Many athletes, from casual to elite, have a love-hate relationship with foam rollers. They are highly effective at relieving muscle tension but can be uncomfortable to use. So we set out to test all types of foam rollers to find those you’ll actually want to put to work.
“Whether you’re on a fitness journey or on hiatus, all bodies have connective tissue that can benefit from foam rolling,” Doctor of Physical Therapy Samantha Harte of Strong Harte Fitness tells PEOPLE. These foam cylinders, which come in a variety of sizes and materials for level of firmness, can be rolled along virtually any part of your body for recovery and pain relief purposes. (Kaley Cuoco tells PEOPLE she even travels with hers!)
“Many studies have been done on the benefits of foam rolling, especially in regards to muscle performance and recovery,” adds Dr. Harte. “The statistics suggest that foam rolling can improve joint range of motion, decrease perceived muscle pain, and accelerate recovery from delayed onset muscle soreness.”
PEOPLE Tested put 28 options to the test in order to offer you the best recommendations for keeping your muscles loose and comfortable. Read on for the best foam rollers, according to our tests.
Trigger Point Performance GRID 1.0 Foam Roller
Great for beginners or those more sensitive
Can tailor the intensity of the roller
Won’t take up too much space
We experienced relaxed, loose, and even elongated muscles after using this foam roller — and even felt like certain areas became more flexible than usual. This model comes with rounded grooves to focus on knots without digging in too intensely. And being less dense than other models we tested, the Trigger Point allows users good control over how much or how little you want to dig in. That said, while it would be up to personal preference, we think the Trigger Point might be better for a beginner or anyone a bit more sensitive.
Easy to use once you have the foam rolling technique down, the Trigger Point also features a shorter overall length so it’s not as cumbersome as longer rollers might be. This makes it a good option for the inner thigh and other areas better suited for a small foam roller. The packaging features exercise guides, too.
Overall, this product is an awesome value that doesn’t take up space. You could even store items in the core when not in use, such as a towel, instructions, or jumprope. It’s excellent quality and feels more expensive than its approachable price tag.
Price at time of publish: $34.98
Dimensions: 13 x 5.5 x 5.5 inches | Colors: 10 | Material: Foam
Kieba Massage Lacrosse Balls for Myofascial Release
Very hard texture not ideal for sensitive bodies
Unstable due to their shape, so not recommended for beginners
For those that do a lot of at-home workouts — from pilates to strength training to yoga, as well as walking outdoors or on the treadmill — this foam roller will help you feel thoroughly stretched out.
These lacrosse balls are very hard and smaller than most foam rollers, which helped us pinpoint exactly where our muscles felt tight or sore. The hard pressure helped loosen some muscles even after one use.
However, they’re not for everyone. Small and hard, the balls are highly effective at loosening muscles. Gentle body weight pressure is enough to get great results. We do like the texture — the matte rubber is easy to grip, however, these are indeed very hard and dense. That can be good for some users looking to tackle tight knots, but they are small, so you have to know exactly where to place them to find relief.
That said, we would not recommend these to beginners who are new to foam rolling. Since they are small and hard, they aren’t very stable. This makes them difficult to use, since they are prone to slipping out from under you and rolling away. However, if you have experience with foam rolling, you’ll enjoy these — the shape and hard rubber is ideal for pinpointing exactly where you’re feeling tight, as we mentioned.
Price at time of publish: $11.65
Dimensions: 2.5-inch diameter | Colors: 4 | Weight: 5.1 oz. | Material: Rubber
Best for Deep Self-Myofascial Release
321 STRONG Foam Roller
Deep grooves feel like a massage
Nice versatility for use on different areas of the body
Ideal for runners or anyone with shortened muscles
After using this foam roller, our muscles felt elongated and relaxed as if having gotten a massage. We felt some real progress with tight areas in hips and calves that feel imbalanced or short due to the repetitive motion of running, which is why this is a great tool for anyone needing something beyond static stretching. The grooves dug in deep like fingers during a massage, which is an awesome feeling for a runner or anyone who struggles with tight or shortened muscles.
We still think it would be great for beginners, though, as the flat portions made adjusting simple and versatile when you needed to work on a more delicate area. The rubber material is soft and grippy without sticking to your skin while in use.
