FOAM ROLLERS VS. YOGA WHEELS

A RECOVERY GEAR SHOWDOWN

“For every problem, there’s a tool”-- It’s a phrase a lot of our grandpas used to say. But not all tools are created equal here in the world of recovery products. From big massage guns to little fascia scrapers, there are so many devices out there for self-maintenance that it’s difficult to know where to start or how to improve your kit. So we want to break down two that we know very, very well: the foam roller and the yoga wheel. What are the key differences and which should you get?

There’s a lot of confusion about the appropriate situations where these two recovery tools should be used. First off, let’s describe both of these tools. The Yoga Wheel is a large plastic ring (8-18” in diameter) with a strip of foam covering the outside. AFoam Roller is a cylindrical piece of foam 15-45” long and ~5-10” in diameter. While they may appear to serve the same function, these two tools are anything but peas from the same pod.

Here’s the thing–while we certainly see scenarios where both tools are suitable, we firmly believe that overall the foam roller is a superior tool. Here’s why...

1- FUNCTIONALITY

Let’s get things started with the elephant in the room. While you can use a yoga wheel to roll out your back to relieve specific back pain or to achieve certain yoga positions, there isn’t much else it’s good for. Because of their shape, Yoga Wheels can only address your back (and not even all of it) and that’s pretty much it–they lack versatility.

On the other hand, foam rollers not only span the entire width of your back, but are a tool to fix ailments for other parts of your body, as well. Tight calves? Foam roller can fix that. Knot in your pec (somehow)? Foam roller’s gotchu. Quad issues? Yep, foam roller. It’s a multi-trick pony that always has your back and more. A true swiss army knife of recovery tools that wi’ll work for every major muscle in your body (except for maybe your tongue).

2 - PORTABILITY

The tool that’s the most useful is the one that gets the most use. Makes sense, right? If you’re dreading to pack up and lug around your yoga wheel and end up leaving it at home, then there isn’t a point in having it in the first place. In general, both are pretty bad in this field (unless you’re rolling with The Morph Collapsible Foam Roller–booyah) but we’ll let you decide which is easier to transport and/or store.

3 - SAFETY

We thought about putting this at the top, but didn’t want to scare anyone before they read to this point. We’ll go ahead and say it, Yoga Wheels can be dangerous (like...seriously dangerous). The narrow rolling surface plus the high suspension off the ground that yoga wheels offer make a pretty precarious device. If you’ve fallen off a futon couch, then you know the feeling. They also put a ton of pressure on the middle of your thoracic spine which can be dangerous if you’re not engaging your core while using them.

You can’t fall off a foam roller (trust us on this one), and they offer a safe amount of surface area for performing exercises you might even call acrobatic. And we can’t stress this enough--if you hurt yourself during arecovery exercise, then you have the wrong tool for the job.

4 - ALTERNATIVE USES

Fun fact: Foam rollers can also be used as the main tool in your workout. With dozens of exercises designed for core and stabilizer muscle training, the foam roller solidifies itself as the leading choice for the better fitness device. Don’t believe us? Well check out these workouts that will give yoga wheels a run for their money.

Foam Roller Core Workout | Foam Roller Strength Workout

5 - OPTIONS

There’s something to be said about all the innovation that the foam roller has received over the last decade. With rollers, you have access to a spectrum of shapes, foam densities, surface options, and features like vibration and collapsibility.

The same isn’t true for wheels. With a few exceptions, all that’s out there are different colors of overpriced pieces of plastic with a strip of foam around them. On average they cost the same as a foam roller, which isn’t justified, as their lack of options and features goes hand-in-hand with their lack of uses.

We could probably go on and on about this topic, but we’ll hop off the soap box to let you get back to what you were doing.

We hope that we’ve shed some light on the differences behind yoga wheels and foam rollers. Though we're huge proponents of the foam roller, we understand that wheels have use cases that can make them attractive. Our objective here is to lay it all out on the table so that the next time you open up your wallet to improve your recovery kit, you're informed and confident about your decision.