Key to a lifetime of healthy and happy running is taking good care of your body, and the best foam rollers on the market can help you do just that. While there are countless ways to speed recovery, from massage and physical therapy to acupuncture, a foam roller is the easiest and least expensive. Incredibly common to any athlete’s household, a foam roller can be used daily to massage muscles and tendons, facilitate blood flow, and work out knots or kinks. Regular foam roller use can help keep muscles and tendons flexible, limber, and strong.
In this guide, we’ve rounded up the best available foam rollers. We’ve got our favorite all-around top picks for reaching deep into muscle tissue, the best option for beginners, and travel. We’ve also included a vibrating foam roller, which combines percussive massage into your foam rolling routine.
If you’re new to foam rolling, there’s a good chance your foam roller comes with a guide or suggested routines. You can also find routines online, and if you opt for Therabody’s vibrating foam roller, there’s an app with self-guided recovery routines. To learn about other types of recovery tools, check out our guide to the best recovery tools for athletes.
Best Foam Rollers
Best Foam Roller Overall: Pro-tec Athletics Contoured Foam Roller
Other Great Foam Rollers: Roll Recovery R4 Body Roller, TriggerPoint Grid 1.0 Foam Roller
Best Foam Roller for Travel: Brazyn Performance Morph Collapsible Foam Roller
Best Foam Roller for Beginners: Pro-tec Athletics 35″ Foam Roller
Best Foam Roller for Deep Tissue: Gaiam Restore Deep Tissue Performance Roller
Best Foam Roller for Deep Tissue – Runner-Up: Rumble Roller 12″ Compact Original Textured Foam Roller
Best Vibrating Foam Roller: Therabody Wave Roller
Best Foam Roller Overall: Pro-tec Athletics Contoured Foam Roller ($35)
- Sturdy yet soft on the outside
- All-around option for any athlete
- Great price
- Slightly smaller options would be easier for traveling
A few foam rollers quickly rose to the top of the list during testing, and the Pro-tec Athletics Contoured Foam Roller ultimately took the spot as best overall. Like our other favorites, this foam roller is designed with ridges and bumps that stimulate blood flow without pressing uncomfortably into sensitive muscle tissue. The roller’s outer foam is squishy and firm, and it feels slightly softer than one of our other favorites, the Roll Recovery R4. That said, while the foam feels soft when pressed, it quickly bounces back and retains its shape. The foam roller’s center is solid and sturdy.
Because the textured outer foam has a comfortable amount of give, this foam roller is a good option for anyone. Experienced athletes will be able to use the textured surface and firmer core to access deep tissue, and at the same time, newbies won’t feel overwhelmed by the intensity. Its fairly average 14-inch length and five-inch diameter make this foam roller easy to maneuver and reasonable to carry while traveling. Yet, it’s still large enough to access many muscles and tendons. Finally, we appreciate this foam roller’s competitive price and great value.
Claimed Dimensions: 14 x 5 inches | Weight: 14.9 ounces (422 grams) | Material: Elastomer (closed-cell foam)Shop the Pro-tec Athletics Contoured Foam Roller
Other Great Foam Rollers
- Versatile shape and texture
- More expensive than other top picks
- The surface collects animal fur and small amounts of dust
Another great foam roller and a previous top pick in our guide to the best recovery tools for running, the Roll Recovery R4 Body Roller is a well-balanced option that will work well for just about any athlete. Its outer layer of high-density foam is on the firmer side without being rock hard, and its contours and textured surface add versatility to its application. The surface has a diamond-pattern texture and a central groove for rolling the spine, forearms, Achilles tendons, and other targeted areas. Beneath this foam, the R4 Body Roller has a layer of hard plastic and a hollow core that keeps it sturdy yet light for its size. The surface does tend to pick up dust and animal fur, and we recommend using a yoga mat underneath.
