Being active is one of the best ways to maintain your general physical health. However, it’s quite common to suffer injuries, sore muscles, and strains if you don’t take care of your body after a workout!
Although there are many ways to ensure adequate recovery after exercise (such as regular stretching or a professional massage session), self-massage is another great way to destress your tight muscles.
Foam rollers are arguably one of the best self-massage methods and tools available. They can greatly improve your post-workout routine, and lead to less joint stress and muscle pain.
So, let’s get into it: What are the best foam rollers for 2023?
Best Overall Foam Roller
RumbleRoller’s Textured Muscle Foam Roller tops our list as the best overall foam roller right now.
It can be a bit pricier than some other options, though it is available in three lengths, 31", 22", and 12" so you can easily buy the right size for you.
On top of that, these foam rollers are also waterproof, antibacterial, and latex-free (so no worries if you’re allergic to latex).
You can also choose between a blue roller, which offers regular firmness, or a black roller for extra firmness. For newbies, the blue may be wiser to start with.
Lastly, its spikes can provide a deep tissue massage, but this might not be for everybody. Some may need something gentler.
Best for Beginners
If you’re planning to buy your first-ever foam roller, softer may be better, which is why we recommend OPTP’s Soft Foam Roller.
This 18" traditional foam roller isn’t spiky, can be used on the entire body, and is specifically designed to be soft on the user.
It’s also surprisingly sturdy and is perfect for use at the gym or at a health clinic.
Once you get a bit of experience with foam rollers, you can think of getting a harder and more expensive foam roller. But first, see how a soft one suits you.
Best for Budget
Amazon Basics’s High-Density Round Foam Roller is a simple foam roller that comes in four sizes, 12", 18", 24", and 36". It doesn’t offer any crazy features or spikes.
For its price, it’s made of strong polypropylene, so it should last you longer than most cheaper foam rollers, which are often made of lower-quality material.
However, if you need something soft, this foam roller might not be ideal for you as some reviewers have noted that it is very hard.
Then again, if you’re an experienced user of foam rollers, it may be just what you’re looking for. Tough and well-priced.
For a super effective post-workout massage, you can look into a vibrating foam roller, but do remember that these can be some of the priciest foam rollers on the market.
Trigger Point Performance’s GRID VIBE PLUS vibrating foam roller is a great choice. It offers four massage settings and can last up to two hours once fully charged.
And at 12" in length it’s easy to carry around, though, at 3.3 pounds, it’s a bit heavier than foam rollers without a vibrating function.
Best for Back
If it’s just your back that’s bugging you, you should consider Yes4All’s Two-Layer Foam Roller, specifically their 36" version which can reach all corners of your back.
This foam roller is also not particularly expensive and can be used on other parts of the body as well. Plus, it’s very well-reviewed on Amazon with over 8,000 reviews.
The only downside to this foam roller is that it may be a little soft and some have noticed that over time it can lose some of its shape.
Best for Runners
While those who want to massage their back are better off with longer foam rollers, runners, who primarily exercise their legs, feet, and thighs will be better off with shorter foam rollers.
Enter Gaiam’s Restore Grooved Foam Roller, which is ideal for the legs, particularly your calves, and is only 8" long.
What’s also interesting about this foam roller is the textured areas on the ends and the softer area in the middle, giving you a choice of firmness.
And of course, you don’t necessarily have to be a runner to use this foam roller.
Best for Bodybuilding
For bodybuilders, we found a very interesting choice - Acumobility’s Back Stretcher, Back Cracker & Back Roller.
It’s a great choice for anyone who puts a lot of strain on their back as many bodybuilders do. You can also use it to work out your legs and chest.
By far this foam roller has the largest diameter in our list at 11". Its unique shape is also ‘chiropractor-designed’ and it can hold up to 1000 pounds in weight.
Best for Neck and Shoulders
If your neck and shoulders are killing you, the Rollga Foam Roller for improving Flexibility is probably what you’re looking for.
It’s another foam roller with a slightly unconventional shape that can help relieve shoulder and neck tension. It features ‘ribs’ in the middle that can roll around the sides of your neck and back.
