16 Best Foam Rollers for Back Pain & Recovery 2019 [Complete Guide]

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We all know how sore our muscles can be after a good gym session.

If there was a simple solution to reducing delayed onset muscle soreness and speeding recovery in time for the next work-out, we’d grab it, wouldn’t we?

Well, guess what?

There is a solution! It’s called foam rolling and it really works.

two girls training in gym with foam roller

You’ve probably seen foam rollers floating around at the gym. They’ve become a pretty popular tool for carrying out self-massage, specifically myofascial release.

Well, having your own foam roller at home opens up a world of opportunities for speeding your recovery and preventing injury.

This article will introduce you to the best foam rollers on the market right now for rolling out your muscles at home.

Later, we’ll go into a bit more depth as to how best to use a foam roller. But for now, read on for the inside scoop on your next piece of essential gym equipment!

TOP 16 Best Foam Rollers 2019 Reviewed

LuxFit Extra Firm Speckled Foam Roller

Review: This is one of the most popular foam rollers on the market.

The longer length options available make rolling really easy if you’re a beginner as you don’t have to keep readjusting the position of the roller against your body.

Pros

  • Comes in 4 different length options, 12”, 18”, 24” and 36”.
  • Water repellent material means you don’t have to worry about the roller absorbing your sweat.
  • Extra firm foam holds its shape after repeated uses.
  • Affordable and durable.

Cons

  • The firmness will feel hard against your muscles to begin with until you get used to it.

Takeaway

This is one of the best foam rollers 2019 being affordable, good quality and reliable. The long length available also makes it one of the best foam rollers for back pain.

Triggerpoint Grid Foam Roller

Review: This is easily one of the best foam rollers 2019, being extremely popular with users and physiotherapists alike.

It is designed to be long lasting with ability to provide targeted massage. The hollow-core design is pretty unique in the world of foam rollers but it works, having a solid construction that won’t collapse.

Pros

  • Comes with free online instructional videos.
  • The multidimensional surface helps with circulation and recovery.
  • Very durable.
  • Very firm.

Cons

  • A little pricier than other models.

Takeaway

This is easily one of the best foam rollers 2019 (plus it comes highly recommended from my fellow fitness friends). It is the roller you’ll want to invest in if you intend to use it for massage purposes for many years to come.

Rolling With It EVA Foam Roller

Review: This foam roller is among the best of the best with a comfortable smooth texture, a good amount of firmness and very durable, good quality material that will not lose its shape.

Pros

  • 3 lengths available making ideal for use on all body parts.
  • Eco-friendly EVA foam is free of phthalates and does not chip or flake.
  • It has a good amount of grip as opposed to slippery Styrofoam which makes it good for other exercises as well as rolling.

Cons

  • Has a slight chemical smell when you first open it but the smell dissipates after a few days.

Takeaway

This is a top quality foam roller that will last a long time and can be used for other exercises as well as rolling. This is the best foam roller for stretching exercises due to its grip.

SPRI Foam Roller

Review: This is another top rated foam roller that will last a long time and hold its shape. It comes in 2 length options (18” or 36”) and is made of high density foam with appropriate firmness for its rolling purpose.

Pros

  • Firm, high density, good quality foam.
  • Slightly softer than the Trigger Point above could make it good for beginners.
  • Long length is good for rolling the back.

Cons

  • The ends may rise off the ground a little when you roll.

Takeaway

This is reliable, good quality foam roller which is an example of the best foam roller for runners, with the right level of firmness and a smooth comfortable texture for use on the legs.

AmazonBasics High-Density Round Foam Roller

Review: This is a good quality roller for an affordable price which makes it a great option if you want to spend a little less. It is firm and durable while also being lightweight.

Pros

  • Lightweight and easy to clean.
  • Affordable.
  • Maintains its shape and firmness over time.
  • Comes in 3 different lengths and several color options.

Cons

  • It has a raised seam down the sides which you may want to remove with your nail scissors.

Takeaway

This roller is a good balance of quality and affordability, easily being the best foam roller for athletes on a budget.

