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.