While this foam roller is a bit firmer than the Pro-tec Contoured Foam Roller and the TriggerPoint Grid 1.0 Foam Roller, its shape can ratchet up or ease the intensity. The center groove and the slightly convex ends provide a more intense foam rolling experience, while the subtly concave sections on either side of the center offer gentler pressure. This varied shape adds to the appeal. Although this foam roller is slightly larger than some of our other top picks, it’s still a good size for tossing in the car for after a race or long run. The only real drawback with this foam roller is that it’s notably more expensive than some of the other great foam rollers on this list.
Read our in-depth Roll Recovery R4 Body Roller review to learn more.
Claimed Dimensions: 18 x 6 inches | Weight: 2.8 pounds (1,277 grams) | Material: High-density EVA foam, engineered ABSShop the Roll Recovery R4 Body Roller
- Soft yet sturdy
- Great price
- It could be too small for some bodies
Like our other top picks, the TriggerPoint Grid 1.0 Foam Roller provides a very nice balance of softness on the surface with a sturdy, firm core. Like others on this list, this foam roller has a hollow core — yet at a claimed weight of just 1.4 pounds, it’s much lighter than some other options. Part of this is due to its smaller size, measuring just thirteen inches in length compared to the Roll Recovery R4 Body Roller’s eighteen inches. This smaller size makes it easier to transport, especially if you’re traveling by air, yet it might also limit its use for runners and athletes with larger bodies.
According to the brand, this foam roller has a textured grid pattern that mimics a massage therapist’s hands. We wouldn’t go so far as to equate foam rolling with getting a massage from a licensed therapist, but we do like how the squishy foam feels against our muscles. The smooth, hard plastic lining beneath provides sturdy support for even the most advanced foam-rolling athletes, making this foam roller an excellent option for any experience level.
Claimed Dimensions: 13 x 5.5 inches | Weight: 1.3 pounds (566 grams) | Material: EVA foamShop the TriggerPoint Grid 1.0 Foam Roller
Best Foam Roller for Travel: Brazyn Performance Morph Collapsible Foam Roller ($70)
- Easy to transport
- Easy to collapse and put back together
- It doesn’t roll as smoothly as traditional foam rollers
If you’re always on the go and like to take your recovery routine, the Brazyn Performance Morph Collapsible Foam Roller might be your next best travel buddy. This lightweight foam roller collapses into a compact rectangle board that is only two inches thick. It’s built with bamboo strips, EVA foam on the outside, and aluminum plates on either end. Like our other favorites above, the roller provides a nice balance of soft-yet-firm foam rolling. To collapse this foam roller, simply push the round aluminum plates inward. To turn it back into a foam roller, pull the cord loops on either end until the aluminum plates lock back into place. Easy!
Although this foam roller is excellent for travel, its design has some drawbacks. First, it’s expensive. If it will remain at home or only travel with you occasionally, there are cheaper options, such as the TriggerPoint Grid 1.0 Foam Roller above, which is lightweight and small for half the cost. Additionally, the bamboo boards that make this foam roller so easy to collapse and pack away provide a slightly less smooth rolling experience than a traditional roller with an uninterrupted foam surface. That said, if you’re in the market for a travel-specific foam roller that takes minimal space in your luggage, this one is the most packable we’ve found, and it will undoubtedly do the trick for your recovery needs.
Claimed Dimensions: 14.5 x 5.5 inches | Weight: 1.6 pounds (726 grams) | Material: Bamboo, aluminum, EVA foamShop the Brazyn Performance Morph Collapsible Foam Roller
Best Foam Roller for Beginners: Pro-tec Athletics 35″ Foam Roller ($30)
- Soft, smooth surface feels gentle
- The longer length is great for rolling and stretching the spine
- Reasonable price
- Large size isn’t ideal for travel
While we especially love it as an introductory foam roller, the truth is that the Pro-tec Athletics 35″ Foam Roller has a lot to offer for everyone. Its soft, smooth surface and approachable price point make this foam roller an excellent option for beginners. It’s lightweight for its size and easy to clean. Additionally, its 35-inch length gives athletes much space to work with as they learn various rolling techniques. This longer length is also ideal for chest and hip openers if you line your spine up along the length of the roller and let your arms and legs fall to either side. You can also rock gently back and forth from this position to work out knots in your shoulders and upper back.
