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How to Choose a Foam Roller

Foam rolling is a form of self-myofascial release (SMR) that targets tense and overworked muscles. It is similar to myofascial release, a common technique in massage, otherwise known as deep-tissue massage. Licensed Massage Therapists use their hands, elbows or other tools to press directly on a tight muscle until it releases its tension. With the pressure created by your own body weight, you can use a foam roller on the back, hips, legs, arms, and other parts of the body, to release muscle knots. It can also be used to increase balance and core stability. Foam rollers differ in size, shape, foam type, and cost. By determining your specific uses for the foam roller, you can buy a foam roller that fits your needs. This article will tell you how to choose a foam roller.


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    Try out various foam rollers at a sports supply store or local gym. Most people learn to do foam rolling through a class or a personal trainer. These classes introduce techniques that can help you make the most of your foam roller and give you exercises to use with your roller.
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    Determine if you will use your foam roller primarily for tissue massage or if its dominant use will be for exercises like balance and core training. Although it is not round and only rolls slightly, a half-round foam roller can increase your balance when you stand on it. It is often used by physical therapists to enhance proprioception after injury to knees or ankles. Proprioception is your body's sense of its parts in relation to each other.
    • Half-round foam rollers are also a good choice for an elderly person or someone with little strength or muscle tone. When laid with the flat side down, the roller will not move easily out from under them. Simply laying on a half-round roller in the area of tight muscles can release tension. The user can also move back and forth slightly as they grow comfortable with the roller.
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    Choose your firmness. A decision of firmness should be based on your experience-level with the foam roller. Most foam rollers are color coded according to firmness. White rollers are the softest, followed by blue or green rollers of medium density and black foam rollers, which are the firmest.
    • Choose a white foam roller if you are just starting off with a foam roller or if you plan to use it for exercises. White foam rollers are often made of a piece of polyethylene foam and they are the least dense, so they will allow some movement between the muscles, bones and the roller. Foam rolling can be painful at the beginning because tight muscles are pushed upon with your full body weight. A white foam roller will produce less pressure and less pain.
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    • Choose a medium, lightly colored foam roller for advanced core-stabilization or a medium amount of massage pressure. These blue or green foam rollers are often made of closed cell polyethylene foam or EVA foam and they are common in Pilates classes.
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    • Choose a black foam roller if you are very experienced using a foam roller or desire hard pressure for self-massage. Although most black foam rollers are also made of polyethylene foam, they are closed cell and manufactured under high heat, making them smoother, denser and less porous.
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    Decide how often you will use the foam roller. For heavy use, it is recommended that you use a denser, black foam roller or EVA foam roller because they are highly durable. White and colored foam rollers made of polyethylene foam can warp over time in humidity and with repeated use. If you desire a softer foam roller, be sure to choose a brand that guarantees it will not warp.
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    Choose your foam roller size. With the exception of half-round foam rollers, most foam rollers have a 6 inch (15 cm) diameter. However, the length of the foam roller differs, ranging from 12 to 36 inches (30 to 90 cm).
    • Pick a 36 inch (90 cm) foam roller if you intend to use it on your back. A long foam roller will allow you to roll with it perpendicular to your back, without fear of falling off the ends. It can also be used to create proper alignment by laying on it with the roller parallel to your spine, giving it full support.
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    Select a 12 inch (30 cm) round roller if you intend to transport your roller often. For example, you may want to bring it to a Pilates class and use it at home.
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    Identify your budget. The cost of foam rollers depends upon the materials used.
    • A 12 inch (30) white foam roller will likely be the least expensive, costing under $15 (10 euros, 9 pounds). White foam rollers cost less because of the lower density of the foam.
    • A black foam roller of any size is considered a professional-grade roller and would likely cost around $30 (20 euros, 18 pounds).
    • EVA foam rollers are becoming more popular. They are often green. They are moderately firm and offer a more comfortable surface that is warm to the touch. They are advertised as being more durable than polyethylene foam rollers but will likely cost up to $45 (31 euros, 27 dollars).
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    Research your options in local fitness stores or on the Internet to find the best value for your budget. Buy your foam roller.


  • Work slowly into using a foam roller. Start by using it on muscles for 30 seconds and slowly increase time to 3 minutes or more.
  • If a muscle is very painful when it is pressed with a foam roller, it indicates a high amount of muscle tension. You should aim to use the foam roller more often to release the tension and reduce pain.


  • Be careful when using a foam roller if you have skin conditions or hyper-mobile joints. The rolling motion can exacerbate skin conditions, and people with movable joints can be easily injured if they use a foam roller over those joints.
  • People with balance or vertigo issues should not use foam rollers, as it can be harmful to the condition.

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Categories: Personal Fitness