The foam roller fad seemed like it was destined to fade quickly, since a good stretch is really all that is required to keep muscles loose and avoid most common injuries. Buying some extra grid thing that threatens to trip you up and can even bruise you if you do it wrong seems like a waste of money, and a needless hype item being upsold by Big Workout.
Though it appeared to be doomed, roller sales are higher than ever, and the reason is the level of looseness and muscle relief that comes from upgrading to rolling your muscles rather than just stretching them is the difference between pounding dough and getting the smooth, even texture a rolling pin provides. Foam rollers work out deeper kinks than simply stretching, and enhance bloodflow, flexibility, and muscle relaxation, giving you faster recovery time and better oxygenation; helping your body to work better when you employ it.
From the time you start a roller routine to the time you see the benefits of more flex and mobility in your body is about two weeks. You’ll go from screaming at the thing to aching to get back onto it, allowing it to work you like a masseuse, readying your body for the next workout, or keeping your aches from getting out of hand. If you’re an athlete looking to upgrade your game, a chronic pain sufferer seeking relief, or just want to get better performance out of your flesh bag, you need to get on the bandwagon and stock up on the 12 most excellent foam rollers for your meat.
Picking the Best Roller
There’s no such thing as a “best” foam roller, there’s just the best ones for their purpose. Depending on your fitness needs, you must select a roller that works with your level of activity, is the proper size for your frame, and has the level of stiffness you require. The harder the roller body, the longer it’s going to take you to acclimate to it, but the more good it’s going to do in the long run. Those with grid patterns intended to hit pressure points tend to be superior for athletes, though they’re also going to be more difficult to use, since the learning curve and acclimation are tougher.
Ideally, you would start with a softer roller to acclimate your body to the process, then upgrade to harder rollers as time goes on, reverting to the softer one on an as-needed basis. If that doesn’t suit you, it’s easiest to go for the best item you can, and then take the time to get your body used to it, even if it takes longer. The end results will be far better than if you start cheap and never move on to bigger and better things.
Tiger Tail Knotty Tiger Knot Buster
In an active body, knots are a way of life. While you hopefully have a partner or a good masseuse to help you get the worst of them out, quick relief can be had with this smartbomb of a roller. It will ease down major snarls for better movement and quick relief from a hardened clump behind your shoulder blade. Purchase: $18
OPTP Black Axis Firm Foam Roller
No need to dig deep if you’re just trying to press some of the aches and tightness out of your muscles. The fairly firm body will give you a good roll without trying to muck about with trigger point therapy, which reduces the potential harm you can do. Built to be soft for newbies and old pros alike, anyone can use this and walk away permanently satisfied. Purchase: $7-$21
TriggerPoint GRID Foam Roller
Though it goes light on the foam, aiming for a more sturdy, tough build that is meant to be put to work on a daily basis, the GRID isn’t too stiff for most, and the simple design allows for a grab-and-use functionality that is helpful for the newbie. Compact and easy to stash, it’s handy for mobile work as well. Purchase: $26-$33
SKLZ Cold Roller Ball
A quick combination of inflammation-reducing cold and targeted muscle working massage, this won’t work as an all-in-one roller, and isn’t really foam, but is still required for those who have an injury or need to give special attention to a spot or two on their body, where hotspots tend to set up shop in certain muscles. Purchase: $30
Tiger Tail Rolling Muscle Massager
There’s innumerable textured sticks out there that claim to be rollers, but accepting imitations is the path that leads to injury. When you want a simple stick that can keep pace with your muscle needs and won’t gouge at your tendons, Tiger Tail is the choice of champions. Purchase: $30
ProSource Sports Medicine Roller
Built to target adhesions, those who are deadly serious about how their foam roller operates will be able to get the absolute most out of the slightly longer, slightly larger roller from ProSource. When used properly, this is the final word in foam rollers, capable of getting into the nooks and crannies of your body, or give you a smooth and simple flattening before a morning jog. Purchase: $32
GoFit Extreme Massage Roller
Let the word “extreme” be a note for anyone who isn’t sure they want their flesh and fascia moved around, or their soft tissue to be put through the wringer. When you really need to be turned to goo, here’s how to do it. Purchase: $34
Master of Muscle Mauler Foam Roller
Two feet long, you can come at this roller from every possible angle and get it to perform feats that its shorter cousins only dream of. Weekend warriors and the die-hard daily doer with both be equally pleased with this basic design and unadorned price. An extremely solid “one size fits most” option. Purchase: $35
ProSource 2-in-1 Spike Massage Roller
A hardy spiker that can be used as one large roller or a pair of smaller ones, if you want partial portability along with a more advanced home rolling method that wants to press your points out through the other side, you’ll get your jollies right here. Purchase: $40
Intense Touch Rumble Roller
People who like deep tissue massage or shiatsu will see those big spikes and see a glorious machine made to loosen deep knots. Everyone else will see it as a torture device spawned in the lowest pit of perdition. If you want something that digs in, here’s your deliverance. Those who don’t dig being torn apart will find this to be a tool of suffering. Purchse: $45-$70
MELT Soft Body Roller
Supremely soft, the MELT is intended for those who want as gentle a touch as they can possibly get. Ideally suited for those with pain issues, or who want to be able to get only the lightest of massages to avoid damaging their frail bodies, it’s highly recommended for anyone of advanced years who needs a little circulation help. Purchase: $70
While it has a hefty cost, the people who need a vibration function built into their roller know there’s nothing else that comes close. Three speed settings and dense foam mix to give you a magic fingers massaging experience that adds a loosening function to get even more out of your roll. Purchase: $200