How to Choose a Foam Roller: All You Need to Know

Foam rollers have been recently growing in popularity for their versatility and benefits. A study by Harvard’s Med School even discussed the added benefits of including foam rolling in your fitness routine.

From stretching your muscles and relieving soreness to alleviating myofascial tension, the benefits keep piling on for foam rolling.

The best thing about foam rolling is that it isn’t just made for athletes or pros; it’s made with everyone and every body part in mind.

Sounds interesting? We’ll let you in on a few tips on how to choose a foam roller that fits your needs!

How to Choose a Foam Roller

When shopping for a foam roller, there are a few factors you should keep an eye out for to ensure the best bang for your buck.

Your Experience Level

Choosing a foam roller will differ according to your level of experience. If you’re a newbie to foam rolling, you should pick out a foam roller that is soft and has a smooth texture. This will help gradually ease your muscles into the routine.

If you’ve got some experience with foam rolling and are looking for an upgrade, a medium or high-density roller will do the trick. Smooth rollers will provide more pressure, but if you want an added massage, opt for a textured roller.

We recommend the Amazon Basics Foam Roller for a firmer choice. You can read our full review of this foam roller here.

Amazon Basics Foam Rollers
  • High-density foam roller with molded edges
  • Ideal for balance, strengthening, flexibility, and rehab exercises
  • Made in the USA from molded polypropylene to maintain firmness
  • Lightweight, easy to clean and transport
  • Measures approximately 36 x 6 x 6 inches (L x W x H)

Foam Type

What type of foam the roller is made out of isn’t just a matter of quality; it’s also a matter of durability and usability. When choosing your foam roller, be on the lookout for these types.

Open-Cell Foam

Usually priced at a suspiciously low price, this type of foam will do the job for a simple massage or exercise but will break down faster than other types. If you find a roller with this type of foam, we’d click off that tab if we were you.

Closed-Cell Foam

As you can guess from the name, closed-cell foam is more tightly bound. This makes it stronger, more durable, and easier to maintain.

There are two main types of closed-cell foam: EPP and EVA foam. Let’s touch on each type very briefly.

EPP Foam

EPP foam is a nice middle-ground for most foam rollers as it’s both affordable and durable. For beginners, or for the average day-to-day use, this foam type will accommodate your fitness routine with ease.

EVA Foam

The most durable of the bunch, EVA foam’s closed-cell build enables it to withstand repetitive and heavy use without losing its form. It’s also easy to clean with a simple wipe down.

Foam Density

Foam rollers come in three density or hardness levels: low, medium, and high density. Most brands even color-code their rollers according to firmness levels, where lighter colors signify softness, and darker colors signify firmness

Soft foam rollers are perfect if you’re new to foam rolling or have low pain tolerance. When starting out, your muscles will need to gradually get used to foam rolling. If you don’t ease them in, you might injure yourself. ProsourceFit Flex Foam Rollers are easy on your muscles and wallet.

If you’re used to foam rolling or looking to up the intensity, a medium-density roller is your best bet. Medium rollers are often used for core stabilizing exercises and Pilates. Yes4All has a bunch of sizes and fun colors to choose from.

Yes4All Foam Roller
  • PROUDLY MADE IN USA ROLELR: Made from high quality PE 30% heavier & firmer than the ones from the same class for deeper massage than standard foam roller. Smooth, anti-slip, lightweight yet can retain support 250 lbs and shape after heavy uses
  • LIGHTWEIGHT AND PORTABLE: Come in a variety of colors and lengths to choose from, easy to choose the perfect fit and bring with you anywhere be it the park or your office to have solid muscle pain relief workouts
  • REAP ALL THE BENEFITS OF FOAM ROLLING: Yes4All Extra Firm Foam Rollers are ideal to trigger all your tight muscles pre and post workouts, increase blood flow and oxygen to the tissue helping the natural healing process
  • PERFECT FOR SELF-MASSAGE THERAPY & MYOFASCIAL RELEASE: Great for improving muscle mobility, flexibility and preventing soreness for all sports enthusiasts, CrossFit, Pilates, bodybuilding, running, weight training, yoga
  • HELP INCREASE RANGE OF MOTION AND STRESS MANAGEMENT: Foam rolling helps stretch and lengthen muscles, thus expanding range of movements. You can also feel a whole lot better now that tight spots and discomfort are targeted and reduced

Lastly, high-density or hard rollers are used to hit every knot and trigger point in your body by applying more pressure. We recommend using hard rollers only if you’re experienced in using foam rollers, as they can cause muscle strains or injuries for newbies.

Surface Texture

While browsing for a new roller, you’ll come across a variety of textures and shapes. The most common is the smooth texture, with which rollers resemble pool noodles. This texture is perfect for most people.

Another form is the gridded or textured roller, these are rollers that have knobs, bumps, or even honeycomb shapes that work your deep tissues and massage your body.

Some models have one recurring pattern all over the roller, while others provide alternating patterns that provide different amounts of pressure, just like a masseuse’s hands would.

321 STRONG Foam Roller
321 STRONG Foam Roller - Medium Density Deep Tissue Massager for Muscle Massage and Myofascial Trigger Point Release

Size

Another factor to consider when buying your new roller is its size. Foam rollers can range from 3 to 36 inches; each with its recommended use.

  • Small foam rollers (3-4 inches) are ideal for muscle group targeting, like targeting calves or shoulder muscles.
  • Medium rollers of around 12 inches are easy to carry around and pack if you’re always on the move. They’re good for working a wider range of muscles than a small roller.
  • Long rollers around 24-36 inches are ideal for working on arms, legs, and back because they cover a bigger surface area. Long rollers, particularly 36-inch models, also have the added benefit of being used perpendicular to your spine to stretch your entire back.

