What to Look for in a Foam Roller

Foam rollers come in many shapes, sizes and textures. Know what features to look for before you start rolling.

May 03, 2017
A man using a foam roller on a gym mat. A man using a foam roller on a gym mat.

Whether you’re an avid athlete, a runner or a gym-goer, you’ve probably experienced the feeling of being sore. If you’re looking to find relief, however, that is where a foam roller could come in handy.

But with all the options out there, how can you find the best foam roller for you? Know what to look for so you can buy the right foam roller.


So, what is a foam roller anyway?

Foam rollers are made to help soothe muscles and can be great tools to use before or after a workout. The firm, yet comfortable surface is designed to help massage and stretch muscles by using a person’s body weight as they sit or lay on the roller and slowly roll back and forth.

When it comes to material, a foam roller can be made of a polyethylene foam, which is softer but can warp over time, or an EVA foam that tends to be denser and a bit more durable. There are also rollers that have reinforced plastic cores to help maintain density and increase their durability.


One important aspect to consider is density, or how firm it is. Foam rollers are often color-coded according to level of firmness. The scale can vary by brand but it typically follows the following color guide:

  • White: The least dense option, making it the softest of the bunch. These are often a great choice for those just getting started with foam rollers.

  • Colors: Foam rollers that are colorful typically have a medium density. These are a good choice if you’re looking for a firmer amount of pressure. You may see a variety of colors including blue, green, red, orange and more.

  • Black: As firm as it gets, as these are the densest option.


You’ll also have to think about what size foam roller is best for you.

Long rollers are typically around 36" long and great to use on larger areas of the body, like the back, quads and hamstrings. If you’re looking to target smaller parts of the body, look for a shorter foam roller. These are normally around 24" or smaller in length, and are great to use on your arms, calves and other small areas.

Most rollers are between 5"- 6" in diameter, which allows for a more controlled rolling experience.


Now it’s time to consider the roller’s surface. When purchasing your new foam roller, you have two surface options to choose from: smooth or textured.

When it comes to smooth foam rollers, these can be a great introduction to rolling. The smooth surface allows for an even pressure across the length of the massage. A smooth foam roller will not be as intense as a textured roller, which makes it a good stepping stone for beginners. Also, because of less engineering, smooth rollers will typically be less expensive than their ridged counterparts.

There are a number of textured foam roller options, depending on their desired intensity. The various ridges, knobs and bumps provide a deeper massage that can target a specific area to help sooth muscles. Texture patterns can vary by brand, but a general rule of thumb is that rollers with higher ridges and more defined points will offer a more intense massage.

When it comes to finding a foam roller for your lifestyle, there are many options. Each is designed for a specific purpose to help stretch and aid your sore muscles

Now that you know the different features to consider, you’re ready to find a foam roller that’s best for your lifestyle.