Foam rollers are equally popular with world class athletes and enthusiastic amateurs. They are the idea tool to help you recover from a run and to get you ready for your next.
If you are looking for your first foam roller or something a little more specialist. This guide will help you find the best foam roller for you. And answers the question, do we need more than one?
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What Does Using A Foam Roller Do For You
Foam rollers are popular because they are a smile and versatile device that has a number of benefits.
The fascia is a membrane that surrounds the muscles and helps hold them in roughly the right place. When you run your muscles and fascia can get a bit knotted. So a bit of self-massage or myofascial release, helps keep everything in place and not too tight.
For a more detailed description, have a look here.
As a middle aged runner who sits at a desk all day for work. I need all the help I can get to keep flexible. This is why I like to keep the muscles in my legs nicely rolled every day, especially after a run.
Foam rollers help runners of all ages keep flexible, maintain mobility and assist with their range of motion.
When we run our muscles can become hard to the touch. If you are overly keen and try to go for another run before your muscles have had proper time to recover. Your muscles will continue to break down and not recover adequately.
A foam roller is no replacement for giving your muscles the time they need to recover properly. But they can help speed up the process when used correctly and on a regular basis.
Encourages Blood Flow
The process of applying pressure to your muscles and rolling encourages blood flow. This increased blood flow again helps your muscles recover faster.
Please don’t take my word for this. Studies have been carried out and they are all conclusive that there are benefits to foam rolling and its effectiveness in the assistance of recovery. Take a look at this one for example.
All foam rollers do pretty much the same thing. Bu there are differences that you should be aware of before buying your first (but maybe not your last).
Hard vs Soft
The simple truth here is the harder the roller the more it will hurt. If you are a beginner foam roller user you’ll benefit from a soft roller. You’ll be more likely to continue to use it as you wont regard it as an implement of pain.
If you’ve been using a foam roller for a while you might benefit more from a harder or more specialist roller (more on those later).
Large vs Small
The focus of this guide is for the shorter rollers for your legs. You may have seen the long rollers in gyms that allow you to lay on and massage your back. They obviously require quite a bit of space to use and store.
There are smaller more specialist foam rollers that have been designed for travel. However if you are flying off for a big city marathon you should be able to get you normal sized foam roller into a normal sized suitcase.
The Surface Pattern
The surface of a foam roller can range from being smooth to the more aggressive nobly type (and variations in between). If you are new to foam rolling, go for a smooth one. Like the softer rollers, smooth rollers wont hurt as much and you’ll be more likely to stick with it.
Heated Foam Rollers
There are such things as heated rollers. I’ve never had one nor have I found any good information out there as to why you might like to get one. But in the interest of completeness I thought I’d make you aware they were a thing.
Vibrating Foam Rollers
Vibrating foam rollers give you all the benefits of the non-vibrating kind but with a mechanical migrating action. There are advantages to this type of roller, they can yet further speed the recovery process for example. I’ve written an article that you might find interesting.
How To Use A Foam Roller
I’ll let Bob and Brad explain how to use a foam roller. This is a detailed video that contains a wide range of information. I’ve inserted this one to give you the best possible introduction to the use of a foam roller.
How Long Should You Foam Roll After a Run?
Anywhere from five to ten minutes. As with most things to do with running it depends on how you feel after your run. However if you stick to a five minute roll and you are consistent with it you’ll get good benefits. Better than rolling for 30 minutes after every fourth or fifth run.
Pre-Run Warm Up
I start my run warmup with the foam roller. Five minutes of rolling lets my legs know that they need to get ready for action. It gets the blood flowing and the muscles warmed up ready for some squats and leg swings.
Final Thoughts: Best Foam Roller For Runners
Every runner should have at least one foam roller. They are relatively inexpensive, versatile devices.
Don’t go to aggressive on hardness or surface design. You should try to help and encourage yourself to use the roller. Having one that reminds you of a medieval torture device every time you look at it wont help you be consistent in its use.
Consider getting a vibrating foam roller. They are expensive. But studies have shown that they are more effective than their non-vibrating counterparts.