Price at time of publish: $32.85
Dimensions: 5.4 x 5.3 x 12.7 inches | Colors: 11 | Material: Ethylene vinyl acetate
Amazon Basics High Density Round Foam Roller
Firm enough to get into knots, thanks to the denser foam
Lightweight and fairly narrow making it easy to store
No ridges results in an extra smooth surface for rolling
After testing this budget-friendly option, we felt relaxed with muscle knots relieved. It’s more dense than other 12-inch rollers we tested, but still firm enough for pressing on knots. Despite its density, it’s still lightweight, which means it could be a bit harder to control when rolling. We appreciated its length and height, which was big enough to fit across both thighs for a person of average weight and height (however, other lengths are available).
Very simple to use, this model rolls very smoothly (almost too smoothly because of its weight and lack of ridges), so you need to use some care to avoid it rolling out from under you. Overall, this is a dense and effective model that is easy on the wallet and simple to store away.
Price at time of publish: $13.30
Dimensions: 12 x 6 x 6 inches | Colors: 3 | Material: Polypropylene | Length options: 12, 18, 24, or 36 inches
Best for Travel
Brazyn Morph Foam Roller
Ideal for those who typically feel discomfort from foam rolling
Flattens down to 2-inches thick, making it great for travel or storing away
More gentler than others we tested, so not for those needing more intense pressure
Took a few tries to master the folding feature
Because this roller was so pleasant to use, we used it every morning for a week, following the suggested routines that were included in the package. We got the satisfying cracks as we rolled out our back and followed the included guide for a neck roll, which was a gentle way to work out knots. Although the roller didn’t get as deep into large muscles like quads (because the material is more responsive and cushioned), after a week our body felt looser and more relaxed.
Despite being collapsible, it’s as functional as a traditional foam roller. The thumb-sized nubs provided a therapeutic deep massage without causing additional soreness. It’s firm but not hard, which makes for a pleasant rolling experience. It only took a few tries to master the expanding and collapsing of this model.
After using the Barzyn Morph Roller, we see why it’s such a great investment. It provided gentle pressure, was enjoyable to use, and is perfect for travel since it flattens down to a 2-inch thickness.
Price at time of publish: $69.95
Dimensions: 12 x 6 x 6 inches | Colors: 2 | Material: Bamboo and recycled aluminum | Length options: 14.5 inches
Hyperice Vyper Go Massage Roller
This model stood out against the other rollers we tested, thanks to its vibration settings. Upon using, it felt good almost immediately, as the vibration helps your body glide with the rolling and felt more effective than a stationary foam roller.
We would recommend that a beginner athlete and/or foam roller user incorporate a more basic, traditional roller into their routine; however, for those more advanced, particularly someone training for a marathon, would benefit from this upgraded foam roller, despite its higher cost.
Price at time of publish: $149
Dimensions: 10.6 x 3.9 x 3.9 inches | Speeds: 3 speeds of vibration | Weight: 2 lbs. | Battery life: 2 hours
Best for Beginners
Lululemon Double Roller
Two-in-one function for different firmness preferences
Design is nice enough to leave out
Spongy, comfortable foam that’s not too intense
While expensive for a more basic foam roller, this option from Lululemon feels high quality and long-lasting. We do like the modern design, and that you can leave this roller out when not in use — it just looks like part of the decor.
But in terms of effectiveness? We put the Lululemon Double Roller to work and can report that our muscles felt looser and more relaxed after use. The amount of pressure from the outer roller was just right; we used the inner, smaller foam roller to target specific pressure points, as the spiral shape was perfect for focusing relief in smaller or hard-to-reach areas, like the hips. The soft foam was gentle on muscles, while the corkscrew design of the inner piece was enough to offer plenty of relief. The foam is spongy, and the ridges aren’t too sharp.
A two-in-one design means you have to pull the layers apart and put them back together, though this process is very easy. Overall, this is excellent for beginners who aren’t sure how dense they’d like their foam roller to be, since the outer layer is softer, while the inner roller is more firm.
Price at time of publish: $64
Dimensions: 20 x 5 inches | Colors: 2 | Material: Dense foam | Weight: 1.7 lbs.
LuxFit Premium High-Density Foam Roller
Excellent for use all over the body
Really effective in tough areas
Long length for ease of use
While this model might be too intense for some people, with proper technique and trial and error, you can quickly adjust angles and pressure. We felt a deeper pressure into knots than the others on the list, making it feel like we just walked out of a massage. The legs, especially hips and calves, felt so much longer and relaxed. It even made our feet feel better and less tight in areas.
