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When many of us think about our fitness routines, we consider the hours we logged at the gym, on the yoga mat, or on a nearby hiking trail. But the truth is, fitness is way more holistic than that. What you do after a workout can be just as important as what you do during it—and recovery is a key part of that process. “Post-workout recovery is everything,” says Ladders trainer, André Crews. “You cannot train to get stronger and faster without taking care of your body.”
There are tons of ways to recover from a workout, but foam rolling is a particularly popular one. Simply grab a foam roller, place it under some part of your body, and roll back and forth to give yourself a massage. “A foam roller is really going to relax the muscles and release any tension you may have,” Fred Edwards, Studio SWEAT onDemand trainer, says. But don’t be surprised if your first foam rolling experience feels a little intense. Crews adds, “Whether you’re new to working out or a fitness enthusiast, you will likely experience a degree of discomfort the first time you foam roll."
“Many of us live sedentary lifestyles in chairs and in front of screens,” Taylor Walker, Ladders trainer, says. “If you want to feel aligned, vibrant, and get the most out of your workouts, you have to give time for recovery.” What’s extra nice? Foam rollers aren’t just useful during cool-downs—they can also be a great way to warm up your body before a workout. So if you fall in love with foam rolling, rest assured knowing you’ll have plenty of opportunities to do it.
Read on for the best foam rollers.
Best Overall: AmazonBasics High-Density Foam Roller
The foam roller comes in four different lengths, but you’ll likely want the 24-inch or 36-inch option, both of which are long enough to roll out anything you need to. No matter which size you choose, though, you’ll end up with a solid pick. The foam roller is firm enough to massage your muscles but lightweight enough to carry with you on-the-go. And since its surface is smooth, you won’t have to worry about your foam rolling sessions getting too intense.
Best Budget: ProsourceFit High-Density Foam Roller
If you’re looking for a budget-friendly way to get into foam rolling, this one will be great for you. It's crafted from a smooth, high-density foam, which is a firm-yet-lightweight material that will help you work out all those kinks. And since it comes in six variations, you can pick the size and shape that works best for you.
Best Set: 321 Strong 5-in-1 Foam Roller Set
If you want to target all your muscles with all the right tools, opt for a set that does everything. This 5-piece set comes with a foam roller, a massage stick, a textured massage ball, a smooth figure-8 massage ball, and a stretching strap. Each of these items serves a different purpose, allowing you to massage your body from head to toe. Bonus: The foam roller is hollow, so you can store all the other tools inside.
Best Low-Density: OPTP Soft Foam Roller
Most foam rollers are crafted from high-density foam, which makes them incredibly firm. But if you’re looking for a softer, gentler massage, you can always opt for a lower-density foam roller, like the OPTP Soft Foam Roller. When you use it to massage your muscles, the compression you feel will be a little lighter than what you’d get from a more standard foam roller. It's a particularly comfortable option—and one that’s great for beginners.
Best Grid: TriggerPoint GRID Foam Roller
Many foam rollers are smooth to the touch. But if you’re looking for a more intense, targeted massage, you may be better off with a more textured option. Featuring a grid design, the surface of the roller is divided into smaller squares and stripes. This makes it easy to dig deeper into spots that need a little extra love—and the result is a seriously dynamic massage.
Best Vibrating: Hyperice Vyper 2 High-Intensity Vibrating Foam Roller
If a classic foam roller just isn’t enough for you, a vibrating option may be worth the splurge. This product looks like a classic foam roller, but it’s equipped with a motor that makes it vibrate. You can toggle between three different vibration settings based on what your muscles need. And since the foam roller is totally cordless, you can toss it in your gym bag any time you want to take it on the go.
Best Stick: TriggerPoint Handheld Massage Stick
Foam rollers are great for massaging bigger muscles, but what about all those smaller, harder-to-reach areas? When you’re looking for a more nimble massage, you’re better off with a massage stick—which is like a foam roller, but much thinner. This one is a particularly cool option because it’s made up of three different textures. The grid lining its center is great for deeper, more intense massages, while the tubes next to the grid offer a gentler experience. And of course, the curved handles are perfect for targeted stimulation. Simply direct the handle’s nub to a tender spot and dig in.