Reehut Foam Roller

Review: This is a good quality high density foam roller, about which I’ve heard a lot of good feedback. It is durable, lightweight and easy to clean

Pros

  • Comes in 4 different length options.
  • Expanded Polypropylene (EPP) foam is lightweight, non-toxic and recyclable.
  • Ant-slip textured surface means you can use it on smooth floors.
  • Very good value for money.

Cons

  • Definitely on the firm side of foam rollers so may be too firm unless you’re experienced with rolling.

Takeaway

This is a reliable foam roller, similar to the AmazonBasics roller but a little firmer. The long length version of this roller is another of the best foam rollers for back pain.

Gaiam Restore Muscle Massage Foam Roller

Review: This medium density foam roller is firm enough to give you an effective massage but more gentle than the high density foam rollers on this list making it one of the best foam rollers for beginners.

Pros

  • Semi-firm density is well-suited for beginners.
  • Includes a 15 minute digital introductory workout.
  • Comes in 18” or 36” lengths.
  • Doubles as a roller for exercise purposes as well as massage.

Cons

  • Less durable than the firm, high density rollers on this list.

Takeaway

This roller is a great choice if you’re looking for a slightly softer alternative to the high density rollers on this list.

Yes4All Premium PE Foam Roller

Review: This is another great medium density foam roller that is ideal for beginners as it is slightly less firm than the high density types.

Its softer foam will introduce you to rolling without having you cry out in pain.

Pros

  • Available in a range of colors and 4 different lengths.
  • Made of 100% PE non-toxic foam.
  • Made in the USA and designed to be a little heavier than other medium density rollers.

Cons

  • It won’t last as long as the firmer high density rollers and will eventually lose its shape depending on how much you use it.

Takeaway

This is another of the best foam rollers for beginners, being softer and easier to use than the extra firm rollers.

OPTP Pro-Roller Soft Density Foam Roller

Review: This is another great option for beginners to foam rolling, being even softer than the two medium density options above.

It’s comfortable to use, but not so soft that you don’t benefit from using it.

Pros

  • Made of closed-cell EVA foam, it is water resistant and easy to clean.
  • Popular with users for the MELT method.
  • Soft enough for beginners to comfortably get used to foam rolling.

Cons

  • Pretty expensive compared to most of the rollers on this list.

Takeaway

This is a good quality, soft foam roller which is another of the best foam rollers for beginners and well suited for the MELT method.

321 Strong Foam Roller

Review: This is a medium density roller with a similar grid design as the popular Triggerpoint rollers, but that is designed to be soft enough to use when in pain.

Pros

  • Lightweight and easy to transport at just 1 lb.
  • 3 different zones of textures on the surface provide options for different intensity massages.
  • 100% EVA foam core.

Cons

  • The surface texture means it can be tricky to get a smooth roll going as the zones change.

Takeaway

If you can get used to how to you use it, this is great medium density textured roller.

USA Foam Roller

Review: Warning: users should know what they’re getting themselves into when they purchase a high density, extra firm foam roller. It is supposed to be hard, and it will hurt, but that is how you know it’s doing its job! This roller is no exception.

Pros

  • Very affordable.
  • One of the firmest rollers on the market.
  • Two length options available.

Cons

  • The extra firmness may take a bit of getting used to.

Takeaway

If you’ve been rolling for a while and are looking to step it up to the next level, this could be the foam roller you’re looking for. If you’re prepared for it, this is the best foam roller for back pain.

Hyperice Vyper 2.0 High Intensity Vibrating Roller

Review: Vibrating massage rollers are designed to give a superior massage when compared to regular foam rollers by delivering vibrations that penetrate the muscles and relieve tension while being less painful than conventional rolling.

Pros

  • 3 Vibration intensities.
  • 2 Hours of battery life and rechargeable batteries.
  • Dual textured polypropylene shell.

Cons

  • Can be noisy if using on a non-carpeted floor.
  • Some issues with charging.

Takeaway

This is the best vibrating foam roller available right now, being top quality, reliable and effective. The vibrations also make it a great choice when looking for the best foam roller for lower back pain.

NextRoller 3-Speed Vibrating Foam Roller

Review: Similar to the Hyperice above but more affordable, this is another great option for a vibrating foam roller if you’re looking for a more effective massage than just foam rolling.

