As fans of healthy living, we love a good run here at 10X, but we will admit that it can take a toll on your body without the proper care. Whether you’re a running buff or an amateur ‘once in a while’ person, you’ll need to take good care of your feet, back and calf muscles if you run regularly. With so much constant tension on the muscles and pressure on joints and bones, you’ll need the right kit to keep your body in the best shape possible.
Foam rolling is a fantastic way to help you maintain your foot, back and leg health so that you can continue to go for runs and pursue your passion. But, not all foam roller massagers are made equal, and in a world where we’ve never had more choice it can be easy to go wrong. Well, fear not! In this guide, we’re going to be taking a special look at what makes these products so good, and of course, what is the best foam roller for runners.
What is a foam roller?
Before we get into it, let’s just define what foam rollers are. Put basically, foam rollers are cylinder-shaped pieces of equipment that are made of compressed foam in various densities and textures. They are well-known as recovery tools for athletes and fitness fans, although foam rolling can be just as effective for more casual users looking for a nice massage.
Just like other products in this space, there are many different types, shapes and configurations that are available – ranging from basic foam rollers through to electric and heat-capable variants.
The benefits of foam massagers for runners
Anyone who runs often faces the risk of stress and injuries to their feet and calves. It’s all too easy to not stretch properly before or after exercise, leading to muscle tears, aches, pains, and other associated conditions. While foam rollers can help with some aspects of your exercise recovery and massage needs, please bear in mind that they are not intended as a ‘cure’ for torn muscles or serious injury. As always, if you have sustained an injury, please check with your medical professional before using foam rolling tools anywhere on your body.
That being said, the best foam rollers are a fantastic tool to use in a general sense, especially if you run frequently and want to keep your muscles healthy and in good recovery. Using a foam roller can:
- Loosen, massage, and knead muscles in the feet, calves, and legs.
- Facilitate quicker recovery between workouts.
- Increase your general range of motion and flexibility.
- Help to move fluids and blood flow through the feet and leg muscles.
- Pain relief for trigger points and shin splints.
- Help to relax you in a budget-friendly way.
Choosing the best foam rollers
So, which foam roller should you buy? With so many different surface and shape variants to choose from, entering this world can seem a little daunting. Here are a few things to think about before making your choice:
For anyone who hasn’t used a foam roller before, they will seem somewhat tough. After all, you’ll be digging into your muscles after a run, which are already tired and aching. First and initial use may seem a little uncomfortable, so the density or ‘firmness’ of your roller will play a big part in your overall comfort. If you’re a beginner to foam rolling, you should definitely use a soft foam roller to get yourself used to it. If you need something tougher or are well-versed in the world of rollers, using a foam roller with higher density will be more suitable for a deeper and higher pressure massage.
As with the density and firmness, the texture of a foam roller will determine the intensity level of your overall treatment. While some products will have a smoother texture (typically those which are a little gentler), others will have ridged or knobbly surfaces which are designed for deeper muscle kneading and pressure. Again, if for beginner runners, we suggest going for a smooth product to test things out first.
While this is not a problem with most foam rollers, the size of your feet and calf muscles might inform which foam roller you end up going with. Some variants might be better suited for smaller or larger people, so make sure to read about the dimensions and customer reviews to get the best foam rolling experience.
Foam massagers for runners come in all shapes and sizes. Some will easily fit into your sports bag or backpack, while others will likely stay at home. Many people like to take their foam rollers with them on a run, or even on holiday, so If you’re likely to need one with you the next time you’re away from home, portability is going to be a factor in your purchase. Foam rollers in general aren’t too big, but you can get certain models which are designed for portability, so if this is important to you, that’s the way to go.
At the end of the day, price is going to be one of the main factors that affect your foam roller purchase. With so many variants out there, you won’t be lacking in choice but do make sure that you don’t miss out on great features for the sake of a few dollars. On the flip side, if you’re a beginner to foam rolling massage or not looking for something too fancy, it is possible that you’ll end up with something over-engineered and expensive. A good rule of thumb is to go for an all-rounder roller that isn’t the cheapest, but not the most expensive either.
User reviews are ideal for getting candid and unbiased opinions from real people who have already purchased and tried out the foam roller for themselves. Of course, a review will be subjective, but this is still helpful overall. If a product has no reviews or just a few, we suggest going for something more prolific, as this will give you a better overall view.
