The basic design of all foam rollers is essentially the same: a rigid tube made of (or wrapped in) foam. With affordable prices and versatile performance, they are great to use whether you are new to running, a seasoned athlete or even looking to stretch out after a day sitting at work.
Not only is the design a common element among most foam rollers, but so are their uses and benefits.
Foam rolling is relatively simple: Press your muscles into the roller and move side to side, back and forth. Studies have shown foam rolling can help decrease muscle tension from exercise or daily stress, and it can help increase your range of motion.
Fleet Feet coach and Physical Therapist Aaron Knighton makes foam rollers an essential part of his pre and post-run exercises.
You can choose a foam roller with a smooth surface and soft foam, or pick a firmer model that features textured surfaces to give you a deeper, more targeted massage. Or, you can kick it up a notch by trying a vibrating foam roller. These models use small internal motors to shake the roller as you use it, adding extra power to soothe muscles, reduce soreness and improve range of motion.
If you’re looking for an affordable, easy way to get a massage at home, these are the best foam rollers to try:
[This article is part of the Best Massage Tools 2021 Buyer's Guide. Find the right massage tool for all your needs at Fleet Feet.]
ROLL Recovery created the R4 to provide the traditional foam rolling experience but with features designed to enhance the massage.
The R4 sticks to the basic foam roller design. It’s a rigid plastic tube wrapped in a firm, dense foam. The R4’s difference, though, is in the foam’s design.
ROLL designed the R4 with different zones. Instead of one smooth tube, the surface of the R4 dips and rises to create a few areas meant to massage more muscles.
The broad sections on each end are great for rolling out big muscle groups, like the calves, quads and hamstrings. The center groove can roll out the back muscles around your spine and neck.
ROLL engineered the R4 to 18 inches long and six inches wide at its widest parts. The length makes it long enough to easily balance on when you’re on your back, but it’s not too long to make it unwieldy for maneuvering around.
The Addaday Nonagon is a traditional foam roller designed to go deeper.
Addaday’s nine-sided foam roller employs a textured surface that creates different pressures when you roll a muscle across it. The oval-shaped bumps reduce the surface area of the roller, which focuses pressure on a smaller area. Got a troublesome knot? Put it right on top of one of the bumps to untie it.
Some similar foam rollers have sharper protrusions that deliver an even more targeted massage, but the rounded oval shapes are a good middle ground. They stick out enough to get deep into muscle tissue but they’re not so aggressive that people new to foam rolling will be turned off.
The rounded shapes also mean the Nonagon still rolls easily across the ground, so you don’t have to worry about any jerky motion.
The Nonagon is 13 inches long and 4.5 inches in diameter. Fleet Feet reviewers find the 13-inch length to be the perfect size for most people. Long foam rollers give you maximum coverage and stability, but they’re more difficult to store out of the way. A 13-inch model (or something in the neighborhood) is easy to store in a cabinet or closet.
TriggerPoint engineered the GRID foam roller to mimic a massage therapist’s hands.
There are three different surface textures molded onto the GRID, each one with a specific purpose:
The different zones make it easy to find the right pressure and optimize your rolling session. TriggerPoint designers wrapped the EVA foam around a hard, hollow core that adds rigidity to the roller, so you can press deep into sore muscles.
At 13 inches long and 5.5 inches wide, the GRID is big enough to handle all major muscle groups but easy to stash out of the way. The standard GRID also comes in a longer size for bigger bodies or more coverage.
To bump up the power, TriggerPoint also makes the GRID in a vibrating version called the TriggerPoint GRID Vibe Plus.
The GRID Vibe Plus has the same foam rolling features as the unpowered GRID, but it includes a battery powered core that adds vibration into the mix. The rechargeable battery lasts up to two hours on a single charge, and its smaller diameter provides more targeted relief.
Go back to the basics with the Pro-Tec foam roller.
Even though there are fancier foam rollers on the market with textured surfaces and vibrating motors, Pro-Tec continues to make its basic foam roller because it just works—and it’s one of the most affordable options around.
The smooth surface provides maximum contact with muscles to loosen up fascia and flush blood through the body. Pro-Tec’s base model rolls easily on the ground and delivers just-right firmness to press deep into soft tissue.
The basic foam roller comes in two different lengths: 18” and 35”. The 18” length is a great all-purpose size that’s easy to get out of the way when you’re not using it. The 35” model gives you maximum coverage and stability, making it easier than ever to stretch and roll.
Whichever length you choose, the Pro-Tec foam roller is an easy choice for anyone new to foam rolling.
From the brand that engineered one of the best percussion massagers, the Vyper 2.0 delivers similar relief thanks to its high-powered motor.
Hyperice built the Vyper 2.0 to add another dimension to your massage. The vibrating foam roller gets its power from a 40W motor built into the tube. There are three different vibration settings or speeds to cycle through, so you can dial in your warmup or recovery.
Designers wrapped the core in a German-engineered foam that alternates between smooth and grooved textures.
Powered by a rechargeable lithium-ion battery, the Hyperice Vyper 2.0 is a premium vibrating foam roller that delivers top-notch performance.