform. A PVC interior gives the 13-inch long, 6-inch wide roller a firm feel while a minimal layer of heat-sealed EVA foam gives just enough padding to be passable. Though there are some ridges built into the foam, it doesn’t catch or hang-up even when being used on the thick, shag carpeting of your love grotto. When operated in conjunction, these can do wonders for sore backs and chiropractic issues including scoliosis. [Purchase: $25]

Product Stop Dual Roller System

Product Stop Dual Roller System

Pro: Maximizes space
Con: Limited firmness

Double Down: No longer must you choose between a textured roller and a standard flat. At 13 inches long with a hard, ridged exterior roller that runs 6 inches in diameter and a smooth one which fits inside it thanks to a 5-inch breadth this has the best of both worlds. The black external piece uses low-density foam for a softer, less invasive massage that is still reinforced through the center for moves that require more rigidity. The orange roller is high-density foam that doesn’t give as much penetration but allows you to work a broad area for more generalized muscle perturbation. Complete with a full satisfaction guarantee, this is ideal for beginners. [Purchase: $28]

M80 Groove

M80 Groove

Pro: Very deep penetration
Con: Can be hard to acclimate to

For Heavyweights: First and foremost, the M80 comes in a bunch of different colors and patterns, so if you’ve ever needed a camouflage foam roller for doing pilates behind enemy lines, this will help. In truth this is a tough, sturdy piece of equipment that can handle bigger users without going soft or losing its shape. The grooved, snow tire pattern goes over your body much more like a massage stick and gets into the hidden depths of your soft tissue like a set of knuckles. If your body is used to the punishment of serious Swedish or Thai deep tissue massage, then this will suit you fine. If not, expect it to leave you limp as a dish rag the first couple of times. [Purchase: $40]

OPTP PRO-ROLLER

OPTP Pro-Roller

Pro: Non-slip texture
Con: Won’t work for deep tissue SMR

Flat and Faultless: High-density flat foam rollers usually aren’t quite as expensive as the OPTP, but once you use it for a while, you’ll see where your money went. While rollers without a stiff core tend to go soft and break down, this holds up even after hours of use without getting overly squishy. It also comes in a variety of densities depending on your needs, which will keep you from getting stuck with the wrong style for your needs. A slight texture to the exterior prevents it from sliding away and leaving you literally flat on your back, even if being used on hardwood or laminate floors. Fully three feet long and 6 inches in diameter, this is big and bold enough for the beefiest customer. [Purchase: $40]

The Grid by TriggerPoint

The Grid by TriggerPoint

Pro: Variable trigger point segments
Con: DVD is superfluous

Most for the Money: Though the price point is a little steeper than most, you won’t need to replace it nearly as often as many cheaper rollers on the market. Implementing distrodensity zone massage, The Grid is highly praised by professional physical therapists for it’s ability to give you the proper pressure right where you need it. Since correct use is absolutely necessary for getting the most out of The Grid, it comes complete with a DVD that helps you find the best way to get effective self-myofascial release if you need it. Durable and long-lasting enough for workouts as well as stretches, you’ll probably be able to throw out any other rollers you had lying around. Oddly small at only 5 inches in diameter and 13 inches long. [Purchase: $48]

Rumble Roller

Rumble Roller

Pro: Deep tissue stimulation
Con: Large

Stretch and Soften: Get ready to be tenderized like a T-bone about to go on the grill. The large protrusions all around the Rumble Roller go deep into soft tissues to find those knots that like to hide behind muscle and fat. The triangular build of each knob helps push and pull every nook and cranny in multiple directions for a deeper, more thorough massage. This intensive approach might be a little much for newbies while athletes and those with serious issues in their musculature will find supreme relief from the deeper incursion. At 31 inches long with a 6-inch diameter, this can’t be easily carried around, but works for all body sizes and compositions. [Purchase: $70]

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