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The 9 Best Foam Rollers For Workout Recovery

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Photo: TriggerPoint Roller

In much the same way that you can’t build a great building without a solid foundation, you can’t expect to perform your best without proper recovery. Sure, your training sessions may be going swimmingly and you might even have your diet down pat. However, if you’re not taking care of yourself come time for a pre-workout warm-up and a post-work cooldown, it’s only a matter of time before that occasional nagging discomfort becomes a full-on performance-halting injury. And one of the best tools to keep you feeling fresh is the venerable foam roller.

That being said, choosing a foam roller for your needs is a bit like trying to find the best toothbrush — you appreciate the fact that using one is to your advantage, and that each one offers something unique, but deciding on one versus another is enough to make your eyes go crossed. Can you use just any old roller? Are there advantages to be had from higher-priced options offering a different shape or some added features? The truth is, it depends. For some, even a basic foam roller will do just fine. But for others looking to maximize their recovery potential, it may be necessary to spring for something with a bit more under the hood. Lucky for you, we’ve done our homework so that you don’t have to. So read on to see what’s made the cut for the best foam rollers.

Best Foam Rollers for Recovery

Why Should You Use a Foam Roller?

Aside from injury prevention, foam rolling is proven to provide a host of other benefits in athletic applications. For instance, it doesn’t just keep you flexible; it also improves your mobility. Sure, you might not need to drop into a full split like a gymnast or have the range of motion of a wrestler, but you’ll certainly move (and feel) better if you’re willing to put in that little extra effort. What’s more, foam rolling is ideal for easing the build-up of lactic acid, a side effect produced during strenuous exercise. In practice, this means that you’ll be less inclined to cramp and your post-workout soreness will be much less severe.

Even in everyday life, a bit of foam rolling here and there will do you right. Much like a massage that helps to relieve tension at the end of a long day, a quick roll-out after work will relieve you of stress that’s surfaced in the form of knots and sore spots. And because it improves blood circulation by stimulating fluid through the lymphatic system, it ensures that your immune system is firing on all cylinders (a luxury that most of us would be willing to work for right now).

All that is to say — you’re only doing yourself a disservice if you haven’t implemented some kind of foam rolling recovery practice.

Types of Foam Rollers

Your needs will greatly determine which type of foam roller(s) you’ll need. If you’re unsure where to start, here are the main types:

Flat: Best for beginners or those who just want a basic roller for stretching and light massage, flat foam rollers may be lightly textured but are nowhere near as gridded as other options. Like a mattress, flat rollers may be soft, firm, or somewhere in between.

Textured: If you’re looking for a foam roller to help with muscle kinks and knots, check out some of the more textured options available. These are firm by nature and may be contoured to work through different parts of your spine or torso.

Deep-Tissue: Like textured foam rollers, deep-tissue rollers offer more specific tread patterns for your back and body parts. Only grab one of these if you’re well familiar with the territory and know how to stretch.

Miscellaneous: Those who have been exercising for some time will know that it’s not just your back that needs stretching and recovery. Some options won’t look like your typical cylindrical roller and may be shaped like a ball, plank, or something else entirely. Many of these range in size and have specific uses and can be transposed to your legs, arms, or feet.

What to Look For

Firmness: As iterated above, foam rollers are like mattresses and can range in firmness that will be favorable depending on your needs. If you’re looking for a good stretch, you may only need something soft. But if you’re looking for serious recovery or massaging, you’ll probably want to go firmer. However, some of these firmer options may be more painful to use, similar to a massage chair, so take that into consideration.

Size: For general back rolling, you can easily go with a longer foam roller. However, if you’re trying to target certain areas, you’ll want to go with something more compact and smaller. These have the added benefit of fitting inside a gym bag or backpack if need be. Also take into account the diameter of the foam roller, which can determine how aggressively it will work out your target area (i.e., a smaller diameter can mean a deeper knead while a wider diameter may work out a larger portion).

Texture: Wider foam rollers may have some sort of texture built in, which can help with massaging your back. Again, this may not be for everyone so really consider your needs and how often you feel stiff before and/or after your workout.

ProsourceFit Flex Foam Roller

ProsourceFit Flex Foam Roller
  • Good for beginners
  • Two length options
  • Half-cylinder versions available too
  • Pretty much only good for stretching

Best Budget Foam Roller: For those who are looking for a basic, no-frills foam roller, this option is your best bet. Made from non-toxic EPE foam, it’s ideal for beginners in that it’s not as dense as some of the other picks featured further down the list. It comes in 12″ and 36″ lengths, as well as round and half-round shapes, so you can grab several of them in order to fill out our foam rolling arsenal and attack every angle. As an added bonus, the half-round versions are great for balance training and improving body awareness.

Length: 12″, 36″
Density: Soft

Pro-Tec Athletics Orb

  • Several size options
  • Versatile for multiple body parts
  • Concentrated in one area helps target specific issues
  • Cheap
  • May take some extra know-how to use properly

Best Massage Ball: If you have yet to try trigger point therapy, you’re doing yourself a disservice. Massage balls make for one of the most effective methods of reducing muscle fatigue because they have a multi-directional roll and a small surface area. To put it another way — because they concentrate their pressure much more than cylindrical foam rollers, they allow you to really target that deep tissue tension. While it can be used on pretty much anything, it’s especially suited to tight arches, IT Bands, and calves.

