The 10 Best Foam Rollers
This wiki has been updated 30 times since it was first published in February of 2015. Relieve some of your aches and pains or add a new element to your stretching regimen before and after workouts with one of these foam rollers. Popular with runners, they are available in a variety of lengths, diameters, and textures; are good for dynamic strength applications and floor exercises; and can help reduce muscle tightness and even improve joint flexibility. When users buy our independently chosen editorial picks, we may earn commissions to help fund the Wiki.
April 22, 2020:
Foam rolling could boost your post-workout recovery, and perhaps even feel good, but you should avoid being overly rough or working on cold muscles. It's a good idea to check with a doctor or physical therapist before you get started, especially if you have any injuries, and stop if you feel pain.
With that said, the original TriggerPoint Grid remains the option to beat, as it combines usability, durability, and a relatively budget-friendly price. It comes in various colors, and isn't prone to breaking down over time like some. But we've removed the RumbleRoller Textured, as it is simply too hard for most, and it can even pinch when used incorrectly. If you do need a model with more bumps than the TriggerPoint, but that won't be overly hard, consider the 321 Strong or the Gimme 10 PowerPro. The latter is especially useful, as it's two rollers in one, although the outer piece's long-term durability could be better.
For those who'd prefer a smooth option, without the textured bumps, the AmazonBasics High-Density remains a great choice, and we've added the Original Tiger Tail Massage Stick. The Tiger Tail is especially useful for those who have trouble using foam rollers and massage balls that require getting down on the floor. Instead of relying on your body weight, it has handles you can use to roll the surface over your muscles. Or, for something a little different, there's the WodFitters T-Pin Vector, with a "double bubble" core that is great for the neck, lower lumbar region, or the soles of your feet. It's more expensive than most, though.
Hyperice Vyper 2.0 The Hyperice Vyper 2.0 is quite a bit more expensive than most options, but that's for a good reason. Inside, you'll find a 40-watt motor that vibrates to bring you a fast warm-up or recovery, while the exterior features a sturdy, eco-friendly foam with both smooth and grooved areas. hyperice.com
Gopher Deluxe Pack Each Gopher Deluxe Pack includes 24 rollers in a variety of firmnesses and lengths, as well as the Magnus Stationary Rack for keeping them corralled. It's a great option for fitness centers and Pilates studios, and it's backed by a 100-percent satisfaction guarantee. gophersport.com
Lululemon Double Roller Mini From the yoga studio to the gym and back home again, the Lululemon Double Roller Mini travels easily thanks to a diminutive, 10-inch length. Both the outer and inner roller are grooved, making it a cinch to tackle various body parts, and it comes in two stylish, swirled color options. shop.lululemon.com
The Importance Of The Fascia
It serves as a passageway for blood vessels, nerves, and lymph, and provides insulation in otherwise empty spaces.
The basic function of a foam roller is to mobilize the fascia of the body. The fascia is an interwoven covering of connective tissue over every muscle, bone, nerve, and artery in the body. It also surrounds the brain, heart, lungs, and spinal cord. Unlike other systems of the body which contain many individual parts, the fascia is one continuous structure that exists throughout the body without interruption.
Although it is a passive structure, fascia plays an important role in the proper function of the musculoskeletal system in the body. In a normal, healthy body, the fascia is relaxed and has a wavy shape to it. It has the ability to stretch and move without restriction. This is an important feature, as the fascia acts to reduce the friction of muscular force. The more relaxed the fascia is, the less friction is created as the muscles fire.
There are three layers of fascia, each playing their own important role in the body. The superficial fascia lies immediately below the skin, blending with the lowest layer of the dermis. Superficial fascia also surrounds organs, glands, and nerves in the body. It serves as a passageway for blood vessels, nerves, and lymph, and provides insulation in otherwise empty spaces. The visceral fascia is the tissue which suspends the organs in their cavities within the body and wraps them in connective tissue for insulation.
Visceral fascia is more sturdy than superficial fascia, as it needs to hold organs in place consistently. Deep fascia is the dense connective tissues which surround individual muscles and divide muscle groups to reduce friction. The deep fascia in a healthy body is highly elastic, allowing it to extend with the muscles as they stretch, yet hold its original shape when the muscles relax.
How A Foam Roller Benefits The Body
When one experiences trauma, the fascia loses pliability, becoming restricted and tense. Fascial restrictions can cause many symptoms that produce pain and restriction of motion, affecting the body's flexibility and stability, and largely determining a person's ability to withstand stress and perform daily activities.
Researchers of this study found that participants who used foam rollers had a significantly shorter recovery time than participants who did not use foam rollers.
It does not take a traumatic event such as a car accident to affect the fascia. Incorrect posture or intense workouts can trigger small changes in this connective tissue, which over time leads to major dysfunction. Foam rollers help to counter this fascial tightness through myofascial release. After spending long hours in an office chair, the tissues of the body are generally tightened to fit to the contracted muscle tissue. Using a foam roller to apply steady pressure to the muscles can help break up these tight tissues, allowing them to relax back into an elongated resting position.
After an intense workout, the muscles of the body are pushed past their normal limits, creating small tears in muscle fibers. The body responds by tightening the muscles to prevent damage while they heal. The soreness experienced from this process is known as delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS), and generally lasts from 24-72 hours after an intense workout.
Using a foam roller has been studied to reduce the recovery time of sore muscles experienced post workout. Researchers of this study found that participants who used foam rollers had a significantly shorter recovery time than participants who did not use foam rollers.
The Importance Of The Post-Workout Routine
Having a post-workout routine is just as important to the body as the act of working out. Recovery time between workouts largely decides the performance potential of any athlete; the quicker the body recovers, the quicker the athlete can partake in strenuous activity again.
As they also act to break up the fascia, foam rollers promote the proper structure and function of healthy muscles.
After bouts of intense exercise, one of the most import things to do is engage the muscles in an active cool down period. Going directly from a high-intensity workout to resting can cause stiff, sore muscles. This is because muscles that were elongated from the workout are quickly contracted again. The body needs a cool down period to slowly bring the muscles to their normal range again. Light jogging, swimming, and walking are all great ways to slow the heart rate and actively cool the body off.
Once the heart rate is normalized and the body is in a more relaxed state, it is important to stretch the muscles out. Stretching after a workout encourages the muscles not to tighten up as much or as quickly as they would do without stretches. It also reduces the build up of toxins in the muscles, and makes the work of a foam roller much easier.
Incorporating a foam roller into the post workout routine is a must. Using a foam roller allows athletes to push out kinks and knots in the muscle tissue, and can soothe overly fatigued muscles. As they also act to break up the fascia, foam rollers promote the proper structure and function of healthy muscles.
Diet is the another important factor of a post workout routine. Athletes should drink plenty of water post workout to help flush toxins from the system. Good post workout foods are typically high in protein, as muscles use it to rebuild themselves from strenuous workouts.