What are the Best Foam Rollers and Self Massage Tools?

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UPDATE:  See my latest article Get in Shape in 2012 for more information about this article!

I am always evaluating new products and trying to make sure I am using the greatest and the latest tools to help my patients and athletes prevent and recover from injuries.  Over the last several months I got on a kick of trying to find the best foam rollers and self massage tools for trigger point releases, massaging muscles, and self myofascial release.  Below is my list of my favorite products. but as always if you have any additional products I’d love to test them, comment on this post.

Best Foam Roller

I think I can safely say that I have tried 90% of the extensive amount of foam rollers on the market.  Seems like every company has their on product but quality, material, durability, and price vary.

Perform Better Elite Molded Foam Rollers

imageimage The Perform Better Elite Molded Foam Rollers wins my top award as  it keeps it’s shape well, provides a nice solid surface to roll on, and is the most durable product I have used.  The Perform Better Elite Molded Foam Rollers his is especially true if you are using this on several people and/or people over 180 pounds.  This roller will hold up to the weight and the frequent use.  I can use the same foam roller like this for years without any decrease in quality.  This is the foam roller of choice for anyone that wants a good firm roller.  Get the big one, you can always cut it down if you need to.

Foam Roller Plus

image For those that are worried about a roller that is too firm and uncomfortable to roll on, consider the Foam Roller Plus.  If you get one of the softer foal rollers below, I bet you are disappointed over time that they flatten out.  Also, after some time foam rolling, you’ll desire a firmer roll, trust me.  The Foam Roller Plus is a great product.  It has a rigid PVC core with a softer foam coating.  Pretty comfortable and keeps it shape.  Also, for those that work with multiple people, this has a removable and washable neoprene cover.  The only reason this is not my top pick is the price.  This isn’t that expensive but the Elite Molded Foam Roller is tough to pass up for the cost.

EVA Foam Rollers

image I have been disappointed with the EVA foam rollers.  They state that they are closed cell foam and holds it shape well, but I have not found that to be the case.  These tend to get crushed under too much weight or frequent use.

The Grid Foam Roller

image I just recently tried the Grid Foam Roller and was impressed, it is very similar to the Foam Roller Plus in that it is a rigid PVC roll with a soft out cover.  It is even the same price as the Foam Roller Plus.  This would be my choice of a foam roller, personally, but the Foam Roller Plus takes the edge for those that work with multiple people as it has a removable and washable neoprene cover.

 

Best Trigger Point Release Tools

Sometimes foam rollers don’t do as great of a job as you can with trigger point releases, especially for the upper back and arm.  I tend to prefer a ball of some sort for trigger point releases.  With the round objects you can get deeper on one specific spot.  Here are my picks:

Posture Ball

imageimageThe Posture Ball is a new addition to my tool belt, I’ve used for about a month and have liked it.  The ball is a great tool for specific trigger point releases versus just rolling out a muscle with foam.  It is firm but does have some give to it, enough so that if you are approaching 200 pounds it does flatten out a bit.  Because of this, I mainly use it for back and upper extremity trigger points.  Most people will have a hard time with glute or hamstring trigger points because of this flattening.

Body Work Balls

image Another type of ball are the Body Work Balls.  Rather than use foam, these are inflatable and come in different sizes and density.  The plus side of being inflatable is that you can adjust the firmness, which I am sure many people will like.  However, if you deflate too much, it sort of takes away from the benefit of using a ball for trigger points.  I still prefer the posture ball but this one is close.

Perform Better Elite Molded Foam Rollers

imageFor lower extremity (glute, hamstring, low back) trigger point releases you really need a firm object that will not flatten out to your body weight.  Again, I lean towards the elite molded foam rollers.  You can’t get as specific as you can with the posture ball, but these still work great for trigger point releases.  In all honesty, it’s probably best to have both of these tools.

