The best foam rollers tested: Myofascial release never felt so good

They see us rollin' – they hatin'
We roll with the best foam rollers

Simply buying a plastic tube can save hundreds of pounds on paying for expensive sports massages – and that's why foam rollers have exploded in popularity in the last decade.

The science behind it is largely focused on how it can help relieve knots in the fascia that covers and connect tissues throughout the human body. Sometimes that fascia can clump together and cause aches and pains. Myofascial release, either using a foam roller or through massage, can help loosen and relieve those knots, allowing blood to flow freely again.

Why is that important for fitness? Well, one of the main causes of those knots is through overuse and exercise - don’t do anything about it and it could get worse. The other benefit of using a foam roller for many people is that it’s a great way to warm up the body before a workout. Considering you can get yourself one for less than the price of a burger and chips, it’s an investment that’s well worth looking into.

Roll away your training woes with the best foam rollers available

How we tested

Alas, the choice of foam rollers on the market is growing quickly, with technical innovations ranging from vibrating and heated foam rollers to a selection of shapes that frankly look like they’re designed for a toddler to play with. Here we test out the various products available to see which you should be spending your money on.

When testing foam rollers we looked specifically at product-specific factors, instead of any medical or physiological effects they might have (we’re not physiotherapists). Things like the quality of the build, hardness, how they feel, interesting features, value for money and if they actually do what they say they’re meant to.

Hyperice Vyper 2.0

Buy now: Hyperice (US) / Amazon | $199

Foam rollers

The idea of adding vibration to exercise is hardly a new innovation. Back as far as the mid 19th century, machines were designed for the sole purpose of vibrating people to lose fat. It’s a concept that’s seen an occasional resurgence, with one of the most recent being the widespread inclusion of vibrating plates to gyms around the world. It’s always been an area of skepticism in the industry when it comes to training benefits, but does it have benefits for massage?

The Vyper 2.0 is the latest iteration of the brands vibrating foam roller. At first glance, it’s largely what you’d expect from a foam roller in terms of size and shape. The material used on the exterior is an eco-friendly, poly-propylene that makes for one of the hardest rollers on the list. The finish is a mix of slight grooves and smaller, smoother sections with a sort of bobbly matt finish. It also comes in a range of five color options.

According to the manufacturer specifications, the Vyper 2.0 is the most powerful vibrating roller on the market, and to be completely honest, it does indeed vibrate an awful lot. Powered via a rechargeable lithium battery (two hours of use per charge), it works on three frequency levels: 45, 68 and 92 HZ. Those numbers don’t mean a great deal to us, but when you press the button to hit the top setting we were surprised out how much it vibrated. If you turn it on without holding it to the ground with your body it bounces around the floor until you can finally grab it.

How does it feel?

Without the vibration turned on, the effect of the relatively smooth outer shell is minimal. It’s essentially just a hard foam roller. As soon as you flick it to vibrate things change quite dramatically. In terms of shape and design, the Vyper 2.0 is a long way from being the deepest sensation we've felt, but with the vibration setting on you definitely get a feeling that muscles are being pummelled. Overall the feeling is more one of relaxation than the pain felt by many others out there.

Brazyn Morph Collapsible Foam Roller

Buy now: Brazyn (US) / Amazon | $64

Foam rollers

The concept behind Brazyn’s Morph roller is very simple. Based on the principle that foam rollers are too large to transport when you’re traveling, especially if you’re only carrying hand luggage, it's created a product that’s collapsible. During use it’s designed to replicate the size and shape of an average-sized roller, once collapsed it becomes flattened into a shape which can easily slip into a bag.

According to Brazyn, the industry-standard size for a foam roller is 5.5 inches diameter and 14.5 inches long, the exact size of the Morph. Inside that cylinder sit two sheets of thick circular metal that hold the shape and structural strength of the roller when it’s in use. By pushing the plates inside the cylinder they flip down and allow the whole thing to collapse. These two plates have strings connected between them with plastic loops. Pull them both at the same time and the flat roller opens up again. It’s a nice easy system to use that feels remarkably sturdy once set up. Apparently, it’s been tested at over 350Ibs. Which is reassuring.

For us, the term flat is a bit of an overstatement. It’s definitely a lot smaller and easier to slip into a backpack, however it still takes up a bit more space than we were expecting. A comparison in thickness would be a fairly chunky book.

How does it feel?

The build is surprisingly sturdy once you’ve pulled the mechanism out, something we weren't expecting, the process of opening it and closing it is also extremely easy. The exterior of the roller is by far the softest on the list, so if you're looking for a really deep tissue sensation it's unlikely the Brazyn will do the job. For beginners, or people looking for a very clever piece of kit that offers a nice easy roll, it's worth investigating.

Moji Heated Foam Roller

Buy now: Moji (US) | $89.99

Foam rollers

The benefits of heat are well known when it comes to health and fitness, so it’s not surprising that a foam roller would appear introducing it as a feature. According to Moji, by adding heat therapy into a roller, benefits include reducing muscle stiffness, increasing circulation, raising tissue temperature, and it helps to minimize the pain associated with it. However, much like vibration, the benefits of heat when added to a foam roller are open to debate.

Due to the fact it needs to be small enough to heat up in a microwave, the Moji heated roller is by far one of the more minimal products we’ve seen The unit splits, via a simple click lock system, into two separate parts that can be used/carried independently or, once heated, clicked back together. The outer rubber on the roller is limited, so it’s a fairly hard roller. There are some protruding rubber blocks that run across the roller, but they’re fairly small. The other thing we noticed, presumably due to the heatable material inside, is that the roller is quite heavy in comparison to the others we’ve tested.

How does it feel?