Best for Travel: Brazyn Morph Foam Roller
Because foam rollers are pretty bulky, they’re rarely travel-friendly. You might toss them in your gym bag, but sparing that much room in your suitcase? No way. Thankfully, this portable option will do the trick. When fully expanded, it looks like a standard grid foam roller. But when you’re done using it, you can completely flatten it—simply pull the tabs on the sides of the foam roller to expand it and push on the ends of the foam roller to collapse it.
Best for Your Back: Acumobility Ultimate Back Roller
Foam rollers are great for massaging all kinds of body parts. But they can be a little hard to use on your back because they tend to be narrow and long, so they sometimes don’t really get between your shoulders or other hard-to-reach spots. Thankfully, this circular roller is just the right width for your back, and its textured surface will give you a dynamic massage that gets into every crevice.
If the texture on a foam roller is too intense at first, you can always drape a towel over the surface as you get used to it.
Best for Smaller Spots: Kieba Massage Lacrosse Balls
Need to massage your calves, your feet, or some other small spot on your body? You might want to try a massage ball in lieu of a full-on foam roller. Since massage balls are small, they can dig into muscles in a more precise and targeted way. This makes them a great option when a foam roller just isn’t doing the trick.
Best for Shoulders: Gaiam Restore Massage Stick
Foam rolling your shoulders can be incredibly hard. Classic foam rollers tend to be too wide for the task, and balls can be unwieldy. Thankfully, this Gaiam massage stick will give you the targeted, easy-to-control massage you’re looking for. The center is lined with textured balls that help to dig into the areas between and around your shoulders. Lie on top of it and roll back and forth, or grip either end of the stick to roll out your shoulders while standing. Either way, you’ll be in for a delightful massage.
Best for Deep Tissue Massage: 321 Strong Deep Tissue Massager
The 321 Strong Deep Tissue Massager isn’t your average grid foam roller. Instead, the texture on its surface is deep and pronounced—making it a very intense foam roller. This makes it a great option when you’re looking for a deep tissue massage. And really, why not tack a spa-worthy experience onto the end of each workout?
Best for Heat Therapy: Moji Heated Foam Roller
If you want to take your foam rolling to the next level, this product will work wonders. Offering both heat and massage therapy at the same time, this foam roller is microwaveable so it's super easy to use. After just 3 minutes, you’ll be giving your muscles a seriously cozy massage.
Foam rolling can be a great way to warm up for—or cool down from—a workout. And since it feels like a massage, you might actually look for excuses to do it regularly. If you want to add a foam roller to your routine, you can’t go wrong with a straightforward classic like the AmazonBasics High-Density Foam Roller (view at Amazon). For a more intense massage, try a gridded foam roller like the Trigger Point Performance TriggerPoint GRID Foam Roller (view at Amazon) or the TriggerPoint Handheld Massage Stick (view at Amazon) to target hard-to-reach spots. And if you’d prefer a relaxing treat, the Moji Heated Foam Roller (view at Amazon) is worth the splurge.
What to Look for in a Foam Roller
Size and Shape
Different shaped and sized foam rollers will massage different parts of your body. Generally, the standard cylinder foam roller can massage most of your body. However, a slimmer stick or ring/ball-shaped foam roller can target your back, shoulders, and other hard-to-reach areas more efficiently.
Hard vs. Soft Foam
Typically, foam rollers are made from high-density foam. These are very firm and can maintain their shape for long periods of time. If you're looking for a softer massage, look for a roller made of low-density foam. Just remember, these may not keep their shape as well as their high-density counterparts, so they may need to be replaced frequently.
Texture and Other Features
Foam rollers can either come smooth or textured. Smooth foam rollers are great for beginners, whereas textured foam follers allow you to create a targeted massage to rub out any kinks or knots. If you really want to take your massages to the next level, you can also look for foam rollers that offer vibration and heat.
What does a foam roller help with?
Foam rollers offer a bunch of benefits. Although more research is needed, it has been found to prevent sore muscles, relieve pain, improve range of motion, and more.
Is foam rolling better than stretching?
Not really. In fact, foam rolling is actually a great activity to combine with stretching in your warmup and cooldowns. One study found that when combined, foam rolling and stretching improved flexibility and performance in adolescent athletes than doing them individually.
How long should you use a foam roller?
You can use your foam roller up to five to six times a day in three to five-minute intervals. You can even try it 10 minutes before bedtime to help put you to sleep.