 

Best Self Massage Tool

In addition to foam rolling and trigger point release, you’ll often need a massage tool to get to some areas that are too hard to use body weight to roll.  Here are my picks for top self massage tools:

Tiger Tail

imageimageThe Tiger Tail is a typical massage stick device that has two handles and a rotating massage area in the middle to allow it to roll on your body.  I was a big massage stick fan for many years but have noticed that patients are starting to like the Tiger Tail a little bit more because it is more firm.  You can really get some force onto a muscle.  This one is pretty popular for it’s ease of use and portability.

Massage Stick

imageAhh, the original and classic Massage Stick.  Still a great tool similar to the Tiger Tail.  I like how the massage area is more flexible than the Tiger Tail, allowing you to get a contour around a muscle such as the calf and IT band.  This also means that you can’t get as deep as the Tiger Tail.  I use both in my practice but if I had to pick one I would go Tiger Tail first.  The cost is low enough to justify getting both, you’ll find that you interchange them frequently.  Don’t get the small one, it is too small.

DMS Deep Muscle Stimulator

imageIf you feel like dropping $2500 on a self massage tool, look no further.  I use the DMS (stands for deep muscle stimulator) every day but understand the cost concern.  Think of it as a mini movable power plat vibration platform.  Works great to help relax and loosen up muscles that are sore from workouts etc.  It is a valuable tool for me and you should consider it if you can justify the cost.

 

Recommendations

If you are looking for some of the best foam rollers, trigger point release tools, and self massage and myofascial release tools, I would recommend combining a few of these items.  I would recommend using the following combination of items to get the most benefits.  Using these three products will give you a great combination of tools for every body part all for under $100 in total.

  1. Perform Better Elite Molded Foam Rollers
  2. Posture Ball
  3. Tiger Tail

 

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Let me know if you have any more suggestions to try!  Comment on this post.

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19 Responses to “What are the Best Foam Rollers and Self Massage Tools?”

  1. Thank you for researching this Mike. So many products, so little time!

    One of the tools we use for self massage in our Pilates studio is 'Franklin Balls', they are small- medium sized, pitted surfaced balls that are perfect for rolling on.

    We focus on supine thoracic release before working on the shoulder/upper back, gluteal release in supine or seated, release of arches and feet muscles in standing. I take them on plane trips and long drives, as they are portable and very specific in the pressure you can apply and targetting right where you need them. They are especially popular for deep glute muscle realease, and really make your pelvis feel like it melts into the floor once its all over.

    I find foam rollers are really strong and many clients find then too brutal, these are a great alternative.

    Read about them on my blog, http://www.pilatesscene.com

  2. Carson Boddicker Reply May 18, 2010 at 11:11 pm

    Thanks for the product compendium! I'd be interested to see how you incorporate these tools into your preventative and rehabilitative scenarios.

    How much of this are you able to bring with to away games and what are your priorities?

    Regards,
    Carson Boddicker

  3. Hello,
    this is the Best Foam Roller of the World:

    http://www.blackroll.de – Made in Germany!

  4. I would agree on the ellite foam roller 100%, personnally and in the clinic. (I have 2 at my house for personal use – one in the bedroom for morning or night time stretch and the other in the basement with my other workout gear to use for warm-up). The posture ball works well to get to some areas that are harder to work with the foam roller.

    Thanks for your insight on the tiger tail. I have not had a chance to experiment with the different models, so always good to hear other's perspectives.

  5. Thanks for this comprehensive list, Mike. Excellent recommendations. You also saved us all from having to do our own research, ha ha…

    Rick Kaselj
    http://www.ExercisesForInjuries.com

  6. Hey Mike,
    I recently bought this tool from the Australian fitness Expo. Great trigger point tool designed by some Aussie physio's. Can use it for trigger point, SMR and Active release. Called the Body spanner.
    http://www.smrt.com.au The website has images, videos, instructions. Is fully interactive and has great information. I love mine. Been great for really hitting trigger points that a foam roller can't get. eg. Psoas. Posterior Tibialis..
    Thanks.
    Andrew.