Pros

  • 3 intensities of vibrations to choose from.
  • 2 hour battery life is more time that you need for a solid massage.
  • Textured surface provides even deeper massage.

Cons

  • Makes a slightly funky crackling sounds when you roll on it for some people but this doesn’t affect it.

Takeaway

This is among the best vibrating foam roller models on the market.

Rumbleroller Deep-Tissue Massage Roller

Review: Not to be used by the faint-hearted, this deep-tissue massage roller really does target the deep tissue and will be painful, there is no getting around that – but that’s how you know it’s working!

Should only be used by experienced rollers as it will be too painful for beginners.

Pros

  • Deep-tissue massage without having to pay to visit a massage therapist.
  • Very firm, durable and long lasting.
  • The right amount of firmness for a solid massage.

Cons

  • Not suitable for beginners or those with a low pain threshold.

Takeaway

This is the best massage foam roller if you’re looking for a deep-tissue treatment.

Rollga Foam Roller PRO

Review: This foam roller has a different shape to the smooth rollers above, being contoured to bypass the bones when rolling on your back.

You’ll either find it works really well for you, or that you prefer that smooth shape of the more conventional rollers.

Pros

  • Contoured shape allows for contact with specific muscles while avoiding tendons or bones which is ideal for the back and could be a great intermediate step to ITB rolling.
  • Durable and hardwearing, it will retain its shape and firmness.
  • Versatile shape can be used on all body parts.

Cons

  • A little more pricey than other rollers.

Takeaway

This is the best foam roller for upper back pain due to its contoured shape which will effectively reach tight areas around the shoulder blades and either side of the spine.

Its shape may also make it the best foam roller for lower back pain, effectively relieving the lumbar spine muscles without putting pressure on the spine itself.

Because You Can Fitness Muscle Roller Stick

Review: A slightly different option from the foam rollers above, massage sticks like this one use the same principle but give a deeper massage due to the narrower diameter.

The handles stay still in your hands while the middle sections roll over your muscles.

Pros

  • Solid steel core is durable and won’t bend.
  • Small enough to easily transport in your gym bag.
  • 9 separate rollers are pressure sensitive and will roll at different speeds for a superior massage.
  • Ideal for the arch of your foot.

Cons

  • Not suitable for your back unless you can get someone else to do it for you!

Takeaway

This massage stick can be an alternative to a foam roller or complement it, providing a deeper, more intense massage.

This is a great choice if you’re looking for the best portable foam roller.

Introduction to Foam Rollers

A foam roller is literally a piece of relatively firm foam in a cylindrical shape that is designed to lie on the ground and allow you to move your body weight over it.

Allowing certain parts of your body to rest on the foam roller creates a massaging effect as the force of gravity creates pressure on the muscle that is in contact with the foam roller.

As self-massage using your hands can be tricky to carry out effectively, a foam roller makes self-massage much easier.

Known as the “poor man’s massage”, foam rolling helps to release the fascia and allow your muscles to recover more effectively.

The fascia is the thin layer of connective tissue that runs over and around all of the muscles in your body, containing them and separating them from organs and other muscles.

In order for your muscles to stretch and recover after a workout, the fascia must also be stretched and released. Foam rolling is one of the most effective ways to do this.

man using a foam roller

Benefits of Using a Foam Roller

Self-myofascial release by foam rolling can help to relieve pain associated with delayed onset muscle soreness resulting from strenuous physical activity.

Carried out prior to working out, foam rolling can also temporarily increase flexibility and reduce the chances of injury.

Done after a work-out, foam rolling aids in recovery.

Foam rollers are especially useful for massaging parts of the body that are hard to stretch.

For example, massaging the iliotibial band (ITB) with a foam roller is the most effective way to stretch out the ITB, as conventional stretches for the ITB can be pretty awkward to put into practice in an effective way.

Most people’s ITBs are pretty tight so rolling your ITB with a foam roller will be painful the first time you do it.

However, it is worth working through the pain and getting to the point where you can roll out your ITB relatively easily, as a tight ITB is one of the most common causes of injury in active people.

Other parts of the body that benefit greatly from foam rolling include the quads, calves, hamstrings, hip flexors, glutes and upper back.

