The Best Types of Foam Rollers To Help Muscles Recover More Quickly

Photo: Getty Images/ vitapix
With the Well+Good SHOP, our editors put their years of know-how to work in order to pick products (from skin care to self care and beyond) they’re betting you’ll love. While our editors independently select these products, making a purchase through our links may earn Well+Good a commission. Happy shopping! Explore the SHOP

Foam rollers and physical recovery go hand in hand, especially when you're participating in more intensive strength training and movement. Athletes and physical therapists use them mainly to help counteract muscle soreness (but some trainers may even suggest using them to give muscles a nice stretch before a workout, since multiples studies show that foam rollers may have some impact on muscle tension and improving flexibility). But how do they work exactly, and which ones are the best to use for your workout? We're here to answer all your burning foam roller questions here.

Experts In This Article
  • Austin Martinez, MS, CSCS, ATC, vice president of training and experience at StretchLab
  • Denise Cervantes, CPT, certified personal trainer and fitness educator
  • Freddie Pearson, Freddie Pearson is a pilates instructor and movement artist focused on the function and form of the human being, motor performance, and control.
  • Gina Newton, Gina Newton is a certified personal trainer and yoga instructor.

How do foam rollers work?

Foam rolling works by using pressure to loosen up the body’s intricate connective muscle tissue, otherwise known as the fascia. A lot of times, this tissue becomes tight when it’s stressed or overworked during physical activity, which can lead to mobility issues, soreness and tension.

Each time your body presses against the roller, “there's an increase of blood circulation and oxygen that gets released into the muscles,” says pilates instructor and fitness trainer Freddie Pearson.  “Blood's going to flush through into that area and bring fresh oxygen. [It’s] also going to carry away with it anything that's debris that needs to get cycled out of the body.”

Types of foam rollers: High density and low density

Rollers vary in shape, size, material and density. And while there's no hard or fast rule on which to choose, it's important to look at a roller's firmness (aka density level) if you want an effective massage. "When using a foam roller, pressure begins to exert upon your muscles," says Austin Martinez, vice president of training for StretchLab. "This pressure is induced by the rigidity of the foam roller as well as your body weight (gravitational positioning). Therefore, the more rigid your roller and the more of your weight you place on the roller, the more intense the activity becomes."

High-density rollers are firm and great for applying more pressure, while low-density ones are soft and perfect for anyone who has sensitive muscles. Rollers with grooves, bumps or large nodules are usually pretty uncomfortable to lie on, but they tend to be more precise at targeting your muscles and penetrating deeper beneath the skin.

"If you're trying to get at pain points, a lot of times the ones that have ridges, little bumps, a little texture to them...those actually sort of stimulate all around the area surrounding the muscle," explains. Pearson.

Below, we've curated some of the best foam rollers to help make your muscles feel good both pre- and post-workout.

Best foam rollers

Yes4All EPP Foam Roller
Yes4All EPP Foam Roller — $21.00

Made with expanded polypropylene (EPP) foam, this Yes4All roller is as firm as they come. Its high-density foam material makes it perfect for rolling out muscles that are tight without too much discomfort. Plus, it’s super lightweight and comes in multiple sizes ranging from 12 inches to 36 inches long. “This is my preferred foam roller due to the length and smoothness,” says NASM-trained fitness trainer Gina Newton, “I have always had a smooth foam roller and find the textured rollers painful, especially if you are tight.”

-Material: Expanded polypropylene foam

-Size: 12″, 18″, 24″, or 36″

-Texture: Smooth surface

-Density: High-density

-Weight: 1 lb

-Colors: 11 colors

Trigger Point Foam Roller
Trigger Point CORE Foam Roller — $37.00

If you’re semi-new to foam rolling, or need some help recovering from an injury, consider using this Trigger Point CORE Foam Roller to get ready for your next workout. It’s ultra-lightweight and provides moderate compression to help increase blood flow. Additionally, it’s super durable, thanks to the EVA foam. FYI, this a heavy-duty foam that allows the roller to keep its shape over time.