Since this model sits a bit higher off the ground, you don’t have to lean into it as much as other foam rollers, and the added length gives you more freedom to work at various angles and body parts. Because it’s taller and twice the length of some others we tested, it took a bit more trial and error. We loved that it was slightly more heavy than the others, making it a slower roll and less of an effort to get into those tight areas.
All in all, it’s extremely affordable considering it’s such a large, durable roller. It’s well-made and feels and looks good. Plus, it doesn’t smell or feel sticky, especially on hot days.
Price at time of publish: $32.72 (orig. $49.95)
Dimensions: 35.9 x 5.9 x 5.9 inches | Colors: Black | Material: Molded polypropylene foam
Best for Lower Body
OPTP Black Axis Firm Foam Roller
It was love at first roll — we found relief even after one use of this roller. Tested specifically on a hiker and walker (with experienced sciatica), we used it mainly on the hips and upper thighs and found that rolling for 15-20 minutes improved sleep and greatly reduced pain.
At 36 inches, it is a longer foam roller than most, but we recommend this size if you want to hit all the important points at once. It also impressed us for helping tight shoulder blade knots; rolling it both perpendicular and parallel to our back, we were able to get all the way from the hips to shoulder blades.
Easy to use and easy on the wallet, we recommend this roller for all-around use, though we would note that the extra size means it takes up more space than some of our other winners. The size is worth it, though, if you plan to use it for your back and lower body.
Price at time of publish: $35.95
Colors: Black | Material: Foam | Length options: 12-inch half, 12-inch round, 18-inch round, 36-inch half, 36-inch round
Best for Stretching
OPTP PRO-ROLLER Soft Density Foam Roller
This specialized roller doesn’t actually roll; rather it’s intended for static use and stretching. The effect is more like a super gentle stretch than a foam rolling session, but we did like using it on the neck and back especially. You can really feel your vertebrae expand and relax and it’s super comfortable and gentle on the body. This model fits along your spine and can support your shoulders letting your neck hang, making it super easy to use. If you can lay flat, you can reap the benefits of this foam roller.
The price point may be a bit on the high side for a foam roller with limited use, but not enough for us to avoid recommending. Overall, it felt really nice to lay on at night when we didn’t have energy for a long foam rolling session. Basically, it’s lazy foam rolling — and sometimes that’s exactly what you need.
Price at time of publish: $39.95
Dimensions: 36 x 6 x 3 inches | Colors: Blue | Material: Foam
TriggerPoint GRID Foam Roller 26 Inch
Highly effective at relieving muscle tension
Complements high-intensity workout routines
Intuitive design was easy to use
We first tested this roller the day after an intense Pilates session that caused sore muscles. During each foam rolling exercise, we did experience some mild discomfort because of the strong texture of the roller, but afterwards, our muscles felt much looser and more comfortable. After a week of using this roller, we reported feeling a lot less tension in our leg muscles overall. It was really intuitive to use and didn’t slide around a lot like others we tested, which we appreciated.
Since this is a very firm foam roller, it provided a lot of strong pressure during use, but we weren’t expecting the rolling to be entirely comfortable, anyway. All in all, this was an incredibly easy foam roller to use, thanks to a hollow center that makes it really easy to hold and maneuver. The extra length is great for all areas of the body, too.
Price at time of publish: $65.99
Dimensions: 5.51 x 5.51 x 25.98 inches | Colors: 5 | Material: Foam
Best for Upper Body
IntelliRoll Pro Sport Foam Roller
For those with neck or back pain or tension, this is the roller for you. The IntelliRoll foam roller is shaped to relieve pressure on the spine, so it’s very effective for these parts of the body. During testing, we indeed found it very effective with just the right amount of pressure and density. The middle slit is perfect for the spine and relieves uncomfortable or damaging pressure (we really liked this feature).
Super intuitive and easy to use, this model is light and portable, and moderately priced as compared to the rest of our winners. (Honestly, we would pay this price and more for this product.) We’d recommend this model to those looking for a back and neck roller, as that is its primary use, but it can be used on other parts of the body as well.
