Whatever your sport, ramp up your recovery sessions with one of these fantastic foam rollers
While everyone will agree that regular exercise is a good thing, it’s also important to consider your recovery, especially if you have a very active lifestyle. For many people, a recovery day generally means kicking back on the sofa and not doing whatever sport it is they do on all the other days, but taking a more proactive approach is the best way to recharge your body for your next training session.
Active recovery can take many forms – low-intensity exercise, stretching and cross-training are all good options – but foam rolling is one of the most popular. That popularity is deserved, because foam rolling, or self-myofascial release, is a terrific way to help your muscles recover from your sporting exertions.
Below you’ll find all the information you need to pick a foam roller, plus a selection of the best options on the market.
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Best foam rollers: At a glance
- Best smooth foam roller: PhysioWorld Foam Roller | From £15
- Best foam roller for beginners: Physical Company Performance Roller | From £22
- Best overall vibrating foam roller: Therabody Wave Roller | £125
- Best foam roller for runners: TriggerPoint GRID Foam Roller | £32
- Best roller for plantar fasciitis: Iregro Foot Massage Roller | £8
- Best vibrating foam roller for on-the-go: Hyperice Vyper Go | £149
How to choose the best foam roller for you
What does a foam roller do?
Simply put, foam rolling is a form of self-massage that improves the blood flow in your muscles and improves their range of motion, which will speed up your recovery times. It’s not as good as getting a full sports massage, but it comes at a fraction of the cost. What’s more, by controlling the roller yourself you can focus on any areas that are really giving you trouble.
What kind of surface should the foam roller have?
Foam rollers can be smooth or have some kind of bumpy pattern, ranging from small ridges to terrifying spikes that dig deep into the muscle. With smooth rollers it’s important to check how firm the roller is – beginners should use a softer roller, while experienced users looking for maximum muscle relief will opt for something firmer. Bear in mind that even a softer roller won’t be soft; foam rolling, when done right, will hurt a little. Some manufacturers will have a range of rollers that are colour-coded to indicate how firm they are – white being the softest and black the firmest, with blue and pink/reds in between.
How large should it be?
Small rollers are great for targeting smaller areas of muscle and have the extra benefit of being more portable if you want to take your rolling on the road. Longer rollers are perfect for working two limbs at once and rolling your back, and medium-sized rollers are good for pretty much everything. You can also get small ball rollers that can be carried everywhere and are useful for targeting the soles of your feet in particular.
Are there any other features to look out for?
Vibrating rollers claim to boost the benefits of regular foam rolling in terms of relieving tension in the muscles, but they are considerably more expensive than regular rollers. One handy bonus that comes with some rollers is an exercise guide, either available on paper or through a partner app. This can guide you through your first foam rolling routines.
How much do I need to spend?
The good news is that all the benefits of foam rolling don’t come at much of a cost. The cheapest rollers will set you back around £10, while £15-£30 is the sweet spot where you’ll find the most capable rollers. Vibrating rollers and some other specialist rollers will cost more, ranging up to around £100, but they’re something to consider if you really take to self-myofascial release.
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The best foam rollers you can buy in 2023
1. PhysioWorld Foam Roller: The best smooth foam roller
Price when reviewed: From £15 | Check price at Amazon
These simple smooth rollers come in two different sizes – 45cm and 90cm long – with the former being the ideal size to roll areas all over the body. This is a firm roller that can be used for Pilates exercises as well as self-myofascial relief, and its simple and durable build means that it will hold its shape for as long as you want to keep on rolling.
Key specs – Size: 45 x 15cm; Material: PE foam; Extra features: None
2. Physical Company Performance Roller: The best foam roller for beginners
Price when reviewed: £22 | Check price at Physical Company
Although this is not a soft roller by any means, the pattern of ridges and nobbles on its surface is not too aggressive, so beginners will be able to use it and benefit without being scared off by the initial pain of rolling. However, the key feature for beginners is the NFC tag in the roller – hold a smartphone over it and it will bring up a library of exercises and information about foam rolling. The other big plus about this one is that it’s just about small enough to tuck in a gym bag and carry with you, especially as the hollow core means you can stuff your kit inside it to save space.
Key specs – Size: 33 x 13.5cm; Material: EVA foam; Extra Features: NFC, exercise information app
This well-crafted roller boasts five vibration settings, Bluetooth connectivity and a handy three-hour battery life. Using the Wave Roller was a pleasant experience – well, as much as using a roller can be. Unlike the pain or discomfort commonly associated with firmer, non-padded rollers, the thick, high-density foam padding here felt gentler on muscles when applying total body weight, working wonders to relieve nasty knots and release tension in the tissue.
Vibration frequencies are controlled using the Therabody app, and adjusted in line with any movements or stretches. Those who assume the lack of pain in use means the Wave Roller isn’t working should rest assured: the specially designed wave patterns on the foam padding incorporate a pinching method, helping to bring warmth to the muscle to aid relaxation and a natural release in the tissue.
Whether you’re looking for a roller to improve performance and recovery, or benefit your overall wellbeing, the Therabody Wave Roller offers a comfortable and effective solution.