While there’s a lot to appreciate about this foam roller, it lacks the firmness and texture that some athletes prefer for accessing deeper tissue. In addition, while it’s surprisingly maneuverable for its size, it’s not our top pick for reaching precise trigger points or target areas. A smaller option like the Rumble Roller 12″ Compact Original Textured Foam Roller below would work better. However, if you foam roll regularly enough and have the space for multiple foam rollers, this one would be a great addition to your quiver.
Claimed Dimensions: 35 x 6 inches | Weight: 1.7 pounds (749 grams) | Material: EVA foamShop the Pro-tec Athletics 35" Foam Roller
Best Foam Roller for Deep Tissue: Gaiam Restore Deep Tissue Performance Roller ($35)
- A great all-around roller that can also reach deep tissue
- Competitive price
- Too firm for beginners
Look no further than the Gaiam Restore Deep Tissue Performance Roller for an all-around foam roller capable of accessing deep tissue. This foam roller is on the firmer side with a hard plastic hollow core and textured surface. At 13 x 5 inches in size, it’s a light and compact foam roller that’s easy to handle as you work out knots and reach targeted areas of tightness. While its textured surface helps athletes get deeper into the muscle tissue, this foam roller doesn’t feel as intense during everyday use as the Rumble Roller 12″ Compact Original Textured Foam Roller reviewed below.
Due to its level of firmness, this foam roller would not be our top pick for beginners since it would likely feel too intense. That said, it is a versatile option that can be used daily by most athletes or anyone looking for a tool to reach deep tissue. Given these capabilities, it’s also a great value and available at a competitive price.
Claimed Dimensions: 13 x 5 inches | Claimed Weight: 1.7 pounds (768 grams) | Material: not listedShop the Gaiam Restore Deep Tissue Performance Roller
Best Foam Roller for Deep Tissue – Runner-Up: Rumble Roller 12″ Compact Original Textured Foam Roller ($50)
- Good for reaching deep tissue or targets areas
- Softer than it looks
- It can feel too intense on sore muscles
- Not the best choice for beginners
The bumpy texture of the Rumble Roller 12″ Compact Original Textured Foam Roller is designed to reach deeper into muscle tissue to release knots and areas of tension. Though its spiky surface may appear intimidating, this foam roller feels softer than it looks and is quite pleasant when kneading out muscles. It’s light and compact, making it easy to take to the gym, track, or wherever your athletic endeavors take you. This foam roller is made with high-density EVA foam and a solid core, and it’s easy to clean and keeps its shape over time.
While the foam roller’s large bumps will help you release tension deeper into the muscle, it can feel too intense against very sore muscles or tendons. This foam roller might also feel too intense for beginners just learning to foam roll. Using a foam roller that’s too intense can deter an otherwise beneficial practice or cause bruising. Therefore, this option is better for experienced foam rollers or athletes who keep multiple foam rollers on hand and want something specific for deep tissue.
Claimed Dimensions: not listed | Weight: 0.74 pounds (336 grams) | Material: High-density EVA foamShop the Rumble Roller 12" Compact Original Textured Foam Roller
Best Vibrating Foam Roller: Therabody Wave Roller ($149)
- Soft foam surface with a firm core
- Connects via Bluetooth to Therabody app
- No clear benefit from wave texture
- Moves around at higher speed settings
Blending foam rolling with percussive massage, the Therabody Wave Roller is a dynamic recovery tool that can help athletes roll out muscles using vibration technology to reach deeper tissue gently. As a foam roller, it has soft, but not too squishy, EVA foam around the outside and a sturdy core, thanks partly to the 12-volt lithium-ion battery at its center. As a percussive device, it has five vibration speeds that can be operated using a button on the side or via Bluetooth using Therabody’s app. The app also provides recovery routines to help you care for your muscles and feel fresh for your next outing.
