ITB pain getting you down?
Foam rolling could be the most effective form of self-massage for certain hard to stretch body parts, namely the ITB.
This article will list some of the best foam rollers for runners in 2021 and then give you a little intro to foam rolling and why you might want to include it in your post-run routine.
- TOP 9 Best Foam Rollers & Massage Sticks for Runners 2021
- Why Use a Foam Roller?
- Foam Rolling In Brief
- Key Elements to Keep in Mind Before Buying
TOP 9 Best Foam Rollers & Massage Sticks for Runners 2021
First up, foam rollers.
Next, massage sticks!
Looking for more options? We have another article dedicated to foam rollers here.
Why Use a Foam Roller?
If you’re even remotely serious about your running, you understand the benefits of stretching, keeping your muscles supple and maintaining a degree of flexibility.
Avoiding tight muscles is essential for avoiding injury, and allows for a wider range of movements that can help you to run further and faster.
In saying that, you’ve also probably realized that there are limits to the effectiveness of stretching alone for releasing particularly awkward parts of the body, namely the ITB.
This is where massage comes in, effectively doing the stretching for you.
However, seeing a massage therapist every week can get pricey. Once per week may not even be enough, and self-massage is rarely as effective.
Myofascial release is effectively a deep stretch for your fascia, the strong membrane that coats and connects every individual muscle in your body.
In fact, the fascia is so important that it alone can be responsible for many injuries that you may have thought were muscle related. It is so strong that it can get very tight and thicken in ways that are not helpful for anyone.
Using a foam roller can help to stretch out and reduce these thickenings, increasing circulation and freeing up your muscles for a healthy amount of movement.
This is especially important for runners, whose fascia is already stressed through the repetitive action of running.
If you’d like to read more on the benefits of foam rolling follow that link.
Foam Rolling In Brief
There are two different types of rollers: foam rollers, and massage sticks
Foam rollers are less portable, but more effective, allowing for a much easier full body scan and getting much deeper into your muscles.
Massage sticks are commonly used on the sideline of sporting events or on the road before a big race.
They are not as effective at getting deep, but still help improve blood flow in target areas.
How to Foam Roll
Using a foam roller is actually relatively simple.
Lay on the roller with some or all of your body weight and move slowly up and down over the roller to allow the roller to roll across the length of the target muscle group.
After rolling over the length of the muscle a few times, slow down and pay attention to any trigger points. When you get to a trigger point on your next roll, hold your position for at least a minute or more for a deep release.
Be Sure to Breathe
Breathing allows for rich, oxygenated blood to be pushed through your muscles and fascia. Breathing also acts as a reminder to foam roll slowly and not to rush, and to keep your muscles relaxed – you can’t stretch a tense muscle.
Consistency is Key
Consistency is better than intensity. Waiting until things get bad to crank the foam roller is not going to lead to any long term benefits.
Including foam rolling in your routine so that it becomes a regular habit is essential for reaping the benefits.
Once a week is not enough!
Drinking plenty of water after a foam rolling session is essential for allowing all the waste and toxins to be flushed effectively from your muscles.
Even better are recovery drinks that contain electrolytes and glucose to replace what was lost during your workout and lower the risk of painful cramps.
Use Your Whole Tool Kit
If you’re recovering from an injury, foam rolling could be an important step in recovery. But, don’t rely on it exclusively. Make the most of all the options out there for reducing your downtime.
Knee sleeves can be great for providing a little extra support and pain relief while recovering from knee pain. Similarly, calf compression sleeves are great for increasing circulation and encouraging recovery.
Using a calf compression sleeve after rolling out your calves could be a great way of maximizing the benefits of foam rolling.
Key Elements to Keep in Mind Before Buying
There are tons of foam rollers on the market right now. It can be a bit overwhelming to see all the options.
Consider the following:
If you’re new to foam rolling, you might be surprised at how much it hurts! Going for a softer foam roller will make the pain more manageable.
The stretch won’t be as intense but at least you’ll use the roller and not relegate it to a dog toy!
Once you’re used to the sensation you can purchase a firmer one and get deeper into your stretches.
Length and Width
Length can be an important factor in determining which body parts you can easily use your foam roller for. For example, if it’s too short, you might find it hard to roll your back without rolling off.
Width is the other factor along with firmness that decides how intense the stretch will be. Narrow rollers with a shorter diameter will result in a more intense (and more painful) stretch.
Textured foam rollers allow for a slightly different massage technique called ‘cross-friction’ massage.
This involves leaning on the foam roller and moving the targeted muscle from side to side without actually rolling.
Texture can also another layer of depth to regular foam rolling and can help break up any scar tissue that might be present.
The size and weight of your foam roller will decide how easy it is to take with you to the gym or even just move around your house.
Hollow-core? Solid high-density foam?
Different rollers are made in different ways and some will be stronger and more durable than others. The low-quality foam will mean the roller is too soft and doesn’t hold its shape under your body weight.
Those are the basics. Of course, there are things like color and budget to factor in too! But that comes down to personal preference.
Is Foam Rolling Good for Runners?
Yes! Foam rolling is excellent for runners! It allows for deeper stretches and massages of muscles, tendons and fascia.
Why do Runners use Foam Rollers?
Runners most commonly use rollers as a more effective way to self-massage the ITB, a tendon that runs down the outside of the leg that is hard to stretch and causes knee pain when it gets tight.
When should I use a Foam Roller after Running?
Foam rolling can be done at any time when your muscles are warm and relaxed, either before or after running.
Is it Good to Foam Roll before Running?
Provided you’re not too cold and stiff, foam rolling before a run can be a great way to warm up, get the blood moving through your muscles and help to prevent injury.
Should You Foam Roll Every Day?
Foam every day is probably not advisable unless your physiotherapist has advised it for a specific injury. Every second day is a safe bet though.
Can Foam Rolling be Harmful?
If you do it wrong, then yes, like anything foam rolling can cause injury. It’s best to watch some instructional videos so you know exactly what you’re doing before you start.
Remember to breathe and keep the muscles that are being rolled relaxed.
What is the Best Foam Roller for Runners?
This depends on your needs, preferences and budget. All of the foam rollers above are great choices and fit into a range of budgets.
We hope you enjoyed our article on the best foam rollers for runners in 2021 and feel ready to start including foam rolling in your routine.
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