Best Foam Rollers
The TriggerPoint Grid 13" is one of the most popular self-massage tools in recent memory. These rollers can be seen everywhere from physical therapists' offices to the gym and in the homes of many athletes. Its popularity has been earned by being a versatile and durable tool for self-care — characteristics attributed to its unique design. It has a hollow core, made possible by .2" of hard plastic tube surrounded by a half-inch of multi-density EVA foam. This foam resists breaking down over time, and that, mixed with the rigid hollow core, makes this one of the most durable rollers we've ever used. The topographical features of the TriggerPoint are modest, but those features combined with the harder sections of foam and tight diameter of 5.35" allows you to pinpoint muscle groups as you get comfortable with it. Its design lends itself to a modest weight of 1.1 lbs, and at a length of just under 13", it travels well. Our experience has shown that everyone from beginners to the most experienced like this roller. The TriggerPoint Grid comes with a one-year manufacturer warranty. If you are looking for a longer version of this product, look to the Triggerpoint Grid 2.0 that is 26".
We found the TriggerPoint's relatively short length to be less versatile than others we tested. Those with broad shoulders could find it a little too narrow to roll out their backs. People looking for a firm roller might find that the TriggerPoint isn't firm enough for their more intense foam rolling sessions. Those criticisms aside, this is the best roller for most people.
The AmazonBasics High-Density lives up to the branding: basic. This roller uses molded polypropylene and is the firmest foam roller we tested. It's completely smooth with no topographical features. It comes in four lengths — 12", 18", 24" and 36". We tested the 36" length and found it to be a great length for most exercises, but it can be awkward to use in smaller spaces.
While this is a good option for experienced users, we hesitate to recommend the AmazonBasics for beginners. If all you are looking to do is roll out your back, this may be acceptable, but it is far too firm for someone just getting into self-massage. The unit we received had some molding issues, but none that we could feel while using the roller. This was also the most slippery roller we tested, and it tended to slip slightly while rolling out our upper back and shoulders.
Are you just getting into foam rolling or looking for an option that's slightly easier on your body? The SPRI Medium Density is definitely worth a look. While the foam is by no means soft, it is also not as firm as some. We found this density and relatively wide diameter (5.87") perfect for new users or experienced users looking for a more mellow experience. It works great for loosening up those tight muscles and is a wonderful option for balanced based exercises. It features a tight checkered pattern that seemed to prevent it from slipping around too much.
There is some confusion surrounding this roller, as it is labeled medium density on most websites, but the box we received clearly states firm density. We would say the truth lies somewhere in between. If you're seeking even softer foam, look towards the Gaiam Restore Muscle Foam Rollers 36 Inch.
Brazyn Morph BRAVO Foam Roller utilizes a clever and simple system to pack flat in just a few seconds. We were dubious of this mechanism's stability even though Brazyn claims it will support 350 lbs. In an effort to test this, we jumped on it repeatedly and even laid two adults on it at the same time, and it didn't buckle. It's constructed from bamboo, recycled aluminum, and recycled foam — we appreciate the use of recycled materials and renewable resources like bamboo. When this roller is folded flat, it's just over 14" long x 6.5" wide x 1.9" tall. When it's ready to use, we found its length a perfect size for us; it's wide enough to roll out our upper back efficiently while still being packable. In the box, you will find a small laminated pamphlet with some basic rolling techniques on it, which is a great jumping-off point. The Latex-free EVA foam inspires confidence in the longevity of this product. Looking for the same packability but firmer foam? Look to the Morph ALPHA.
This model's medium density foam left us wanting a bit more firmness when it came to working out those deep, stubborn knots. We also found that users new to the Brazyn Morph had a tendency to only partially open the foam roller, and as such, we recommend checking to make sure it's fully deployed. Furthermore, due to its paneled design, this model does not roll as smoothly as others we tested.
Of the vibrating foam rollers we tested, the Premvida Arrow was our favorite. With its intuitive three-position dial, controlling the three levels of vibration was simple. The extra firm EVA Foam features dual massage zones to further tailor your experience. We found the vibrations combined with the moderate 5.5" diameter helped to further release tight, stubborn muscles. The battery lasted two hours and 44 minutes on full power during our testing. The charging port is tucked under a removable cover, protecting it from becoming contaminated by sweat or dust. Premvida provides a one-year warranty for registered products.