We appreciate how quiet this vibrating foam roller is, even at its highest speed. The outer foam, which feels so nice and soft for rolling, helps to muffle its percussive sound. Note, however, that it will move around at higher vibration speeds. Using a yoga mat and holding it with your body weight will help it stay in place. This roller is relatively easy to transport, though, at 3.3 pounds, it’s noticeably heavier than your typical foam roller, or massage gun, for that matter. Finally, it is more expensive, though one may argue it’s a good deal for a foam roller and percussive massager.
Claimed Dimensions: 12 x 5 inches | Weight: 4.1 pounds (1,855 grams) | Material: Hypo-allergenic EVA high-density foamShop the Therabody Wave Roller
- Fascia – Thin connective tissue that wraps and holds every bone, muscle, organ, blood vessel, and nerve fiber in the body. Tight fascia can restrict muscle and joint movement.
- Myofascial release – A massage treatment to release tension in the fascia that may be caused by trauma, inflammation, or posture.
- Trigger points – Sensitive areas of tight muscle fibers formed from injury or overuse.
- Deep-tissue massage therapy – Using slow movement and firm pressure to reach deeper layers of muscle tissue, fascia, and tendons to relieve knots, adhesions, and tension.
- Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS) – Pain and muscle stiffness that sets in several hours to days after unaccustomed or strenuous exercise.
- EVA foam – Ethylene-vinyl acetate (EVA) is a closed-cell foam found in various consumer goods, from kids’ toys to sports equipment, due to its strength, durability, and UV resistance.
Buyer’s Guide: How to Choose a Foam Roller
Foam Roller Density
Foam rollers come in a range of densities, from soft to very firm. Soft foam rollers are less intense on sore muscles and tendons and more gentle and approachable for those new to foam rolling. However, if a foam roller is too soft, it won’t last as long. In addition, you’ll have trouble accessing deep tissue with a soft foam roller. Our top three picks for the best foam rollers in this guide offer a nice balance of soft and firm. We also like the Pro-tec Athletics 35″ Foam Roller as a softer option for beginners or those who prefer a less intense experience. On the firmer end of the spectrum, foam rollers like the Gaiam Restore Deep Tissue Performance Roller will help athletes access deep muscle tissue while foam rolling.
Foam Roller Texture
Foam rollers can be smooth or textured; some have a subtle texture or large bumps or ridges. Smooth foam rollers feel more comfortable and less intense. As the texture increases, so does the foam roller’s capability to reach deep muscle tissue. However, the intensity goes up, too.
Among our top picks for the best foam rollers, the Pro-tec Athletics Contoured Foam Roller and the TriggerPoint Grid 1.0 Foam Roller have moderate texture, while the Roll Recovery R4 Body Roller is mostly smooth with a subtle diamond-pattern texture. We recommend any of these as a great all-around option for any athlete. If you want a more intense experience, the Rumble Roller 12″ Compact Original Textured Foam Roller is the most textured foam roller in this guide. We chose this one because its large bumps press into the muscle tissue, yet they’re soft enough not to feel painful.
Foam Roller Size
Foam rollers are typically 12- to 14-inches long and five- to six-inches in diameter. Some rollers, like the 18-inch Roll Recovery R4 Body Roller, are slightly longer. Other rollers, like the Pro-tec Athletics 35″ Foam Roller, are very long. Additionally, many foam rollers are available in multiple lengths.
Choosing foam roller length is a matter of personal preference. Shorter foam rollers are generally lighter and easier to handle or maneuver around. They’re usually easier to transport or travel with as well. On the other hand, smaller foam rollers won’t work as well for larger bodies, and longer foam rollers will provide more surface space for large limbs and muscle groups. In addition, longer foam rollers like the Pro-tec Athletics 35″ Foam Roller work very well for rolling out the spine and back muscles and facilitating chest and hip openers.