Length: 3″, 4.5″, 5″
Density: Firm

Tiger Tail

Tiger Tail
  • Good for precise massaging and control
  • Cushioned cover makes for the perfect firmness
  • More difficult for use on your backside

Best Massage Stick: Traditional foam rollers are great if want to hit a large area in one pass, but if you’re after a more precision approach, it’s in your best interest to snag a massage stick like this one from Tiger Tail. For starters, it comes with a cushioned cover rather than a hard-plastic shell, making it more forgiving to work on your muscles. And thanks to Tiger Tail’s trademark Gription material, it strikes a perfect balance between grip and friction so you can really knead those pesky knots.

Length: 18″
Density: Firm

TriggerPoint Original

TriggerPoint Roller
  • Perfect balance between textured and non-textured
  • Hollow middle gives you extra control and shape retention
  • Brand’s website offers tips and tricks for using the roller
  • Fair pricing
  • We wish there were a longer option too

Best Overall: Widely endorsed by everyone from sports therapists to personal trainers, TriggerPoint is a name that needs no introduction. Their innovative offering takes the traditional foam roller and improves upon it with a patented multi-density design. What results is a roller that features a rigid hollow core with an EVA foam exterior, a combination that lets you roll out tight muscles with ease. TriggerPoint even includes a fully-stocked online library of tips and tricks to help you reap the most benefits from your recovery practice.

Length: 18″
Density: Firm

Rollga Foam Roller

  • Contoured to work around your spine and shoulder blades
  • Capable of hitting hard-to-reach areas
  • Great for shin splints
  • Went up in price a lot lately
  • May not last as long as other options

Best for Runners: This award-winning foam roller from Rollga is particularly well-suited to runners because of its contoured form factor. Unlike traditional designs, it doesn’t make contact with sensitive areas like the spine, shoulder blades, and shins, allowing you to massage your muscles without unwanted bruising. But that’s not all — because of its unique shape, the Rollga Foam Roller allows for a much more targeted technique, so you can get plenty of pressure in those hard-to-reach areas. If you struggle with shin splints or back pain, this one has your name written all over it.

Length: 18″
Density: Medium

RumbleRoller Original

  • Mimics thumb-like deep tissue massage
  • Knurls help break up knotted muscle fibers
  • Two hardness levels available
  • Not for beginners or casual stretchers

Best Deep-Tissue Roller: Designed to mimic a thumb-like deep tissue massage, the RumbleRoller is the one you want when the competition just won’t cut it. Because of its knobby finish, it’s extremely effective at breaking up knotted muscle fibers and reducing tightness. What’s more, it’s available in two different levels of hardness, so you can cater your recovery to your needs. The original design is a bit softer, making it a better choice for beginners switching over from more conventional rollers. Should you want an even more aggressive option, the Xtra Firm model is 36% firmer — buyer beware though, it’s not for the faint of heart (or especially sensitive).

Length: 31″
Density: Medium or Firm

Moji Heated Foam Roller

  • Two-piece design lets you use it different ways
  • Heats up easily in microwave for 30 minutes of heat
  • A bit short for back use

Best Heated Foam Roller: Pairing myofascial pain relief with built-in heat therapy, this option from Moji makes for a great one-two punch. It features a unique 2-piece design, allowing you to put it together or take it apart in order to hit muscle groups both large and small. And because it can be heated up to 140°F, after just 3 minutes in the microwave, it’ll provide up to 30 minutes of heat rolling. In addition to its ability to reduce tension and soreness, this one also has the benefit of improving circulation and releasing endorphins, guaranteeing maximal recovery between workouts.

Length: 13″
Density: Soft

Brazyn Morph Bravo

Brazyn Morph Bravo
  • Collapses down to 2″ thick for easy stowing
  • Easy to open back up
  • Lightweight
  • Supports up to 350lbs
  • A firmer option would be nice

Best for Travel: Take your recovery on the road with this innovative travel-ready roller from Brazyn. Made from over 60 different pieces of bamboo and recycled aluminum, it instantly collapses for space-saving storage — just give the endcaps a push and it packs down to a less than 2″ thick. And when you’re ready to bust it out and get to rolling, tug on the pull tabs and it’ll pop right up. But the best part is that even with its compact construction and lightweight design (only 1.5lb), it’s been proven to support up to 350lb.

Length: 14.5″
Density: Soft/Medium

Roll Recovery R8

  • Pressure can be changed with adjustment dial
  • Easy to use
  • Easy to travel with
  • Super durable stainless steel hardware
  • Not as helpful for upper body pains
  • Pricey

Best Non-Body Weight Roller: If you find the above options too cumbersome or painful to use, the Roll Recovery R8 will do just the trick. Unlike most foam rollers that rely on your body weight in order to provide adequate pain-relieving pressure, this purpose-built tool comes with all the necessary force built into it. As such, it’s incredibly easy to use and also mobile enough to bring with you wherever you go. Made with self-adjusting stainless steel hardware and soft TPU inserts, it fits a variety of different body shapes and sizes, allowing you to hit everything from your arms to your IT bands.

Length: N/A
Density: Firm

The Best Adjustable Dumbbells

Best Adjustable Dumbbells 00 Hero

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