Best Foam Roller for Runners
Foam rollers can seem like torture devices designed to inflict pain on the human body, but if used correctly they can actually serve to alleviate it.
Using a foam roller is one of the best ways you can accelerate recovery following a gruelling run, even if it does mean you have to experience some short-term discomfort.
For avid runners, investing in a foam roller should be a no-brainer. But it’s also a wise purchase for the beginner, especially since you can get great ones at very affordable prices.
👑 Our Pick for Best Overall
⭐ Our Other Top Foam Roller Picks
- Best of the Best: TriggerPoint GRID
- Best on a Budget: LuxFit Speckled Foam Roller
- Best for Portability: Mobot
Best Foam Roller for Runners Reviews
TriggerPoint GRID (👑 Top Pick)
The best foam roller for runners has to be the TriggerPoint GRID. This 13-inch foam roller has a hollow core, and a rigid exterior, which makes it perfect for the beginner and experienced user alike.
What makes this a standout foam roller for runners is how effective it is for treating common sore areas like the feet and the calves. Due to its small, compact size you can expect a very satisfying experience of myofascial release in these areas. It’s also ideal for dealing with any lower back or neck pain you might have post-workout.
You get the best of both worlds with this foam roller. The fact that it’s hollow makes it suitable for casual use if you’re new to foam rolling, but the firm ridged exterior makes it ideal for working out tough knots and getting a deeper massage. Whatever level of experience you’re at, an investment in a TriggerPoint GRID foam roller will be one which lasts long into the future.
If you are just starting out with foam rolling you’ll also benefit from the extensive online instructional video library which was made with this particular foam roller in mind. If you’ve used one before, you’ll know that it takes some time to figure out what position is best for rolling out which muscle, but these videos will take the guessing out of the equation.
- available in 5 colours
- Hollow core
- Ridged exterior
- Includes access to free online video library
LuxFit Speckled Foam Roller (💸 Best on a Budget)
If you’re looking to try out foam rolling without spending a fortune, then the LuxFit speckled foam roller has you covered.
You might take a look at this foam roller and think it doesn’t look like much. It could even be said to resemble a thick pool noodle, which doesn’t sound like what you need for your muscle aches. However, this foam roller has a high density composition which gives it serious recovery-boosting powers.
Even if you’ve never so much as seen a foam roller before, this one will be easy to get to grips with. There are no bumps or ridges to navigate over your muscles, just one long smooth surface. The 36 inch model should be perfect for general use, and can help you target everything from soreness in your back to your hamstrings. Though there are three smaller sizes too in case you need something a little more compact.
What’s great about using this foam roller from LuxFit is that there’s minimal risk of causing yourself harm. While some foam rollers can poke and prod in uncomfortable spots, this ultra smooth option will feel pleasant enough. It’s also incredibly easy to roll back and forth on due to its design, so all you’ll have to do is lay it on the floor and get to work.
- Available in 4 sizes
- Available in 3 colour designs
- Firm polypropylene design
- 10-year warranty
Mobot (➡️ Best for Portability)
Foam rolling doesn’t have to be an activity that’s reserved for the home. The Mobot foam roller proves just that, and has an innovative portable design which conveniently doubles up as a water bottle.
Perhaps never something you’d have thought you needed, this water bottle-meets-foam roller is a stroke of genius, and could be a great tool for any runner.
The Mobot foam roller is best for the marathon or cross-country runner. It’s best for runners who pride themselves on covering large distances in a single session. If you find that after running for a while your calves or feet start to cramp up, then what could be better than laying your water bottle on the floor and rolling out the tension?
Most foam rollers are designed exclusively for use at home, but there are definitely times when you might want to use one while you’re on the go. A run to the park doesn’t have to end in soreness, you can use the foam roller as soon as you get there and save yourself some discomfort on the way back.
The fact that this foam roller doubles up as a water bottle enhances the utility significantly. Carrying both a water bottle and a foam roller wouldn’t be anybody’s idea of a good time, but having both rolled up into one makes life wonderfully easy.
- Available in 8 colours
- Doubles up as a water bottle
- BPA free 100% recycled stainless steel
- Tested up to 350lbs
Zyllion Vibrating Foam Roller
The Zyllion vibrating foam roller is what happens when you take a standard foam roller and upgrade it with technology. It’s a premium option, but if you can afford to splash out, then it can provide a superior foam rolling experience for great post-run recovery.
While this foam roller will set you back more than a lot of others, it is a versatile piece of equipment suitable for various purposes. With a normal foam ruler you have to put a lot of the work in yourself to not only locate the exact spot that’s sore, but then to roll it out in the way that’s most satisfying. With the Zyllion model, all you have to do is find the spot, and the vibration technology should take care of the rest.
There are even levels of intensity you can switch between, so if you’re just starting out you don’t need to go all out and risk unnecessary pain. Plus, there are three different surface textures. That means you don’t have to choose between bumpy or smooth, as you’ll get a variety of experiences with this one foam roller. It’s also perfect for just about every part of the body, and promotes optimal myofascial release as the vibrations will target your trigger points.
