What is a Foam Roller? Is It Useful?
Have you ever used one of the best foam rollers?
If so, you’ve probably used one in physical therapy or with a personal trainer. Foam rollers are common among healthcare professionals and trainers because of their numerous benefits when it comes to your muscles.
You don’t need a doctor or a PT to use them. Foam rollers are for anyone who works out regularly. They help loosen up sore muscles and tissue so you can increase the blood flow and recover quickly. They also strengthen the muscles and increase mobility and flexibility.
Foam rollers are an effective and affordable way to do that all from the comfort of your own home.
Foam rollers come in various firmness, density, and sizes. If you want to get this fitness equipment for your home, become familiar with the different types so you can get the best option for you.
Types of Foam Rollers
Foam rollers come in all shapes and sizes. Each type can be used to target a specific part of the body or for a particular effect.
Consult this breakdown and even your health professional to see which foam roller is best for you.
Grid textured foam rollers are perfect for those with plenty of experience foam rolling and are looking to get out those knots.
The surface has indentations throughout to mimic the hand movements of a massage therapist. A workout with a textured grid roller will get your blood pumping. It will also take care of some of the trigger points and tight spots in your body.
- Pros: The 3D texture allows for your muscles to breathe, which increases blood and oxygen flow.
- Cons: Grid textured foam rollers tend to be a bit firmer than traditional rollers, which could be uncomfortable for some.
Grid textured foam rollers are best for increased mobility and recovery. They’re also excellent for experienced foam rollers.
A vibrating firm roller takes your foam roller therapy to the next level by eliminating most of the pain that comes with a deep tissue massage.
The device is vibrating while you roll. This feature gives you all of the benefits of a roller plus muscles that are relaxed.
The biggest downside to using a foam roller is the fact that they are the priciest of the bunch. However, if you’re dedicated to muscle therapy, it is worth it.
- Pros: The vibrating foam roller relaxes muscles while targeting tight areas in the body.
- Cons: This is the most expensive kind of foam rollers.
This type of foam roller is best for relaxing massage therapy.
Stick rollers are firmer, stick-like muscle rollers that target your trigger points by flattening out your fascia.
With proper use, they are perfect for getting your body to stretch and your muscles to reach a new level of flexibility.
Stick foam rollers are some of the denser, firmer types of muscle rollers. They are useful for targeting some of the muscles that are harder to access.
The difference between a stick roller and other foam rollers is that you use the weight of your hands to apply pressure. Different kinds use the weight of your body.
- Pros: The stick rollers are usually portable because of their small size.
- Cons: Professionals say not to use the foam roller and stick roller interchangeably because they can counteract the effects.
This kind is best for flexibility.
Imagine a standard foam roller chopped in half with the flat part facing down. That’s what a half foam roller is.
Half foam rollers are suitable for people looking to gain flexibility in their bodies. They are also great for training their bodies to balance and gaining strength in a few muscles. You can use a half roller to implement exercises into your regimen if you need to. You can use the roller on both sides.
- Pros: These provide more balance for people who are new to using foam rollers. They work for various exercises.
- Cons: You don’t get the full range of massage when using a half foam roller. It may also be hard to use for massages.
This type is best for muscle re-education and balance training.
Foam Rollers Buyer’s Guide
To reap all of the great benefits of using a foam roller, you need to know which one would work best for your body.
Here is a guide to foam roller features so that you can find out which option is best for you.
A good quality foam roller should last years.
The exact length of time, however, depends on how much you use it and the type of foam roller you buy.
If you buy a standard quality foam roller and use it every day, it won’t last as long. Eventually, the foam will weaken. When this happens, it’s a good idea to get a new one.
On the other hand, firmer or textured foam rollers will last longer because of their material and construction.
Ease of Use
If you don’t have a personal trainer or a physical therapist to help you, foam rollers can seem a bit intimidating.
There are tons of exercises and techniques to use to get the best benefits out of your foam roller. Online instructional videos can help you get started.
