The Best Foam Rollers for Muscle Recovery
Why Get a Foam Roller?
Being sore after a tough workout is no fun. But thankfully, there’s a simple way to both prevent and ease aches and pains after the fact: foam rolling. While it can be practiced either before or after intense exercise, research shows that regularly rolling out your muscles with a foam roller offers a slew of benefits, like reducing muscle fatigue and soreness, speeding up recovery, and enhancing overall muscular performance.
Lauren Roxburgh, a trainer and structural integrative specialist, previously told Shape
that "a regular rolling practice can help you lengthen muscles by turning off overworked muscles and helping you tune into stabilizing muscles like your core, inner thighs, triceps, and obliques." According to Roxburgh, even if you only use a recovery tool—like a foam roller—sporadically, you're still "cleaning out some lactic acid that builds up in your muscle during exercise," as well as rolling out fascia (or connective tissue in the muscles). There are tons of different exercises you can do with a foam roller too. Regardless of when or how you use your roller, it's worth it to have this handy tool ready when you need it.
Now that you know the main foam roller benefits, you may be wondering which is the best foam roller to buy. Here's a list of the best foam rollers, including different types like muscle roller sticks, spiked foam rollers to reach your trigger points, and even a vibrating foam roller for a pseudo-deep tissue massage. Sounds heavenly, right?
Best Firm Foam Roller: AmazonBasics High-Density Round Foam Roller
This 18-inch, rounded foam roller is a great beginner, no-frills option that's super affordable. The firm-yet-lightweight roller is ideal for rolling out muscles anywhere on your body, and though it isn't textured, customers say the firm material works really well on tight, sore muscles and is the perfect size.
In fact, over 3,000 Amazon reviewers gave it a five-star rating. "I purchased this foam roller to practice my balance work," said one reviewer. "I have discovered it is perfect for rolling my spine and massaging my calves and hamstrings. I use it to practice all sorts of basic exercises and I think for the price, it is really worth it. I find it very, very firm which is what I wanted but if someone is expecting a soft, gentle massage, I don't think this would be that."
Best Muscle Foam Roller Stick: Tiger Tail Massage Stick
If you need a more targeted (or gentle) massage, go with this foam roller massage stick by Tiger Tail. It has two handles and a foam portion in the middle so you can target specific areas on your body while still staying comfortable. (Hint: Runners, it's great for your shins and calves!) What's more, this 11-inch option is perfect for traveling or bringing with you on the go for a quick muscle roll-out anywhere.
One reviewer said it "hurts so good" and continued, "It can be a bit painful if your muscles are very tight, but with just a few rolls, it helps loosen up the knots and relieve your pain. It's extremely hard to massage your own muscles and have it feel as good as a professional massage, but this comes closer to that. This feels like heaven the day after a heavy workout!" (Check out these other creative new recovery tools that will help you hit every inch of your body.)
Best Textured Roller: TriggerPoint GRID Foam Roller
The best textured option, the TriggerPoint foam roller has a three-dimensional surface and a hollow, plastic inner tube that offers more stability and firmness to roll out tight muscles and knots. BTW, the different stripe patterns aren't just for decoration; they're designed to replicate the feel of a massage therapist's palms, fingers, and fingertips on your muscles. The 26-inch roller is long enough to roll out large areas of your body at once.
TriggerPoint therapy tools are very popular among workout fanatics, and this foam roller is no exception—reviewers gave it a 4.5-star rating, and one user said, "Never quite got into foam rolling, knew it was good but it just always seems uncomfortable and painful when I would try it out on those solid, hard foam rollers they have that gym, BUT this foam roller is nothing like that! It feels so great and my muscles feel so much better after! I can't go a day without rolling!"
Best Vibrating Foam Roller: Vulken High-Intensity Vibrating Foam Roller
If you're looking for a vibrating foam roller for intense relief that mimics a deep tissue massage, this high-intensity roller by Vulken is the best choice for you. This super-innovative tool offers four speed settings for you to choose from, including an auto option that continuously pulsates for complete muscle relaxation. It also comes with a handy carrying case for easy transportation and a rechargeable battery that customers say lasts a really long time. (Related: How a Deep Tissue Massage Can Help Your Workout)
One reviewer called it "a must-have roller" and said, "The Vulken roller works just the same or better than the higher priced rollers. I love the different speeds and the length of the roller makes it easy to use on more areas of your legs. I am a runner and my feet and legs need constant rolling. The vibration of the roller makes it easier to roll. You can just sit still and let it work on your muscle pain. The roller charges quickly and is easy to travel with."
Best Spiked Foam Roller: Rumble Roller Textured Muscle Foam Roller
With large spikes that mimic acupuncture therapy spikes, this textured muscle foam roller offers the most intense massage. The specially formed bumps are firm yet flexible, designed to feel like a deep tissue massage. It may look painful, but the roller offers tons of relief for especially sore or tight areas—that's why over 700 reviewers gave it a perfect five-star rating. Users note that while it may seem intense at first, it's actually extremely effective at reaching trigger points. (Related: How to Use a Spiky or Bumpy Foam Roller)
"This roller is worth every single penny. I tend to be prone to knots in my shoulders. Recently, I had several large knots that were causing pain even down my arms and into my hands. I was about to pay for an expensive massage membership, but opted to give this a try, as I had used one years ago when I went to PT for an IT band injury," said one Amazon reviewer. "Using it just five minutes a day for about a week and my back and neck felt the best they have felt in years. It hurts quite a bit the first few times, so I recommend wearing a sweatshirt, but over time you get used to it and what used to feel like pain now feels really good!"