Which Type of Foam Roller Should You Buy?
You’ve probably heard about foam rollers and their pain-relieving benefits. Now you’re considering buying one for post-workout recovery or to relieve your stiff muscles. However, a quick Google or Amazon search to determine what you need may leave you more confused than when you started.
Do you need the soft white one, or is the higher-density black version better? Should it be short or long? What about the one with a grid, or the kind with the spikes? The one with large bumps, massage balls, or that one that your friend likes? It all starts to sound a bit like a silly Dr. Seuss book.
As makers of various foam rollers, we understand your confusion. Luckily, we also understand the differences between these massage therapy tools. So let us make sense of it all and help you choose the best one for you.
DENSITY AND PATTERN
White or Blue Foam Rollers: These are typically the softest foam rollers and are ideal for beginners. Since foam rolling can be rather painful, especially when you’re not used to it, these are great to learn on. Even after you move on to a higher density foam roller, it can be nice to have one of these around for more sensitive areas like the IT band. They’re also multifunctional for stretching, core and balance exercises, Pilates, yoga, and physical therapy.
Black High Density Foam Roller: These rollers are higher density, but look just like the white/blue foam rollers. These are better for deeper massage and regular use without being too painful. Many people will quickly advance to these version, and find this a better way to work out the knots in their muscles. This type can also be used by beginners, as most foam rolling positions can be modified to decrease or increase pressure.
Sports Medicine Roller: When you’re ready for something that can dig in a bit deeper, a roller with grids like these are great for meeting multiple needs without overdoing the intensity. Large, flat bumps combined with taller bumps help work between muscles and tendons a bit more, similar to a masseuse’s finger-tip and palm massage. This allows you to work into areas that are harder to reach with smooth foam rollers.
Bullet Sports Medicine Roller: One step up from the grid-style roller, the Bullet Roller uses evenly spaced bullet-shaped bumps with a gracious amount of space between them to make the intensity bearable. Slightly more firm than the bumps on the Sport Medicine Roller, this surface helps penetrate trigger points even deeper. Great for areas like calves, lats, and glutes where you may need more direct pressure, similar to a masseuse’s elbow. This is a good daily roller for intermediate users.
Hexa Massage Roller: For intermediate or advanced users, this roller uses higher density hexagonal bumps in a uniform pattern that hits more areas at once. This type can be particularly helpful for rolling less sensitive areas like the upper back and front and back of the thighs. These come in a 2-in-1 design which allows you to twist it apart for two separate rollers. Super convenient for travel or sharing with a spouse or workout buddy. For athletes or individuals who regularly run or workout with weights, this type of roller is great for everyday use to keep muscles loose.
Spike Massage Roller: This roller provides the most intense massage with its firm but slightly flexible spikes that target deep knots. This is ideal for advanced users and athletes for daily recovery of tight, overworked muscles. Intermediate users may find these helpful on occasion for particularly difficult knots. Like the Hexa, this features the added benefits of a 2-in-1 design.
Lacrosse Balls: Massage balls are another form of foam rolling that are particularly convenient and low-cost. Their compact size allows you to really customize the massage for one specific area at a time. But they’re ideal when you need to get difficult knots in tough places like around your shoulder blades, the sides of your spine, neck, and calves where standard rollers don’t quite fit. The downside is that they can be a bit hard to keep in place as you roll, and can more time if there are multiple areas you’re trying to roll out.
Now that you know the types of foam rollers and how they vary, here are a few additional factors to consider:
Foam rollers generally come in a size of around 24-inches long or 12-14-inches long. Smaller is easier for travel and storage, and works well on any major muscle. The full-length versions are a bit easier for rolling your back, and can also be used to lay on vertically to help stretch out your shoulders, chest and back. They tend to be easier to maneuver when rolling and are great for at-home use.
There are also mini versions which combine the benefits of a compact lacrosse ball with a spike foam roller. The small size is perfect for travel, keeping at the office, and is perfect for small areas like your feet, neck, and calves.
While most foam rollers are hollow on the inside, ProSource foam rollers are filled with EVA foam to provide a sturdy base for consistent rolling. Rollers with hollow insides are more prone to breaking or cracking. The foam interior is still lightweight, but provides more durability for a roller you can count on long-term.
Hopefully now you feel much better equipped to purchase the best roller for your specific needs. Don’t forget to check out the other muscle therapy tools available to you for well-rounded recovery.