-Material: EVA foam

-Size: 12″, 18″, or 36″

-Texture: Grid pattern

-Density: High-density

-Weight: 0.17 lbs

-Colors: Gray, lavender

Therabody Wave Roller
Therabody Wave Roller™ — $149.00

For Herbalife personal trainer Denise Cervantes, the Therabody Wave Roller is a top pick. It’s great for rolling out larger muscle groups like your hamstrings, quads and upper back. But its high-tech design really makes it soar. The roller has five different vibration frequencies to help tailor your massage. “The Theragun Wave foam roller has a modern design with waves and grooves that will give you some traction and different pressure points while rolling,” says Cervantes. “It also offers blue-toothed capabilities so you can choose a vibration setting from your phone.”

-Material: Hypoallergenic EVA foam

-Size: 12″

-Texture: Wave texture

-Density: High-density

-Weight: 3.3 lbs

-Colors: Black

-Other features: 5 speed settings, 3-hour battery


Amazon Basics High Density foam roller
Amazon Basics High-Density Round Foam Roller — $14.00

Want to take your stretching to the next level? This Amazon Basics High-Density Round Foam Roller has got your back (literally). It’s lightweight but also pretty firm to help relieve knots. The longer lengths are great for strengthening your core while the 12- and 18-inch smaller sizes are better at targeting specific muscle groups.

-Material: Polypropylene

-Size: 18″, 24″, or 36″

-Texture: Smooth surface, molded edges

-Density: High-density

-Weight: 9.6 ounces

-Colors: Black, blue, blue speckled

Gaiam restore deep tissue roller
Gaiam Restore Deep Tissue Foam Roller — $35.00

Get ready to feel the *good pain* with this Gaiam Restore Deep Tissue Foam Roller. The wave-like bumps and nodules on the outside work through deep layers of tissue to give you maximum intensity. It’s extra firm, with a durable hollow center.

-Material: Foam

-Size: 13″

-Texture: Wave-like pattern

-Density: High-density

-Weight: 1 lb

-Colors: Orange

Best foam rollers for runners

Trigger Point grid foam roller
Trigger Point GRID 1.0 Foam Roller — $35.00

Muscle tightness can often affect your range of motion, which is a pretty important part of running performance. But this Trigger Point GRID 1.0 Foam Roller allows you to ease some of that stiffness, especially in larger muscle groups like the quads and hamstrings. The roller is on the firmer side and has “distrodensity zones” that are designed to push deep into your muscles. It also has a hollow plastic interior to keep the roller from collapsing over time.

-Material: EVA foam

-Size: 13″

-Texture: Grid pattern

-Density: Multi-density

-Weight: 1.32 lbs

-Colors: 10 colors

LuxFit foam roller 2
LuxFit Speckled Foam Roller — $31.00

A roller to consider for your pre- and post-workout is this one from LuxFit. It’s firm enough to massage tender trigger points in the body, yet smooth enough on the outside to not cause major discomfort for super sensitive muscles. The roller is available in four sizes and is high density.

-Material: Molded polypropylene foam

-Size: 12″, 18″, 24″, or 36″

-Texture: Smooth surface

-Density: High-density

-Weight: 15 ounces

-Colors: 8 colors

OPTP PRO-Roller — $40.00

If you’re looking for a roller you can take with you on to the track, this OPTP PRO-Roller is a safe bet. Not only is small in size, but it also is pretty durable, thanks to the closed-cell EVA foam that help keeps out moisture. The roller is moderately firm and pretty versatile, too. Use it to target smaller muscles groups pre- and post-workout.

-Material: Closed-cell, heat-molded EVA foam

-Size: 18″

-Texture: Smooth surface

-Density: Soft-density

-Weight capacity: N/A

-Colors: Blue

Oh hi! You look like someone who loves free workouts, discounts for cutting-edge wellness brands, and exclusive Well+Good content. Sign up for Well+, our online community of wellness insiders, and unlock your rewards instantly.

Our editors independently select these products. Making a purchase through our links may earn Well+Good a commission.

Loading More Posts...