The Runner’s Guide to Foam Rolling

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The Runner's Guide to Foam Rolling


Written by fitness expert Chris. Last updated:

After a run, your muscles are in need of two things; relaxation and restoration. Foam Rolling is a form of self-massage which has become hugely popular among runners and exercise enthusiasts due to it’s ease of application and immediacy of results in improving running form.

A foam roller is a self-massage tool that allows you to get the healing effects of deep tissue massage on the spot to treat running injuries. These cylindrical devices come in a range of designs, from flat surface to studded nodules to deliver targeted pressure.

Why Should Runners Foam Roll?

Foam rolling involves alleviating soft-tissue stiffness and running injury pain hot spots, such as the back, thighs and hamstrings, with a form of self-massage. It has also proven to be a great post-workout recovery aid. The roller manipulates and puts pressure on muscle sore spots. In addition to its rehabilitative ability, foam rolling has been shown to improve flexibility and running form.

Using a Foam Roller

Find an open space that allows freedom of movement. Place the roller on the floor and position your body so that the area of focus is on top of the roller. The pressure that massages the affected area will be provided by your body.

Gently roll your body back and forth over the roller. Your focus should be on areas of tightness and those that have a reduced range of motion. Control this pressure by adjusting the amount of body weight that you place on the roller. You can use your hands and feet to offset the weight as needed. Always ensure that your muscles are thoroughly warmed up prior to a session.

Perform your foam rolling session immediately after your run. Keep your first few sessions to just a few minutes. Over time, you can extend it to a maximum of 15 minutes.

Foam Rolling Your Running Hot Spots

Glutes / Hips

The gluteus maximus originate on the top side of the pelvis and attach on the side of your femur. It aids in external and internal hip rotation and stabilizes the pelvis.

  1. Drop to the ground, resting on one side, with an elbow resting on the ground.
  2. Drop the corresponding thigh to the ground. Place a foam roller directly under the side of your glute that is on the floor.
  3. Put the majority of your bodyweight on top of the roller. Once the pain sensation that will result becomes bearable, rock your hips back and forth.
  4. Repeat on the other side.


  1. Lie on the floor in plank position with a foam roller placed horizontally across the mid thighs. Your legs should be extended with your toes off the ground.
  2. Clasp your hands together and gently roll up and down the length of your thighs.
  3. Once you are comfortable with this movement, bend your knees so that your feet come toward your glutes. Now repeat the rolling motion.


  1. Sit on the floor with the foam roller horizontally positioned across the midline of your right calf.
  2. Support your upper body with your arms behind you and place your left foot across your right calf to add a bit of pressure.
  3. Roll side to side with your feet, rolling the calf over the roller in a sideways motion. When you feel a tight spot hold for approximately 20 seconds.
  4. Repeat with the other leg.


The peroneal runs from just below your knee, down the front of your leg, in front of the soleus.

  1. Sit on the floor with a foam roller positioned horizontally under your lower leg, just above the right ankle. Support your upper body on your right elbow.
  2. Keeping your right foot relaxed, turn the foot back and forth. Then slowly roll up and down along the length of the muscle.
  3. When you reach the most tender spot, stay there for 30 seconds, applying maximum pressure.


The adductors are located on the inside of the thigh.

  1. Lie on the floor with a foam roller under your right upper thigh. Your left forearm and right hand will be resting on the floor.
  2. Place your weight on the roller and feel the slight tension that will develop in your adductors.
  3. Gently roll the length of your thigh, from the inside hip to inside the knee, up and down the roller.

Erector Spinae

  1. Lie face up on the floor with the foam roller alongside your body.
  2. Lift one side of the body to roll the foam roller underneath your spine. Make sure that both your butt and head are on the roller. Your knees should be bent and your feet on the floor.
  3. Keep your legs shoulder width apart and place your arms out on the floor at right angles to your body. The pelvis should be in a neutral position.
  4. Initiating from the shoulders, roll from side to side on the roller. Imagine that you are balancing a glass of water on your pelvis throughout the motion.

Foam Roller Buying Tips

  1. You can pick up a quality foam roller for between $10 and $40. There are three design options
    • High Density
    • PVC
    • Grid or Ridged (for targeted release)
  2. Newbies should begin with a soft white foam roller
  3. Don’t use a grid roller until you’ve been rolling for at least a month
  4. Spend a little extra to get a high quality roller that will retain its shape over time.

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