Price at time of publish: $33.99 (orig. $39.99)
Dimensions: 17.5 x 5.98 x 5.25 inches | Weight: 5 oz. | Colors: 1 | Material: Ethylene vinyl acetate
Things to Consider Before Buying a Foam Roller
A foam cylinder does not have to be expensive, and several of our winners are not, priced under $30, $20, and even $15. The more features you add, as with most products, the more the price goes up. If you’re looking to get into really tough muscle knots or to incorporate vibration, be prepared to spend more.
“Foam rollers range in size and firmness, and the vast number of options out there can feel overwhelming — I get it!” says Dr. Harte. “Let’s keep it simple — if you order the 36-inch (the longest one), you can use it for tissue mobility, passive stretching, and active exercise. The shorter ones can be limiting on larger body parts and more dynamic exercises. Why not get the size that covers all the bases and get the most bang for your buck?”
There’s no way around this one. When you first start using a foam roller, other than the most gentle models, they don’t feel great. “This truly comes down to your pain tolerance,” says Dr. Harte. “If I am being fully transparent, a foam roller can be quite painful at first, before the tissue relaxes, and then feels way better. If that kind of thing will deter you from using it, start with the softer one and you can always progress to a more firm one in the future. Caveat: Some studies show that the former the foam roller, the more effective the release to the tissue. Something to think about!”
According to Dr. Harte, foam rollers are usually made of polyethylene foam or ethylene vinyl acetate (EVA). “The former is softer but warps more easily, whereas the latter is more firm but also more durable,” she says.
How We Tested
Under the supervision of a physical therapist, our PEOPLE Tested team tried out 28 different foam rollers by performing exercises to roll out our calves, quadriceps, hips, hamstrings, and glutes, noting the difference in how they felt before and after rolling. Exercises were repeated for at least one week to evaluate the overall effectiveness and how the muscles felt after consistent use.
We then rated each foam roller on the following attributes: effectiveness, comfort, ease of use, and — checking the price after all other evaluations — value. The foam rollers that earned the highest overall ratings in these categories then made it to this PEOPLE Tested list of the best foam rollers.
Frequently Asked Questions
What types of foam rollers are most effective?
Dr. Harte tells PEOPLE that a study done in 2019 found that the grid or multi surface rollers had a greater post intervention effect on range of motion and pain thresholds than the smooth surface rollers. “The theory behind this conclusion is that the increased surface area might affect more tissue and create a greater cascading physiologic effect across a larger area than a flat surface,” she says. “If you are looking for a more direct way to improve your range of motion and muscle performance, go for the multi surface roller.”
Who should use a foam roller?
Pilates instructor Jillianna Richcrick says everyone can benefit from a foam roller. “Foam rolling is beneficial for people at all levels of fitness,” says Richcrick. “In general, foam rolling eases muscle pain, increases blood circulation and range of motion, and encourages relaxation. It’s especially beneficial for endurance athletes, who perform highly repetitive movements that use the same muscles over and over again…Foam rolling also speeds recovery from one workout to the next.”
How do you choose a level of firmness?
Beyond pain tolerance (foam rolling is uncomfortable while you’re getting used to it!), Dr. Harte says foam roller users should consider their goals. “Are you trying to improve muscle performance? Enhance recovery? Wash out lactic acid more efficiently? If so, and you can tolerate some discomfort, get the firm one. If you are simply interested in improved flexibility in a slow and steady way and you don’t do well with pain, buy something more gentle and get started.”
Do you need a model that vibrates?
“The ideal person for a vibrating foam roller is a high level athlete who needs quick turnover time with muscle performance and recovery,” says Dr. Harte. “Otherwise, a multi-surface roller without vibration can still be beneficial for the young and aging exerciser without the added expense and discomfort.”
What Is People Tested?
We created the PEOPLE Tested seal of approval to help you find the very best products for your life. We use our unique methodology to test products in three labs across the country and with our network of home testers to determine their effectiveness, durability, ease of use, and so much more. Based on the results, we rate and recommend products so you can find the right one for your needs.
But we don’t stop there: We also regularly re-review the categories in which we’ve awarded the PEOPLE Tested seal of approval — because the best product of today might not be the best of tomorrow. And by the way, companies can never buy our recommendation: Their products must earn it, fair and square.
In short, PEOPLE Tested provides recommendations you can trust — every day, every purchase.
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