What is your problem??? October 2013: Which Foam Roller?

Mark writes…

Hello Born to Plod,

I’m struggling with a tight calf after my runs, and I’m told that a foam roller will help me (snigger). Any suggestions as to what type of roller to get?


Hello Mark, lovely of you to write in.

First of all, keep your sniggers to yourself. There’s a time and a place for laughter, and it’s usually when people see you walking down the street carrying one of these…

"Does anyone know if Ann Summers have a returns policy?"

“Does anyone know if Ann Summers have a returns policy?”


Second of all, congratulations on deciding to get a foam roller, one of the most agonisingly, knicker-wettingly painful best tools for keeping you in top running shape. You’re right though, there are a few different types available. A few years back, a foam roller was just a foam roller, but they now come in all shapes and sizes. Let’s have a look at some of the different types available…

1. Open cell foam


Foam rollers don’t come much more basic than this. A simple cylinder of open-cell polyethylene foam that does the job without any extra bells or whistles. They come in various lengths and diameters, but all do the same job. My only gripe with this type of roller is that after repeated use they do have a tendency to flatten in the middle over time, until they resemble a double-ended trumpet.

Expect to pay: around £10

From: the internet


2. Closed cell foam


A slight step up from contestant number one. The main difference is that this one’s constructed of a much denser EVA foam, which means it’s more durable.  The other major benefit of this type of roller is that it doesn’t have quite the same resemblance to a lump of packaging foam, which means a horrible horrible cleaner is a bit less likely to carelessly throw it away just 5 days after you bought the damn thing. You know who you are.

Expect to pay: around £15

From: the internet again


3. The Grid


Getting a little more hardcore now. I’ve never actually tried the Grid, but friends have told me good things about it. The general idea is that the little grooves and ridges knead a bit deeper into the tissue, so you get more of that “beaten up by the physio” feeling. They’re also hollow, so you can store stuff inside them if you really want to, or live in them if you’re some sort of tiny elf.

Expect to pay: £35

From: Triggerpoint UK


4. Rumble Roller


Ah, now this is the king of foam rollers. But not a nice king, like from Disney or Burger King. No, this is one of those mad kings you sometime read about, with crocodile pits and a fondness for giggling manically while sticking heads on spikes. Talking of spikes, you’ll notice that the Rumble Roller is festooned* with rows of the bloody things. These perform three essential functions:

  1. They get deep into the muscle tissue to obliterate knots and tightness
  2. They protect the rumble roller from predators
  3. They make you go aaargh

I’ve seen the rumble roller described as “a meat grinder for muscles”, and it’s true that it does hurt even more than a regular foam roller, but in a (sort of) good way. It comes in two colours: blue (for the casual masochist) and black (extra-firm, for people who shouldn’t really be allowed out to mingle with the community and should, at the very least, be made to wear some sort of cow bell). I have a blue rumble roller and I love it, although sometimes it is a bit much and I wouldn’t mind something a little more forgiving.

Expect to pay: with your sanity £40 (30cm) to £60 (77.5cm)

From: Various online retailers

If you find the rumble roller a bit tame, then the only way to go from there is to use one of these…


On fire. Covered in scorpions.


5. The new kids on the block

The popularity of foam rollers has skyrocketed in recent years, and they’re becoming a staple of the mainstream fitness industry. Walk into any gym and you’re likely to see them being used, rather than just lurking in a corner being occasionally prodded by a suspicious zumba instructor armed with a long pointy stick. The upshot of this surge in acceptance means that new designs are popping up all the time, each trying to be more innovative than the last. Going back to my earlier point, you can expect to see foam roller with actual bells and whistles on them in the shops very soon. Argos now stock several different types of foam roller, including this nifty looking 3-in-1 model combining two different types of roller and a massage stick (Argos.co.uk £14.99)


I could go on; there’s a staggering array of rollers out there** but these are the main players. If you don’t know what foam rollers are for, well, frankly I’m amazed you’ve read this far. You might want to have a look at this blog post, where I review the Rumble Roller and yak on about foam rollering in general.


This isn't a foam roller. It's an armadillo.

This isn’t a foam roller. It’s an armadillo.

PS: I’m currently shortlisted to be part of the test team for the excellent Rungeek.co.uk. If I get on the team it’ll mean I get to review lots of great new kit and share my findings with you lovely people. I’d be really grateful if you could spare a few moments to vote for me. All you need to do is send an email saying “VOTE JAY” to Sam@rungeek.co.uk

Thank you, you’re ace :)

Twittery goodness: @borntoplodblog


* On second thoughts, “festooned” is far too jolly a word to describe the Rumble Roller. 
** Many of which look very much like giant novelty condoms. 

12 thoughts on “What is your problem??? October 2013: Which Foam Roller?

  1. Dear Jay. I must remind myself not to read your blog when I need a wee. Even just a tiny bit. Laughter incontinence is no laughing matter I’ll have you know. Have you ever reviewed tena pads?

  2. Pingback: Product test: Rumble Roller Beastie | Born to Plod

  3. That’s a great post, thank you! I’m new to the joys (and pains) of foam rolling and was rather confused about the differences between all the different types. I wish I had seen this sooner!

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