16 of the best foam rollers for runners

·8-min read

It's never the most pleasant experience, foam rolling, but a growing body of research tells us it's worth it. Many studies have linked foam rolling with improved range of motion, as well as reduced post-workout muscle soreness.

What is the benefit of foam rolling?

Foam rolling increases your range of motion by helping to stretch muscles and fascia (tissue that surrounds your muscle fibres) that have become shortened. It does this by breaking down scar tissue within the muscle and working into the fascia that has become stiff and tight, to separate the tissue and make it more flexible.

As the shortening of muscles and fascia can cause painful trigger points – or knots – this stretching and lengthening process can help to alleviate pain post run, while also increasing blood flow, providing your muscles with more nutrients and oxygen to help them repair.

Is a bumpy or smooth foam roller better?

Some rollers are textured – featuring a variety of surface textures and patterns to mimic the feeling of palms, fingers and fingertips during a massage. These are designed specifically for deep-tissue work, pushing into knots and pressure points deeper than traditional flat-surfaced foam rollers.

For this reason, flat-surfaced foam rollers are less intense and so are a good option for those who are new to foam rolling, or want a more relaxed feeling on tender muscles after a hard workout.

Which foam roller is best?

Since foam rollers became popular, there's been an explosion in the range of foam rollers for runners. Here's what to consider when selecting yours.

Firmness: For those new to foam rolling, a roller may seem like a torture device. Digging into sore muscles after a tough workout session can involve some initial discomfort and it takes some getting used to, which is why the firmness of a foam roller determines how much oh-so-good pain you are willing to handle.

Texture: As with firmness, the texture of a roller will determine the level of intensity. This can range from a smooth (gentler) surface, to a knobbly or ridged (really intense) one.

Size/portability: If you simply can’t do without your roller at your next destination race or on holiday, you'll want something that fits in a suitcase or backpack. Stick rollers and massage balls are also good options in this respect. But larger rollers are markedly better at working larger areas, such as the back.

Added features: For a deeper level of muscle activation, some foam rollers on the market now include vibration or heat.

The best foam rollers for runners:

Decathlon Domyos

Best for: value

There are no bells or whistles here, just a solidly made roller for a bargain price. It features dual textures – larger knobbles running down the centre, for broad pressure across large muscles; and smaller, diamond-shaped bits along each side, should you need to go a bit deeper to target kinks in tighter muscles. Comes in a choice of firmness – soft or, for those of a more masochistic bent, hard.

TriggerPoint Grid

Best for: Durability

A classic design that has remained the same for years – a sign that the makers got this bestselling roller right from the get-go. The different zones are designed to act like different parts of the hand – ranging from low and flat areas to spread pressure like the palm; to tubular ridges like the fingers; and higher, smaller knobbles that act like the fingertips for more targeted pressure. It’s a relatively firm roller, so all zones are good for getting stuck into those pesky tight spots. One of our testers has had this model for more than five years and it is in like-new condition, despite dedicated use.

Theragun Wave

Best for: vibration

Adding vibration to foam rolling is thought to cause certain proprioceptors (sensors in the muscle) to allow tissues to relax and loosen, enabling deeper muscle stimulation and increased range of motion. This vibrating foam roller is controlled by a smartphone app, linked via Bluetooth, and features five speed/intensity settings to cover all your bases, from a gentle tingle up to full muscle trembler. The app also comes complete with a variety of exercise programmes and can guide you through each move. Offers three hours of battery life on a full charge.

Brazyn Morph Collapsible Foam Roller

Best for: travel



Super handy for taking on the road to destination races, or just to keep you loose while on holiday, this ingenious roller packs flat to less than two inches in height and weight only 680g, meaning it’s easily stowed in a suitcase or even a backpack. Pull strings at each end to lock it into its expanded form, which can support almost 160kg in weight. It’s 36.8cm long, so big enough for legs and back. When you’re finished, you just push firmly on the disks at the ends of the roller to pack it back down.

Lululemon Double Roller

Best for: versatility

With this neatly designed roller, you get two for the price of one. The exterior tube, featuring wave-patterned ridges, is ideal for applying broader pressure across larger muscles such as your quads, hamstrings, calves and glutes. Nestling inside the outer tube is a more aggressively textured roller, with defined ridges that are perfect for targeting knots and tighter spots…if you’re feeling brave enough.

Moji Heated Roller

Best for: heat



If your muscles need a little extra encouragement to loosen up, the Moji combines pressure with heat – regarded as one of the most effective ways to ease muscle pain. You just twist the two halves of the foam roller apart and pop them in the microwave for three minutes or less. It stays warm for about 30 minutes after heating, but it’s pretty hot when it first comes out, so give it a minute or two to cool down. Measuring 33cm in length, with a 10cm diameter, it’s just big enough to work larger muscle groups, but you can also leave the two pieces unscrewed to focus on smaller areas.

The Stick

Best for: convenience

For those times when you want to work on those sore quads without getting down on the ground (if you are sitting at a desk, for example), a stick roller can be a handy addition to your rehab toolbox – and it’ll certainly do a better job than the rolling pin from your kitchen. It has textured grips that won’t shift in your hands as you press hard into sore muscles, while the central section features eight rotating spindles that roll independently over the muscle. It’s also got a bit of bend, meaning you can exert just the right amount of pressure and, at 43cm in length, you’ll be able to work all major muscles.

Rumble Roller

Best for: targeting knots and tight spots

It might look like a monster truck tyre crossed with a medieval torture device, but the aggressive knobbles of the Rumble Roller are designed to push into knots and tight spots deeper than traditional flat-surfaced rollers. While this will certainly turn up the pain/pleasure dial further than other options, it’s worth noting that while the nubs are firm, they do have some give, which enables them to move around (and not dig into) bony areas.

Rollga

Best for: shin splints and tight calves

The unique design of this roller has a purpose beyond looking different from standard tubes – the grooves in the Rollga are designed to enable pressure to go where you want it (muscles and connective tissue) and bypass the areas where you don’t (bones and tendons). The central indentation, for example, is designed to nestle your spine while you’re rolling your back muscles. This makes it particularly effective, because if you’re comfortable rolling, you’ll do it longer and more often.

Gaiam Restore hot & cold foot roller

Best for: plantar fasciitis and tired feet

Ideal for providing relief from plantar fasciitis, or just to massage tired feet after a long run, the textured surface of this foot roller – featuring both an undulating surface to fit into the arch and small raised dots to provide a kneading effect – enhances the massage sensation. It’s designed to provide both cold and hot therapy (just place in a freezer or hot water before applying), with the roller maintaining temperature for up to 30 minutes.

Meglio AsteroidBall

Best for: Targeted trigger-point release

A light, very firm ball that’s perfect for areas that need targeted trigger-point release; it’s excellent for the glutes, upper back/shoulders and your feet. Comes in two sizes: 8cm or 12cm diameter.

Riixo Ice Ball

Best for: cool relief

A steel ball with a liquid core, housed inside a silicone hand grip. Stick this in the freezer while you’re out on your long run and feel the bliss when you roll out those sore spots on your return. Stays cold for up to six hours.


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