In the world of recovery equipment, few tools are as versatile — or feel as great — as a foam roller.
Regular rolling can ease knots and tightness, improve mobility, support tissue repair and even help you warm up for intense runs and lifts, explains Luke Lombardo, CPT, a certified personal trainer based in Los Angeles. And at the end of a tough workout session, there's nothing quite like lying down on one.
That said, not just any roller will do. And every type of foam roller has its own unique benefits.
So, to help you find the right roller for your workout style and needs, we enlisted the experts. Here are the five best foam rollers you can buy, according to trainers.
1. Best Overall Roller: TriggerPoint GRID
Each end of this multi-density roller caters to different muscles. The softer ends feels best on the most sensitive parts of your body, while the firmer areas work well on bigger, thicker muscles like your glutes.
"I like the density and grooves of this one to really get into the muscles," says Noam Tamir, CSCS, a certified sports and conditioning specialist and owner and fitness coach at TS Fitness in New York City.
This 13-inch roller is also small and light enough for travel. And — bonus — it comes with free instructional videos, so you can get the most out of your recovery work.
Buy it: Amazon.com; Price: $29.60
2. Best Extra-Firm Roller: LuxFit Roller
Thanks to this roller's extra-firm density, no matter how much you use it, you don't have to worry about it losing its shape. It's also great for targeting meatier muscles and areas where you could use deeper pressure.
It's available in four different sizes — 36, 24, 18 and 12 inches. For big muscle groups, opt for the longer lengths. "I find them to be easier to work with, less restrictive and more stable," Lombardo says.
Buy it: Amazon.com; Price: $27.25
3. Best Soft Roller: OPTP PRO-Roller Soft Density Roller
If you're looking for a soft foam roller for super-tight or sensitive muscles, this is the one for you, Lombardo says. Still, it's plenty durable, so you can use it to do foam roller strength exercises such as ab roll-outs, push-ups and hamstring curls.
Check it out in multiple lengths as well as round and half-circle shapes.
Buy it: Senior.com; Price: $27.95
4. Best Nubby Roller: RumbleRoller
The protruding lugs on this model can help you get deep into muscle tissues, and is best for experienced rollers, Lombardo says. The textured nodules are firm but flexible, and mimic the thumbs of a massage therapist, increasing blood flow to tired muscles and supporting recovery.
Buy it: DicksSportingGoods.com; Price: $44.99
5. Best Vibration Roller: Hyperice Vibrating Roller
This high-tech option offers three different vibration levels, so you can easily adjust how intense you want your massage to be. If you're new to a vibrating foam roller, it might take some time to get used to it and learn how to keep it from bouncing away. But once you're more comfortable, you may never go back to using a regular one.
"[Vibration rollers] create more blood flow," Tamir says. "The vibrations prevent you from feeling painful sensations, so you can go in deeper with a roller without experiencing as much pain."
Buy it: Amazon.com; Price: $199
6. Best Handheld Massage Stick: SKLZ Massage Bar
Grip the ends and control the pressure by pushing harder or lighter into your muscles.. The roller glides smoothly against your skin and won't pull or pinch.
"Being able to control the amount of pressure is great when you're doing soft tissue work," Tamir says. "You can also have someone else use it on you to hit muscles that are hard to reach with a foam roller, like your upper traps."
It's an ideal tool for anyone who wants to roll, but doesn't want to have to get down onto the floor or support their body weight on top of the device.
Buy it: Amazon.com; Price: $29.99
7. Best Travel Roller: Brazyn Morph Bravo Collapsible Foam Roller
Tamir recommends this collapsible foam roller for getting in a massage whenever, wherever. (Think: After long, uncomfortable road trips and flights.)
To take it apart and pack in your suitcase, just push the disks on the sides and it will collapse down flat. But don't worry, it's not flimsy. It can still support up to 350 pounds.
Buy it: Amazon.com; Price: $68
3 Things to Consider When Searching for Your Best Foam Roller
Most rollers range from 12 to 36 or even 48 inches in length. "If you don't have too much space, you may want to consider a shorter roller," Tamir says. "It needs to work in the space that you have."
You should also think about size is appropriate for rolling out your entire body. If you have a petite frame, a small roller might be sufficient, but if you have a wide back, for example, a longer roller will allow you to roll most easily.
Rolling should not hurt. It should feel good. To do so, it needs to apply some but not too much pressure. The right amount is different for everyone.
If you're new to foam rolling, you might want a softer roller to help you ease into things. "The more active you are, the denser your muscle tissue is, and therefore, the denser the foam roller may need to be," Tamir says.
Are you cool lying on the roller and supporting your body weight to move yourself back and forth on the device? Or would you prefer to roll from a standing or seated position.
Make sure your roller fits your personal mobility needs and preferences. If you have trouble getting down and back up off of the floor, you likely want to give preference to a handheld massage stick.