Massage is a staple recovery and injury prevention activity for runners, walkers, athletes and exercisers. Many (perhaps too many) consumer product companies have flooded the market with many variations of self-massage tools. In working with customers at SHOES-n-FEET, it's clear that customers are overwhelmed with the large volume of options to assist in their day-to-day self-massage routines. Foam rollers and balls of many sizes and densities, The Stick, knobby foam rollers, foot massage tools. It’s a challenge to choose what works for each individual. Below I suggest my four favorite tools and my four favorite exercises that I use on a regular basis.
#1 5.75"x35" Foam Roller from ProTec Athletics
I spend time bending over my laptop and my upper back and shoulders are always tight. I use the larger basic foam roller to work on my upper back. My favorite exercise is to lay on the ground with the large foam roller, perpendicular to my spine, under my middle and upper back. I start mid-back and stretch backwards over the foam roller. After each stretch, I move the foam roller up a couple inches towards my upper back repeat. Like going to a chiropractor, I usually get a lot of “pops” that help to loosen my spine and back.
#2 The Y Roller from ProTec Athletics
I like to use the shorter foam rollers when doing more complex lower body massage. I find the smaller rollers easy to keep in alignment and they don’t bang into furniture in my small living room. The Y Roller is my favorite because it is very dense and it has a Y-shaped ridge pattern that allows for digging deep into trouble areas. Like many runners, I suffer from tight IT Bands and the Y Roller is the best way I’ve found to make ITB massage hurt like it should.
#3 The Orb 5" Deep Tissue Massage Ball from ProTec Athletics
The smaller the muscle group, and the more specific the activity, the more I use tools that are small enough to hit hard to get areas and dense enough to do the job. The Orb works wonders on the calf muscles and connective tissue of the lower leg. The top of The Orb is just the right size to dig in, plus the spherical shape allows for dynamic massage in in 360 degrees.
I’m prone to plantar fasciitis, and my tight foot tendons also create other injuries for me up and down my legs. I recently found out that some of my IT Band issues were related to problems in my feet. To keep my feet loose, I use the FootRubz. I like it because its small enough to work the smaller muscles and tendon groups of my feet. The spiky texture feels like it digs into the fascia without being too painful on the sensitive parts of the bottom of my feet. Because its rubber, it works well on lots of surfaces from carpet to hardwood floors.