One of the questions we hear most often is, “Which is the best foam roller for me?” or “Which foam roller should I get first?”. The answer to both of these questions is generally, “It depends!”
Foam rollers come in a variety of styles, densities, and lengths. Which one is right for you is often a matter of personal preference through trial and error. Once you’ve discovered the benefits of foam rolling and experiment with your body a little, you’ll likely want to have multiple rollers.
I highly recommend that if you have a gym membership, the next time you’re at the gym, see what sort of foam rollers they have. Try out a couple and see which you prefer. However, barring that, what follows is a comparison of various foam rollers, along with our thoughts and recommendations.
Buying Your First Foam Roller
When working with clients in physical therapy, I generally recommend their first foam roller be a generic black high-density foam roller. These rollers typically come in lengths of 12, 18, and 36-inches. For your first purchase, the 36-inch foam roller is hard to beat. Shorter form rollers can be handy if you’re traveling, but can be difficult for people with larger frames. Additionally, the longer roller will make it a little easier when you’re still learning proper rolling form. The image to the left shows a woman using the 36-inch foam roller, and should provide a reference for how large the roller is. There are a number of manufacturers, both generic and name-brand, producing 36-inch black high density foam rollers on the market today. For my dollar though, I recommend the AmazonBasics brand. It’s made in the USA, which is great, and even better is the price: cheap! At the time of this writing, the 36-inch model is only $19. You really can’t beat that. High-Density Foam Roller on Amazon. These foam rollers will deform over time, especially with heavy use; however, I don’t expect that most beginners will have any issues with it.
As far as density goes, I consider this to be an intermediate to soft roller. It’s firmer than a pool noodle, but definitely softer than any of the extra firm foam rollers on the market. Overall, I think the density is great for most beginners to foam rolling.
A Softer Foam Roller
For some people, the high-density roller is just a little too firm, and can seriously aggravate an existing injury. If this sounds like you, you might want to try a soft foam roller. We recommend the OPTP SFR36 Soft Foam Roller. This 36-inch roller is really quite soft; just take a look at the picture to the right to see how easily it can be manipulated. Therefore, please don’t expect this roller to be able to support 175+ pounds without some serious compression. This roller is really only intended for individuals with very tender injuries.
A Firmer Foam Roller
If the AmazonBasics high-density foam roller is too soft, you might want to step it up a little bit. For a firm foam roller, we recommend the GRID Foam Roller. We performed an in-depth review of the GRID foam roller, so please check out that page for more information.
The bottom line: The GRID is an excellent foam roller that will quickly see you on the road to recovery. At about $35 on Amazon for the Half Size GRID, it is a great product at a reasonable price.
Extra Firm Foam Roller
If the GRID isn’t firm enough, and you really need an extra firm foam roller to get those hard to roll areas, you can’t go wrong with the Rumble Roller Extra Firm. These rollers are a little more expensive, but you’re getting a truly high-quality piece of equipment for the price. (The full-sized Rumble Roller will set you back about $70, but it’s worth every penny.) Unlike the basic rollers, these won’t deform over time. And oh yeah, these things work great! We’ve analyzed and reviewed the entire line-up, so if you need an extra firm foam roller read the full Rumble Roller review.