The Best Foam Rollers To Improve Recovery And Performance

The foam rollers you need to ace recovery and boost performance

It’s 2024, so it’s about time we accept that recovery is just as important as training. And if you want to elevate your recovery regimen, these foam rollers are a good place to start

FOAM ROLLERS HAVE quickly risen from that niche tool you see lying in the corner of a Pilates studio to an essential recovery weapon nearly everyone at the gym finishes their workout with. While they originated in the domain of elite athletes and physical therapists, foam rollers can now be found in nearly every gym, yoga studio and even some living rooms.

We shouldn’t be surprised by this surge in popularity. Foam rollers have always been lauded for their ability to alleviate muscle soreness, accelerate recovery and even improve performance. But as the demand for foam rollers has grown, so too has the variety available. With the explosion of options on the market, finding the right foam roller can feel as challenging as the workouts that necessitate their use. That’s why below, we’re breaking down the best bets, so you can take your recovery to the next level.

Foam RollersTherabody Vibrating Wave Roller

Starting off with the most high-tech option available, Therabody’s vibrating foam roller is the absolute pinnacle of foam rolling innovation. The Therabody Wave Roller does everything you’d expect from a foam roller – that is, it allows you to roll out tension across large muscle groups with ease – but there’s also the added bonus of vibration therapy. Yes, the Wave Roller vibrates. It has five customisable vibration frequencies to bolster recovery, and it can be connected to the Therabody app for personalised routines.

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TriggerPoint GRID Foam Roller

The GRID foam roller from TriggerPoint is one of the firmer options on the market. It’s made from hard core EVA foam, for those who need slightly deeper muscle penetration. It also has a three-dimensional surface with bumps and divots so it can work its muscle healing powers into every nook and cranny.

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Lululemon Double Roller

The Double Roller from Lululemon is actually two foam rollers in one. The exterior roller utilises a wavy, swirling design to work out knots in your arms and legs, while the interior roller goes deeper to soothe your back. This is one of the more aesthetically pleasing foam rollers available. It wouldn’t look to out of place in an upscale gym, or a contemporary living room.

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Foam Rollers

Technogym Foam Roller

We’ll get into the different types of foam rollers a little later on, but Technogym’s take on the equipment is as versatile as they come. The roller has varying levels of firmness. It’s firmer towards the centre and softer towards the edges, so you can apply as much pressure as you need.

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Ryderwear Foam Roller

This is a more heavy duty foam roller, with a textured, grid design that, on its pressure points, can work deeper than other foam rollers. It’s also made from eco-friendly, recycled materials, to put your eco-conscious mind at ease.

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Foam Rollers

Cork Cylinder Roller

Unless you’re deeply ensconced in the foam roller industry or are already a hardened devotee of the equipment’s healing properties, we’d bet you didn’t know that foam rollers could be made from cork. Not only that, cork rollers can also be the most effective type of roller – in specific instances. Cork rollers are firmer than foam rollers, so if you need a more solid base to ease muscular pain, look no further.

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The WOD Life Foam Roller

This highly adaptable foam roller can be used in recovery or as a counterbalance during strength training. It also has an open core, allowing vibration devices to be implanted within to harness the power of vibration therapy.

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Gaiam Deep Tissue Massage Foam Roller

One of the many benefits of the increasing ubiquity of foam rollers is that they’re not only readily available at fitness gear and apparel stores, but also at major retailers like Big W. This Gaiam foam roller offers all you need from a basic foam roller, with a soft, gridded wave design in a generously affordable package.

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Do foam rollers actually work?

We know, we’ve just given you a full list of the best available foam rollers while spouting their supposedly boundless benefits. So why the sudden subheading questioning their effectiveness? We’re not questioning foam rollers, but many people do. This is because using a foam roller isn’t the kind of experience that produces an immediate result and a remedial sensation. Often, using a foam roller is a preventative measure that stops muscle pains before they occur. Otherwise, the results are less sudden and reveal themselves at a later time.

Even though you might not immediately feel a foam roller working its magic, you can rest assured knowing it’s doing its job. A 2019 study published in Frontiers in Physiology found that foam rolling both before and after a workout can improve muscular performance and recovery.

Why are foam rollers good for you?

On the most immediate front, foam rollers break down muscle knots and improve blood circulation, which helps deliver essential nutrients to muscle tissues and speeds up the recovery process. Over time, regular use of foam rollers can also increase flexibility and range of motion. Beyond the physical benefits, foam rolling can also be therapeutic, instilling a sense of relaxation before and after a workout.

What are the different types of foam rollers?

Foam rollers aren’t a one size fits all situation. There are three main types of foam rollers, each specialised to provide a certain range of benefits.

The first and most prominent type of foam roller is literally just called a foam roller. They have a flat surface, are a medium size and thickness and are an all-rounder. Foam rollers provide the most gentle massage of the three rollers.

Then there’s the firm roller, which is designed to give a more intense massage by penetrating deeper muscle tissues. They’re usually thinner and sturdier, and their main purpose is pain release. So, if prolonged soreness is hampering your training routine, opt for a firm roller.

Lastly, we have the grid roller. These are the rollers with ridges jutting out of them. They’re designed to provide an even more intense, penetrating massage on certain trigger points. Grid rollers feel more like a massage gun or chair, which can add a therapeutic touch along with the pain release.

When should you use a foam roller?

The optimal time to use a foam roller can vary depending on the exercise you plan on performing, but for the most part, it’s beneficial to use a foam roller less than 30 minutes before and after you workout. Using a foam roller as part of your warm up increases blood flow to your muscles, preparing your body for the physical demands ahead. Post-workout, foam rolling aids in muscle recovery, reducing soreness and stiffness. That same study we mentioned earlier proved that pre-rolling and post-rolling both boost muscular performance and improve recovery, so there really are no downsides to investing in a dependable foam roller and incorporating it into your routine.

Related: 

8 recovery tools you need to add to your training routine immediately

Step up your recovery game with these compression boots

By Cayle Reid

Cayle Reid is a fan of everything sports and fitness. He spends his free time at the gym, on his surfboard or staying up late watching sports in incompatible time zones.

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