Foam rollers look deceptively simple. But this cylinder, made of firm foam or plastic, can pack a powerful punch. Foam rollers can target sore muscles and can help them recover more quickly from a workout. Here’s how to choose the best one for you.
While a foam roller should never hurt, the firmness can feel intense on certain muscles. The theory behind foam rolling for muscle aches is that the pressure of the roller may increase blood flow and circulation. As always, get a sign off from your doc or physical therapist before you start a new fitness routine.
Part of the reason a massage feels so good is that skilled hands and fingers can reach deep into areas of the muscle that may be fatigued. Rollers with bumps or grids can mimic this feeling, providing intense sensations to stressed muscles, including the ones at the bottom of the foot. Some people like rolling out their muscles before a workout to get their blood circulating, and then using it again post-workout as a way to relax their body.
The benefit of a foam roller is that your bodyweight controls its pressure. A light touch will give a subtle massage, while putting full bodyweight will let the roller hit key trigger points. Using a foam roller can also be meditative for many. It’s a way to close the workout and take time to catch your breath, cool down and collect your thoughts for the rest of the day.