Best Foam Rollers for Runners

Any runner who is past their youthful teen and early 20s years knows that staying healthy is almost as important as running fast.  A foam roller is a secret weapon for may runners and triathletes in the battle against soreness and injuries.

A foam roller is a simple tool — basically a tubular chunk of molded foam — for a self-massage technique that aims to release ‘trigger points’ in muscles. This technique has become quite popular due to its significant benefits, and consists of only applying pressure on specific points so that the foam roller is therapeutic where it comes to improvement in the condition and in improving speed of muscle strain recovery.

muscle mauler foam

Muscle Mauler

When using it, it’s our body weight that defines how much pressure is applied with the foam roller. However, it’s important to know that this process should never be painful. It must be used slowly and progressively on the trigger point.

Now we’re going to explain some of the benefits of using these foam rollers and which models will be the best for you.

Why Should You Use a Foam Roller?

The foam roller is a beautifully simple thing to keep around the house.  It offers a great deal for both sport and therapeutic applications, and for many runners is just as much a part of each workout as stretching is. Let’s take a look at some of the foam roller’s benefits:

  • Works out knots.  Perhaps the main reason runners might use a foam roller is to work out knots that occur in muscles and other soft tissue.  Many runners use a foam roller to help loosen their IT Band, while others like how it can hit the hamstring and glutes to provide some much-needed relief.
  • Lengthens muscle.  When used smartly with stretching, especially long stretches held for 40 seconds or more, a foam roller can play in important role in helping to lengthen a tight and shortened muscle.
  • Compatibility with any training. You can use your foam roller with any exercise you engage in, either at home or at the gym. It can reduce soreness and improve flexibility associated with nearly any sport.
  • Relaxes muscles. When you use a foam roller during stretching, it will help you in avoiding overstretching as well as allowing you to de-numb the areas that need it. As well, it aids in the recovery of the muscles and relieves tension.
  • Increases blood circulation.  A foam roller has been proven to increase arterial blood flow for 30 minutes or more after use, helping muscular performance and recovery.

This tool is very useful and beneficial when used before a workout, as an active rest method, or even after a session to relax your muscles.

When is it Not Good to Use a Foam Roller?

No tool is usable for all applications, and of course the foam roller doesn’t escape from this reality.

We don’t recommend applying foam roller on those with circulatory problems.  While it could help, it is best to consult a doctor first.  If you suffer from blood clots, play it safe and talk to your doctor.

Trigger point Grid

We also don’t recommend using a foam roller on recently injured areas of the body.  It is one thing to roll a tight IT band or a knot in your hamstring, but quite another to apply this kind of pressure to a legitimately injured ligament or bruise.

Recommend Foam Rollers for Runners

While searching for an ideal foam roller, you probably found hundreds of models online and don’t know where to start.  We can help.  The good news is that a foam roller is a great thing to buy online — no fitting or sizing is needed.  What you see in the photo is what you are going to get.

First, you can divide the foam rollers according to their texture or according to their size.

If you look for texture, there are smooth and textured models. What is the difference between them? Textures exert pressure on specific areas and points of your muscles. While the smooth ones
apply pressure across broader areas.  We prefer a smooth one.

Next, if you look for size, they come in short and long. The short ones are better used on smaller areas or individual muscles, just as between your shoulder blades for back tightness; they are also better for traveling, obviously.  Long foam rollers are ideal for leaving in a workout room, and working longer muscles and larger areas.

Now let’s examine some models that we recommend:

GRID Foam Roller, by TriggerPoint

rumble roller foam

Rumble Roller

Triggerpoint is one of the best brands offering foam rollers, in our opinion. Founded in Austin, TX and acquired by fitness gear maker Implus, their popular GRID foam roller is designed to focus on specific areas of your body with a uniform pressure. It’s small (13inches x 5.5inches) so it’s easy to take with you anywhere. This small model is made to withstand large amounts of weight and also comes with a one-year warranty.  Find here. 

Extra Firm Foam Roller, by RumbleRoller

Although this is a very good and high-quality foam roller, it isn’t for novices. It’s important that before buying this product, you have a notion of how foam rollers work, how to use it on your muscles and how they will react to the pressure you apply. The design of this foam roller offers bumps that act like the fingers of a masseur or therapist, and the massage you get from it is therefore much more efficient and deeper, as it concentrates pressure on trigger points. For some people, a simple and flat roller would be better.  This model is very durable, and should be used only in areas of the body that has a very thick muscle tissue (like the gluteus, among others).  Find here.  

Pro-Roller Soft Density Foam Roller, by OPTP

OPTP soft

OPTP Soft Roller

A quintessential simple foam roller by design, this is the one we could get if we were just starting out and wanted one foam roller to keep in our closet.  This is a soft density foam roller with a slightly textured surface, making it an excellent choice for delicate self-massage, especially if you are new with this kind of product. Its design allows for handling heavy weight and repeated use. It’s great for doing yoga, Pilates and other types of exercises. It’s a good choice if you don’t need the features of a much more highly-engineered foam roller.  Find here.  

13″ Muscle Mauler Foam Roller, by Master of Muscle

The muscle mauler can really dig in to your tissue, if that is what you are looking for.  It supports weight up to 330 pounds and comes with a lifetime warranty. This not only shows that Master of Muscle fully supports their product, but their consumers as well. This roller is a durable, small, lightweight model you can take you everywhere. Perhaps one of the few criticisms of this roller is it isn’t very long.  That becomes an issue at times because your body has a way of gradually rolling off of a short roller.  However, it still most effectively eases muscle aches and relaxes tension in the body while providing an effective aid for muscle recovery. If you require, Master of Muscle has foam rollers equally effective in larger sizes as well.  Find here.  

Summary

If we could only pick one, we would get the basic OPTP roller.  If we could get two, we would add the Muscle Mauler.

Foam rolling is a technique used more and more frequently to speed muscle recovery and flexibility, as well as improve athletic performance. Along with good stretching, using products like compression tights and KT Tape, and a smart training plan, you can keep yourself healthy even as an older or more intense runner.

There is still much to discover about the benefits and uses of foam rollers. However, with what we already know, we can be sure that it’s a great solution for those of us who like exercise and keep our bodies healthy and our muscles relaxed and in good shape.

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