Pick the Right Foam Roller to Sail Through Workouts

Foam rolling has become a big part of recovery from workouts over the last few years as everyone discovers the joys of myofascial (or self-) massage.

Trainers and physical therapists have been urging everyone to roll their cares away after workouts by applying this kind of gentle pressure to your muscles and connective tissues to get rid of painful knots and restore blood flow to kick-start your recovery.

As these neat little devices have soared in popularity, the market has risen to meet the challenge by putting a slew of options out for consumers. Here’s some help if you’re trying to narrow the spectrum down to what you need.


These are where anyone who’s never rolled before has started, and it’s where some people stay because when you hit a really sore spot, it can be painful, and more so when you’re using a denser roller. The downside is that most of these softer versions don’t hold up well to heavy use, losing their shape.


These are more expensive, but also more effective if you can tolerate the incidental pain they can cause. They provide a deeper tissue massage and faster relief from post-workout soreness, including delayed-onset. When done correctly you can bring muscles into better alignment and work past the beginnings of some muscle strains.


These are high-density rollers with ridges, bumps and other textures that give a more precisely targeted massage to your strained and knotted muscles. Given how effective they are, it’s not hard to believe they can be quite uncomfortable.

It’s OK to go up to about 60% to 75% of your pain threshold, but within about 30 minutes you should be feeling normal again, and if not, ease up on yourself.


The longest ones are about 36 inches and are great for your back, as well as an all-around utility player that gives greater stability. Medium rolls are about 24 inches and good for smaller areas like calves and arms, and the shortest (4-12 inches) are designed for travel and tight spaces.