A foam roller is a massage tool to ease sore muscles and speed up recovery. But it’s not always convenient to use a foam roller or to carry one with you.
A muscle roller stick massager could be a better alternative. It’s smaller than a foam roller and easier to carry for traveling or using on the go. Yet it provides many of the same benefits as a foam roller.
The one we’ve chosen as our best overall is the TriggerPoint GRID STK Foam Roller. It has AcuGRIP handles, a multifunctional design, and is resistant to water and sweat.
Keep reading for our reviews of other stick rollers in a variety of styles so you can find one that works best for you.
Top 4 Best and Favorites
TriggerPoint GRID STK Foam Roller
Fitness Answered Training Products The Muscle Stick
Addaday Pro stick
Pro-Tec Athletics RM Extreme
1. TriggerPoint GRID STK Foam Roller
This stick muscle roller is basically a small, more portable foam roller with handles. It has a multi-functional design that makes it a versatile tool for easing pain and knots in muscles.
The AcuGRIP handles are unusually shaped, and it makes them easy to grip from any angle. The handles themselves can also be used to massage specific trigger points and target knots, thanks to their unique design.
The roller section is comprised of two different textures. One is long, tubular, and similar in shape to the fingers. The other is higher, firmer, and smaller in size, and is meant to imitate the tips of the fingers. With these two textures, using this roller stick massager can mimic the feel of a hand massage.
The longer sections are great for massaging bigger muscles. When you need to target a knot or a smaller section, the raised “fingertips” can help you to hit the right spot. With a length of 21 inches and a diameter of 2 inches, you can effectively massage anywhere you can reach with this roller.
It’s water-resistant and sweat-resistant, so you can use it anywhere. You also won’t find any latex in it, so individuals who are sensitive to latex needn’t worry about having an allergic reaction.
The foam on the black roller is very firm. Individuals who are not used to foam rolling may find that it’s too hard to be comfortable and that they need a softer roller. TriggerPoint makes an orange version that has a softer density (see amazon link).
- Multifunction design
- AcuGRIP handles
- 3-dimensional surface
- Sweat and waterproof
- The foam is harder than the previous version, and may be too hard for some people
Top Runner Up
2. Tiger Tail The Original 18″
This roller may look simpler than our first choice, but that doesn’t mean it’s not effective.
It’s 18 inches long and 1.4 inches in diameter, making it easy to slip into a bag to take to the gym, or leave in your car to use after your run. This is the perfect size for most people to use comfortably on any area of the body.
There’s no rubber or latex in this massager, so there’s no need to worry about the possibility of allergies. The foam is medical-grade and non-porous, which makes it durable and easy to clean once you’ve used it.
It uses Tiger Tail Gription technology which helps it to grip the skin, giving you better control over it as you roll.
Unlike some other rollers, the Tiger Tail is not bendable. The firmness of the stick means you can apply targeted pressure to muscles, making it more effective at rolling away tension and larger knots.
Because there’s no variation in texture like the GRID STK, it may be a little harder to target small knots that are deep in the muscle. It may be best suited to rolling larger muscles with knots that are closer to the surface.
- 100% latex-free and natural rubber-free
- Tiger Tail Gription
- Firm, non-bendable design
- 18 inches in length
- Not as easy to target deep and small knots
Best Soft Density
3. Fitness Answered Training Products The Muscle Stick
For individuals who find firm foam to be too painful to roll sore muscles, a soft density roller would be the best way to start. This is our choice. It is available in a range of colors so you can find something that you like.
This roller is 17 inches long, which is a comfortable length for most users. It’s also very durable and has a steel core that is strong enough for you to place adequate pressure on the muscles as you roll them without the risk of breaking it.
The handles and core are both made from rubber. Ergonomically-designed handles make it easy and comfortable to use on any part of the body. In the center, you’ll find seven small, knobbly rubber rollers. The design of these rollers helps to stimulate blood flow and knead out knots in the muscle.
- Knobbly rubber surface
- Rubber handles
- Steel core
- 17 inches in length
- Users who have an allergy to rubber won’t be able to use this roller
Top Medium Density
4. Addaday Pro Stick
If you’ve tried a hard density stick and it’s uncomfortable, but a soft density stick doesn’t feel like it gets into your muscles, a medium-density stick could be the right one for you.
This stick comes with three both soft and medium-density elements, giving you versatility when and where you need it.
Five massage “gears” come in a variety of densities. A PinPoint Precision gear can be used to reach spots that are often hard to get to, or simply to add more targeted pressure to a muscle.
The grey and blue gears use Addaday’s medium Skin Surface Technology (SST). This helps the gears to connect better with the skin and provide a good grip on the skin’s surface without causing friction or pain. The blue and white gears use soft SST, and can be used when your muscles just need a light massage.
It’s 21 inches long and has a steel core to prevent the stick from bending when being used. This makes it extra durable and very unlikely to break.
- 3 different gear types
- Durable thermal plastic grips
- Has a PinPoint Precision gear
- Skin Surface Technology
- The size of the gears may be too small for some individuals to use comfortably
Best Hard Density
5. Pro-Tec Athletics RM Extreme
A hard-density roller is recommended for athletes who have had success using soft and medium-density rollers and need something more firm. Beginners may find a hard density roller to be uncomfortable or even painful.
This hard density roller is textured and firm. It also is not bendable, so you can place a lot of pressure on the stick in order to get the desired amount of force on the muscle. The surface is contoured so you can reach and roll most muscles easily, whether they’re big or small.