  7. Thanks for the product list. After my training i often use the foam roller blackroll-orange. I`ll found this nice little roll on http://www.blackroll-orange.de and use it after every training. It helps me for deep glute muscle realease and feel me better. On the webpage there are some videos, how to use the blackroll-orange and do my best work out.

    Regards
    Juergen

  8. Have you tried the Thera-Roll from http://www.preformbetter.com? It works very well because it has textured, ribbed/ridged design that penetrates and releases tense muscle fibbers/trigger points. The Thera Roll works better than any other roll I’ve tried & my clients prefer it too. Also, the Rumble Roller works well for myofascial release.

  9. Something that has really helped me is The Stress Press. It’s a massage tool that helps relieve stress and tension knots by focusing on trigger points. It’s inexpensive and works wonders! Try it! http://www.thestresspress.com I honestly haven’t felt relief like this in a long time!

  10. I definitely like the Grid trigger point foam roller. It’s the first foam roller that didn’t crumble and lose shape after a few months of use (and I use it a lot…)
    You can see a detailed review about it here: http://back-pain-relief-products.net/reviews/trigger-point-foam-roller/

  11. Did you look at the Trigger Point Massage ball? I love mine and use it extensively on my piriformis, upper back, mid back, and under the arm. I was wondering how it compares to the posture ball.

  12. Great article, Mike. I’m a huge fan of joya massage rollers. they are very different to the rollers here as it is a hand held massager with a crystal sphere. fits well in my hand, allows great pressure and I can really target the spots and trigger points.
    have one always in by bag ;o)
    got it from overseas – joya-australia.com.au

  13. I must say the RumbleRoller ought to be at the top of this list.

    The RumbleRoller:
    1. Permanently maintains its shape
    2. Has soft but firm knobs that dig into soft tissue but yield to bone, and their staggered pattern pushes and pulls muscle as you rock and roll.
    3. It comes in regular density, and “36% firmer” which is for advanced users only
    4. It’s best for shared-use because it has a non-porous surface, and an antimicrobial built-in to the foam.

  14. I saw your foam roller review and wanted to share my product information with you maybe you can do another review when my product is available to you. My name is Gary Miller and my company is launching its first 5 in 1 home and travel fitness product next month called the ProUnit Performance Trainer. Once the site is up you can find us at http://www.TheProUnit.com until then find us on Facebook at the ProUnit Performance Trainer.

    The ProUnit is a 5 in 1 product…
    1) Foam Roller
    2) Ab Roller
    3) Rotating PushUp handles
    4) Ab Wheel
    5) Stretch Strap
    The other great advantage of the ProUnit is that since the tube is hollow you can put extra fitness products in the tube like fitness bands, jump rope, agility ladder, suspension straps…pretty much you can be creative even a mat wraps around outside for a place to work out on. The ProUnit Performance Trainer is the fitness tool of 2013.
    We are planning to launch feb 1st so hopefully we can share the ProUnit with you then. Until that time please like our ProUnit Performance Trainer Page here on Facebook. We would love to share content as we grow.

    Gary,

  15. What do you think of the yoga tune-up balls Mike? They any good?

  16. HI Mike,

    Thanks for your research, and all you do. You have to check out Trigger-Pin! Its kind of like the TP Quadballer, but way more versatile: smarter size, shape, texture and firmness. These rollers are hand built, and sold for way less than the listed price at major endurance events. Trigger-Pin! will be at the Boston Marathon Expo in April!

    Regarding firmness, my goal was to create something between a tennis ball and a lacrosse ball. The consensus is that I have achieved that. So, perhaps firmer than the Quadballer–if you’re using the “single bubble”. When using the double, your weight is evenly on two points, which gives a less aggressive, but equally effective rolling experience. This feature also enables “beginner” rollers to use the double for lower body applications, then shift their body onto one of the two “bubbles” for a more targeted release. Check it out: http://triggerpin.com/ They’ve become VERY popular. Let me know what you think.

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