Types of Foam Rollers

Foam rollers vary depending on their diameter, firmness and texture.

The best muscle roller for you will be one that matches the intensity of the massage you’re looking for.

For beginners, softer foam rollers will allow a more gentle introduction to the technique and allow your muscles time to get used to the sensation.

It’s important to introduce yourself gradually to foam rolling by starting with a softer roller as you’ll find it much easier to keep your muscles relaxed and they’ll get a chance to benefit from the rolling.

If you start with a roller that is too firm, the pain of rolling will make you tense your muscles and you won’t experience any release.

As you get used to foam rolling you can increase the firmness of the roller you use and you might even start to enjoy the pain!

Most rollers have a diameter of 6” and vary in length. Longer lengths are better suited for rolling your upper back as they can span the width of your shoulders without you falling off either side.

If you’re primarily focussing on your legs, shorter foam rollers can be easier to maneuver.

For most people, a foam roller with a smooth surface will be more than adequate. But for people with seriously knotted and tight muscles, old injuries or scar tissue, textured foam rollers that give a more intense massage may be the way to go.

How to Use a Foam Roller

Using a foam roller is easy, but it takes practice to get really effective at it.

Your muscles need to get used to the sensation of rolling so that the pain isn’t too intense and you can stay relaxed without tensing up and forgetting to breathe.

Your arms also need to be strong enough to hold the part of your body that you’re not rolling so that you can control the amount of body weight you’re putting on the roller.

There are some great videos online with foam roller demonstrations.

But the basic idea is to place the foam roller on the ground, rest the muscle that needs massaging on top of the foam roller and move your body weight slowly over the roller.

Ideally, you should spend a couple of minutes on each muscle and hold for 30 seconds once you find the spot that needs the attention.

Don’t forget to breathe!

If you need more intensity, increase the load of body weight on the roller by lessening the amount of weight that you’re putting on the ground.

If you’re primarily focussing on rolling your back, there are definitely some things you shouldn’t be doing!

So, make sure you’ve checked out some tutorials on foam rolling your back to keep your spine safe – it’s an important part of your body!

And remember, to get the best results from your foam rolling, it needs to become a regular part of your stretching routine.

Foam rolling once in a blue moon isn’t going to make any significant difference to your muscle health. Ideally, you should spend some time foam rolling as often as you work out, ie. most days of the week.

If you’re interested in more running specific foam roller know-how, check out our article on foam rollers for runners.

Other Ways of Using Your Foam Roller

Foam rollers aren’t just for massage. They can be used for stretching and core strength exercises as well.

Most strengthening exercises using the foam roller involve balancing on the roller in a certain way.

For example, many body weight exercises can be modified to include the roller, adding a balance component which makes the exercise harder.

For example, doing press-ups with either your hands or feet balanced on the roller make a simple exercise much more challenging, activating many more muscles.

However, this shouldn’t be attempted unless you’re already very competent with press ups as the risk for injury is fairly high.

The abs in particular can get a great work out using a foam roller.

One great example involves getting into the plank position with your shins on the foam roller.

You then bring your knees towards your arms by rolling the roller underneath your shins until it reaches the tops of your feet.

Then you push your legs back until your legs are straight again and the roller is underneath the tops of your shins where it started.

DIY Foam Rollers

If you’re in a pinch, whether you’re waiting for your newly purchased foam roller to arrive or haven’t yet decided which to purchase, some household items can make great substitute foam rollers to keep your muscles supple and knot-free.

Some of the most effective household items are:

  • A wide diameter wooden rolling pin.
  • A stainless steel water bottle or a plastic bottle that’s been placed in the freezer.
  • A length of PVC pipe.
  • A tennis ball.

Bear in mind that these objects won’t be as effective as a foam roller, but they can be a great temporary solution.

The rolling pin and drink bottle option may be a little hard if your muscles are unaccustomed to massage, but wrapping a towel around them can help with this.

That concludes this guide to Foam Rollers.

I’ve hope you’ve found it interesting and informative and now feel confident about including foam rollers in your exercise and recovery regime.

Be sure to subscribe if you haven’t already, and feel free to comment below if you’ve had some personal experience with foam rollers.