TOP 9 Best Foam Rollers & Massage Sticks for Runners Reviewed 2020

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 2020 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 2020

First up, foam rollers.

LuxFit Premium High Density Foam Roller

Review: The LuxFit High Density foam roller is an excellent value option. Coming in far cheaper than the competition, this foam roller is not only effective but also affordable.

It comes in three lengths – 12”, 18” and 36” and all have a 6” diameter. It’s reasonably firm so it could be uncomfortable for first-time users. But you’ll get used to it!

If you’re looking for an economical option, this still is a good fit and a nice place to start.

Pros

  • Excellent value.
  • Effective.
  • Affordable.
  • Durable material – doesn’t flake.

Cons

  • None.

Takeaway

This foam roller does the job at a reasonable price. It is an excellent choice for someone who has never foam rolled before and wants to test it out.

TriggerPoint GRID Foam Roller

Review: The TriggerPoint GRID is probably the most popular foam roller on the market right now and for good reason.

The rigid hollow core holds its shape while the grid design provides a little texture for softer feel that allows you to work out knots.

This allows for a much more comfortable experience for those who are new to foam rolling. It’s 26” long by 5.5” wide which is a good length for stability.

Pros

  • Very effective.
  • Numerous massage options.
  • Very durable.
  • Light.
  • Portable.

Cons

  • Expensive.

Takeaway

The only downside with this roller is the price. While it is not cheap, it is by far the most effective foam roller on the market. This could be the best foam roller for calves.

RumbleRoller Gator Foam Roller

Review: Next on our list is the RumbleRoller. It features a rigid pattern that helps deliver a deep tissue massage and is designed specifically for cross-friction massage.

The RumbleRoller is about the same price as the Trigger Point foam roller but is structured in a pattern that can really dig deep into tightened muscles.

While it might be more painful at first, the after-effects of using this roller on damaged or tight muscles is unmatched.

It’s 22” long and has a smaller 4.5” diameter than most other foam rollers which also makes for a more intense experience.

Pros

  • Cross-frictional massage.
  • Rigid.
  • Effective.
  • Durable.
  • Light.

Cons

  • Expensive.

Takeaway

This foam roller is a good option for experienced athletes. It is an effective tool for releasing muscles, but will not be gentle. It could be the best foam roller for shin splints if you can handle it!

Reehut Foam Roller

Review: Similar to the LuxFit but even more affordable, this is a standard, solid, non-textured EPP foam roller that is ideal for people on a budget.

It comes in 4 different lengths, 12, 18, 24 and 36”, is 6” wide, and it comes with a free instructional ebook which is a great bonus.

Pros

  • Affordable.
  • Does the job.
  • Durable.
  • Four lengths available.

Cons

  • Few options.
  • Not durable.

Takeaway

An excellent, budget option that will definitely do the job. It may not last quite as long as some of the others but if you look after it and don’t let the dog chew it, it should last a good number of years!

SPRI Medium Density Foam Roller

Review: This is a medium-density closed-cell EVA foam roller which means it’s well suited to beginners looking for a less intense rolling experience, and it’s easy to clean with a damp cloth.

It comes in middle of the range price-wise and is available in two lengths, 26” and 36” with a 6” diameter.

Pros

  • Medium-density is more beginner-friendly.
  • Two lengths available.
  • Closed-cell foam won’t absorb sweat.
  • Durable.

Cons

  • A little pricey for EVA foam.

Takeaway

This is a great option if you’re looking for a durable but simple, non-textured foam roller with long lengths available at medium density.

Rollga Medium Density Foam Roller

Review: This is a different design to the classic foam roller, with a contoured rounded shape that allows you to target muscles while avoiding bones and tendons.

Its rounded shape also makes it great for working out knots and pressure points. The different colors represent different levels of firmness so you can gradually get firmer as your tolerance increases.

Pros

  • Most comfortable foam roller.
  • Different levels of firmness.
  • Compact and portable.

Cons

  • Too short for some uses.
  • May not be easy to use for ITB rolling.

Takeaway

This is an excellent foam roller for people wanting a more comfortable option for the whole body

Next, massage sticks!

The Stick - Therapeutic Body Massage Stick

Review: The original message stick, you have probably seen The Stick advertised on your favorite runner’s Instagram page or seen it used on the sidelines at just about any sporting event.

The Stick has been the standard in massage sticks since its inception. Now it comes in different colors, but with all the same effectiveness that made it popular in the first place.

The stick is light, small, and portable while being both reasonably priced and effective.

Pros

  • Light.
  • Portable.
  • Small.
  • Affordable.
  • Effective.

Cons

  • The white rollers roll individually and can catch hairs.

Takeaway

The original massage stick, the stick does exactly what it needs to do at a reasonable price.

Tiger Tail Massage Stick

Review: Similar to the Stick, the Tiger Tail Massage Stick does everything you need it to do.

Instead of going with a large number of little white rollers, it goes with a piece of black foam to massage yourself which may be more comfortable for some people.

It’s light, portable, small, and effective.

Pros

  • Light.
  • Portable.
  • Small.
  • Effective.

Cons

  • A little expensive.

Takeaway

I recommend purchasing this massage stick if the white rollers on The Stick make it too uncomfortable for you to use. Personally, this is my favorite massage stick if you take out the price.

IDSON Muscle Roller Stick

Review: This roller is a little newer to the scene but has all the same qualities of The Stick and the Tiger Tail roller but at a more affordable price.

Both the handles and the rollers are very durable. Also, instead of going with individual rollers that may cause discomfort in the Stick, this roller uses one long textured roller.

Pros

  • Light.
  • Portable.
  • Small.
  • Effective.
  • Affordable.
  • Comfortable.

Cons

  • None.

Takeaway

This is an excellent value massage stick that is easy to use and effective.

Looking for more options? We have another article dedicated to foam rollers here.

man using a foam roller

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.

Cue: the foam roller.

Foam rolling is an effective form of self-massage that allows you to get much deeper than you would be able to with your hands, and is particularly good for myofascial release.

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.

two girls training in gym using foam rollers

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!

Stay Hydrated

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:

woman stretching legs before running

Firmness

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.

Texture

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.

Portability

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.

Material

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.

FAQ

two girls training in gym with foam roller

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 2020 and feel ready to start including foam rolling in your routine.

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