The center roller is made from latex-free, non-toxic EVA foam so even individuals with a latex allergy can use it safely.
- Single point muscle release
- Contoured surface
- Ergonomic handles
- Non-toxic, latex-free EVA foam
- Some individuals won’t be comfortable with how firm this roller is
Top Long Stick
6. The Stick The Original Stick
If 18 or 20 inches feels too short for you to use effectively, then you may want to try this stick, which is 24 inches in length. This stick is also bendable, which is different from many of the others. This allows you to roll over a larger area.
The center section has 15 separate rotating spindles. The bend in the stick means that you can contour the stick around muscles, and the separated spindles mean that you can get more range of massage motion. Instead of a stiff stick you can only use on one point at a time, the spindles can massage all around the muscle.
Ergonomic handles make it comfortable to use for prolonged periods of time. Some people may feel that this roller is not as durable as others because of its bendable nature. There’s also a chance that the separated spindles may pinch the skin or catch hairs while you’re rolling.
- Semi-flex stick
- 24 inches in length
- Segmented rotating spindles
- Ergonomic handles
- The gaps between the spindles may pinch the skin
Best for Travel
7. Tiger Tail The Roadster 11″
This is the perfect travel-sized stick roller. Slip it into a gym bag, briefcase, or suitcase to take it with you wherever you go.
It’s just 11 inches in size, which is much smaller than all others, but it still provides a solid foam surface that you can use on almost any muscle.
Because of its small size, the cushioned foam center can be easily maneuvered around muscles like the calves, quads, and even underneath the feet. It may be more difficult on bigger muscles.
It features non-slip handles and Tiger Tail Gription on the surface for better traction. When you need to clean it, a rinse with antibacterial soap and water will do.
- Cushioned foam center
- Travel size at 11 inches
- Non-slip grip handles
- Easy to clean
- May not work well for larger muscles such as the back or hips
Top for Feet
If your primary reason for purchasing a roller massager or foam roller is to relieve foot pain, we recommend the FootLog. It’s wider in diameter than most other roller massagers, and it’s designed specifically for rolling underneath the feet.
With a length of 13 inches, you can roll one or both feet if you have smaller feet. The surface of the roller is covered in small rubber nubs, giving your feet an effective massage as you roll them over the surface. These are made from medical-grade PVC, so they’re slightly hard.
When you buy the FootLog, you will also get a 62-page instruction manual. This not only explains how to use the FootLog properly but also shows you how to do basic reflexology, which can benefit your whole body, not just the feet.
Runners who suffer from plantar fasciitis, heel pain, or metatarsalgia could also benefit from this foot roller.
- Made from medical-grade PVC
- Length of 13 inches
- Come with a 62 page instructional and exercise manual
- Rubber nubs
- Some people may find that the segmented rotating spindles don’t go deep enough into the arch
9. Brazyn Life Morph Stick
At just 13 inches in length, this roller is very easy to carry around with you. You can set the massager to numerous different configurations to get as light or deep a massage as you need.
The purchase comes with a base stick that has firm molded ridges on it. You can use this base stick on almost any muscle, and the different sizes of the ridges mimic an effective massage.
It also comes with four massage rings. If you want a more targeted massage, simply slip some of the rings over the base stick to create a custom massager. Place all four wheels together, or two wheels with a gap in between.
Using a combination of the wheels can cover a wide surface area, or it can help you pinpoint knots.
- Adjustable to be used on any body part
- Base stick with molded ridges
- Four massage rings
- 13 inches in length
- If you put high pressure on the roller, the wheels may slip off the side
What are the benefits of a stick roller?
Stick rollers are great for both pre and post-workout activities. You can use the stick roller to help your muscles warm up before an activity. This reduces the amount of time that you need to warm up.
After your activity, you can use the stick roller to reduce the effects of lactic acid build-up, improve blood circulation, relieve tight muscles, reduce inflammation and promote flexibility; which can reduce your recovery time.
The design of the stick allows you to target and work on deep trigger points throughout the body. You can also control the amount of pressure that’s placed on the muscles, which allows for deep tissue or a light massage.
Stick rollers are portable, which means that you can use one in the office, in the gym, at the track, or while you’re sitting in traffic.
What are the differences in stick rollers?
Stick rollers come in different lengths and are made from different density materials. This allows you to choose from a range of densities depending on your preference.
The center will vary from smooth, to textured or having spiky segments that provide pressure points for when you want a deeper massage.
Some stick rollers allow you to adjust the centerpiece so that you can better target specific muscle groups and apply more direct pressure.
How to use a stick roller
When you start to roll the stick, make sure that you keep the muscles relaxed. This will help to get a deeper massage. Apply the amount of pressure that you’re comfortable with – a level that reaches the muscle, but that’s not too painful.
If you’re using the stick roller to relieve pain in sore muscles, then roll and apply pressure for 30 seconds, up to 120 seconds.
You should roll over each muscle between 10 and 20 times. If you feel that there’s a certain spot where you feel pain or the pain increases, you may have a trigger point.
You can use the end of the stick roller to target this area to relieve pain and stiffness. Place the end of the stick on the trigger point and apply pressure to the other end for 10 to 20 seconds.
After 20 seconds, move the stick roller slightly to one side and apply pressure again. This will help to reduce the pain and relieve any stiffness in the muscle.