Aug 11, 2023

11 Best Foam Rollers to Buy For Exercise Recovery in 2023

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Rolling out pre-, post-, or mid-workout can help you loosen up.

ONE OF the best recovery tools you can use to help treat sore muscles is a foam roller. While recovery has gone high-tech in recent years, this simple piece of equipment helps to roll out fascia—the connective tissue that surrounds your muscles—can stiffen, and over time, painful knots can form.

Throw them into your routine before, after, and between workouts, and you've got yourself a winning combo to combat tightness, get that blood pumping, and give those muscles a well-deserved massage. The best foam rollers not only prep your muscles for action but can also play a major role in post-workout recovery, helping you bounce back like a champ. (Not to mention, the best foam rollers offer a cost-effective alternative to massage guns for self-massage.)

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For those grappling with any tense muscles or specific areas feeling all knotted up, a foam roller might just turn into your new best friend. According to Dr. Phil Tam, PT, DPT, of Bespoke Treatments Physical Therapy in New York City, "Research supports that incorporating foam rolling in conjunction with dynamic and static stretching will have a positive impact on performance as well as muscle recovery."

Using a foam roller is also proven to enhance the short-term flexibility of the joints, meaning rolling out before lifting can prove pretty handy. It can help unlock a touch more freedom when it comes to range of motion, which comes in clutch when aiming for a deeper position in exercises like squats, explains Dr. Tam.

But it's not just lifters who may benefit from using a foam roller. "For the most part, anyone can benefit from foam rolling," explains Kim Strother, a New York-based wellness coach, personal trainer, and yoga instructor. "People tend to associate foam rolling with use after you are already sore, but it can also be used to warm up, as well as a proactive recovery method," she says.

So, if your exercise game is strong but your recovery game is lacking, investing in one of the best foam rollers is a smart place to start. (Or if you prefer a muscle roller stick, here are 10 of the best massage muscle roller sticks.) Ready to roll? Here are 11 of the best foam rollers to use just about anywhere.

The half foam roller brings a bundle of perks to the table: It can be used for the same purposes as a full roller, but with the added benefit of stability and a lower height, making it more accessible for older individuals, those with limited mobility, and beginners.

For those aiming to roll with a tad less pressure, this latex-free soft foam roller is a great entrée into the world of foam rollers.

But don't worry–just 'cause it's plush doesn't mean it's flimsy. We've put this roller through the wringer for pre- and post- workout stretching for over a year, and it's still looking good as new.

By now, you're no stranger to foam rollers, but brace yourself for the Vyper 3.0–an evolution of Hyperice's vibrating foam roller concept that's not only sleeker but packs a mightier punch. The deal with vibration therapy is that it can tone down muscle soreness and those pesky pain sensations, meaning when combined with myofascial release, it can amp up the effects of foam rolling.

This portable foam roller links up with the Hyperice app to deliver guided sessions and advice from top-notch athletes, trainers, and performance pros–all at your fingertips.

We've used this for years, and here's why: three vibration speeds that turn your sore muscles into puddles of relaxation. Plus, at a sleek 13 inches, it's perfect for targeting those pesky spots, like the spaces between your shoulder blades. Charge it up, and you're looking at up to two hours of foam rolling goodness.

Pricier than your basic foam roller, this Lululemon choice radiates durability and versatile functionality. We also think the modern design looks great, and is perfect for urban dwellers or anyone who wants their roller to blend into their decor seamlessly when it's not being used.

Let's breakdown the 2-in-1 design: the outer roller must be used with the inner roller still nestled inside (meaning you can't use them separately at the same time). Nonetheless, we never found that to be an issue when using it ourselves.

The inner roller is solid as a rock with ridges that get deep in the muscles to deliver a deep massage. The inner roller is my go-to for taming the back and thighs. The outer roller is a gentler and slightly softer, making it a good choice to reach for when your muscles are a tad more sensitive. It does cost a pretty penny, but these added features and the sleek aesthetic make it worth the full price

The AmazonBasics foam roller checks off all the boxes, delivering the expert-recommended firm density while also featuring a subtle surface texture to prevent any slipping. It gets the job done with 36" of sturdy durability, but the best part is that it comes at a wallet-friendly price.

