This is an archived article and the information in the article may be outdated. Please look at the time stamp on the story to see when it was last updated.

Which foam rollers for shin splints are best?

Runners, dancers or others who frequently engage in strenuous physical activity are at risk of developing a painful condition known as shin splints. Luckily, the pain associated with shin splints can be effectively addressed with foam rolling, and there are a wide variety of foam rollers that can help relieve shin splint discomfort. The top choice for a budget foam roller that is long-lasting and strong is the Amazon Basics High-Density Round Foam Roller

What to know before you buy a foam roller for shin splints 

Shin splints causes 

Shin splints are a repetitive use injury. When the lower-leg muscles tighten from activities such as running, they begin to tug away from the shin bones. If muscle tightness is not addressed, over time the connective tissues that attach leg muscles to the shin bones will become inflamed. Eventually the shin bones will weaken from the leg muscles pulling away from the shin bones. Shin splints make engaging in physical activity incredibly painful and decrease athletic ability. According to the Mayo Clinic, those with flat feet or high arches are at greater risk of developing shin splints; those in this high-risk group might benefit from the use of compression arch supports

Foam roller benefits 

Benefits associated with managing shin splints with a foam roller include increased circulation, decreased inflammation, soothing sore muscles and improved flexibility and posture. Consistency is key when it comes to managing shin splint pain with a foam roller. To truly reap the benefits, use a foam roller on tight, sore and overworked muscles after all strenuous physical activities. 

Relieving shin splints 

There are a number of ways to effectively address shin splint pain. According to MedlinePlus, anyone experiencing shin splints should decrease physical activity and avoid repetitive lower-leg exercises. Shins should also be iced and stretched to relieve shin splint pain. An over-the-counter painkiller can be taken to decrease pain and swelling. If shin splint pain persists or increases, then it is important that a medical professional is consulted to rule out a stress fracture. 

What to look for in a quality foam roller for shin splints 

Foam roller size 

While the typical foam roller will range between 5 and 6 inches in diameter, a smaller roller may be more effective for shin splints. A 3- or 4- inch roller can target the muscles that attach to the shin bone and make a bigger impact on reducing inflammation to the affected area. However, some find a larger foam roller more practical for addressing the entire body. 

Textured vs. smooth foam rollers 

Textured foam rollers are more intense than a smooth roller and penetrate the muscle tissue more deeply. The ridges of a textured roller are designed to knead muscles and mimic the feel of a massage therapist working into muscle tissue with their hands. A smooth foam roller is the ideal choice for self-myofascial release. Often those who are new to foam rolling prefer to begin with a smooth foam roller, since they are less painful than textured rollers. 

Foam roller density 

There are three categories of foam roller density: soft, medium and firm. A soft-density foam roller will have more cushion. Foam roller density is important because it affects the ease at which the roller moves. A soft foam roller will be more difficult to roll than a firm roller. However, a softer foam roller will be far less painful to use than a firm roller. It should also be noted that soft foam rollers tend to lose their shape and wear out more quickly than firmer rollers. 

How much you can expect to spend on a foam roller for shin splints 

Expect to spend between $10-$50 for a foam roller, depending upon construction materials and size. 

Foam roller for shin splints FAQ

What is the difference between an EVA and EPP foam roller?

A.  Both EVA and EPP foam rollers are manufactured with a closed-cell design. This design is considered superior to an open-cell design. Simply put, an open-cell foam roller looks very similar to a pool noodle with a hollow center. Conversely, open-cell rollers are solid with foam all the way through. EPP foam rollers are produced from EPP beads, which offer great durability and are 100% recyclable. EVA foam rollers are professional grade, eco-friendly and considered the best quality roller on the market. 

Is eco-friendly foam roller material worth the price? 

A. When it comes to foam roller construction, cork is the most eco-friendly material. Other foam rollers are constructed from biodegradable materials. Generally speaking, eco-friendly foam rollers cost only slightly more than other rollers. 

What’s the best foam roller for shin splints to buy?

Top foam roller for shin splints 

Amazon Basics High-Density Round Foam Roller

Amazon Basics High-Density Round Foam Roller

What you need to know: A budget-friendly, high-density foam roller offered in a variety of sizes for those working on improving balance and flexibility and strengthening muscles. 

What you’ll love: The high-density foam maintains firmness and is made in the USA from polypropylene. 

What you should consider: The raised seams on both sides of the roller can be felt while rolling.

Where to buy: Amazon 

Top foam roller for shin splints for the money

Therapeutic Grade Premium EVA Foam Roller

Therapeutic Grade Premium EVA Foam Roller 

What you need to know: This 36-inch roller is 6 inches wide and produced with EVA materials so it will not flake or lose its shape. 

What you’ll love: As an EVA roller, it’s eco-friendly, recyclable and contains no formamide or phthalates.

What you should consider: May be too large or firm for beginners. 

Where to buy: Amazon 

Worth checking out

The Original Body Roller

The Original Body Roller 

What you need to know: A heavy-duty EPP construction roller that is textured with 3D massage zones to work deeper into muscles. 

What you’ll love: Comes in a variety of sizes to either target specific muscle groups or for full-body coverage. 

What you should consider: Some find the 3D textured massage zones painful. 

Where to buy: Amazon

Want to shop the best products at the best prices? Check out Daily Deals from BestReviews.

Sign up here to receive the BestReviews weekly newsletter for useful advice on new products and noteworthy deals.

Elizabeth Foley writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.

Copyright 2022 BestReviews, a Nexstar company. All rights reserved.