Best Massage Ball of 2020
The Tumaz 3-in-1 massage ball set is the true MVP of our roundup. Each one of the three tools in this set is versatile, ergonomically excellent, and durable. The set includes a 2.5-inch, lacrosse-style ball, a 2.8-inch, hard plastic spike ball, and a 6.3-inch x 3-inch bumpy, oblong roller. The lacrosse-style ball is free of offensive odors and firm enough to dig into hard-to-access muscle groups. The spiky orb has very rigid, significant spikes and is great for loosening up pesky plantar fascia. The oblong roller is made of phthalate-free PVC and is extra firm to the touch. The bumpy surface and gentle contour make this roller great for feet, spines, and the occasional IT-band.
While we wholeheartedly believe that the Tumaz 3-in-1 set is the best we tested, we acknowledge that the rigid surfaces and extreme textures might be too aggressive for some users. Even the softest component of this set, the lacrosse-style ball, is substantial. This set of massage tools will be most loved by users looking for something to loosen and massage their entire bodies. With this durable team of tools, you'll be able to roll out the areas that hold the most tension. Overall, this set impressed us by being the most versatile, ergonomically-sound, and durable in our roundup.
We cannot get enough of the Koolsen Peanut Ball set, a group of three highly ergonomic, silica gel massage tools. One is a classic, 2.5-inch ball with a very shallow diamond texture on its surface, one is a peanut-shaped ball with a very gentle contour, and the final one is a small, diamond-shaped device. The latter is about 2-inches from end to end and sits atop a table like a dreidel. All three are solid, eco-friendly massage tools that excel amid a sea of boring options. The dreidel-shaped tool feels like a gentle knuckle to the point of contact, a super unique and enjoyable sensation when properly applied. This set of tools' texture makes them less magnetic to pet hair and dust, which is a major side bonus. That same surface makes these shapely massage assistants extra grippy and easy to use.
The Koolsen Peanut Ball set is slightly less versatile than the Tumaz, but not by much. The peanut ball has a gentle contour in the center, ideal for the spine, shins, calves, and more. The diamond-shaped addition is lovely if you're into pinpoint pressure. If you are looking for an eco-friendly set of massage tools that are guaranteed to dig into all of the right places, you will be delighted with this set.
If you are looking for a firm and affordable massage ball, the WOVTE ball is a great choice. In addition to being very budget-friendly, this grippy little orb has the ability to release deep-rooted tension. The 100% rubber ball is grippier than average and arrives without any discernable odor. We found its standard 2.5-inch diameter ball to be ergonomically appropriate and versatile enough for full body use.
The WOVTE ball is hollow inside with very noticeable seams and, if stood on by a large person, has the potential to pop. Despite this, it remained firm and held up throughout our battery of tests. We do, however, prefer a solid ball for long-term use. If you are looking for a gateway ball to practice with, this one will certainly suffice. The financial commitment is minimal, and ultimately, this ball delivers everything you'll need to dip your toes into the world of self-massage.
We love the sensation of the Trigger Point Foam MB1 beneath our tightest muscles. The foam is gentle enough to make self-massage enjoyable but firm enough to really pack a punch. The soft yet strong foam lends itself perfectly to a variety of body parts. Because this ball is less rigid than others in our review, we found it more versatile and accommodating to different preferences. No matter which body part you attempt to loosen, this ball is up for the job.
As anticipated, the Trigger Point Foam is less durable than much of the competition. As is the case with items made of foam, this ball is not impervious to blemishes and gashes. Despite our rigorous testing, however, this ball endured, holding its shape well. The lack of durability will most likely show itself if a dog gets ahold of this one; the foam would not hold up to canine mastication. The Trigger Point is also less easy to clean when compared to our other options. The foam can be wiped, but we do not recommend submerging this sphere into water or even getting it too wet. Overall, this massager is a great choice for anyone looking for a versatile, ergonomically-solid, and occasionally gentle massage ball.
