When I was starting out as a runner, I didn’t really care for warm-ups or cooldowns. I just wanted to get out there and run.
It isn’t a surprise, then, that my DOMS (or delayed-onset muscle soreness) was as intense as ever. It got to the point where I couldn’t run the next day and had to wait until my glutes and calves were fine.
That’s when I learned the importance of cooldowns and treating yourself after an intense workout session. In Particular, I learned that a runner’s sworn sword is their foam roller! Yes, it’s my excalibur!
Foam rollers have evolved over the years from simple cylinders of foam to vibrating rollers to give you a massage. But what is the best? Are these mere gimmicks or do they really work?
Here are some of the best foam rollers for runners that I found out there rated by durability, purpose and of course – price.
Best Foam Rollers For Runners Compared and Reviewed
#1 - TriggerPoint Grid Foam Roller
Lots of users would agree that the TriggerPoint Grid foam roller is one of the best foam rollers out there. Its revolutionary foam technology features different densities in its exterior to adapt to the curves of your body.
Its grid design is also great for loosening up the tight spots in your body. Your skin can also sink into the ridges, making it easier for the roller to get to that tightness.
The original GRID has a firm foam density that could be applied to your whole body. Purchasing this foam roller gives you access to an online instructional video to guide you through an effective recovery from running.
It can also support up to 500 pounds of weight, which I think is a great thing! It shows that it cares for inclusivity for all fitness enthusiasts. It also shows that the material is durable.
The foam is EVA, which is great at absorbing shock and impact. It’s also resilient; that’s why it is used usually for sports applications.
Users especially love the inside core of the foam roller. Other foam rollers with hollow cores made of plastic tend to seem brittle and easy to break, making it hard for you to confidently roll with it.
#2 - LuxFit Foam Roller
This foam roller is mostly made of polypropylene foam with a solid core. The advantage of this versus a hollow core with a plastic lining is that it tends to be less likely to break or snap.
It is, however, susceptible to being dented and getting too soft. Because this polypropylene foam has a density of 2 pounds per cubic foot, it tends to retain its shape. This foam also moisture resistant, perfect for your sweaty foam roll sessions.
LuxFit offers up to 4 sizes, with smaller sizes able to reach specific muscles. If you do like to use foam rollers for your back, you might want to go with the 24-inch foam roller so that it spans the whole width of your back.
I think it’s a good sign if the manufacturer backs their product up with a warranty. LuxFit provides 10 years of warranty with an instructional video.
Because of the density of this foam, users complain about the firmness of this product. This boils down to personal preference anyway. Try to be careful about the sizes that you’ll be getting, too.
#3 - Nextrino Vibrating Foam Roller
Nextrino promotes enhanced flexibility and range of motion with this product. It can be used before and after your gym sessions to give yourself a personal massage.
It is a vibrating foam roller that has 3 vibration intensities. You can choose the amount of vibration you want depending on what body part you’ll be massaging.
I really also like how they have nubs on one side of the foam and a smoother surface on the other. This makes it great for those who want a gentler massage and others who might want to really get into those tight spots.
It has a handle to make it easy to carry. Its battery lasts for 2 hours, which is more than enough time to relax your muscles.
Users love the nubs and texture of this foam. It makes it easy to get into those tight areas of your body. Some complaints come from the fact that this foam feels more like hard plastic than foam, though, so be wary of that.
#4 - Hyperice Vyper 2.0
This foam roller is used by athletes and trainers everywhere, so you know that it gives you some of the best qualities of a foam roller. It’s able to increase your flexibility, blood circulation, and help you recover quickly.
Although this is a vibrating foam roller, it really is a simple but effective device. It is made of neoprene foam, which is not as compressible as traditional foam. It is also waterproof.
With its 3 vibration settings, you can adjust the intensity to match the body part you’re massaging. It also has 2 hours of battery life per charge.
The smooth surface of the foam might be something you like. Other users prefer added nubs and a grid design for more pressure. If you’re only beginning to learn to roll your muscles out, this might be a great place to start.
You’re going to have to shell out some money, though. This is, so far, the most expensive one on the list.
#5 - Brazyn Morph Foam Roller
Anyone with a day job knows how much of a hassle it is to commute with a full gym bag, so this might change the game for you. With this foldable foam roller, you can roll anywhere.
At its flattened position, it is only 2 inches in thickness. Simply pull the loops on both sides of the tube and it will turn into a 5-inch diameter and 14.5-inch long foam roller. Plus, it only weighs 1.5 pounds.
Upon purchase, you’ll get a travel pouch and a book to guide you through your foam roller session. It can withstand up to 350 pounds, which I honestly did not expect with a foldable foam roller.
It does have nubs on the foam itself, so expect a bumpier rolling experience. This might not be the ideal roller for beginners since it can cause bruising. For those who have tighter muscles that you want to loosen up, this might be great for you.
It’s unfair to praise this foam roller without mentioning how expensive it is compared to other brands. You’ll be paying for the convenience of being able to easily carry it around.
My Number One Pick
What To Look Out For When Considering A Foam Roller For Running
Foam rollers seem to be an easy buy! After all, they are just cylinders of foam. However, the fitness community has evolved foam rollers with different variations for professionals and beginners alike.
Although this is a simple piece of equipment, it’s still nice to know the different types of foam rollers out there and what their uses are. Let’s get into it!
