Runners enjoy the feeling of a great workout, but they also suffer from sore, tight muscles. Sometimes more serious injuries can occur, and precautions should be taken by massaging tight muscles and recovering from workouts. Massage sticks and foam rollers are a great way to help with all those problems. Fortunately, there are many options available for runners.
Beyond massage sticks, a high quality massage gun is a sure fire way to maximize your recovery.
Why You Need a Massage Stick or Foam Roller
A massage stick and a foam roller are both self-massage tools that can help prevent many common running injuries such as muscle pain or strain, stress, spasms, tension and cramping, trigger points, and muscle fatigue. Other injuries runners tend to get are shin splints, and plantar fasciitis, all issues that could be prevented by a massage tool. A massage stick or foam roller can also increase the range of motion and flexibility and promote running recovery. A massage stick may also be called a running stick, as they are commonly used by runners.
It works well for both experienced and non-experienced athletes. For runners, this form of self-massage helps with running recovery. You should not use a massage stick or foam roller on bones, joints, or your lower back because it could cause bruising, muscle spasms, or other problems. If you need something to help with those areas use a hot or cold compress on those areas instead.
Before purchasing one of these massage tools, you need to think about what parts of the body you will want it for. You also need to consider if you intend to travel with it and how much pressure you are looking to get from it. All these decisions will determine if you should purchase a massage stick or a foam roller, as they have different benefits and options.
Massage Sticks vs. Foam Rollers
Massage Sticks and Foam Rollers both aid in recovery, but approach this via different capabilities.
A massage stick is smaller than a foam roller and is shaped kind of like a rolling pin. It is made up of a bar with one-inch rollers attached. The rollers help it move smoothly over the body. This massage stick also bends a little, so it conforms to the body. You must use your hands to push the stick into your muscle and is good for rolling across the muscle for a general muscle massage. A massage stick works well on smaller areas like the neck and upper back, but it usually used on the leg muscles. It comes in different lengths and is small enough that it’s convenient for traveling.
A massage stick will easily fit in your gym or travel bag and the size makes it possible to use it while sitting down in a car or other cramped space. You can use the massage stick when you are standing, kneeling, sitting, or laying down or you can also have someone else use it on you, which is not possible with a foam roller. A massage stick will usually hold up for a long period of time, while a foam roller may break down more quickly.
The foam roller is generally bigger than a massage stick, but they do come in different sizes. They come with different textures on the outside, or you can get one that is smooth on the surface. The ones with knobs or ridges on the outside offer more pressure than the smooth ones and can target more trigger areas. You can choose if you want firm or soft, depending on how much pressure you need. A foam roller can also be chosen based on the size, which just depends on personal preference and if you want to massage your entire back at one time.
A foam roller requires you to use your body weight for pressure on the muscles, with the foam roller on the floor. It is good to use on specific trigger points because it gives more pressure than a massage stick. The foam roller works well on the hips, shoulders, and other large areas of the body. It is preferred when a full body massage is needed with more pressure. You can choose your foam roller from different firmness’s and it will be convenient for use at home or at the gym since it isn’t as easy to travel with as a massage stick.
How to Use a Massage Stick or Foam Roller for Running
Over the past decade or so, people have become much more aware of the importance of myofascial release. The fascia is the sturdy tissue that covers bodily structures like muscles and organs. Fascia should be smooth and flexible. However, over time, it can become knotted and tough. This can also lead to pain, because the fascia contains lots of nerve endings. In fact, the discomfort people attribute to muscle pain can sometimes actually be located in the fascia. Performing myofascial release by massage can help relieve this pain.
How to Use Foam Roller
When runners learn how to use foam roller, it can change their bodies entirely. Foam rollers can be used on the front, back and sides of the legs. Runners position the roller beneath the affected area and move over it slowly. As the roller moves, users should stop at tight points and spend extra time there.
The only area that really needs to be avoided is the knee. Foam rollers can even be used to provide release in the arches of the feet. Benefits of using a foam roller include improved circulation in addition to breaking down muscle knots. Increasingly, runners are using foam rollers in the same way they traditionally used static stretching. Foam rolling is done before, after and sometimes even during races.
How to Use A Massage Stick
When it comes to myofascial release, massage sticks provide similar results to foam rollers. The real reason they’re different is because of how they’re used. People move their muscles over foam rollers. But they move massage sticks over their muscles, using their arms instead of their body weight.
