What to look for in a Foam Roller

Recently there has been a huge burst of activity on the self release, self massage scene. Rollers, release balls, spiky balls, there’s a huge amount out there just in the mainstream sport stores, let alone the health stores – so what do you choose? Every gym seems to have them with trainers advocating rolling, sposrt people use them pre and post workout – but what should YOU be doing?

The big question before you invest in a piece of equipment is to ask yourself:

What do you want to do with it –  What do you want it for? – What are you hoping to achieve with it?

The answer to that will guide you to what you need to buy.

  • A soft roller will be nice for releases and wont hurt as much as a hard one, but will make core work harder.
  • A hard roller may hurt more for release but will be a lot more versatile for everyday use.
  • A ‘rumble roller’ or one with grooves is aimed more at trigger point release but would be no good for exercise
  • A short roller is great for travel but potentially limited if you want it for everyday use

Consider as a generic good all round buy a long hard Foam Roller. Use it as a release tool which will do BOTH leg at the same time. Use it to lie on for body alignment and posture work and to challenge your core.

If you specifically want to do a lot of release work and like the feel of something a bit more robust that will “get in there ” more – then that’s when to look at the rumble style rollers or those with a textured surface such as grooving or treads.

The others specialist rollers such as myotherapy release may have “crevices” in them which are purpose built for spines so you get the cut away which allows for comfort along the back bone (spinous processes) and the roller for contacting the muscle – the shorter the width the more intense the release is.


These are different types of rollers aimed at getting into the trigger points to release those a bit more effectively – great for those who want to be more “aggressive” with their release such as sports people or blokes who are quite muscle bound.

The roller above shows how the groove works to relieve pressure on the boney contact surfaces of the spine but places pressure on the big muscles along the length of the back.

At the end of the day its about what you want to get out of Roller use and also what suits you best. 

Bottom line is to KNOW WHAT YOU ARE DOING and SEEK GOOD ADVISE before embarking on something.

Tight structures may be tight for a reason and releasing them may not always be the best thing to do.


About Saree Hewlett (135 Articles)
Saree has 20 + years as a physio, training in the UK and completing her Masters in Manual Therapy in Perth, UWA. She has integrated Pilates into her practise having trained in the Polestar method and currently owns and runs two Studios in Perth's Northern Suburbs. A previous international Artistic Skater she understands the needs of sports people and also those suffering from chronic pain and reduced function - we all want the same thing - to be the best we can be! She is married with two active young boys!

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