- Available in 5 colours
- 3 different types of surface
- Vibration technology
- High density foam
- 1-year warranty
What To Look For When Selecting A Foam Roller
There are several key elements involved in selecting the right foam roller for you.
Your level of experience as a runner, and level of massage you’re seeking are the biggest determining factors in which type of foam roller you should go for.
First, you should consider the dimensions of the foam roller.
To ascertain whether you want a long or short roller, you just need to ask yourself what parts of the body you would like to target.
It could be the case that you have sore feet after running, in which case a shorter foam roller would be best for optimal myofascial release.
If you have general aches and pains in your back and/or legs, then you’ll probably prefer a longer foam roller. In this case 36 inches is a good average to aim for.
For smaller parts of the body like the arms and certain parts of the legs like the calves, you might find a medium-sized foam roller is best.
As a rule of thumb though, go for the long foam roller to start out with. Then, if you think you need to target specific muscle groups more, you can look into the smaller models.
Related: Best Ab Roller
The texture of a foam roller plays a hugely significant role in how it will feel to use, and the benefits you’ll get from it.
As a result, it’s important to figure out which texture is best for you.
The main textures are smooth or bumpy.
Smooth foam rollers are easy to use, provide a good amount of relief from muscle pain, and will generally cost less.
Bumpy foam rollers require more effort to use correctly, but provide a deep tissue massage for improved muscle recovery. They will generally be more expensive.
If you’re just starting out with foam rolling, then you really should go for a smooth foam roller. Not only do you risk causing yourself more harm than good if you dive into using a bumpy model, but the smooth one is far more comfortable to use.
If you’ve used a smooth foam roller before but you want a greater feeling of relief, or you suffer from knots, then it’s probably time you looked into a bumpy foam roller.
Density is another important factor which can affect how you use a foam roller.
As you might imagine, a foam roller with a hollow core isn’t likely to provide the same intensity of massage as one which has a very dense composition.
On the other hand, using a high-density foam roller can lead to potential issues with injury if you’re not careful.
So again you should play it safe if you’re new to foam rolling and go with the less intense option, which in this case would be the less dense or hollowed out foam rollers.
Only if you feel ready to graduate to high-density foam rollers should you do so.
Related: Best Exercise Mat
Frequently Asked Questions About Foam Rollers
Is foam rolling good for runners?
Yes, foam rolling is a great way for runners to accelerate the recovery process after vigorous activity.
If you regularly run substantial distances, your legs will be working overtime and producing plenty of lactic acid. As a result, you will likely experience cramps and aches the following morning.
To reduce post-run aches and pains, and even speed up the recovery process, you can roll out your legs on a foam roller.
Using a foam roller can improve blood flow, and carry oxygen to the muscles which have been broken down through exercise. This will help you get back to 100% as soon as possible so each run is better than the last.
The only time you wouldn’t want to use a foam roller as a runner is when you have an injury.
It can be difficult sometimes to distinguish between the feeling of general discomfort, and the feeling of pain caused by an injury. So you have to be careful when using a foam roller that you don’t accidentally aggravate an existing injury.
When should you use a foam roller for running?
You should almost always use a foam roller after your run.
This is because the main reason you would want to use one is to aid with muscle recovery and flexibility. So it stands to reason that you’d roll out your legs following a run or workout where you activate your muscles a lot.
You don’t need to worry too much about timing though. You can do it every day if you want, or every few days.
The most important thing to keep in mind is that you shouldn’t spend too long with the foam roller in one session. Usually 5-10 minutes post-run is fine.
You don’t want to spend more than a couple of minutes working out each muscle with the foam roller, as this can cause more harm than good.
Which foam roller is best for beginners?
The best foam roller for beginners is the LuxFit speckled foam roller.
With a very low price point, this firm foam roller is absolutely perfect for anyone starting out with foam rolling.
If you run on a regular basis and you want to see what all the fuss is about, then this is a relatively risk-free investment that could potentially help you step up your recovery.
With four different sizes, you can pick the one which best suits your preferences. Whether you suffer more from foot and calf pain, or experience discomfort more in your back, you’ll be able to find a size that’s suitable.
Are bumpy foam rollers better?
Bumpy foam rollers aren’t necessarily better overall than smooth ones, but they’re better suited to a particular use.
While smooth foam rollers are best for beginners and low pressure massage, the bumpy ones can provide a deep tissue massage.
The bumpy foam rollers have a reputation as being painful to use, and while true, they can mimic a deep tissue massage to provide greater relief from muscle tension.
If you suffer from knots and persistent aches, then a bumpy foam roller is the better choice. If you’re looking for something to provide occasional relief from post-run soreness, then a smooth foam roller is the better option.
How long should a foam roller be?
While it will largely depend on what you want to use it for, 36 inches is a good length to aim for in a foam roller.
This length is perfect for working out all parts of the body evenly, and requires less effort on your part to use.
However, if you’re looking for some myofascial release in your feet for example, then a smaller foam roller is better.
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A Final Word from Energetic Lifestyle
As a runner, a foam roller might end up being one of the most important investments you make.
Better blood flow to the muscles will boost your recovery and help you get back on the track sooner than you thought possible.