This Koolsen twin-pack of balls is a basic set of high-performing massages. They are made of non-toxic, eco-friendly silica gel, which is odorless and offers an element of softness to these otherwise extremely firm balls. We enjoyed using this pair of balls along our spine — unlike the peanut-shaped balls, this matching set can be moved together or independently to work out your tightest places. The surface texture is strong and grippy enough for comfortable use. These durable balls are 2.5 inches in diameter and impressively durable.
The drawback of many silica gel orbs is that they attract dust and pet hair when used on the floor. As with other silica gel units, however, these balls are easily washed in water or cleaned with non-toxic cleaning spray. This set of self-massagers was modeled after lacrosse balls, and, following suit, they are steadfast and strong. People who are new to self-massage and mobility work with balls might find the density of these to be a bit too aggressive. Rest assured that even if they feel too hard upon arrival, once your muscle tissue starts to loosen, you'll adapt to the sensation. Ultimately, we really like this two-pack of heavy-duty massage balls.
The 5Billion Peanut self-massage ball is exceptional for spinal massage. The latex-free rubber is odorless upon arrival and offers the amount of give you want when you're recumbent atop it. The peanut-shaped contour perfectly cradles the spinal bones while the balls do some serious digging into the fascia. This peanut ball has a smooth yet grippy and durable surface that will last with you through many years of PT.
Unfortunately, the 5Billion Peanut massager's surface acts like a magnet for dog hair and dirt when used on the floor. This was the biggest downfall for our dog-loving testers. Thankfully, it is easy to wash in water. The spine-hugging shape is optimal for self-massage along your spine, but the shape also contributes to this tool's lack of versatility. While it is possible to roll other body parts, the highly-specific shape makes it less than ideal for crossover use. However, if you have tight muscles surrounding your spine and your goal is to loosen that area, this is a great choice.
The Kieba Massage Balls are seriously aggressive rubber balls. They feel very much like lacrosse balls to the touch, but if you put the entirety of your body weight on these balls, they do in fact, have a bit of give. They are made of very durable and hard rubber, which makes them ideal for digging into hard to reach, tense areas. These balls are of standard size, 2.5 inches in diameter, making them versatile enough for full-body use.
The unveiling of this set of orbs was fairly unpleasant due to the offensive, rubbery odor. The smell of the Kieba twins mellowed out after a few days of use, but the odor might still turn off anyone who is super sensitive. We ended up enjoying the time we spent with these balls, but anyone looking for a more gentle touch should consider looking elsewhere.
If you're looking for a stand-in for your foam roller while you're on the go, the Pro-Tech Athletics Orb might be the right choice for you! It is far smaller than a foam roller, but the 5-inch diameter can still hit the main foam roller muscle groups — such as glutes, hamstrings, and quads — with ease. The shallow nubs on this EVA foam ball's surface add extra grip, making it very straightforward to use. The size and texture work really well if you use it on your back while standing up against a wall. We love the combination of strength and give; both attributes add to this sphere's overall gentle approach to large-muscle group loosening.
Because of the size of the Orb, it's less versatile. The 5-inch size is overly large for comfortable use on smaller muscle groups of the upper body and is hard to hold in one hand for some. That said, it's also available in a 4.5-inch and 3-inch size — both of these options are firmer with more prominent bumps. We found the 5-inch size lends itself nicely to large muscle group tension relief. The softer EVA foam of the largest Orb is, however, less durable than other materials — it showed signs of use early in testing. That said, if your focus is primary on large muscle groups and you specifically don't want something super rigid, this is a great option. If you are more interested in fine-tuned and accurate pressure-point work, this ball likely isn't the right fit.
When we first placed the Master of Muscle ball in our hand, we were worried that it felt more like a weapon than a relaxation and mobility aid. However, we actually love the durability of this well-crafted roller and found it to work quite well underfoot. While technically this spiky helper is made of rubber, it feels like very, very rigid plastic. However, the spikes feel less aggressive than they look when you roll your arches from a seated position. After a few sessions, our arches felt significantly looser, which definitely helps lead to postural health.