Beginners should stick with the standard size and texture. Grid textured foam rollers and stick rollers are harder to use correctly.
The density of a foam roller is critical to know before buying a foam roller.
They come in at three densities.
The softer density foam rollers are excellent for people who are new to using foam rollers and want a gentler experience.
The feeling is a bit softer and cushiony to the touch. It also provides a more therapeutic, comforting feeling.
Go with these types of foam rollers if you are looking for a comfortable roller that will keep its shape after heavy use.
The standard density is a medium density that is firm but not too firm to break in.
This density could also work for users who are new to using foam rollers. The standard density is also ideal for exercise and massages.
This type is the most versatile.
A firmer density is ideal for people wanting a deep tissue workout or to target tough trigger points.
This type is also for longtime users who want to upgrade their workouts from the standard to a firmer foam roller.
Firm rollers are for athletes who are looking to massage their muscles after intense training. This type will help prevent delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS).
Foam rollers come in a few diameters:
- Smaller size: Smaller sizes are best if you want to target specific muscles. These rollers usually range from three to four inches in diameter.
- Normal size: The standard size of a foam roller is six inches in diameter.
The length depends on what part of the body you plan to use it for:
- If you’re looking to target your back, choose a longer foam roller, about 36 inches.
- For travel, get a foam roller that is about the size of a ruler.
- For targeted work on the arms and legs, choose a foam roller that is about 24 inches.
The right texture will determine what type of massage and stretch you get with your foam rollers.
There are several types of surface textures. The main ones are smooth all around and a grid-like or ridge surface:
- Grid and ridged textures: Choose this type of foam roller if you like deep tissue massages and firmness on your muscles. If not, this type of foam roller may be painful. Because of the ridges and uneven surface, these types of rollers are perfect for loosening tight knots in places like the shoulders and back.
- Standard texture: The standard foam roller has a smoother surface that is usually a foamy, polyethylene material. Choose a smoother texture if you’re looking to get the most out of your foam roller. This type is helpful for both massages and exercises that’ll strengthen the muscles and increase mobility. You generally don’t have to worry about pain, depending on the firmness, because of the texture.
Foam rollers are designed to be lightweight because of the foam material.
The weight depends on the density and length of the roller. Some types of rollers, like the vibrating rollers or the firmer, grid-textured rollers will be much heavier.
Benefits of Using Foam Rollers
Why should you buy a foam roller? What are they good for?
There are quite a few answers to those questions. Finding an answer begins with figuring out what your target is.
Foam rollers are generally used for exercise, self-massage, and stretching.
Healthcare professionals and personal trainers claim that proper use can lead to longterm benefits for your whole body. The best part is that you can do it from the comfort of your own home.
Here are some more ways that foam rollers can benefit you.
Self Myofascial Release
Myofascial release is a fancy word thrown around on a lot of fitness blogs when it comes to foam rollers. That’s because creating a myofascial release is one of the most beneficial uses of a foam roller.
Myofascial release is a scientific way to describe what happens when you apply pressure to the tissue around the muscles. This pressure increases blood flow to the area.
Essentially, it’s giving yourself a massage.
Decreases Your Risk of Injury
Massaging your muscles after intense workouts is helpful because it increases blood flow, which aids in muscle recovery.
When you have more blood flow, your range of motion will increase. You’re also less likely to get injured.
This benefit is especially helpful for people who are athletes and regularly put a lot of strain on their muscles.
Speeds Up Recovery Time
Similarly, if you do have an injury, using a foam roller can help to speed up the time it takes to recover your muscles.
Therefore, foam rollers are popular in physical therapy. They help to draw fresh blood to the injured area, which allows the muscle and tissue to regenerate. This also applies to recovery time between workouts.
A foam roller is an excellent exercise tool and addition to any in-home gym. It is also a personal care item that can help you feel better after intense workouts.
Use this buying guide and our top picks to help pick the best one to add to your exercise equipment.
