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The Best Foam Exercise Roller

by
author image Lisa Mercer
In 1999, Lisa Mercer’s fitness, travel and skiing expertise inspired a writing career. Her books include "Open Your Heart with Winter Fitness" and "101 Women's Fitness Tips." Her articles have appeared in "Aspen Magazine," "HerSports," "32 Degrees," "Pregnancy Magazine" and "Wired." Mercer has a Bachelor of Arts in psychology from the City College of New York.
The Best Foam Exercise Roller
Foam roller for exercise. Photo Credit Wavebreakmedia Ltd/Wavebreak Media/Getty Images

The Styrofoam roller serves two noble purposes. Its functions as a combination flexibility and massage tool, as well as a challenging balance training and core conditioning device. Physical therapy supply shops were once the only place to find foam rollers, but as the trend caught on, fitness equipment manufacturers developed their own version of the roller. Fitness experts have different opinions about which roller is best.

Using Foam Rollers

Determining how you intend to use the foam roller will help you pick the best product for your purposes. Using the roller for massage and flexibility training involves lying on the device, rolling gently back and forth and allowing your body weight to sink into the roller. While it sounds like the firmest roller is the best choice, different people have different levels of tolerance for firm massage. If you tend to yelp when the massage therapist goes to deep, you might need a softer roller. Some high-tech rollers have different levels of intensity within the roller. These may benefit people who are less sensitive in certain parts of their bodies, but their uneven surface makes these rollers less suitable for exercise.

Firmest Rollers

The SPRI EVA Foam Roller and the Isokinetics Black High Density Foam Roller are the firmest and most durable rollers on the market. The American Council on Exercise praised the SPRI EVA for its resiliency and its non-porous surface, which resists bacterial growth, but expressed concern that its firmness may cause excessive discomfort for beginners. They also asserted that the SPRI EVA's firmness might make it too much of a balance challenge for novices. Isokinetics Black High Density Foam Roller can stand up to heavy usage and might be the best roller for gyms or personal training studios.

A Softer Roller

The Foam Roller Plus, which comes with its own carrying case, might be best for anyone who prefers a softer yet durable roller, says physical therapist and athletic trainer Dr. Michael M. Reinold. A soft foam material coats its rigid, PVC core, creating a roller that is comfortable yet durable, explains certified trainer Eric Cressey, founder of Cressey Performance.

High Tech Rollers

The Grid, another Dr. Reinold favorite, uses a new concept in foam roller design called "distrodensity." Its matrix construction has different zones. The flat zone like a massage with someone's palm or forearm. The high and firm zone is like a fingertip massage and the tubular zone is like a thumb massage. This is a suitable device for people with different sensitivity levels in different body parts. While the Grid is also useful for some core exercises, at 13 inches long, it is significantly shorter than most foam rollers, which are typically three feet long.

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