After being placed in the microwave for the suggested 3 minutes 20, we were surprised by how hot the roller becomes. After rolling out our calves for a couple of minutes the heat coming through the outer covering was extremely high, not unbearable but a lot more than we had expected. When we tried it out on the back muscles it was even more noticeable. It also retained the heat for around 45 minutes, which is far more than we expected.

The material and grooves on the outer casing are at the softer end of the spectrum, but presumably, this is because the heat wouldn't dissipate so well with a more pointy design.

Lululemon Double Roller

Buy now: Lululemon (UK) / Lululemon (US) | $58

Foam rollers

As we were working on this selection of foam rollers, it was Lululemon’s double roller that came as the biggest surprise to us. Firstly because we didn’t even know that Lululemon had a foam roller until researching the available options, and secondly because it’s by far one of the most interesting and creative foam roller designs we’ve ever seen.

The name, logically, comes from the fact that the roller can be split into two separate units. The outer roller is a soft, ridged option that’s designed to be used on the arms and legs, whilst the second is a much more severe looking roller with a harder surface and much deeper grooves. Visually, as you’d probably expect from Lululemon, it’s a beautiful looking product. The outer has a marble finish whilst the inner a darker, granite look. Even if you don’t even plan on doing any foam rolling, put it on a mantlepiece and let it tie the room together.

How does it feel?

When using the soft outer roller the sensation is fairly soft. If this was the only option then we might have been dismayed. The inner roller, however, is designed in such a way that the enormous grooves really delve deep into the muscles. Again, if this was the only option it may be an issue. The fact that you get two ends of the spectrum makes this a really impressive piece of kit. Perfect for beginners as well as those wanting something significantly tougher. The two options also mean you can add a different level of pressure to areas where you might be particularly sensitive, without having to buy two rollers.

RumbleRoller Original

Buy now: RumbleRoller (UK) / Amazon | $67.90

Foam rollers

There really aren’t many brands out there that have built such an impressive level of trust around their foam roller products as RumbleRoller have. It's a company that do one thing well, and that’s make high-quality foam rolling and massage products that do exactly what you expect them to.

Our favourite product from their range is the original RumbleRoller, a full-on, tough piece of kit which is built to last as well as get deep into the muscles. You can choose between three different length options as well as three levels of hardness, dependent on where and how you plan to use it (longest for when you’re at home/need the best range of movement and hardest from when you’re a seasoned “roller”).

How does it feel?

If you’re looking for a roller that’s going to push deep into those aches and pains, then the RumbleRoller original is a great option. Not as good as the Lululemon for getting deep into the whole muscle, but the design is perfect for tackling really specific areas. It's also one of the sturdiest and toughest options we've tried. It'll last you for years.

Rumble Roller Gator

Buy now: RumbleRoller (UK) / Amazon (UK) | £49.95

Foam rollers

Yes, we’ve included a second option for RumbleRumble, for the simple reason that the Gator is designed so differently than its original counterpart. On one hand, the Gator is a great option for people that are new to myofascial release and want something effective, that isn’t going to have them crying out in pain. On the other, the Gator works on a principle of gripping the skin and adding cross-friction (a slightly different technique from most rollers).

The outer shell of the Gator is made up of small 1cm protrusions that act like little finger grips for your skin, holding it in place as the roller pushes into the muscle. The foam roller itself is actually one of the harder products we’ve seen and once you’ve worked out the slightly modified way to use it, is a very impressively designed piece of kit. In contrast to the original RumbleRoller, the Gator only comes in one option.

How does it feel?

The concept of pulling the roller and then rolling seems to work surprisingly well. As a standalone roller, it’s just a good harder product. But incorporate the technique in the instructions and it works very well causing a muscular sensation we haven't felt in any other roller. Well worth a look if you want to try a new format of roller out.

Tiger Tail Long One

Buy now: Tiger Tail (UK) / Amazon | $34.93

Foam rollers

Yes, we know the Tiger Tail Long One isn’t a foam roller per se, but we’ve added it to this list for the simple facts that 1) we love it and 2) it offers a great alternative to a foam roller in a number of scenarios. So, if you’re looking for a roller that you can use on the move or whilst sitting at your desk at work, it beats everything else on the list by a mile.

Unlike your average foam rollers that can only be used on a flat surface, Tiger Tail’s massage sticks are designed to be used from a standing or seated position, which makes them significantly less antisocial when it comes to using it in public, or when you lack the space to sprawl out on the floor. It's especially good for taking with you when you’re planning on a long run/cycle/swim/anything active and you need to warm-up or cool down the muscles.

How does it feel?

The Tiger Tail Long One is a great piece of kit to have either instead of a foam roller or to use as well as one. The shape and size mean that you can really get into muscles that aren't always easy when using a normal one on the floor. You can also use it in positions other than lying down, meaning that the effect on the muscles feels significantly different.

Amazon Basics Foam Roller

Buy now: Amazon | $9.94

Foam rollers

Not all of us need to spend loads of money on a foam roller, especially if you’re a beginner and your body isn’t used to the joy (intense pain) of myofascial release, then you can get away with something that sits far lower on the pricing scale.

The Amazon Basics foam roller is exactly what it says on the tin, a very basic device for foam rolling. It has no fancy materials, no pointy sticky out bits and definitely no creative mechanical functions that make it interesting to write about. It’s essentially nothing more than a tube of polypropylene than can be used to roll your body parts on. It’s also a job that it does very well, especially if you’re a beginner or have particularly sensitive fascia.

How does it feel?

To be honest, if you’re already used to foam rolling, it’s not going to do a lot for you unless you need something gentle for a specific area. The polypropylene material used to make it by far the lightest and softest on the list and it takes a fair bit of rolling to start to feel it working its way into the fascia. That said, the really light material actually has a bit more strength than we initially thought. Once you really worked into it you can get a moderate level pressure.

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