Stop thinking about purchasing that $15 foam roller from WalMart or a foam roller that is less than $30. If you do not have a foam roller but have chronic back pain, shoulder pain, leg pain, hip pain, knee pain, neck pain or any other physically annoying musculoskeletal sensitivity or injury you are making it worse every single day that you do not have access to a high quality myofascial release tool! If you have purchased a foam roller for that $15 price-tag I can only imagine that the shipping was almost just as expensive as the foam roller! If that is not true then your foam roller is or has become so soft that it can be used as a body pillow or a Pilates pillow roller; of course, the caveat to that is if it is a foot foam roller or something smaller than a traditional back massage style foam roller. Specifically, I am talking about those bulky foam rollers that can re-align your knotted up muscles in an instant.
Before I dive into the 5 considerations you should know prior to purchasing a foam roller or a myofascial release tool, I will briefly explain my background as one of the most experienced foam rolling experts in the world. First, I have patented the first and only foam roller with handles called the Atlas Foam Roller. I created the first Stretch Therapy Class that focuses on the integration of foam rolling, stretching and reflexology techniques that have documented evidence that my methods and tools work. Finally, unlike most manufacturers of foam rollers I foam roll every day for at least 30 min to 1 hour for the past 5 years. That is a lot of time analyzing the most effective ways to re-align convoluted knotted up muscles.
1. Choosing Either Smooth Or Textured is Tricky!
Stretch Therapy has enabled me to determine what types of foam rollers customers and clients prefer through surveys and qualitative data. Smooth foam rollers are preferred over textured foam rollers 5:1. More men prefer the bumpy rollers vs. women but overall both men and women prefer the smooth style rollers. The reason is because of the expected experience people receive while rolling out on a smooth vs. knobby foam roller. Understand that the knobby ends make for a bumpy foam rolling experience while a smooth foam roller is always smooth while getting only smoother over time. If you purchase a knobby foam roller, the foam roller will lose the knobby effect over time thus leading to a less desirable experience. As for the vibrating foam rollers, DO NOT BUY! The vibration is cheap and over rated while the foam roller is overpriced.
2. Determine If You Need High Density Or Medium Density Foam?
Think about the Density of the foam roller you are interested in buying. Most of our clients, customers & others surveyed prefer high density style foam rollers. Those that have muscle sensitivities such as fibromyalgia, multiple sclerosis, scoliosis, sarcopenia, osteoarthritis or other musculoskeletal sensitivities enjoy the medium density types of foam rollers. The way that you identify a medium density foam roller vs. a high-density foam roller is extremely easy, the high density is black and the medium density rollers are every other color imaginable. The high-density rollers are the most therapeutic and can be use by those with sensitivities with ZERO negative side effects other than less back pain and more flexibility.
3. What Size Are You Interested In?
What size foam roller is best for you? The common options are a 6×12” inch, 6×18” inch, 6×24” inch & 6×36” inch sizes. There are other non-preferred diameters such as the 4” diameter. Anything smaller than a 4” is considered a muscle roller for the feat or other small body part (less than 4” is not considered in this portion). The perfect size is the 6×18” inch foam rollers because they are a perfect universal length for the length of your back while the diameter works best for distance away from the ground. The 6×12” and 6×18” can both be easily carried around, traveled with and stored. Both the 6×24” & 6×36” size is more suited for home use.
4. Is Your Foam Roller High Quality or Made in a Foreign Country at the Lowest Bid?
There are many options out there like smooth, textured, collapsible, vibrating, foam rollers with handles, reinforced foam rollers, hand-held muscle rollers, foot rollers while more and more options are being invented yearly. Test them all out! See which one is most suited for you. Again, everyone loves handles. The vibrating mechanism needs to be charged after every use. I would not trust a collapsible foam roller. Do you have feet problems or tight calves, then a smaller high-density foam roller is going to be your best friend. Knobby roller vs. a smooth roller is 100% your preference. Of course, it is your decision whether you want a smooth or bumpy experience. Finally, a foam roller needs to be high quality, so if your foam roller is not reinforced then within 6 months of use it will turn into a pillow or exhibit what I call the “Pillow Effect.”
5. Does Your Foam Roller Come With Quality Instructions or 100 YouTube Ready-To-Stream Videos?
Make sure that the foam roller manufacturer or brand you buy from has quality instructions. In short make sure that they know what they are doing with a foam roller! In many pictures and videos I see models demonstrating 2 moves that are ineffective and in some cases lead to further injury. First, do not roll your IT Band in the North and South direction! When doing so you place too much pressure on the IT band. That much pressure can damage the IT band over the long term. Next, do not foam roll the hamstrings in the North and South direction. You will not injure yourself by rolling out your hamstrings in that fashion but you may just be wasting your time because it it ineffective to foam roll you hamstrings in that specific way.
This article is meant to be a guide for your first or next foam roller purchase. Whether my advice was what you were looking for it is important to understand that if you are willing to spend $60-90 on a piece of clothing that you may or may not wear more than once, then consider the quality of the foam roller you purchase. Do you want to look good in that expensive shirt or ensemble? Good! Then remember that healthy posture is more important than the hottest trending piece of clothing. Daily body maintenance specific to your metabolic & musculoskletal health are the most important investments you will make. Happy shopping!