We recommend 36-inch foam rollers for beginners to avoid muscle strains, and small or medium rollers if you’re targeting a specific muscle group, or just want a travel-friendly roller.

Feel like you can’t handle a roller right away? You can go for a half-roll option to build up your tolerance first. They’re basically foam rollers cut in half, making them a more stable option for you to just lay on them, and stretch your muscles.

Extra Features

Some foam rollers boast additional features like different vibration or pulse modes. Some even feature heating and cooling options. Are they worth it, though?

Vibrations or pulses, like the ones FITINDEX Vibrating Foam Roller provides, give your rolling experience an extra boost for muscle recovery and warmups.

Sale
FITINDEX Vibrating Foam Roller
FITINDEX Vibrating Foam Roller 5-Speed , Next Generation Electric Foam Roller for Muscle Recovery, Fitness Deep Tissue Trigger Foam Roller for Post-Workout Pain Relief - Gray

Heated foam rollers can help relieve muscle tension and fascia by warming up the muscles as you roll, which will make the rolling a much more pleasant experience. Moji’s Foam Roller is a great option if you’re looking for a compact and heated roller.

While these extra features seem captivating, they aren’t necessary for a foam roller to do its job. Since they come with a higher price tag compared to regular foam rollers, we wouldn’t recommend getting them as your starting roller.

What Does Foam Rolling Do?

Now that we know what to look for in a foam roller, let’s take a closer look at what exactly foam rolling does.

Our body muscles are connected through a bonding tissue called fascia. Foam rolling is used as a form of myofascial release, which works on relieving the tightness and sensitivity that occur due to overworked muscles or injuries.

Rollers can also be used for stretching out plantar fasciitis and improving posture by working the spine and shoulders.

But that’s not the only reason for rolling. Foam rollers can be used as warm-up exercise tools, and even as means of cooling down after a workout session.

Some yoga enthusiasts incorporate foam rollers into their routines to ease their way into different poses or dial up the difficulty on some.

Physical therapists and doctors can also prescribe foam rollers to their patients as a form of rehabilitation or injury prevention. Some people simply use them as massagers after a long day.

With all the shapes and sizes out there, there’s always a foam roller for everyone.

Which Type of Foam Roller to Get

Flustered by all the choices out there? We’ve compiled a list of foam rollers for a variety of uses to make your shopping process easier.

Best Foam Roller for Beginners

When starting out, a good option to consider is OPTP Soft Pro-Roller. OPTP is a reputable brand that creates long-lasting EVA foam rollers. If these are out of your budget, ProSourceFit has an EPE foam option that is more affordable.


Best Yoga Foam Roller

Next, let’s look at how to choose a foam roller for improving your yoga practice. Balance, core strengthening, and increasing your yoga poses’ difficulty are just a few benefits a foam roller can add to your yoga routine.

If you’re working on your balance, a half roll is a versatile option, and ProSourceFit has two half roll lengths to choose from.

ProsourceFit Flex Foam Rollers
ProsourceFit Flex Foam Rollers Half Size

However, a regular foam roller will help you with more exercises such as planks, upward facing dog, and reclining goddess poses. Yes4All has a variety of medium-density rollers that will give your poses a new, challenging twist.


Best Foam Roller for Myofascial Release

If you suffer from fascia pain and need a foam roller to alleviate the pain, 321’s medium-density roller has a uniquely designed grid texture that targets deep tissue, and myofascial trigger points. They also have a wide array of colors that will add a pop of fun to your workout gear.

Need a firmer roller? The Original Body Roller has three massage zones that penetrate deep tissues and get rid of any knots, and relieve myofascial pain.

The Original Body Roller Foam Roller
The Original Body Roller - High Density Foam Roller Massager for Deep Tissue Massage of The Back and Leg Muscles - Self Myofascial Release of Painful Trigger Point Muscle Adhesions

Best Foam Roller for Runners and Swimmers

Making laps and freestyling can take a toll on your muscles without a proper warmup and muscle recovery.

If you’re a swimmer or runner, a textured foam roller can help prepare your muscles beforehand, or relieve any tensions after you’ve completed your sets. TriggerPoint’s 13-inch Grid foam roller is a compact option to bring along to practice.

Want to give those stubborn knots a more thorough workout? A vibrating foam roller like Vibra combines the benefits of a regular textured roller with the added five-speed settings for the vibrations. The best thing about it? It lasts for 4 hours at the highest speed and is recharged with a regular USB cable in no time.

Epitomie Fitness VIBRA Vibrating Foam Roller
Epitomie Fitness VIBRA Vibrating Foam Roller - Next Generation Electric Foam Roller with 5 Speeds Settings | Includes Carry Case & Vibration Foam Rolling Training

Final Words on How to Choose a Foam Roller

Whether you’re a novice to foam rolling or a long-term enthusiast, there’s surely a foam roller out there that’s perfect for you.

Always start with softer rollers and build up the intensity as your muscles get used to rolling. This will help you avoid injury.

However, if you’re a pro looking to splurge on a new gym toy, we recommend taking a look at vibratory or heating/cooling foam rollers.

Remember that if you’re considering a foam roller for rehabilitation or physical therapy, consult with your physical therapist or trainer first. They can recommend certain firmness or types that best suit you.

Now that you know how to choose a foam roller, what are you waiting for? Get rolling!

More Foam Rolling Buyers Guides

Check out these very helpful buyers guides directed at helping you to decide which foam roller is best for you and your unique needs.

Last update on 2021-05-27 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

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