Unfortunately, the rigid spikes protruding from this ball solidify its existence as a serious one-trick pony. Constructed of hard plastic, it's useful for relieving plantar fascitis symptoms, but beyond that, its versatility is lacking. There are so many body parts that could be loosened with the proper employment of massage balls, but the Master of Muscle isn't one of them. If all you're looking for is a ball that can help alleviate tight foot arches, this ball may satisfy your needs. Otherwise, we recommend branching out.
The ZONGS Manual Massage Ball is an interesting take on a solid idea. We assume that the idea is that you hold onto the plastic base, apply pressure, and use the ball inside to manipulate muscle tissue. The head of this massager is similar to the technology behind roll-on essential oils and perfumes. We found that this setup is useful for massaging other people, especially those who are not interested in a deep-tissue experience. We also found some minor success massaging our own shin splints with this device.
The cold, hard plastic of the ZONGS massage tool is less than ideal. We did not like the cheap, stark feeling of this ball against our bare skin. Furthermore, this device is almost completely useless as a self-massage tool. We could gently massage our friends' backs, but the plastic base interferes with the ball and creates an uncomfortable sensation if too much pressure is applied. Ultimately, we found the idea behind this tool to be solid, but it just wasn't executed well. We recommend looking elsewhere for a versatile massage ball.
Why You Should Trust Us
Ally Meller is an Exercise Specialist who has a special place in her heart for therapeutic fitness in all forms. She has her bachelor's degree in Kinesiology from Cal State Fullerton and her 200-hour Yoga Teaching certificate from Yandara Yoga Institute. Throughout the course of her studies, she gained valuable knowledge about human anatomy and, specifically, how it relates to exercise. Ally spent many years working under talented physical therapists, which she believes has made her an integral part of the therapeutic exercise community. When she isn't chasing trail running PRs, Ally can be found working on her own flexibility and mobility through yoga, Pilates, and other healing modalities.
Throughout our weeks of testing, we got really loose! We committed to using these massage tools for hours each day, and wholeheartedly followed through with our commitment. Our previously-tense fascia is grateful for our efforts. Not only did we use our collection of massage balls in predictable ways, but we tried to think outside of the box as we created our testing regimen as well. We used our massage balls to loosen every accessible muscle group and took exhaustive notes along the way. We learned what we like in a self-massage tool and what technology we are better going without. We spent hours rolling our butts, guts, and thighs in an attempt to garner insider info and pass it on to you.
Analysis and Test Results
Whether you are a seasoned massage ball-using veteran or a total newbie to the game, everyone can find a use for a reliable massage sphere. We sorted through some of the most popular variations on the market to determine who they're best for, what muscle groups they can release, and where they should be placed. We found our way through a strict battery of tests to determine which are worthwhile and, frankly, which are not. Massage balls are an excellent tool for loosening tight muscle tissue and increasing mobility and flexibility. We have outlined all of the details you need to select the right tool for your needs.
Ergonomics is defined as "the design characteristics of an object." We took this one step further and tested each ball's functional ergonomics by using each one extensively on multiple muscle groups. We started this battery of tests on easy to access muscle groups and moved into smaller areas. While we rolled, squished, and sat on each ball, we focused on how easily each tool loosened our stiff muscles. Some devices are specifically touted for being made for one muscle group or another, and we kept this in mind as we tested. We allotted two minutes per body part during each testing attempt and took extensive notes. We began this test series by rolling the arches of our feet and then moved to the greater glute area; both of these regions are extremely straightforward in terms of where and how to roll. When it came time to level up, we opted to move into the lower back and shoulder blade areas. Again, we allowed for two minutes of relaxation (and sometimes pain) in each area before moving on. Our next phase of testing emphasized smaller, more tender areas such as our necks and hip flexors. We weighed each design's pros and cons to determine how functional each unit is, doing our best to decide which texture, level of rigidity, and shape are the most ergonomically effective across a broad range of situations. Ultimately we tested ergonimics with one burning question in mind: does this ball massage what we want in the most user-friendly and effective way possible?