The best foam rollers
To kick our reviews off, here’s a handy, quick guide to 7 of the best foam rollers
|Name and link||Image||Price range||Best for||One-line review|
|Brazyn Morph Foam Roller||Medium-high||Design and portability||A very smartly designed roller that’s both portable and made with great materials. Our top pick.|
|Vulken Extra Long 17” Vibrating Foam Roller||Medium-high||Fans of massage and luxury||A vibration roller that’s extra-length, letting you do both legs at once.|
|Heating Vibrating Massage Ball Foam Roller Ball||Medium||Those who like a little heat in their rolling.||Good for pain relief in the muscles, thanks to vibration and heat treatment options.|
|Amazon Basics High-Density foam massager||Low||Entry-level and casual users||A basic product that does what it says on the tin. Firm and able to handle the pressure at a great price.|
|The Original Body Roller – High Density||Low||More advanced users and avid runners.||An extra firm massage roller that can take a lot of body weight and dish out a hardcore rolling massage treatment.|
|OPTP PRO-Roller Soft Foam Roller||Low||Beginners and those looking for a more relaxing treatment||Increase blood flow the gentle way with this low-density roller which is kinder on your muscles.|
|321 STRONG 5 in 1 Foam Roller Set||Medium||For those looking for pain relief in many areas.||Do away with aches and pains all over your body with this set that covers more than just your leg muscles.|
If you’re the type who likes to have their gear with them at a race or the gym, then look no further than the Brazyn Morph Trek Collapsible foam roller. It has a fantastic hollow core design that allows it to be collapsed to just1.85 inches thick, making it perfect for loading up in your backpack. All it takes is a simple tug on the pull ropes, and it’ll puff back up to its full size of 5.5 inches in diameter.
The clever design of the roller foam itself is multi-angled, meaning that you can isolate problem areas and knots in muscles with decent precision. This is also a fantastic ‘all-rounder’ that can be suitable for beginners as well, thanks to its medium-level of surface density.
- Perfect foam rolling for travel, storage or self-muscle massage.
- Great design allows for precise muscle targeting and blood flow.
- Medium density makes it accessible and versatile for all levels.
- The firm foam roller design means that it is not as smooth as completely rounded rollers.
- There are cheaper rollers out there.
Looking for something a little more hi-tech in your foam roller? With the Vulken, you’ll harness the power of 3800RPM high-intensity vibration, enhancing the overall effectiveness of treatment. With four speed settings (including a ‘pulse’ option), you can have effortless muscle relaxation treatment before or after your run.
The powerful motor not only feels great but can have a positive effect as well, delivering high-penetration relief that can roll out tightness more effectively than lower-intensity vibration rollers. Coupled with high-quality surface materials and quick-charge technology via USB, this is one of the best electric grid foam roller products that runners can get.
- Delivers a strong and effortless self massage when compared to some manual options.
- Great variety of settings to help you find your sweet spot for pain relief.
- Long and durable design means that you can do both calf muscles at once.
- This foam roller is significantly louder than manual options.
- You’ll have to stay on top of charging to get the most from it.
- It might be a little too smooth for more seasoned users.
There aren’t a lot of heated foam massagers out there, but amongst them The Moji Heat Roller is one of the best. Through its innovative use of heat therapy, you can enhance recovery for your muscle groups with a more relaxing treatment at the same time.
The Moji foam roller can be used on many body parts, including the hips, waist, back, arms, thighs, heels, and plantar fascia. And, when you turn on the heating function, you can experience heat that goes up to 50 degrees, which opens blood vessels for better circulation and further soften tight muscles. As if that wasn’t enough, it also has a vibration function with five-speed levels, making this one of the most versatile foam rollers on the market today.
- Can be used on many different muscle groups in the body.
- Combined heat and vibration function can help with plantar fasciitis.
- High battery capacity.
- A little on the small side compared to other tools.
- Vibration intensity is not particularly powerful, even at max strength.
For those who are looking for something simple, affordable and effective, we’re going to recommend the Amazon Basics foam roller. While it may not have the bells and whistles of other products, it does what it says on the tin and has a high quality-build to boot.
Lightweight, portable and effective, this is a high-density roller with a smooth outside, making it a great choice for beginners and expert runners alike. If you’re all about low-stakes and high quality, then this is the roller for you. Don’t let the fact that it’s an Amazon product put you off – it’s every bit the foam roller as anything else on this list.
