Perhaps the better question is, which one should you get? The trainers and instructors we spoke with say that depends on what experience you’re looking for. Any foam roller should be able to release trigger points by loosening up these tight spots in the muscle fibers, but some will feel firmer than others (a plus if you like a deeper massage), and some have added texture to get deeper into your muscles. Below, we’ve listed the best of the best that should satisfy a variety of preferences. Our picks are recommended by trainers, runners, dancers, and a chiropractor, and they include standard, high-density foam rollers as well as specialty styles like a collapsible, travel-size version and even a vibrating option. Read on to learn what our experts suggest looking for in a foam roller, or click one of these links to jump right to our picks.
What to look for
Best overall foam roller
TriggerPoint Grid Foam Roller
13 inches long | Ridged and bumpy texture | High-density | Rigid hollow core for durability
A favorite of everyone from marathon runners to American Ballet Theater dancers, the TriggerPoint gets high marks for its bumps and ridges that simulate a hands-on massage, and the firm core that helps it keep its shape even after years of use. “It’s just the right density to be effective without bruising,” says Radan Sturm, founder of the strength-training studio Liftonic. “A lot of rollers are too hard and will bruise rather than release. It’s the perfect size that allows you to target all major parts of the body.” Flexibility experts say rolling on the TriggerPoint not only eases sore muscles after a workout, it can loosen up your body before a stretching session. Alain Saint-Dic, former head of training and development at the stretching and recovery studio Stretch Relief, likes how the TriggerPoint allows for deep pressure, and Kika Wise, founder of Kika Stretch Studios, says that compared to a roller with a smooth surface, TriggerPoint will “get into the tissue a little bit better,” allowing for a more intense experience. I’m an avid runner and the TriggerPoint is also my foam roller of choice, for many of the reasons the experts above cite. It’s definitely an intense massage (I like to vary the intensity by resting more or less of my body weight on it) that relaxes my tightest muscles. I like this length for targeting the muscles of one leg at a time, but it’s also available in a twice-as-long, 26-inch size if you want a longer roller.
Best high-density foam roller
AmazonBasics High-Density Foam Roller
Available in four sizes: 12-inch, 18-inch, 24-inch, and 36-inch | Smooth texture | High-density
The deep, focused pressure of the TriggerPoint isn’t for everyone. If you’re prone to bruising or are new to rolling, you might want a simpler — but still effective — option. “The more spikes and grooves that you see, the more the muscles are stimulated,” says Keren Day, a chiropractor and co-founder of Racked Stretch stretching studio. “This may sound great, but can be painful at first and may lead to injury, so definitely ease your way in with flatter, more basic tools,” like this option from AmazonBasics. The high-density foam means you’ll still feel a lot of pressure, but it’ll be evenly distributed throughout the roller’s surface area. “I prefer the smooth rollers over textured, to evenly massage out muscles,” says Julie Cobble, a master instructor at Physique 57 barre studio, who says this model “works great.” This foam roller also comes in four sizes, up to 36 inches — the length of the standard foam rollers found in most gyms.
Best medium-density foam roller
OPTP Lorox Aligned Foam Roller
36 inches long | Smooth texture | Medium density
There are times when you’ll want a slightly softer foam roller, like when you’re using a roller for more therapeutic massage. Jan Lefkowitz, a chiropractor at Body in Balance Chiropractic, recommends lying down with a medium-density foam roller (like the OPTP LoRox) underneath your back to improve your posture. “Think of what your middle and upper back look like when you slouch and you are essentially doing the opposite with this stretch,” he says. Vanessa Chu, co-founder and COO of the stretching studio Stretch*d, agrees. She says this roller has a just-right density for warming up and relaxing muscles before stretching. (It also comes in a smaller, travel-friendly 12-inch size.)
Best vibrating foam roller
Hyperice Vyper 3 High-Intensity Vibrating Foam Roller
13 inches long | Bumpy texture | High density | 3-speed vibration
On the other hand, if you want something that provides an even deeper release than your standard high-density rollers, check out the extra-firm, vibrating Vyper. Both in his practice and in his own personal use, Lefkowitz “has found that vibrational technology does some pretty amazing things in terms of decreasing pain and muscle recovery.” He told us the Vyper can bring powerful relief to the IT band area (the outsides of your thighs), as well as the quads and glutes. Celebrity personal trainer Danny Musico says, “It gets deeper into muscles than any other foam roller I’ve used,” and Barry’s Bootcamp CEO Joey Gonzalez once called it “the Tesla of foam rollers.” The Vyper has three speed settings for mixing up the intensity of your massage.
Best foam roller for travel
Brazyn Morph Trek Foam Roller
14.5 inches long | Nubby texture | High density | Collapses flat
This collapsible foam roller comes recommended by both Chu and celebrity personal trainer Gunnar Peterson, who loves it because “it’s portable and amazing to travel with.” Chu adds that it’s “the perfect density (not too hard, not too soft) to work out tight hip flexors and glutes from travel.” When folded, the foam roller is only two inches high, so it’s easy to pack in a carry-on. The Brazyn Morph comes in two styles: The Alpha, pictured here, is made from high-density foam and features a nubby surface for intense release. Its cousin the Bravo is more of a medium-density foam roller with a smooth surface for a more mild experience.
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