Travel-Friendly Foam Rollers
Generally, small and lightweight foam rollers like the TriggerPoint Grid 1.0 Foam Roller and Rumble Roller 12″ Compact Original Textured Foam Roller work best for travel. If you’re always on the go, especially if your transportation includes air travel, we recommend the Brazyn Performance Morph Collapsible Foam Roller. We love this foam roller because it can easily collapse into a flat 14.5 x 2-inch board for stowing and then pop back open into a standard foam roller when ready to roll.
Foam Rolling Experience Level
If you’re new to foam rolling, it’s a good idea to start with a standard-size roller and one that’s fairly smooth and on the softer side. Some of our favorite foam rollers for beginners include the Pro-tec Athletics 35″ Foam Roller and the TriggerPoint Grid 1.0 Foam Roller. If you’re a beginner and choose a foam roller that’s too firm or intense, you will likely feel very uncomfortable, and it may be difficult to stick to your foam rolling routine.
For those with more foam rolling experience, it’s a matter of personal preference. The Pro-tec Athletics Contoured Foam Roller and Roll Recovery R4 Body Roller are two great options for foam rollers that are firm enough but not too firm and with some texture that’s not too intense. These well-balanced rollers allow you to dial the intensity up or down depending on your needs on any specific day. If your muscles are well adapted to foam rolling and you prefer a more intense experience, the Gaiam Restore Deep Tissue Performance Roller and the Rumble Roller 12″ Compact Original Textured Foam Roller are two great options that can provide that for you.
Vibrating Foam Rollers
A vibrating foam roller takes foam rolling to the next level by adding percussive massage that can enhance the foam rolling and recovery experience by further stimulating blood flow and reaching deeper muscle tissue. We tested a few of the top vibrating foam rollers on the market and chose the Therabody Wave Roller as the best because it’s powerful yet quiet. This vibrating foam roller has five speed levels and Bluetooth connectivity to Therabody’s app for remote control and recovery routines. Whether you opt for a vibrating foam roller is a matter of personal preference. Unsurprisingly, vibrating foam rollers come at a higher cost, but it’s worth knowing what’s available for your recovery needs.
There’s some variability in the cost of foam rollers, but many premium models are available for $30 to $35. This price range includes five of our nine top picks above, including the vibrating foam roller. Less expensive models tend to use cheaper materials that will not hold up as long, while more expensive foam rollers may use fancier foam or include more bells and whistles. More expensive is not always better, but as with most things, you get what you pay for.
Why You Should Trust Us
The iRunFar team comprises road, trail, and ultrarunners with 150-plus years of running experience. We began this buyer’s guide with extensive research into the running recovery marketplace to uncover the best foam rollers currently available.
From there, author Alli Hartz refined a list of the top choices. She then tested a variety of foam rollers over many weeks — after long runs, hard workouts, and strenuous powerlifting sessions. As she built up her mileage while training for a 100-mile race, Alli put each foam roller to the test and further narrowed the selections to the best options listed above.
Please note that product models are routinely discontinued in the recovery equipment world, while new ones frequently come to market. At the same time, we here at iRunFar often use our top picks in our daily running… they’re our top picks, after all! Sometimes that continued use results in uncovering product failures. With all this – product discontinuations, product introductions, and product failures – in mind, we routinely update our buyer’s guides based on past and ongoing testing and research by our authors and editorial team. While these updates can appear to be us pushing the newest product, it’s anything but that. Most products will likely remain the same when we update any buyer’s guide. That matches our goal: to get you in the best gear you’ll use for a long time.
Frequently Asked Questions about Foam Rollers
What are the benefits of foam rolling?