Though this no-frill model doesn't offer any added features such as grooves or vibrating, it competes just as well as pricier alternatives of the same design.

Constructed from EPP, we love that its slightly coarse surface keeps it steady against clothing and the floor to avoid slippage. With a generous length, it's also a great option for stretches that involve lying along its length. The only thing to keep in mind is that if you're new to foam rolling or sensitive to the pressure of self-massage, this is a very dense option, meaning it will deliver a more intense experience.

This vibrating roller from Therabody strikes the right balance between softness and firmness for an effective yet comfortable massage experience. Its 5-speed options let you target specific muscles with that 'just right' level of intensity, too.

This is one of the best vibrating foam rollers out there, and the one that has us constantly looking forward to cool-downs. While less dense than some high-density non-vibrating rollera, the Wave's vibrations reached deep into my muscles, easing post-workout soreness.

It connects to the Therabody app for guided sessions, which can tailor roller sessions to your workout and offers customization. While vibrating foam rollers combine benefits, it's up to you to decide if the added cost is worth it. It all comes down to what suits your preferences and body.

The RumbleRoller is a great choice for a deep and targeted massage using trigger point grooves and knobs. If you're a CrossFit enthusiast or serious lifter, this one's right up your alley. It's designed to mimic the trigger-point pressure of a thumb-like deep tissue massage, and we found that's exactly what it does.

In our experience using this roller, it doesn't hold back–it's way more intense than your standard foam roller, digging deep into the muscle fascia to target those stubborn trigger points. If you're on a mission to zero in on specific parts of your body, the roller's knobs strike the right balance between firmness and flexibility to hit all the notes.

With three sizes available, it's important to consider which one makes the most sense for where and how you plan to use it. If your roller will stay put at home or the gym, go for the longest one within your budget. The extra length gives you more versatility and help transitions between movements feel smoother. If you're always on the move with your roller, opt for a size that's compact enough for easy packing and carrying.

You might recognize this nifty roller from the popular show Shark Tank, where former NFL tight end Nate Lawrie and his partner Tom Hopkins pitched it back in 2017.

What sets this version apart from other foam rollers is its collapsible design. The Morph takes portability to a new level, transforming from a full-size roller into a slim 2-inch thick, 1.5-pound piece that fits easily into almost any bag. It's crafted with a density that's meant to be not overly hard, not overly soft. But we found the foam leans towards the gentler side, making it a solid choice for beginners or those who prefer a softer touch but not so great for those looking for a more intense experience. (If you are after more intensity, they've got the Alpha model with thumb-like nubs that dig deeper into the tissue.)

Operating the collapsible function of the Morph is a piece of cake. Just give two tabs a tug, and it pops open; then, push the ends to close it up. It takes minimal effort, which is a plus, especially when you're wiped out after a long run or serious lift. In our experience, the mechanism is reliable stands up well to repeated use. However, compared to our top picks, the roller rolls less smoothly because of the chunky texture. That being said, the convertible design makes it a worthy choice for travel or those tight on space at home.

With its medium density and textured grooves, the Precision Foam Roller from Pvolve hits the mark when targeting smaller muscles like the calves, neck and arms. Measuring 13 inches in length and 5.5 inches in diameter, it's similar in size to the Hyperice Vyper and perfect for travel.

Smaller foam rollers are can also be much easier for beginners to manage. The reduced size allows for better control and targeted positioning during self-massage.

But what really stood out to us about this roller is its slightly heavier weight, which means it can even double for use in upper body activation exercises.

With a TRX Foam Roller and some focused pressure, you can unlock myofascial release to ease muscle soreness, enhance recovery, and promote muscular balance. This roller gives you everything you want, with none of the extra frills some newer rollers feature.

Whether you opt for the 18" or 36" version, the TRX Foam Roller boasts high-quality expanded polypropylene (EPP) foam that maintains its shape and consistently delivers deep tissue therapy for muscle readiness.

Despite its extremely dense construction, it strikes a balance between being tough enough to tackle stubborn tightness and providing a comfortable surface for smooth rolling. This roller is perfect if you're seeking potent myofascial release without the need for textured knobs and indentations. Plus, backed by the reputable TRX brand, you can own the largest model for just over $20. What more could you ask for?