There were some things we didn't like about the Arrow. First, we found it a little undersized for those testers with wider backs. Secondly, we wish there was some type of built-in battery indicator, as you need to plug it in to find out the current battery level. Our main gripe is how loud it is. At an average of 75 DB(a) while rolling out our back, it was very noticeable and even distracting. As you work down the body, it gets more tolerable.
Gaiam Restore Muscle Foam Rollers 36 inch is made of sugar cane foam and is the softest roller we tested. While by no means being pillowy, it is gentle but also very versatile, and we found it stable for exercises outside of foam rolling. This roller comes in 18" and 36" lengths.
The downside of this roller's softness is that it breaks down faster than any other model we tested. Experienced users may not find this roller as effective in intense self-care sessions.
Pro-Tec Athletics Orb 5" is a great tool for targeting smaller muscles and knots due to the smaller surface area and firm density. Its round shape adds to its pinpoint accuracy, mixing up your routine by allowing you to move in circular motions not possible with a traditional foam roller. The Orb features numerous small dots all over the roller's surface that help with traction. Pro-Tech Athletics offers a six-month warranty.
It can be awkward to use at first, and in certain positions, that remains true no matter how experienced you are with the Orb. This roller requires an experienced user to gain the full benefit of its design.
Listen to someone use the RumbleRoller and you could swear they were in pain. With the smallest diameter, firm density foam, and the most aggressive topography of any roller we used, there is only one way to describe it: aggressive. Let's talk for a moment about that topography. With knobs that are nearly an inch wide and grow a half-inch upwards, tapering like a pyramid, this foam roller is designed to reach those deeper tissues. The width of the RumbleRoller was a favorite among testers for being a compromise between versatility and still being a manageable size. The RumbleRoller employs a proprietary blend of latex-free foam that appears to be durable and high-quality. It is offered in three sizes (we tested the middle size) and comes with a lifetime satisfaction warranty.
This roller is not for the inexperienced or the faint of heart. We have trouble recommending this to anyone but those most experienced in self-massage. That user needs to know exactly what they are looking for and how to accomplish it with this roller. Do you have an extra firm roller and are looking for something to really get deep? This roller is for you.
The CanDo High Density Half Roller is a useful tool to have in your home gym. It's great for exercises for thoracic mobility, balance, and as a stretching aid. Really, your imagination and knowledge are the limits for the usefulness of half rollers. We love the length and extra firm density of this molded polypropylene when applied to a half roller. It's offered in three sizes: 12" (tested), 18", and 36", in both half and full round.
What the CanDo can't do is your traditional, self-massage foam rolling because, well, it doesn't roll. It's not that you cannot use it as a self-massage tool; it's just not as efficient as all the other rollers we've discussed for that use. There are slight molding imperfections in the half roller we tested, but we found that we didn't notice them while using this model.
The Vulken is another great vibrating foam roller option. At 17" long, we found it fell into that Goldilocks zone of not too short, not too long — just right. It features four vibration settings: low, medium, high, and a setting that starts from low and smoothly accelerates to high before coming back down. This setting is great for working out one specific spot, but not as useful in normal rolling. In our testing, it ran for about two hours and 20 minutes on its highest setting. After 10 minutes, it has an auto-shutoff mode that comes in handy if it accidentally turns on in your bag. We found that feature to be slightly annoying during normal foam rolling sessions. It has a 30-day return policy and a 90-day warranty.
At an average of 71.2 DB(a) we found that this roller was slightly quieter than the Premvida Arrow. The topography of this model was not as effective as others at getting deeper into our muscles. The design of that topography also didn't let it roll as smoothly as we would have liked.
Why You Should Trust Us
Our lead tester, Jason Peters, has spent years training as a national level rock climber. After his competition career, he transitioned into training youth athletes with the same goals for years. With such strenuous training programs, recovery is a huge component of staying healthy. Foam rolling is a key element to Jason's recovery program; he has spent hundreds of hours working with foam rollers. We considered over 40 rollers before buying the top 20 self-massage tools to test in our office filled with athletes.
