There are a lot of benefits of foam rolling, including better circulation, greater range of motion, and softer soft tissue. And since you can get away with selling one made of nothing but packing foam, the profit margins can be pretty considerable — that means a lot of brands sell a lot of foam rollers of varying quality, and it can be hard to figure out which one you should buy.

It goes without saying that every body is different and which foam roller is best can depend on the type, intensity, and frequency of your activity, along with how you spend the other twenty-three hours of the day you’re not working out.

We took a hard look at soft tissue and decided to see look at some of the pros and cons of the most popular brands of foam rollers. Here’s what we landed on:

Best Foam Roller Picks

Best Beginner Roller
Gaiam Foam Roller
Gaiam Foam Roller
Gaiam Foam Roller

This foam roller is great for beginners because it's soft and reactive.

Best Intermediate Roller
Trigger Point Roller
Trigger Point Roller
Trigger Point Roller

This foam roller combines both a tought PVC layer and a soft outer foam.

Best Advanced Roller
RumbleRoller
RumbleRoller
RumbleRoller

This foam roller combines massage based ridges with your standard fascia release roller.

Best Handheld Roller
The Stick
The Stick
The Stick

This is a personal or assisted hand held fascia release tool that provides ample support for tight muscles.

Best Pinpoint Roller
Lacrosse Ball
Lacrosse Ball
Lacrosse Ball

A dense rubber ball designed for digging into smaller, tight muscles and fascia.

Best Back Roller
Trigger Point Roller
Trigger Point Roller
Trigger Point Roller

This foam roller combines both a tought PVC layer and a soft outer foam.

Best IT Band Roller
Nordic Lifting Roller
Nordic Lifting Roller
Nordic Lifting Roller

This foam roller combines a rigid layer with a supportive soft inner section.

Best Foam Roller for Beginners

Gaiam Foam Roller

One of the softest rollers on the market, Gaiam’s foam roller is made from polyethylene foam and is less dense, durable, and effective than other brands. It’s also relatively expensive at $35, but it can be the perfect choice for athletes with a low pain threshold or who are just starting out their foam rolling habit.

Gaiam Foam Roller
Gaiam Foam Roller
Gaiam Foam Roller
This foam roller is great for beginners because it's soft and reactive.

Best Intermediate Foam Roller

Trigger Point Foam Roller

TriggerPoint GRID Foam Roller

A popular brand, the TriggerPoint GRID Foam Roller uses a PVC pipe wrapped in ethylene-vinyl acetate (EVA) foam. Because of the PVC pipe it’s very firm, and it’s available in a wide variety of sizes. It’s more durable than most other brands, but it’s on the pricier side ($30 for 13 inches) and doesn’t get deep into the muscle’s crevices like some more advanced rollers.

Trigger Point Roller
Trigger Point Roller
Trigger Point Roller
This foam roller combines both a tought PVC layer and a soft outer foam.

Best Foam Rollers for Experienced, High Volume Athletes

RumbleRoller Deep Tissue Massage Roller

Covered in knob-like fingers, the RumbleRoller Deep Tissue Massage Roller is one of the most intimidating foam rollers we’ve seen — and the most highly recommended by many functional fitness athletes, including Talayna Fortunato. The fingers help it to achieve a deeper massage, but make it a bit rough for those of us with sensitive skin (or fascia tissue).

RumbleRoller
RumbleRoller
RumbleRoller
This foam roller combines massage based ridges with your standard fascia release roller.

Best Handheld Foam Roller

The Stick

The Stick is probably the first brand most people think of when they think of portable myofascial release — it’s the original. At seventeen inches long and $28, you hold it on both ends and push it down and along your muscles. It’s thinner and less aggressive than some of the rollers above, but it makes up for it because it’s easier to manipulate and to use all over the body part you’re targeting. It’s a little awkward to use on the hamstrings and low back.

The Stick
The Stick
The Stick
This is a personal or assisted hand held fascia release tool that provides ample support for tight muscles.

Best Balls for Pinpoint Myofascial Release

Lacrosse Ball

It’s telling that the vast majority of reviews for Lacrosse Balls are from people using it for myofascial release — these balls cost about $5 to $7 each are incredibly useful for getting deep into the muscles where soft, yielding foam rollers dare not tread.

It’s worth pointing out that even if you get regular massages, these are particularly useful for the glutes, since most masseuses may not be comfortable with really digging their fingers into their clients’ posteriors.

Lacrosse Ball
Lacrosse Ball
Lacrosse Ball
A dense rubber ball designed for digging into smaller, tight muscles and fascia.

Best Foam Roller for the Back

Trigger Point Foam Roller

Trigger Point Roller

There’s a reason the TriggerPoint GRID foam roller is the biggest name in the industry: they have a wide variety of sizes and firmness levels to suit your experience level. For rolling the back, you might prefer an 18-inch roller so you can roll as much of your back as possible in one motion, but any size will do — just don’t forget to roll out the lats on your side as well.

Trigger Point Roller
Trigger Point Roller
Trigger Point Roller
This foam roller combines both a tought PVC layer and a soft outer foam.

Best Foam Roller for IT Band

Nordic Lifting Foam Roller

The IT band is an unbelievably thick, dense piece of tissue, which is why there’s some controversy over whether or not foam rolling is beneficial for it at all. Arguments on the pro side of the debate tend to focus on the idea that some tissues adhere to the IT band, and rolling can help to loosen them up.

In any case, the Nordic Lifting roller has deep grooves but it’s not spikey, so it helps to dig into deep, tough tissue like the IT band without causing too much pain.

Methodology

So how do you decide on what a “best” foam roller is? Here’s how we made our choices.

Softness

Of course, this is highly independent to the user’s needs, but we always made sure to take into account whether the softness and reactivity of the foam better suits beginners or more experienced athletes who are accustomed to (or require) deeper fascial release.

Shape

This is related to softness, but it takes things a little further. Some foam rollers have big, jagged spikes sticking out of them — which is desirable for some folks, and not for others. Some tools for myofascial release are sticks, some are balls, and each have their own purpose. We made sure to specify what each product is best for in this regard.

Durability

This isn’t always directly correlated to softness. Polyethylene foam, for example, is a little softer than polyurethane, but because it’s an open cell foam it’s not as durable and some may not find the trade off worth it. These aspects were taken into account when judging our best foam rollers.

Price

A dollar sign isn’t quite enough to assess value for money. You need to take into account the quality of materials, the length of the roller, the technology it houses (if any) and the longevity you can expect. We did all of this so you can know you’re getting the best value.

Wrapping Up

There you have it — our ultimate buyer’s guide for foam rollers and other myofascial release tools. Pick the product that’s best for your level of activity and experience and you’ll be well on your way to a body that moves better and experiences less muscle pain.