When it comes to vibrating foam rollers, there's a common issue–they're a bit too bulky for easy transport. That's where the Wave Duo from Therabody steps in. This $99 gem is not only a more budget-friendly vibrating option but also a space-saver, making it a hit for weekend getaways and summer travel.

We found that the unique design cradles your spine, neck, and calves like a dream. And with five vibration settings, you've got a tailored approach to target your sore spots. Whether you're into a gentler touch or a more vigorous massage, there's a setting for that. (There's even a sixth "off" setting that still manages to do its tissue-gripping, muscle-kneading magic.)

But here's the kicker: unlike some vibrating rollers that practically sprint away from under you due to their intense movement, the Duo stays put. Its compact size and rubbery, grippy outer texture ensures it won't go rogue on you mid-session.

Designed specifically for deep tissue stimulation and myofascial release in the arms and legs, this option might appear unconventional (and it is) but serves its purpose well. The R8 features two trigger point massage rollers with rigged and knobbed surfaces to effectively work through muscle soreness.

Operated using a spring-loaded, clamp-like mechanism, the R8 simultaneously massages opposing sides of the targeted muscle. For instance, it clamps over areas like the quadriceps and hamstrings, or calves and tibialis anterior along the shins.

Be advised, the R8 is not for the faint of heart. It's for those truly looking for a deep tissue massage and with a relatively high pain tolerance. Adjusting the bolt tension can help manage the pressure levels more comfortably, but there's no getting around this thing really gets in there.

It's pricier than traditional foam rollers, but for a real deep-tissue massager, the price is reasonable. Plus, as an FDA-registered medical device, it might even be eligible for HSA or FSA reimbursements.

There's no one-size-fits-all when it comes to foam rollers, meaning it's important to consider your own needs and preferences to pick that foam roller that's right for you.

Purpose: Why are you hopping on the foam roller train in the first place? Are you looking to warm up before a workout, recover post-sweat session, or just generally work out the kinks from prolonged sitting or daily activities? "What will matter the most will differ from person to person, so it depends on the intended goal of using the foam roller," says Dr. Tam.

Density: Density is the name of the game. Rollers come in various levels of firmness–soft like a marshmallow or hard with no give at all. If you're new to this foam rolling thing, starting with a softer roller can be a gentler introduction to the game. But if you're no stranger to myofascial release, a denser roller might be a better fit because it provides deeper pressure, according to Dr. Tam.

Size and Shape: Just like bodies, rollers come in all shapes and sizes. The standard cylindrical rollers are great for general use on most muscle groups, smaller ones with grooves can be perfect for targeting specific areas like your calves or IT band, and spherical designs can be great for the shoulders and upper back. If you're on the go a lot, a compact roller that is either smaller in nature or folds down might be your ticket to recovery when on the go.

Texture: Speaking of grooves, let's talk textures. Some rollers are as smooth as a gym floor, while others boast ridges and knobs that dig deeper into your muscles (you'll often see 'trigger point' mentioned with these). Texture can provide a different kind of massage experience, so think about what floats your recovery boat.

For beginners, Strother recommends using a foam roller that is smooth to the touch. "If you’re more familiar with foam rolling or want to get deeper into the muscles, you can opt for a foam roller with grooves," she says.

Budget: Like any shopping spree, your wallet deserves some respect. Foam rollers are generally a more affordable recovery tool compared to, say, massage guns, but they do come in a range of prices from under $20 to above $100. Decide how much you're willing to splurge from the get, because there's plenty of great options at every price point.

Foam rolling is a form of self-myofascial release, which breaks up those adhesions, and in turn improving your range of motion and reducing muscle soreness. Think of it as a DIY deep-tissue massage. (Massage guns can also help.)

"Research has supported the use of foam rolling to improve recovery over passive resting after working out," according to Dr. Tam. In plain speak, when you roll those muscles, you're actually helping them recover faster compared to doing nothing.

"Delayed onset muscle soreness closely associated with a rigorous bout of exercise," explains Dr. Tam. Foam rolling has been shown to reduce the decrements associated with that soreness, meaning you can return to baseline quicker for your next bout of exercise.