Editors' Choice: OPTP Silver AXIS Moderate Foam Roller
The OPTP foam roller offers the best benefits when massaging your muscles and creating the myofascial release that everyone wants.
The medium density deep tissue massager will help with muscle recovery. It’s also soft enough to use for exercises that help increase balance and stability.
This foam roller is our favorite because of its durability. It’s perfect for both beginners and experienced athletes.
OPTP Moderate Foam Roller Pros
- Eco-friendly construction: This fitness equipment has high-quality, closed-cell EPP foam to be more friendly to the environment.
- Moderate density: This is an excellent density for all levels.
- Multiple sizes and shapes: Foam rollers may not be one-size-fits-all. Options make it more likely to find one that meets your needs. Choose from a 12-inch half, 12-inch round, 18-inch round, 36-inch half, or 36-inch round.
OPTP Moderate Foam Roller Cons
- Professional use: This roller is for at-home uses. It may not be suitable for clinical or professional use.
Best Value: Gaiam Restore Total Body Foam Roller
Gaiam, a leader in the yoga and therapeutic exercise world, provides a high-quality foam roller that comes with a nice price tag.
The length is perfect for a full-body massage or workout. The firmness is excellent for people of all experience levels.
The Gaiam restore foam roller provides trigger point relief while it loosens up your tight muscles and joints.
Gaiam Total Body Roller Pros
- Exercise DVD: This tool comes with a DVD of exercise ideas.
- Semi-firm muscle stimulation: The construction is ideal for muscle work.
- Versatile length: This roller is long enough for a full spine workout but not too long for most users.
Gaiam Total Body Roller Cons
- Lower quality: Long-term use may lead to deterioration.
Best Grid-Textured: Trigger Point Grid Roller
Experienced foam roller users will be looking for a little more bang for their buck. A grid texture provides deep tissue muscle massages that will relieve your muscle knots or trigger points.
The grid texture has a firm EVA texture and a hollow center. This design provides various forms of pressure to your muscles.
Use this tool for great, targeted muscle therapy.
Trigger Point Grid Roller Pros
- High-quality materials: This roller is durable and holds its shape.
- High weight limit: This roller can handle up to 500 pounds.
Trigger Point Grid Roller Cons
- Shorter length: The length limits the amount of exercise you can do.
Best Vibrating Foam Roller: HyperIce Viper Vibrating Roller
If you’re looking for a little more than a simple workout and massage, the Hyperice Vibrating Roller is a top choice.
The Hyperice vibrating roller uses a durable material with a ridged texture to hit soft and deep tissue. You can be sure that you’ll get a full deep tissue massage with minimal pain when using the Hyperice.
Among the professional world, the Hyperice does well. Several professional athletes and personal trainers recommend it, and Amazon users gave it a good rating.
HyperIce Vibrating Pros
- Deep tissue massage: The ridged texture helps you get a quality massage.
- Three vibration settings: The vibration choices help you find what feels best to you.
HyperIce Vibrating Cons
- Expensive roller: This vibrating option is more expensive than other fitness gear.
- Short battery life: Some users say that the battery doesn’t last long.
- Short size: The length makes it harder to do some exercises.
Best Stick Foam Roller: Original Tiger Tail Massage Stick
For a compact, portable and effective foam roller, choose the Original Tiger Tail Massage stick.
This stick massager fits perfectly in your gym bag and can provide instant relief because of its compact density and diameter.
The Original Tiger is also made of foam so that its softer than most other stick massagers on the market.
It’s also easy to use because the handles are separate from the foam roller portion. You’re able to hold the stick and roll it over your muscles with ease.
The stick is perfect to use right after a cardio workout or to loosen up tight muscles in the shoulders or back.
Original Tiger Tail Stick Pros
- Compact size: The size makes it easy to travel with or take to your workplace.
- Three-year warranty: This guarantee helps you protect your investment.
Original Tiger Tail Stick Cons
- Hand controls: Because your hands control it and not your body, it doesn’t apply as much pressure.