When it comes to ergonomics, the massage tools that came as complementary sets have a decided edge. The Tumaz 3-in-1 Set was the real heavy hitter amongst our crew of tools. Each of the three pieces targets muscle groups slightly differently but is perfectly designed to accommodate the contours of the human body. We placed our hands on many balls during the course of testing, and the ergonomically-superior Tumaz tools are strikingly well-made and user-friendly. Our other favorite set in this regard is the Koolson 2020 Peanut Ball Set. The texture, contours, and diversity of this set really stand out. We loved having a traditional ball, a peanut ball for the spine, and a diamond-shaped piece for trigger point work. Another notable mention here is the Trigger Point Foam MB1. Something about this ball makes it feel like you can get it all — soft and gentle release all the way to hard targeted pressure. Pretty dreamy.
We tested versatility in conjunction with ergonomics. While we could manipulate each ball into loosening our chosen muscle groups, we looked for those that did not need to be coerced. Meaning: we judged versatility by how easy it was to access each area without contortionism or acrobatics. Furthermore, we considered how many body parts were easily accessible with the specific size and shape of each ball. As outlined above, we moved through three different "phases" in an attempt to determine each massage ball's versatility. We looked at each one through a hyper-critical lens and wondered, is this ball good for relaxation and mobility as well as deep tissue work? We also assessed if each ball provided what it was intended for and worked as marketed.
We don't know about you, but minimalism is totally our game! The best part about a super versatile ball is that an all-in-one tool creates far less clutter. Our favorite ball for versatility is the Trigger Point Foam MB1. This gentle, EVA foam sphere is extra versatile because of its softer surface. Many of the balls we tested were too hard for more tender or tight areas, so this foam option ended up satisfying those needs more adequately. And despite its softness, it's still firm enough to work for super tight areas that require a bit more leverage. The Tumaz 3-in-1 Set is another super versatile option. Its versatility is somewhat obvious because there are three separate shapes included, but we also really like how each apparatus has a different surface texture, and the variance of shapes means you can likely find something for any body part. The Koolsen Peanut Ball Set scored well in this metric for the same reasons.
There are few experiences more jarring than being fully relaxed and laid out across a massage ball only to have it slip out from beneath you. With this annoyance in mind, we tested the grip of each massage tool. We rested the full weight of our bodies on each ball, rolled to our heart's content, and forcibly tried to get each one to go skittering across our hardwoods.
We were pleased to discover that many of the balls (diamonds, triangles, peanuts, and cylinders included) stayed put far better than any felt-enveloped tennis ball ever could. We learned that the sticker the surface, the more predictable the rolling, for the most part. This came with one unfortunate drawback — the grippier balls worked like magnets for pet hair and dust from the floor. Luckily, the dog hair-collecting balls made of eco-friendly silica gel are waterproof and splendidly lend themselves to quick rinses in the sink.
Many of the massage tools we tested were super grippy. In fact, very few were not. The grippiest of all are the tools in the Koolsen Peanut Ball Set. This group is made exclusively of silica gel, which has a fairly sticky texture, and we felt utterly secure and comfortable with these balls beneath us. The Koolsen Massage Roller 2-Pack also scored highly in this metric. This set of identical balls is also made of silica gel, and is extra-grippy and easy to clean.
As with all things, we want our massage balls to live long, prosperous lives. The demands we impose on our massage tools are hearty. Ultimately, we feel that durability determines value, so we wanted to understand how well these useful massage shapes last. Because we frequently put our entire body weight on each ball during the course of testing, we were able to see if they held up to the basic requirements of use. From there, even though our testing period is limited, we made sure to use each model hard and often to help simulate the abuse these tools go through over a prolonged period of time.
In general, we found that silica gel and rubber balls have the highest durability, maintaining their shape better than their slightly inferior counterparts. The latex-free rubber of the 5Billion Peanut is extra durable and ferociously stands up to abuse. Both Koolsen sets, made of silica gel, are strong and resist abrasions and lacerations outstandingly as well.
The amount of self-massage tools on the market is vast, with each shape and size boasting its own pros and cons. We sifted through many of the most popular options to determine which are worth your hard-earned cash. From budget-friendly finds to high-tech sets, our extensive testing provided us with valuable knowledge that we are happy to pass on to you. Now get rolling!
— Ally Meller