We had skiers, mountain bikers, runners, and rock climbers test these rollers for over a dozen hours. We did a consistent, full-body rolling routine targeting most major muscle groups to give us a full picture of each model's performance. We consulted personal trainers and physical therapists to hone down how they use foam rollers with different clients.
Analysis and Test Results
Your experience level and intended use will define which of these tools is best for you. Be honest with yourself about what you need in a roller. Though there are many uses for these tools, the most common is simply as a self-massage aid. As your muscles grow tight after a hard workout or just sleeping a bit funny, it is recommended that you roll out that muscle group to help it recover and break up the fascia adhesion. You can also use these versatile tools as balance trainers or general home exercise equipment. All in all, foam rollers are a fairly inexpensive tool offering great returns to just about every athlete who employs them.
There are many factors to consider in choosing the right roller for you; length, diameter, foam density, topography, and other features. Let's break it all down.
The length of a roller plays into its versatility. Luckily, many of the foam rollers on our list come in multiple lengths, so you can buy the one that suits your needs. The shorter the roller, the better it will travel, and the easier it will be to use in small spaces, but a shorter length will limit its versatility. The shortest roller we tested was the Premvida Arrow, which we measured at 12.75"; the longest was the Gaiam Restore at 36.5". For us, rollers between 16" and 22" struck the right balance between versatility and suitability for tighter spaces.
At first glance, there may not be much variety in the diameter of these rollers, and how important is it anyway? Well, the smaller the diameter of the model, the less surface area will contact you, and that will aid in digging deeper into the fascia and muscle. In contrast, a roller with a large diameter and soft foam will have more surface area and will be more gentle. The largest diameter belonged to the AmazonBasics at 6.06". Due to its very dense foam, it still feels quite aggressive. The thinnest traditional roller we tested was the RumbleRoller at 5.31", and smaller yet was the Pro-Tec Athletics Orb at 4.875". The Pro-Tec's unique sphere design, combined with its thin diameter, makes it the easiest to target those stubborn knots.
Density of the Foam
Foam density is another key factor in the feel of your roller. While there are exceptions, generally, the softer the foam, the more gentle your foam roller will be. The downside to soft foam is that it tends to break down faster and will need to be replaced sooner. The softest foam roller (and, indeed, the most gentle) was Gaiam 36 Inch. This was the only roller we tested that employed sugar cane foam and was by far the easiest on our weary muscles.
In the middle of the pack for firmness sat the Brazyn Morph and the SPRI models. In our opinion, these are the best densities for most people looking for a roller. A little firmer than those two is the TriggerPoint GRID. We found the Triggerpoint a bit too firm for a beginner's first couple of rolling sessions, but it was by far the most versatile of densities. Its foam is actually one of the softest we tested, but there is not much travel before you get to the rigid core. Meaning you could manipulate your body weight on the roller to get the experience you were seeking.
The firmest roller in our testing was the AmazonBasics High-Density. Is it like rolling on a PVC pipe? Not quite, but it is not at all gentle. A step softer than that is the Premvida Arrow, but that lack of pain is made up for when you turn the vibrations too high.
Topography simply refers to the ridges, grooves, and knobs that the surface of the roam roller features. The more aggressive the tread, the deeper that roller will reach into your muscles. By far, the most featured roller is the RumbleRoller. With spikes of foam reaching out over a half an inch, its mission is to make it hurt in the best way possible.
The TriggerPoint GRID found the balance of modest topography that helps find those deeper knots while still being a foam roller we want to use every day. Its gentle features mixed with multi-density foam and a rigid hollow core made it the most versatile roller we tested.
The AmazonBasics and CanDo Half Roller are designed to be perfectly smooth. While we found both to have slight molding imperfections, we could not feel those blemishes in daily use.
Which topography is right for you all depends on how deep of a massage you are looking for.
After hours of foam rolling for this review, we're feeling limber and loose and ready to train. Think about your needs for density, diameter, topography, and length in a roller. Once you figure those things out, it becomes much easier to make your decision. When your roller shows up, get creative, and you'll find this to be one of the most versatile parts of your home workout. Remember to buy the roller that is right for you, not just the roller that is the most popular model.
— Jason Peters