Foam rolling can help increase blood circulation and facilitate the flow of oxygenated blood to depleted muscles. This helps restore muscle tissue and relieve tightness, soreness, and inflammation. It can also help increase flexibility and range of motion. All of these benefits can help reduce the risk of injury. Learn more in our articles about performance flexibility, trunk mobility, foam rolling, and the science of exercise recovery. Whether you choose a beginner-friendly option like the Pro-tec Athletics 35″ Foam Roller or one designed for experienced foam rollers, like the Rumble Roller 12″ Compact Original Textured Foam Roller, there’s something for everyone.
How often should I foam roll?
You can foam roll every single day if you wish. Foam rolling is great for your body if it feels good or is only slightly intense. If you are very sore, such as after a tough race, or if foam rolling feels painful, give your muscles a couple of days to heal on their own and then try again when the experience feels less intense. Choosing a softer and smoother foam roller or one with many pressure options, such as the Roll Recovery R4 Body Roller, can allow foam roll sooner after a hard effort.
Does foam rolling actually work?
Yes! Foam rolling can help stimulate blood flow, work out knots, kinks, or other points of tension in the muscles, and help muscles and tendons stretch and gain flexibility. These things can enhance recovery and reduce the risk of overuse injuries. The more consistently you foam roll, the better it will feel and the more benefits you will see. You can use options like the Pro-tec Athletics Contoured Foam Roller to access superficial and deep tissues.
When should you not use a foam roller?
If you’re very sore after a race or hard effort, you may need to give your body a few days to recover on its own before attempting to foam roll. Additionally, we do not recommend foam rolling an injured area unless you are directed to do so by a medical professional. Essentially, you should not use a foam roller if it feels painful. Some intensity is okay, but foam rolling should generally feel good. If you’re uncertain, we recommend consulting your doctor or physical therapist. If you’re new to foam rolling or are finding it painful, you might want to try a softer option, such as the Pro-tec Athletics 35″ Foam Roller.
What type of foam roller should I use?
Foam rollers come in all sorts of sizes, shapes, and textures. They can range from twelve to thirty-six inches long, from soft to firm density, and from smooth to highly textured. The type you choose is a matter of personal preference. The best foam rollers for beginners are smoother, while firmer and more textured models can help you access deep muscle tissue or targeted areas on the body. The Roll Recovery R4 Body Roller has a unique shape that helps athletes roll out specific areas like the spine, forearms, and Achilles tendons. In addition, smaller foam rollers, or a collapsible one like the Brazyn Performance Morph Collapsible Foam Roller, work better for travel.
Should foam rolling hurt?
In short, foam rolling should not be painful! If it’s painful, you could be damaging your muscle tissue or tendons. That said, foam rolling can feel intense and uncomfortable — and that’s okay. If your muscles are tight, sore, and inflamed, foam rolling will likely feel very uncomfortable, but gently rolling can still help your muscles recover. Additionally, the more regularly you foam roll, the more your muscles will adapt and the less intense it will feel. Over time, foam rolling can shift from a slightly uncomfortable experience to a highly enjoyable one.
The key is to listen to your body and stop if it feels painful. Also, remember that the more you foam roll, the less intense it will feel over time. When starting, choosing an all-around foam roller, like the TriggerPoint Grid 1.0 Foam Roller, can help you build up to a full recovery routine.
How long does it take to recover from running?
Simply put, running puts stress on our bodies. The harder the effort — whether a workout, race, or long adventure in the mountains — the more stress our bodies endure and the longer it takes to recover. The precise amount of time an individual will take to recover depends on many factors, including age, fitness, experience level, overall health, exertion level and duration, and more. Adequate recovery is critical to making physical adaptions and coming out of a hard effort stronger and fitter rather than weakened, tired, or en route to injury. While tools like foam rollers, such as the Roll Recovery R4 Body Roller, can help facilitate recovery, it is not a replacement for rest, proper fueling, and adequate sleep. Learn more about this topic and take a deep dive into a wide range of recovery tools and practices in our article about the science of exercise recovery.
Call for Comments
- Do you use a foam roller? What’s your favorite?
- What are your go-to recovery tools or routines?