Once people learn how to use a massage stick, they have a great way to target smaller muscle groups. For example, it’s easy to position the quadriceps over a foam roller and use the weight of the body as pressure to get a release. But with an area like the shoulders or neck, it can be much easier and safer to use a massage stick instead.
Top 11 Best Massage Sticks and Foam Rollers
With the above things in mind, here are 11 of the best massage sticks and foam rollers, listed in no particular order:
The Stick Travel Massage Stick
The Stick Travel Massage Stick is 17 inches long and very lightweight. It is mostly used for legs, so it may speed up muscle recovery, but it can also relieve the muscles in your neck and back. This massage stick has eight spindles on it to target all the muscle groups and it is flexible, so it may contour to your body. The only downfall is that it probably won’t do much to relieve the larger muscles.
- Flexibility of the core bends and allows you to treat a much larger area much more comfortably
- Center rod of the stick is surrounded by 8 rotating spindles or rollers, which roll independently over the muscle
- 17” long roller is designed to rock back and forth a little bit to find and release painful trigger points
|Portable||Not ideal for large muscles|
|Has eight spindles|
Tiger Tail Massage Stick – Roadster
This massage stick comes in three different sizes. It is lightweight, so you can take it with you anywhere. The Tiger Tail Massage Stick gives a deep massage and helps get blood and oxygen circulating through knots in the muscles to offer relief and recovery from cramps and spasms, pain, and stiffness. Recommended by physical therapists and chiropractors, The Tiger Tail Massage Stick is used by many athletes. This massage stick can be washed with spray, cleaning wipes, or just soap and water, so it is easy to clean up. The downfalls are that it doesn’t bend so it is not possible for the massage stick to contour to your body and the price is a little high compared to other roller sticks that are similar.
- TIGER TAIL USA IS THE FIRST & ORIGINAL HAND-HELD FOAM ROLLER - Tiger Tail USA pioneered making muscle recovery mainstream in the USA and around the world. It is now part of nearly every top-level training room across the country. Look for our “famous orange and black” rollers on the sidelines and training rooms of professional sports teams across the nation!
- MUSCLE FRIENDLY MASSAGE – helps relieve minor muscle knots, aches, and soreness. Condition muscles, reduce stiffness and aid sore muscles before or after workout or activity. Great for athletes and yard warriors alike.
- THE LONG ONE 22" HANDHELD ROLLER – Our patented design features a firm, non-flexible design for superior deep tissue targeting and relief where you need it. Tiger Tail uses medical grade, latex-free material made in the USA
|Different size options||Doesn’t bend|
|Easy to clean|
IDSON Muscle Roller Stick for Athletes
This massage stick is only 17.5 inches long, so you can take it with you when you are traveling. It helps with painful muscles after a run and speeds up the recovery. with nine spindles, it should target different muscle groups at the same time. Unfortunately, there is no texture on the spindles, so it doesn’t add much to the massage. There is also no bend to the massage stick, so it doesn’t contour to the body.
- MUSCLE ROLLER STICK to ease and condition muscle soreness and aid recovery, reduce stiffness and pain before and after workouts, exercise, running and training. With regular use improve your strength, circulation and reduce risk of injury.
- GREAT DESIGN - Made from high quality industrial strength materials and built to last a lifetime, with thermoplastic rubber and polypropylene handles for an ergonomic grip and 9 ABS independent rollers on steel rod core.
- VERY PORTABLE - Only 17.5x1.5 inches(44cm/2.5=17.5inch) and 9 oz this is the ideal travel stick to take to the gym, before and after training, workouts and sports fields, fits into most kit bags easily, robust and water resistant.
|Portable||No texture on spindles|
|Has nine spindles||Doesn’t bend|
Supremus Sports Muscle Roller Stick
This roller stick is 18 inches long and helps ease the pain in your muscles after a workout. It can be used before a workout to increase circulation before you even start, which prevents injuries from happening. The roller balls on this massage stick were designed to be far enough apart that your body hair won’t get caught in it. Some of the negative aspects of this roller stick are that it squeaks when you roll it and the roller balls are made from plastic and not covered in foam.
- ✅This Self Myofascial Release bar is good for your whole body: from foot, leg, thigh. calf, quad, IT bands, hamstring, glute, hip to arm, shoulder, neck, head and back. It Restores and rehabilitates sore, tight muscles, releases tension, gets Rid of Knots, increases blood circulation and improves mobility and flexibility.