- Great price to quality ratio.
- High density durable materials for deeper impact and muscle knots.
- Simple and effective, great for beginners.
- Limited function when compared to more complex products.
- May not be as durable as more expensive products.
Athletes and professional runners typically use high density foam roller variants because they provide a more hardcore treatment and are able to really get into the tight muscles thanks to their extra firm materials. This high density foam roller has a 3D textured exterior with triple massage zones to replicate the human hand’s fingers , thumbs, and palms.
By reaching more trigger point locations and promoting blood flow through a harder massage is a fantastic foam roller for those looking for a deep tissue self massage. Coming in a range of colors with a surprisingly lightweight profile, this grid foam roller can take a lot of weight.
- Incredible treatment for trigger point issues and knots from running injury.
- Strong surface and grid pattern for a strong deep tissue massage.
- Reasonable cost and high weight threshold.
- The firm grid pattern makes rolling harder than smoother products.
- High pressure and extra firm materials can cause bruising on more sensitive skin.
We’ve covered a high density roller in our list, so it stands to reason that we would feature one that is a soft alternative. If you have sensitive skin or just prefer something that’s a little kinder to your muscle groups, the OPTP PRO foam roller is one of the best choices you can make.
Featuring a less firm and comfortable compression for gentle relief on tight areas during self-massage rolling, it also provides support for lying down for a range of different movements. Constructed of closed-cell, heat-molded EVA foam, this product can go the distance despite its low-density materials.
- High quality materials, low pressure.
- LIghtweight and portable for runners on the go.
- Perfect for gentler massage rolling on trigger points.
- Softness means the roller can get damaged more easily.
- Not firm enough for advanced users.
- Lack of grid means that a deeper massage is difficult to achieve.
Best value package:
We love a good deal, and when it comes to foam rollers, this 5 in 1 set has you more than covered. Together with the medium-density foam roller, you get a muscle stick, stretching strap, lacrosse ball and spiky massage ball – meaning that there’s no part of a runner’s body that goes untreated.
Looking at the roller itself, you can enjoy no less than 3 massage zones that apply pressure in varying degrees of density, encouraging tight muscles to release stored lactic acid, kinks, and knots. If you’re looking for value, then look no further!
- A high quality foam roller with three different massage zones.
- A whole bunch of extras for multiple trigger point areas all over the body, including the lower back.
- The price is good for the product you get.
- Implements are less durable than other rollers.
- The roller loses density after repeated use over extended periods.
Foam roller FAQ
I am a runner: is a foam roller essential?
Running can take a significant physical toll on anyone’s body, even if they do it very regularly. A high quality foam roller can help to speed up core muscle recovery, increase circulation, and generally help with the overall health and wellbeing of your feet and calves. Foam rollers are not expensive, so if you do run, you don’t really have much to lose!
How should I use it?
Massager rollers are pretty simple in their operation, but it’s still a good idea to read the instructions that come with your product. You’re unlikely to injure yourself with a normal massage, but it’s always better to be safe than sorry. As a general rule of thumb, we recommend that you don’t massage for more than 30 minutes (max) at a time, and that you give yourself a treatment both before and after your run to get your muscles softened and ready for action. If at any point you are feeling pain, stop using the foam roller.
Where should I buy mine?
While there are many online and offline outlets that sell foam rollers, we’ve featured products that you can get on Amazon. This is because you’re most likely to get better descriptions and reviews – and have a relatively easy returns experience if it comes to it.
Are these only for ‘serious’ runners?
Anyone can enjoy using foam rollers after a run, even if you only do it from time to time. However, if you are elderly or have specific conditions that affect your feet or legs, please consult with a medical professional just to be safe. Massage rollers are quite safe to use, but there’s always the chance that they make an injury worse.
Foam rollers for runners – wrapped up
So, now that you’ve gotten this far, you probably know which best foam roller is the option is for you. By picking any of the products featured in our guide you can’t really go wrong and you’ll thank us the next time you come home from a run and have your roller waiting for you.
We just wanted to mention again that foam rollers for runners are therapy devices and aren’t intended for medical use in cases of injury or illness. They can most certainly help with certain symptoms but please check with your doctor first to be certain.
Hopefully this guide has been useful to you! Of course, if you think we’ve missed out something important from our review, do get in touch and we’ll have a look. Otherwise, get yourself a foam roller and take your running recovery to the next level.