Types of foam rollers
There are different types of foam rollers that can almost be mixed and matched, but we can essentially characterize them into different categories.
Your foam rollers’ density
The density of your chosen foam roller really depends on your personal preference.
Low-density foam rollers
Low-density foams tend to be great for beginners. This makes for more of a massage than trying to loosen the knots in your muscles.
Sore muscles will also like the light pressure from these low-density foam rollers. Basically, for all those casual rolls and exercises, low-density foams will provide just the right amount of pressure.
High-density or firm foam rollers
If you like a hard massage and prefer to work those tight knots out of your muscles quickly, then firm foam rollers would be great for you.
This makes for a deeper massage and intensifies the myofascial release. Myofascial release is simply the relieving of tension in the connective tissues of your muscles.
Be careful with these ones, though; if you’re okay with slight bruising, this can be great for you.
Medium-density foam rollers
If you can’t choose between the firmer foam rollers and softer ones, here’s one for you.
Choose a medium-density foam roller if you spend equal time trying to relieve sore muscles and trying to quickly recover for your next intense session.
Your foam rollers’ texture
Foam rollers provide different textures, and again, it all depends on your preference. Let’s see the different foam textures and how they can help you!
Bumpy with a chance of nubs foam rollers
That isn’t really what they’re called! Some foam rollers have nubs on them to dig deep into your body.
Your skin sinks into the ridges of the foam, creating different textures and helping that foam reach those tight knots in your muscles.
A less intense version of the spiky nubbed foam roller is a simple grid design on the foam. This still lets your skin sink a little bit into the foam to add greater pressure, but it is less precise and spreads the pressure more evenly.
Smooth foam rollers
Smooth foam rollers, on the other hand, will be great for simple massages and evenly spreading that pressure.
There’s no preciseness to this, so it’ll be less likely that you bruise yourself too much. This is also more relaxing if you ask me!
They won’t, however, be that quick fix and recovery that other foam rollers can be.
Before you buy and use foam rollers…
There are some precautions you have to take before buying foam rollers. For example, if you have arthritis, open wounds, or advanced osteoporosis, you might not want to invest in foam rollers.
However, even the average person might want to be careful when using foam rollers. People in the fitness community tend to believe that pain is gain, but this isn’t the case for foam rollers.
You want to be quite careful with your muscles as you use foam rollers. The pain that you get from foam rolling should only be from activating the sore muscles after your workout. Foam rolling on its own should be more relaxing than anything.
Plus, you shouldn’t be rolling for too long. You can do 3 sets, 30 seconds each with each muscle group.
Benefits of foam rollers
Foam rollers aren’t just to massage your muscles and make you feel relaxed. Foam rolling actually has practical benefits that can improve your performance.
Using a foam roller before exercising can make you a bit more flexible! According to a Harvard article about the benefits of foam rolling, foam rolling gives you 10 minutes of increased flexibility, which can improve your warm-up exercises and overall give you a better workout.
Increased flexibility can also help you increase your range of motion, which will improve your workouts. Runners, especially, will benefit from being loose with their movements. Like a well-oiled machine!
Relieve muscle pain
Sore muscles are a pain in the butt (literally!), especially for runners. The impacts of your exercise can last much longer if you don’t properly cool down. Even then, it can be hard to untangle those tight knots.
This is usually why runners want to invest in foam rollers. A study observed that DOMS or delayed-onset muscle soreness can be reduced by foam rolling.
Even if you don’t exercise, foam rolling can benefit you. Simply taking a break from sitting all day in front of a computer and massage your back and legs to activate those muscles a little bit.
Lastly, don’t underestimate the ability of foam rollers to get you to relax after a workout session! Foam rolling doesn’t have to be all bruises and untangling knots; sometimes, it’s just a relaxing cool down after a great workout.
Frequently Asked Questions On Foam Rollers For Runners
Q: Should foam rolling be painful?
A: Although foam rolling tends to activate those muscles that are tender after an intense workout, foam rolling shouldn’t be painful on its own. Bruising might be a side effect, but it’s not something you should grit your teeth through. Try to lessen the pressure if this is the case!
Q: What parts should I focus on when foam rolling?
A: In general, you want to focus on muscles instead of your joints. You might be tempted to get into the crevices of your knees if you feel it aching, but it really does nothing (and might even be dangerous). For runners, this means you should focus on rolling your quads, calves, and glutes.
Q: How long should I be foam rolling?
A: Foam rolling should be treated like exercise. Everything should be controlled, both with intensity and how long you’ll be doing the exercise. For foam rolling, you might want to spend 3 sets on each muscle group, 30 seconds each.
Foam rollers are a great investment, especially if your fitness journey is starting to gain momentum. You don’t have to get used to the pain; you can healthily make your exercise routine free of prolonged pain.
Make sure to do your own research when buying foam rollers. After all, you know what’s best for yourself. Check the reviews of each product and see what problems might have come up for other users.
Looking for more options for runners? Check out our reviews on weighted running vests for women if you’re looking to incorporate some strength and resistance training to your routine. If you’ve been doing more long distances and are feeling chafe between your thighs or arms we’ve done a review on the best anti chafing cream for runners.
Catch you rolling in the deep!
Marko Rakic is a trail runner and fitness enthusiast from Sydney, Australia. He is the lead writer for The Ultimate Primate and believes the best way to live a happy life is to take a holistic approach to fitness and health.