- ✅These portable tools are recommended by physical & massage therapists, chiropractor and personnel trainers and used by thousands people from professional athletes to average people, men, women and kids, before and after workouts and physical exercise, to prevent injury and release lactic acid buildup for fast recovery. It's a best birthday, Thanksgiving or Christmas holiday gift for your love ones
- ✅Unlike the foam roller which can be difficult to use, our handheld muscle rollers are compact which fits into most kit bags and travel carry-ons and easy to use. You can pinpoint any area and can do it when you sit on the couch, stand up or even lay down. You can control the pressure that you applying to the problem area depending on your pain tolerance. This piece of fitness equipment is a essential tool for home, gym and outdoor sports, whether you are running, swimming, climbing, or do yoga,
|Roller balls spaced apart||No size options|
|Length is long enough to target large muscles||Squeaks when rolled|
|Portable||Rollerballs not covered in foam|
Elite Muscle Roller Stick
The Elite Muscle roller stick offers quick relief from tense, sore muscles using as much pressure as you decide. This model has handles that are designed to make sure your hands don’t slip while you’re using it. There is a 2mm gap between each rollerball so that your body hair will not be pulled. One benefit you get with this roller stick is that the company provides a website with videos on how to use it after purchase. The downfalls of the Elite Muscle roller stick are that the plastic rollers don’t have foam covering them and this roller stick doesn’t bend.
- TARGETS SORE, TIGHT MUSCLES AND PREVENTS CRAMPS, with the massage roller stick, you can target any tight and sore muscles fast. if you roll out the targeted area for about 5 minutes, you will notice a very quick release in tension and an increase in blood circulation to the area, helping to reduce your calf, quad, IT bands or hamstring cramps tremendously. for anyone with muscle soreness, the stick is a gift from the gods
- OUR STICK ALLOWS YOU TO APPLY AS MUCH PRESSURE, OR AS LITTLE AS YOU CAN HANDLE, the muscle roller stick will help with lengthening and stretching out your muscles by applying pressure to the problem area. because its a stiff leg massage roller, you can control the pressure and therefore the pain, depending on your pain tolerance. you will definitely notice a surprising decrease in muscle fatigue by using it regularly before and after exercise
- COMFORTABLE, STURDY, AND SMOOTH ROLLING ACTION, the massage roller stick handles are very comfortable, and you won’t find your hands slipping like with some of the cheaper models. our roller stick also has a smooth rolling action due to the 2mm gap between each roller, preventing your hair being pulled on your legs. the elite myofascial release tool will keep your muscles from knotting up and helps to keep the muscle soreness at a minimum.
|Non-slip handles||No foam on plastic rollers|
|Gap between rollerballs||Doesn’t bend|
|Instructional videos provided|
AmazonBasics High-Density Round Foam Roller
This foam roller comes in five different sizes and two different colors. The different sizes are a plus because you have the option to choose a smaller one that will be easy to travel with or a larger one to keep at home. The AmazonBasics High-Density Round Foam Roller has a bit of a bumpy texture and is very firm. It helps to loosen muscles before a workout and then helps relieve sore muscles after a workout. Using it regularly before and after a workout can help prevent injuries from running. This foam roller also helps improve range of motion and flexibility. The downfalls are that it does not come with a warranty and there is also no instruction manual.
- High-density foam roller with molded edges
- Ideal for balance, strengthening, flexibility, and rehab exercises
- Made from molded polypropylene to maintain firmness
|Different size options||No warranty|
|Multiple color options||No instruction manual|
LuxFit Foam Roller
This foam roller is available in four sizes and three different colors. It helps prevent injury after running and soothes sore muscles. The LuxFit Foam Roller is smooth on the surface, extra firm, won’t lose its shape, and it’s waterproof. A perk of this foam roller is that it comes with a free instructional video. The only con is that you can’t choose a different density. This one is extra firm and you don’t have the option to choose something softer if you are a beginner.
