If you’re a runner, you’re used to being sore. Running is just plain tough on the body. Luckily, foam rolling is a tried-and-true method for relieving the tightness and soreness caused by running. To get you on the road to recovery, we’ll break down our list of the best foam rollers for runners.
How Foam Rolling Helps Runners
Believe it or not, but a hard run will actually cause microtearing in your leg muscles. When these tiny tears in the muscle tissue repair, the muscles become stronger and more efficient. It’s a great system, but it causes soreness while the tears are being repaired.
To make matters worse, muscle tissue doesn’t always heal in an optimal, perfect manner. Sometimes scar tissue forms. Sometimes the muscle tissues re-form in the wrong direction. That’s where foam rollers come in!
Foam rolling helps runners to break up the scar tissue that forms when the microtears are healing. This helps the muscle fibers to reform in the proper orientation, resulting in stronger, more efficient muscles.
If you want to know more about the process of muscle breakdown and repair, check out this article on HuffPost.
Which Foam Rolling Exercises Runners Should Be Doing
We’ve written some pretty detailed foam rolling exercise guides already, so rather than re-write them here we’re going to link to our favorite foam rolling exercises for runners.
Breaking Down the Best Foam Rollers for Runners
Best Half-Size Foam Rollers
Half-size foam rollers are great, and should be a part of every runner’s recovery arsenal. I personally recommend half-size rollers over their full-size counterparts, both for convenience, ease of use, and portability. In fact, these foam rollers are so easy to transport that you can bring one along in your car and use if before and after your next track session! I’ve even seen trail runners bring their foam roller to the trailhead to use after a grueling long run. So which half-size foam roller is best for runners?
#1 Best foam roller for runners: TriggerPoint GRID VIBE PLUS
If we had to list one single recommendation for the best foam roller for runners, this would be it. Simply put, this roller is great. It’s a little on the spendy side, but believe me, this thing works fantastically and is a great investment into your running performance. The foam is harder than some foam rollers, such as the affordable AmazonBasics foam roller. However, it’s still a little softer than the super tough and unyielding TriggerPoint Grid X. To me, that puts it right in the sweet spot. It’s tough enough to really work that stubborn fascia, but won’t leave your legs feeling destroyed.
This is also one of the few foam rollers on the market that has a vibrating function. While it might sound hokey, the 4-speed vibrating motor actually allows the knobs on the roller to penetrate deeper into the fascia. This equates to better symptom relief in less time.
One of my favorite features on this roller is the battery capacity. Even using this roller for 10 or more minutes each day, I can easily go 1-2 weeks between charges. This makes it perfect for traveling to your next out of town marathon or ultra!
Best Full-Size Foam Roller For Runners
While full-sized rollers might be a little more bulky, they do make certain exercises a little easier. They’re also a good choice for larger individuals, or beginners who might not yet know their foam roller preferences.
#1 Best Full-Size Foam Roller for Runners: AmazonBasics 36-inch Foam Roller
The AmazonBasics foam roller is massively popular. In fact, it’s one of the best-selling foam rollers on the market. Why? Because it’s super inexpensive, Amazon will have it to your door in two days, it’s made in the USA, and it works really well.
This roller is made of a softer foam, which makes it a perfect foam roller for beginners.
#2 Best full-Size Foam Roller For Runners: The Rumble Roller
While the AmazonBasics foam roller is a great intro into foam rolling, it’s not the best for everyone. After a while, most people find that they need to move up to a harder roller or one that can penetrate deeper into the fascia. This is especially true for runners, who often need a really deep fascia penetration to get those target areas like the hamstrings.
That’s why we love the Rumble Roller. This roller has a patented design that simulates the fingers of a masseuse. These “fingers” help to reduce the surface area of the roller, and thus concentrate the pressure. This results in a much deeper penetration that really gets those trigger points.
Best Portable Foam Rollers
There’s one final category of foam rollers that runners should think about, and that’s portable foam rollers. These small, ball-shaped rollers are perfect for travel. However, where they truly excel is in foam rolling the glutes. These thing penetrate super deep into the glute muscles; cylindrical rollers just can’t match them. If you’re a runner who frequently has sore glutes, consider adding one of these devices to your foam rolling arsenal.
#1 best portable foam roller: the triggerpoint mb5 massage ball
I love this roller. Seriously. I use it every single day. The 5-inch diameter makes it perfect for rolling the glutes and TFL. Check out the reviews online, you really can’t go wrong with this. It’s also conveniently portable, and it’s small size makes it easy to store while not in use.
#2 Best portable foam roller: the rumble roller beastie
Honestly, that image pretty much sums up the Rumble Roller Beastie. It’s aggressive, and is guaranteed to work for even the most stubborn muscle aches. Not recommended for beginners.