The Best Foam Rollers

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The somewhat spongy appearance of SPRI’s EVA Full Foam Roller might make you think it’s a big softie, but don’t be fooled: Its medium-density foam is a bit firmer than the Gaiam Restore’s polyethylene foam but with more give than any of the black EPP rollers. In other words, it’s a fine pick if you’re looking for something in the middle and don’t mind spending a bit more.

There were no real complaints from our experts about the attractive TriggerPoint Grid 2.0 Foam Roller, a longer version of the well-known TriggerPoint Grid. It rolls nicely and provides a firm density and good self-myofascial release, though no one could really feel much of a difference from its ridged foam-covered PVC over a regular foam roller. And though it’s 26 inches long (the original Grid is 13 inches), that’s still 10 inches shorter than most full-size rollers. It’s also much pricier.

Our experts also had generally nice things to say about the well-made Sklz Barrel Roller. Our PT, in particular, enjoyed the memory-foam-like feel of its outer surface. The only shortcoming is its length; at only 15 inches, it’s too short for hitting larger areas like the mid-back (even on our petite-framed massage therapist) or rolling both legs at the same time.

The Pro-Tec Roller Massager is similar to the Tiger Tail, but its foam covering is segmented, with the ability to slide the segments together or keep them apart. Unfortunately, our pros found them largely ineffective in terms of changing the depth of the massage the roller provides—and given that it’s a handheld with the obvious limiting factor of arm strength, it doesn’t bring much new to the table.

With its aggressive-looking studs, the RumbleRoller Full-Size Original can look awesome or awful, depending on your deep-tissue needs. Either way, our experts cautioned this isn’t the roller for people new to SMR—and indeed, it’s better for sustained trigger-point work over rolling.

If Goldilocks were to complain that the RumbleRoller was too hard, the OPTP Star Roller Soft would be too soft. The finlike ridges compressed down, bending and deforming under even the lean bodyweight of our massage therapist, yet got in the way of a smooth rolling action. Our PT liked it better but conceded it shouldn’t be the primary roller for anyone.

The handheld Solfit Body Muscle Roller has rows of firm spikes that look like they’d get deep into muscles. Unfortunately, the plastic handles bow under the pressure needed for that to happen. With a lighter touch, it feels nice but isn’t terribly effective for SMR, and the roller itself is only 6 inches long.

The Product Stop Vibrating Foam Muscle Roller is the lightest and least expensive of the powered rollers we reviewed. Although it was quieter than all other vibrating foam rollers we tested, it still put off substantial noise. Like all vibrating foam rollers we tried, it is shorter (13 inches) and more expensive than our top pick, and therefore may not be adequate for rolling out larger muscle groups.

The Vulken Vibrating Foam Roller’s 18-inch length was enough for me to roll two legs at once (though this roller is still shorter and more expensive than our top pick). Unlike the other powered rollers we tested, this one has an undulating setting, which we found soothing for sore muscles, especially along the calves.

With its nubbed texture, the NextRoller looks intense even before you turn the vibration on. “I like this type of roller for sustained static work on certain areas, and I enjoyed using it on my hamstrings where I felt like it was allowing for deeper work,” wrote massage therapist Polina Savelieva. Still, she cautioned: “I feel the same as I do about all knobbly rollers: I don’t think it is for the average user,” as they can increase the risk of bruising. At its highest setting this roller is really loud and, like other vibrating foam rollers, is shorter (13 inches) and much more expensive than our top pick.

By far the strongest—and priciest—vibrating foam roller, the 13-inch Hyperice Vyper 2.0 has a supple foam covering with nicely rounded edges. But in our testing, we found it to be too powerful, even on its lower settings. It was also the loudest foam roller we tested.

We also dismissed the HoMedics Gladiator without testing because while most vibrating foam rollers are rechargeable, this one runs on four C batteries, which—with frequent use and replacement—would quickly add to its otherwise lower cost.

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