The Best Foam Rollers

Foam rolling: These days, it seems like everybody’s doing it. A growing body of research as well as bodywork pros—physical therapists, massage therapists, and personal trainers alike—extol the soft-tissue benefits of self-massage for improvements in muscular flexibility and reduction in stiffness (and even pain). Gyms and physical-therapy centers are strewn with them, but how do you know what rollers are best for at-home use? To find out, we whittled down hundreds of options to a top-selling selection of the most popular roller types, and enlisted a cadre of experts and their muscles for more than 45 hours of kneading and compressing. We discovered that the ubiquitous firm-density foam rollers made of expanded polypropylene (EPP) aren’t much different from one another, at least in terms of the therapeutic benefits they can deliver. But the AmazonBasics High-Density Round Foam Roller 36″ stood out from the EPP pack as the best basic roller, proving you don’t have to spend a lot to get relief.

Our pick

AmazonBasics High-Density Round Foam Roller 36″

The AmazonBasics roller provides the firm density experts recommend—with a slight surface texture to prevent slipping—at an affordable price.

Buying Options

*At the time of publishing, the price was $20.

For self-myofascial release (SMR, aka massaging your own muscles) as well as for use in certain exercises, the AmazonBasics High-Density Round Foam Roller 36″ does as good a job as other foam rollers at a lower price. Made of EPP, the cylinder has a slightly rough surface texture that keeps it from slipping against clothes or the floor, and the 36-inch size allows for techniques that smaller rollers don’t, like stretches that involve lying along its length. The only caveat is that people who are new to foam rolling or sensitive to the pressure of self-massage (it can hurt!) might find the very firm density—like that of just about any EPP roller—to be too intense.


OPTP Black Axis Firm Foam Roller

OPTP has a well-earned good name in pro circles, and our experts were similarly impressed with the Black Axis roller for easing out muscle knots and tightness.

A great roller that’s not our top pick because it costs a bit more than our top pick, the OPTP Black Axis Firm Foam Roller is a firm-density EPP foam roller, considered the gold standard for alleviating muscle tension and knots. It delivers as expected, with the company’s 30-plus-year reputation for quality, long-lasting equipment under its belt.

Also great

Gaiam Restore Total Body Foam Roller

For rolling newbies (or those looking for a softer touch), Gaiam Restore’s medium-density roller has a bit more give than a firm EPP roller but still maintains its shape under pressure.

Buying Options

*At the time of publishing, the price was $28.

When you’re new to rolling, it can hurt. The Gaiam Restore Total Body Foam Roller, made of polyethylene foam, is less dense and therefore less intense on muscles than the EPP material of firm rollers. But it isn’t so soft that it immediately warps under weight, and its full 36-inch length makes it useful for all sorts of rolling and exercise purposes. However, simply due to the nature of the material—not to mention the fact that your muscles will eventually adapt and may need a firmer pressure—it’s unlikely to last as long as a standard black roller.

Also great

TriggerPoint Rush Roller

More expensive than our other picks and available only in a 13-inch length, the Rush Roller nevertheless delivers thanks to a diamond-shaped pattern of ridges that allows you to address knots in specific muscle groups (calves, glutes, and so on) with precision.

Buying Options

*At the time of publishing, the price was $45.

We like the textured TriggerPoint Rush Roller for targeted, deeper work on areas like glutes, hamstrings, and calves. At just 13 inches, the Rush isn’t as versatile for spanning the length of larger muscle groups, such as the upper back. But as a complement to a longer, smooth roller—or a compact option that allows for both rolling and sustained trigger-point work—its pattern of diamond-shaped ridges addresses knots with a degree of control (and an intensity) that we struggled to access with other highly textured rollers. If you’re new to rolling or thinking of upping the ante, the Rush is quite firm—more so than our other picks, as well as its sibling, the TriggerPoint Grid 2.0, which we also tested.

Also great

18″ Tiger Tail (The Classic)

For portable SMR, Tiger Tail is a rolling massage stick with a plastic core encased in finely textured, dense foam. It’s lightweight yet can really dig into tight spots.

The rolling-pin-like 18″ Tiger Tail (The Classic) is made of foam-covered plastic with comfy rubberized handles. Given its petite size, it’s great for travel, as well as for digging into smaller spots on the body, particularly the neck and calves. On the flip side, it’s not nearly as good at SMR for larger muscle groups—you simply can’t get the same level of pressure or expansiveness as you can by lying on top of a large foam roller—so it’s best used as a supplemental product.

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