Foam rolling is more than a fad. Sure, it may seem like everyone from fitness influencer to reluctant gym novice (aka me) has been talking about foam rollers recently, but that’s because they have some serious benefits. An old coworker of mine used to literally have one under her desk for post-workout, mid-workday rolling—seriously. But really, foam rollers are best used for just a few moments before and after your precious gym time, as a way to stimulate and relax muscles. That’s why we sought out the best foam rollers on the market right now.
How to use a foam roller:
The concept is simple. Foam rollers, in all their various shapes, textures, and sizes, are meant to stimulate blood flow and apply pressure to your muscles, helping them heal more post-workout. “It’s a very effective form of Self Myofascial Release (SMR) and a great way to relax muscles before or after exercise,” explains Billy Anderson, personal trainer and corrective exercise specialist at Life Time.
Some rollers have bumps or ridges that act as pressure points and feel like a more targeted massage (this is a loose term, rolling out your muscles can still be an uncomfortable process), while others are smooth and use your body weight to stretch out the sore spots. If you’ve ever used a foam roller, you’ll understand that the process can hurt a bit (it’s like taking a rolling pin to your body) but afterwards, you feel so much better.
Anderson recommends first rolling through the full length of the muscle you want to relax, and then taking a second pass to focus on holding sustained pressure on the trigger point for 30-60 seconds. Here are some the best foam rollers for you to try.
Best foam roller for your back
This best-selling option from Amazon Basics has everything a beginner roller could need. The 36-inch, high-density cylinder has just the right level of firmness. Like all foam rollers, it works in combination with your body weight to promote increased blood flow and enhance circulation to soft tissues. We named this one of the best foam rollers this one for its range of cute colors and plentiful five-star reviews on Amazon.
Best foam roller for total body
This 5-in-1 foam roller set is genius. It comes with pretty much everything you need to stretch, massage, and recover from your last sweat-sesh, without feeling couch-ridden the next day. Along with a targeted foam roller, it comes with several special accessories like a muscle stick, stretching strap, and spikey massage ball—tools that are each designed to increase blood flow to different parts of your body. When you’re finished, the inner cavity of the roller serves as storage for the accessories.
Best collapsible foam roller
While foam rollers tout lots of benefits, they’re not exactly portable, and the awkward shape makes it hard to find a place to store them in a small apartment. This Shark Tank-approved version collapses, so you can throw it in your gym backpack when you’re done using it, or store it under your bed so it doesn’t take up so much space.
Best trigger point foam roller
Don’t be deceived by the hollow core of this foam roller, it’s actually just as strong as the dense ones. Designed to help alleviate those trigger points, or the individual knots that form in muscles, this highly-rated roller features a surface pattern that’s supposed to mimic a massage therapist’s hand.
Best self-massaging foam roller
Speaking of massaging foam rollers, this unique shaped option is specially designed with contours that are supposed to fit your body and reach tough trigger points that may be harder to reach with an ordinary roller. It’s like your very own deep tissue massage.
Best vibrating foam roller
Amp up your muscle recovery process by trying a vibrating foam roller with different motor setting that can be tailored to your pre- or post-workout needs. The gentle vibration soothes tender muscles, while the surface patters works out those painful kinks.
Best small foam roller
An 18-inch foam roller can be just as beneficial as ones double the size. The length allows for simultaneous double arm and double leg work to soothe stubborn soreness.
After rolling out your tired sore muscles, you’ll be ready for that next workout in no time.