But that's not all. Foam rolling can also increase short-term flexibility of the muscles and joints. Meaning you can loosen things up, which is solid for your overall performance in the gym. When teamed up with static stretching, foam rolling can seriously improves your mobility game.

First things first, snag a foam roller that suits your needs. Once you've got that, it's time to target your trouble spot.

"Place the foam roller on the floor and position your body so that the nagging area is on top of the foam roller; I like to set the foam roller perpendicular to the area so it allows for easier rolling," says Dr. Tam.

And remember: you control the pressure. If you're in the need for more oomph, let your body fully rest on the foam roller. Now, let the gentle rolling commence.

Rock back and forth over the area for about 30 seconds or however long your comfort level takes you, he recommends. You've got choices here–a broad roll for a full muscle sweep, or zoom in on the nitty-gritty. Aim for 1-2 minutes tops for each muscle group.

Kim Strother's shared a couple of her favorite foam rolling tricks:

Upper Back Release: "With the foam roller perpendicular to your body, place it at the bottom of the mid back and support your head and upper neck with your hands (as if you were preparing to do a crunch). Lift your butt up toward the ceiling (similar to a bridge exercise) and use your heels to drive your weight and roll the foam roller from the upper to middle back. Roll up and down and be mindful not to roll toward your lower back to avoid injury."

Lat Stretch: "While on your knees on the mat, place the foam roller perpendicular on the mat a foot or two in front of you. Face your hands toward each other and place the pinky edge side of both hands on your foam roller. With all the weight in your hips (similar to a child pose), extend your arms forward on the foam roller to feel a stretch in your lats and throughout your body. Repeat as many times as you’d like."

At Men's Health, we take great pride in providing our readers with reliable and trustworthy product recommendations. We believe that our readers deserve the best, which is why we always make sure to conduct thorough research and testing before making any recommendations. For this story, we spent hours testing and researching top-rated foam rollers before, after, and in the midst of workouts. We also interviewed experts including Dr. Phil Tam, PT, DPT, of Bespoke Treatments Physical Therapy in New York City, and Kim Strother, a New York-based wellness coach, personal trainer, and yoga instructor.

Our writers and editors are also experts in their own right, using their informed opinions to select products and ensuring that our content is of the highest quality. Our product recommendations are purely editorial, and while we may receive free products to test and review, we only recommend the products we are most impressed by. We never let retailers or public relations contacts dictate our content or product coverage, which is why you can trust us to provide you with reliable and unbiased product recommendations.

For the past several years, Men's Health's Fitness editors and writers have been testing the best foam rollers for pre-workout stretching and post-workout recovery. Experts, including our fitness director Ebenezer Samuel, C.S.C.S., senior fitness editor Brett Williams, NASM, and fitness and commerce editor Talene Appleton, NASM, tested and assessed the best foam rollers from top-rated brands. When evaluating each roller, we looked at factors like durability, user experience, muscular release, and portability. We also considered price point, as some foam rollers offer a better overall value than others.

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Talene Appleton is a fitness and food writer and editor, certified personal trainer (NASM-CPT), and former professional dancer based in New York City. Passionate about both exercise and cuisine, she merges her fitness, nutrition and culinary expertise with the goal of motivating others to embrace balanced healthy living. Her work has appeared in Men’s Health, General Surgery News, The Food Institute, The Nessie, and more.

Philip Tam, PT, DPT, is a doctor of physical therapy at Bespoke Treatments Physical Therapy in New York City with a focus on orthopedics and neurological rehabilitation. He has worked with a wide variety of patients, ranging from high school and college athletes to patients in the intensive care unit.

Kim is a New York-based wellness coach, personal trainer, and yoga instructor who has spent 2 decades creating individualized health programs for clients.

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ONE OFRead more: How Men's Health Thoroughly Tests and Reviews Fitness ProductsRead more: How Men's Health Thoroughly Tests and Reviews Fitness ProductsPurposeDensitySize and ShapeTextureBudgetUpper Back ReleaseLat StretchBest Massage Guns Best Massage Guns on Amazon Best Compression Boots Best Ice BathsBest Sauna Blankets