Rollaga’s foam roller is also a great option for the calves, and at 18" it’s easy to store at home and take out to the gym.
Best for Lower Back
Microdry’s roller is flatter, multi-purpose, and easy to clean. It also features a hollow core which they claim makes it more durable than other foam rollers.
Meanwhile, if you’re looking for something that can give a deeper massage, Rollaga could be a better option.
Similar to their ‘Foam Roller for improving Flexibility,’ (see above) it also features ribs that can cradle your spine and deliver a truly relieving massage.
Both foam rollers are small and can easily be used to work on those tight areas of the lower back.
Best for Legs
Foam rollers for the legs don’t have to be as enormous as other parts of the body, not unless you want to massage both legs at once anyway.
We’ve concluded that WODFitters’s Torpedo Foam Roller is one of the most practical foam rollers for your legs.
Its shape makes it easy to guide along your legs and it’s less likely to roll away from under you. On top of that, it’s particularly useful if you suffer from shin splints and is great for quad rolls.
You can also look into ‘half-round’ foam rollers. These are semi-circular foam rollers that don’t roll and you can move your legs over them instead.
If that sounds interesting, then it may be worth checking out ProsourceFit’s High Density Half Round Foam Roller.
Best for Travel
If you need a foam roller that’s practical to travel with, it should be collapsible or small, or both. Brazyn’s Morph Foam Roller is both.
It’s no longer than 16", and when collapsed, its rectangular shape fits well into most bags and suitcases, plus it includes a travel bag and a guidebook.
To expand this foam roller, all you need is to pull a handle. You don’t need to waste time pumping it with air.
However, this foam roller is not ideal if you need something longer than 16", but that’s a sacrifice you’ll have to make if you want to take a foam roller traveling.
Also worth noting, this foam roller was featured on Shark Tank and is very well-reviewed on Amazon.
Some have mentioned that the foam roller can collapse when in use, so it may be wise not to put too much pressure on it.
Best High Density
If you think you’re ready for a high-density foam roller, The Original Body Roller’s High Density Foam Roller Massager is our top choice.
It is arguably the toughest foam roller we have come across, but what makes it truly effective is its ‘dual grid design,’ featuring bumps on one side and ridges on the other.
While it’s deceptively simple, this foam roller is also one of the top reviewed on Amazon and one you should keep an eye on if a high-density massage is what you need.
Best for Hip Pain
For those who are struggling with hip pain, we actually have a foam roller set from GGSDDUP that is highly worth looking into.
It includes a rather thin 12" long foam roller that’s no thicker than 2.3" in diameter and a thicker one that’s 5.9" in diameter. You also get a massage ball and a peanut massage ball.
By utilizing both foam rollers you can more effectively relieve pain around your hips. Plus, this set may be a wiser investment as you can also use it on other parts of your body.
How We Tested the Foam Rollers
With each foam roller, we asked ourselves a series of questions, the most important always being: ‘does this foam roller do what it’s built to do?’
We also asked, ‘is it properly priced for what it is?’ ‘Is it missing key features?’ And ‘does it sacrifice one feature for another?’
If a foam roller ticks all those boxes, we consider it worthy of a recommendation.
But on top of all that, you always need to pay close attention to reviews. You may come across a foam roller that looks perfect to you, but the reviews are terrible.
They can also warn you about potential issues this product might have and make a more balanced judgment on if a foam roller is worth the advertised price.
For example, you may come across an expensive foam roller and believe it to be the best around, but after taking a look at rival brands, you may find you can get better for less.
Just make sure you fully understand what you’re looking for to avoid buying something you’re not happy with.
How to Select the Best Foam Roller for You
Many factors come into play when it comes to selecting a foam roller, and everyone has different priorities and preferences. The days of a standard foam roller are gone, because there are many varieties now.
Here are a few things you’ll want to consider when selecting one.
For most people, budget is top of mind— especially with something like a foam roller which might not be as much of a necessity.
Cheap foam rollers are attractive to many, seeing as they require minimal investment. They’re particularly good if you don’t think you’ll use it that often.
However, if you’re already a foam roller fan, you may want to consider investing in a pricier product.