Read our full Therabody Wave Series review
Key specs – Dimensions: 30 x 13cm; Weight: 1.5kg; Battery life and charging time: 120 minutes; Material: Hypo-allergenic EVA high-density foam, silicone outer; Vibration speeds: 5; Warranty: 1 year
4. TriggerPoint GRID Foam Roller: Best foam roller for runners
Price when reviewed: £32 | Check price at Amazon
The three different textures on the surface of this firm roller are designed to mimic different parts of a hand in order to replicate the feel of a sports massage. The high, firm nobbles are like fingertips, the tubular sections mimic fingers and the flatter parts the palm. Use them all for a deep massage that will ease the muscles and get you fit and ready to pound the pavements again. You can also use the free videos on the TriggerPoint website to learn exactly how best to use the GRID roller.
Key specs – Size: 33 x 14cm; Material: EVA foam; Extra features: None
5. Beupro Foot Massage Roller: Best roller for plantar fasciitis
Price when reviewed: £8 | Check price at Amazon
If you don’t know what plantar fasciitis is, think yourself lucky, because those who have suffered the condition are unlikely to forget it in a hurry. Plantar fasciitis is caused by overworking the band of tissue that runs along the sole of your foot. It’s a common injury among runners and makes every step you take a waking nightmare, especially first thing in the morning. One of the best ways to treat and prevent plantar fasciitis is rolling the sole of your foot. This can be done with a standard foam roller but, to really dig into the troublesome tissue, a dedicated foot roller like this is ideal.
The nobbles on the Iregro mini roller are designed to mimic a massage therapist’s fingers while relieving any soreness in your sole. It’s also a good size for rolling out your calf muscles and, if you get creative, you can use it to massage most of the other muscles in the absence of a larger roller. If it’s plantar fasciitis you’re seeking to relieve, try popping the roller in the freezer before you use it. It feels amazing.
Key specs – Size: 17 x 7cm; Material: Elastomer TPE; Extra features: None
6. Hyperice Vyper Go: Best vibrating foam roller for on-the-go
Price when reviewed: £149 | Check price at Hyperice
Foam rollers have come a long way since their first introduction in the 80s, and the Vyper Go certainly proves that. It combines muscle-soothing vibration with Bluetooth connectivity, app integration and a sleek and compact design.
Setting it up is easy, you can download the Hyperice app and connect your phone via Bluetooth while charging the Vyper Go for the recommended two hours. Once charged, simply hold the power button down for three seconds to turn it on, once the app is open it will detect your roller and connect automatically.
The app recommends personalised sessions based on your input – for me, it was football, golf, running, and walking – and from here you can begin your exercises. In addition to connecting to Strava and Garmin to track your exercise routines, the app also provides video tutorials to follow, timing each set and adjusting the three vibration settings accordingly – allowing you to focus solely on working away any nasty knots or tight muscles.
As a roller, it’s pretty firm: it doesn’t feature any padding on the body. However, I found the varying levels of vibrations to be effective, utilising the highest setting for a trigger point style massage, applying full-body pressure on a knot and allowing the vibrations to work away at the tissue.
It’s expensive for a foam roller, but the Vyper Go proves itself to be a compact and versatile companion for athletes on the go.
Key specs – Size: 27 x 10 x 10cm; Weight: 0.9Kg; Battery life and charging time: 180 minutes; Material: Eco-friendly polypropylene; Vibration speeds: 3; Warranty: Yes, 1-year
7. TriggerPoint GRID STK Handheld Foam Roller: Best handheld foam roller
Price when reviewed: £28 | Check price at Amazon
It can be hard to get the pressure required for a deep massage with a handheld foam roller, but the two handles on the TriggerPoint GRID STK allow you to push firmly against your muscles as you roll. The thin stick design is ideal for carrying with you, and the two different textures on the roller section work the muscles in different ways – the small, firm nobbles dig in deeper for really tight areas, while the longer tube sections offer gentler muscle relief. The orange version of the STK is medium density, while those seeking a firmer option should get the black “X” STK.
Key specs – Size: 53 x 6cm; Material: EVA foam; Extra features: Acugrip handles
8. Protone lacrosse ball: Best massage ball
Price when reviewed: £7 | Check price at Amazon
These hard balls are ideal for use on areas of the body where even a small foam roller is too bulky – or just for working on especially tight knots. The soles of your feet and your glutes, hips and shoulders are all prime targets for working with a lacrosse ball. Just don’t try and actually play lacrosse with it, because it’s unlikely to conform to the sport’s regulations. The different colours on these balls are just for show and there’s no difference in firmness, so pick your favourite or match it to your other rollers.
Key specs – Size: 64mm diameter; Material: Not given; Extra features: None
9. Pulseroll Vibrating Peanut Ball: Best mini portable vibrating roller
Price when reviewed: £55 | Check price at Amazon
The upside of this small vibrating roller is that you can carry it with you everywhere, especially as it offers up to three hours of use on a single charge. The peanut design makes it easier to roll out smaller muscles, but you can still use it to provide an effective massage to big muscles like your quads and hamstrings. The Pulseroll peanut ball has four different vibration settings and, once again, the highest of these is almost alarmingly strong.
There’s really only one downside to the device, which is that a vibrating peanut might look a little, let’s say suspect, if you suddenly pull it out of a bag, especially if you opt for the purple one. However, once you show anyone who spots it what’s it’s actually used for – and how good it is at relaxing sore muscles – that problem disappears.
Key specs – Size: 18 (L) x 7cm (H); Weight: 0.78Kg; Battery life and charging time: Up to 6 hours; Material: Not specified; Vibration speeds: 4 (Including pulse setting); Warranty: Yes, 1-year