- Foam Rollers For Muscles – LuxFit High Density Foam Roller is great for Physical Therapy, before or after Exercise, Yoga, and Massage Therapy. Foam Muscle Rollers helps to relieve Muscles Tension and increase Muscle Reflexology. Form Roller. Body Roller
- Foam Exercise Roller Helps Prevent Muscle Injury - Perfect for positioning, balance, postural and muscle re-education, spinal stabilization, body awareness and coordination, ranging and strengthening activities. Yoga - Fitness Foam Roller. Foam Roller for IT Band
- Extra Firm Gym Foam Roller - Molded polypropylene foam technology has a 2 lbs. per cubic foot density, Smooth surface, Will not lose its shape after heavy use, and Repels Liquids. Trigger Point Foam Roller. Stretching Foam Roler
|Multiple size and color options||Cannot choose different density|
|Free instructional video with purchase|
TriggerPoint GRID Foam Roller
There are five different sizes and colors of the TriggerPoint GRID Foam Roller. It provides relief to sore muscles after running and helps prevent injuries. This foam roller is different from other ones because it has a hollow core. The TriggerPoint GRID Foam Roller has ridges on the surface which help work out tight muscles. A positive aspect of this foam roller is the many different sizes it comes in. You can choose between 4, 13, 18, 26, or 36 inches in length. The smaller options would be great for traveling. Another pro is that, with the purchase of a TriggerPoint Grid Foam Roller, you get to access an online instructional video library that has videos about the best ways to use the foam roller. One negative of this roller, however, is that the price is higher than other similar rollers.
- Patented foam roller design offers a superior, multi-density exterior constructed over a rigid, hollow core
- Constructed from quality materials that won't break down or lose shape from repeated use
- Includes access to free online instructional video library on foam rolling best practices from the experts at Trigger Point
|Different color and size options||High price|
|Has a hollow core with ridges on the surface|
|Online instructional video library with purchase|
Nordic Lifting Foam Roller
This foam roller is 13 inches long and comes in several different colors. It helps relieve muscle tension after running by massaging and stretching the muscles and can help prevent injuries. The textured surface targets trigger areas. Some of the pros of the Nordic Lifting Foam Roller are that it comes with a bag to carry it in and the foam roller does not have inner piping, so it is not likely to break very easily. It can hold up to 500 pounds. The only con is that the price is higher than more typical models.
- 12. 75 Inches X 5. 25 Inch Diameter , Lightweight Yet Rugged Solid Core Massage Roller With Eva Tread And Triple Grid 3D Massage Zones Mimics The Finger , Palm , And Thumb Of A Therapist'S Hands .
- Medium Density Muscle Roller Is Comfortable To Use - Making It Easy For Beginners , But Still Effective At Penetrating The Soft Tissue Layer Of Tired Muscles . Soft Enough To Use While In Pain From Lower Back Injury , Sciatica Or Plantar Fasciitis .
- One Of The Best Recovery Tools To Treat Muscle Pain , Increase Performance And Flexibility. Rolling Before And After Exercise Sis Part Of A Great Stretching Routine . Increases Blood Flow To Massage Site , Flushing Away Stored Lactic Acid .
|Different color options||High price|
|Comes with a carrying bag|
|No inner piping and textured surface|
|Holds up to 500 pounds|
The Rumble Roller comes in three sizes and you can choose between the original and extra firm, with the original option being softer and good for beginners or for those who want to massage soft tissue. You should choose the extra firm option if you are wanting to massage thick muscles such as glutes, hamstrings, or hips. The extra firm option is also good for anyone with dense muscles. This foam roller has firm nodules that are flexible enough to contour to specific areas of the body, relieving muscle pain caused by running. The RumbleRoller is waterproof. The only downfall is the price, which is higher than many others.
|Different size options and density choices||High price|
|Firm, flexible nodules|
ProSource High-Density Extra Firm Foam Roller
This foam roller is great for beginners and advanced runners alike. You can choose from three different sizes. The ProSource High-Density Extra Firm Foam Roller could relieve tight muscles in the back, calves, IT band, hamstrings, lats, and glutes. It is high density, so this foam roller may massage deeper than other rollers. Cleaning the ProSource foam roller is easy. Just spray it and wipe it down. The only negative is that it’s bulky, so it would be harder to carry.
- VERSATILE MASSAGE TOOL: Ideal for pre and post-workout by massaging and releasing tension from muscles including back, legs, neck, calves, IT band, hamstrings, lats, and glutes for overall better mobility
- FIRM MASSAGE – High-density foam structure provides a deeper massage than standard foam rollers, and is extra firm to support all body types without losing shape after regular use. Effective for all fitness levels from beginners to advanced. Maximum weight capacity is 300 lb
- BODY AWARENESS – This versatile fitness tool offers instability for Pilates core exercises, spine stabilization, balancing exercises and body-awareness
|Different size options|
Runners tend to get tight muscles after a workout which leads to pain, sore muscles, and injuries. A Massage stick or foam roller may relieve runners of these problems using self-massage, which can increase blood flow to the muscles, improving circulation, and speeding up running recovery. These massage tools are highly rated and effective in targeting the main muscle groups that runners need to have massaged.