Although it’s not always true, price is often correlated with quality. A pricier foam roller might just end up providing you with a better experience. This is especially important if you’re going to be using it after every workout session!
Foam rollers come in various density types, from soft to hard. These all affect the rolling experience, so it’s important to determine the type that you want.
A soft density roller is great for people who are just getting started with using foam rollers for massage and recovery. It doesn’t apply much pressure, so you won’t experience a significant amount of discomfort.
However, because they don’t apply much pressure, soft rollers aren’t a great choice for people looking for a deeper massage experience.
For those looking for a more intense decompression tool, a medium or hard density roller is probably a better choice.
These rollers apply a much firmer pressure, meaning that you’ll be dealing with a deeper and stronger massage.
However, as they apply more pressure, you will need to be a little bit more careful with your usage. Like any massage tool, using a roller incorrectly can be harmful rather than beneficial!
Rollers come in a variety of sizes, and some sizes are better than others for different parts of the body.
For example: If you wanted to use a foam roller mainly on your legs, you probably wouldn’t need one that is super long.
However, if you were aiming to use a foam roller on your back, a larger roller may be the better choice.
The other thing to consider in regard to roller size is how well you’ll be able to use it. Some foam rollers are quite thick, while others are thinner.
If you have smaller or larger hands, a particular circumference of roller might not be the best fit for you.
Smaller hands will want a smaller roller so they can grip and use it effectively— and vice versa, for larger hands.
Rollers typically come with multiple textures. Smooth, ridged, spiked; the list goes on. Some rollers even combine these textures!
Again, the texture will obviously make a difference to the experience of using the roller.
The texture effect is quite similar to the density attribute. Smooth rollers are typically less intense, and don’t massage as deeply as their spiked or ridged counterparts.
Ridged rollers are much like medium-density rollers, in that they allow a deeper massage than smooth rollers. In saying that, they don’t quite provide the same intensity as spiked rollers.
Although it can be hard to know what you want in a roller without trying one first, as a general rule you’ll want to start out smooth.
If you find the smooth one doesn’t work for you, then upgrade to a ridged or textured roller!
Rollers with a variety of textures can also be attractive for this reason, and there are a few options available out there.
These don’t usually have huge variances in texture, but they do change between close and sparse ridges, for example.
Foam rollers are made out of several different kinds of material, each with their own advantages and disadvantages.
Polyethylene (or PE) rollers are typically quite soft, and often aren’t very long-lasting. However, they are great for those who want a soft roller and can be cheaper than other options.
Ethylene Vinyl Acetate (or EVA) rollers are firmer, but also longer-lasting.
They come in regular and high-density options, so you have a fair bit of room to play with when selecting an EVA roller.
Finally, Expanded Polypropylene (or EPP) rollers are the firmest and longest-lasting rollers in general.
This does tend to come with a higher price tag, but EPP rollers are what you’d expect to see in a professional setting.
Foam Roller FAQs
1. Are Foam Rollers Effective?
Yes! Foam rollers are great to alleviate muscle pain and to reduce stress after a workout. This study reinforces the evidence for foam roller effectiveness. It’s not just a placebo - foam rollers really work!
There are a number of benefits from foam rolling, including help with muscle recovery, increased blood flow, and improved range of motion.
2. Can You Get Injured Using a Foam Roller?
You can be injured if you use a foam roller improperly, just like any other massage tool. It’s important to read any instructions that come with your roller to make sure you don’t cause yourself any damage.
In general, using a roller should be a little bit painful, but also relieving. If you’re using a roller and the experience is purely painful, you should stop and reevaluate how you’re using it.
I always find it best to find someone who's more experienced foam rolling, so they can show me the best methods. You can find a friend, personal trainer, massage therapist, or a physical therapist.
3. How Often Should You Use Your Foam Roller?
In general, you don’t want to be using a foam roller all the time. Your muscles need a chance to recover, after all!
Three times a week is probably a minimum for effective treatment, but you may be able to increase this depending on how comfortable you are with the roller.
Frequency also depends on how often you exercise and use the muscle groups you are treating with the roller.