Foam rollers are used to mimic deep tissue massage to aid recovery, increase flexibility and decrease muscle tension in those tight spots. The two main uses of the foam roller is general soft tissue release and trigger point work for tight spots, specifically this is known as self-myofascial release. Simply put, the way the rolling motion works for recovery is that it stimulates blood circulation, increasing oxygen flow to the muscles and speeding up repair.
We explain the different types of foam rollers available and included some of our top picks for each.
Best foam rollers: find the right type for you
Smooth surface, high-density foam roller
A first-time roller user might want to pick up a high-density, smooth roller for use on any of the muscles in the body. This type of roller has less ‘bumps’ for trigger point and is best used for general soft issue massage work.
Megalio Foam Roller
Made from closed-cell EVA foam with high density, this massage foam roller from Miglio claims to maintain its shape after prolonged use. The dotted grip surface provides improved motion and stability to maximise the massaging effect. The foam texture can help to relieve knots and tight spots, release stiffness in stressed muscles and break up soft tissue adhesion.
These types of rollers can also help to increase blood flow while improving balance, flexibility and range of motion. As well as massaging sore muscles, it can be used for stretching, core strengthening and stability training.
Grid surface foam roller
A step-up from your smooth roller is the type you’ll often see with a grid pattern of raised sections and smooth sections. This allows you to pause on tight spots for trigger-point release.
Trigger Point GRID Foam Roller
The grid foam roller by Trigger Point is designed to be a versatile muscle massager for all large muscle groups. The different sections of the roller allow you to target which muscles to relieve by accessing trigger points on the body.
Miglio Foam Roller 33cm
Available in a range of colors from pink to black, the Miglio grid foam roller is a great choice for relieving tight spots and muscle soreness. The different sections of the roller provide three levels of pressure: high to firm, medium and tubular, low and flat. The different pressures are designed to emulate the feelings of fingertips, palms and forearms massaging the body.
The points and surfaces of the roller can break up muscle knots and scar tissue. Plus, this roller from Miglio is compact and lightweight – at just over 500g this is an easy roller to carry around.
Raised-surface foam roller
More advanced roller users may choose to go for a roller with a raised surface all over. Perhaps you’re so used to using the roller that the smooth surface just doesn’t do it for you anymore, and you need something that will really dig into those tight spots. Or maybe you want a funky looking roller to impress your non-sport mad buddies, either way this type of roller is not for the sports massage virgins out there.
Massage and Mobility Roller – Soft
This spikey roller from Decathlon is sure to dig into those tight spots and muscle knots. The roller has different sized points to get deep into the different muscle groups. It’s designed to be used before and after workouts to help keep those muscles stretched.
For an elevated massage experience, Theragun Wave offer a foam roller with a vibration function. With the choice of five vibration intensities, the massager can support muscle recovery and deeply soothe tight areas. The battery can keep the roller vibrating for up to three hours and the high-density foam dampens the sound to keep the roller quiet while effective.
What is a trigger point ball?
A fan of the foam roller and what to know what other torture devices are available to fuel your sadistic sports urges massage? Look no further than the trigger-point ball. This is normally in the form of a hard-as-nails lacrosse ball, but you can also find hotspiky variations if you really want a world of pain. It’s in the name, but a trigger point ball is the foam roller’s smaller, more devious brother, and it packs quite a punch.
Trigger Point Massage Ball
The small size of the massage ball allows you to specifically target certain muscles around the body for precise and effective muscle relief. It helps to reduce muscle stress and post-workout soreness by stretching out and relieving tight muscle spots.
Check out our tips for a full break down on how to use your foam roller and the science behind how foam rolling aids muscle recovery. Here are five other tools that aid recovery
However we recommend you seek professional advice from a physio or doctor before using a foam roller for the first time, or using any new recovery tool, and if it’s painful stop and seek professional advice before continuing. It is always better to err on the side of caution. Stay aware and in-tune with what your body is telling you!
If you are worried about any injuries, aches and pains always seek medical advice from a doctor or physiotherapist.
Top image by Unsplash/Andrew Donovan