The best massage tools for runners are the ones that don’t require a professional to use them. The reason is that it can be hard to find time for massages, and even when you do find the time, it’s not always easy on your wallet.
Massage tools like foam rollers, trigger point balls, and tennis balls have been shown to provide effective relief from runner’s pain points with minimal cost or effort – so they’re perfect!
Best of all they create a relaxing environment for you at home. They also help build flexibility in tight muscles which can lead to better form while running and more endurance during long-distance runs. These products also provide you with self-massage techniques that allow you to effectively work out knots when they arise before they become too painful.
The Best Massage Tools & How To Use Them
These tools have been rated by many runners as the best options available.
Foam rollers have been getting more attention over the past few years because of their effectiveness in relieving pain associated with tight muscles. They are great for runners because they are effective on most major muscle groups that runners use during training, which include quads, calves, hamstrings, glutes, and hip flexors.
They also help runners build flexibility in these notoriously tight areas by allowing them to roll through the muscle slowly while applying gentle pressure.
Who Is It For?
Foam rollers are the most popular of all self-myofascial release tools. These are ideal for people who want to massage their quads, hamstrings, calves, glutes, and other muscles. The best part about this type of tool is that you can use it for a full-body workout while targeting specific areas to relieve pain.
For runners who want relief from tightness in their IT bands or patellar tendons (runners knee), they will love these rollers because they put direct pressure on whatever area you choose to target. They’re easy to use but you do need some patience when using them since it can be difficult to apply the right amount of pressure at first–however, once the initial discomfort eases up after several seconds, you’re good to go.
Related: 10 Best Recovery Drinks For Runners
How To Use Foam Rollers?
Use a foam roller to target these areas:
Quads: Place the foam roller under your quad and slowly roll up and down while applying gentle pressure. When you reach a tight area or knots in your muscles, stop and spend a few seconds rolling back and forth over it until you feel the tension release. Roll from the top of your quad down to your knee to fully release all of the tightness in this area.
Hamstring: Place the foam roller under the back of your hamstring and slowly roll up and down from your glutes to your knee while applying gentle pressure. Spend extra time on any tight areas you find to release tension in the muscle.
Calf: Place the foam roller under one calf and slowly roll up and down while only pressing enough weight onto it that you can feel some resistance without pain (if you feel like you’re about to slip off, make sure there’s more weight on the back of your leg). It is best to use a rolling stick or tennis ball for this area because these tools can penetrate deeper than a foam roller.
Glutes: Place the foam roller under one of your glutes (where either side of your butt meets your hamstring) and slowly roll up and down while applying gentle pressure. Spend extra time on any tight areas you find to release tension in the muscle.
Hip Flexor: Sit with your right hip flexor on top of the roller and slowly roll up and down while applying gentle pressure (you may also use a ball or stick for this area). When you reach a tight area, stop and spend extra time rolling back and forth over it until the tension releases.
You can stretch out your quad while you work on releasing tension in your hip flexors by grabbing onto your leg and pulling it towards you (while still sitting with your hip on the roller) as far as it’s comfortable. Repeat on the other side.
Trigger Point Balls
Trigger point balls are small handheld balls that provide a more concentrated massage within specific areas where there is tension. They’re beneficial because they provide more intense self-massage than foam rollers or other massage tools.
You can use these items by simply rolling them under your muscles to reach deeper aches and pains, which makes them ideal for runners who experience a lot of pain in the front of their thighs (quads) or calves.
Who Is It For?
These are great for people who want some relief from their quad muscles or hamstrings so they’re more comfortable when they go on long runs.
They’re also good to relieve knots, kinks, and tightness in general. Trigger point balls work best on any kind of muscle but you’ll really enjoy using them on your quads or hamstrings because they offer intense relief.
How To Use Trigger Point Balls?
Use trigger point balls to target these areas:
Quad: Use trigger point balls on either side of your quad muscles by laying with your legs perpendicular to the floor and letting one leg rest across the ball (the topside should be facing up when you’re using it). Slowly roll back and forth over this area until you feel the tension release from the muscle. Repeat on another side.
Hamstring: Use trigger point balls on either side of your hamstring muscle by lying down with your legs extended and letting one leg rest across the ball (the topside should be facing up when you’re using it). While massaging the muscle in slow, circular motions, ease back and forth over this region until you feel the strain release.
Calf: Use trigger point balls on either side of your calf muscles by laying down with your calves perpendicular to the floor and letting one leg rest across the ball (the topside should be facing up when you’re using it). Begin by gently rolling back and forth over this region to relieve the strain in the muscle.
Glutes: You can use a trigger point ball anywhere along your gluteal region to relieve pain, but I recommend putting it under either side of your butt while lying flat on your stomach. Roll from around hip bone down to where your leg meets your pelvis, spending extra time on any tight areas until the tension releases.
Massage Sticks / Rolling Sticks
A massage stick is a great option for runners who have trouble reaching back muscles. It can penetrate to hard-to-reach areas under the arm, behind the knee, and through the back of your hamstring that other tools might miss.
Because a massage stick has a wooden handle with a rubber head that flexes as you use it, it provides even deeper penetration than tennis balls do. These are ideal for runners who experience a lot of pain in their IT band or hamstring muscles.
Who Is It For?
Rolling sticks are best for runners who have really intense pain where they are experiencing a lot of tension. This is especially true for people who have problems with their IT band or hamstrings.
Rolling these directly onto your muscles can bring better relief than foam rollers do, so if you’re not getting the results you want from a foam roller, massage sticks are your best option.
How To Use Massage Sticks?
Use the massage sticks to target these areas:
IT Band: Place the roller under your IT band (by crossing one ankle over the other) and slowly roll up and down while applying gentle pressure. Spend extra time on any tight areas you find to release tension in the muscle.
Hamstrings: Place the roller under one of your hamstrings (on either side of your thigh) and slowly roll up and down while applying gentle pressure. Spend extra time on any difficult spots to break up muscular tension.
Posterior Knee: This is one of my favorite ways to use a rolling stick because it’s so simple yet highly effective at relieving pain after runs when my knees are sore. Just lay down flat with the roller underneath one knee, then straighten your legs out in front of you while keeping that knee bent (you can also place the back leg on top of the front for more pressure). Roll, back and forth over this area until you feel the tension release in your muscles–repeat on the other side if necessary.
Tennis balls are another option for runners looking to give themselves self-massages. They provide a similar benefit to trigger point balls but can be more effective at getting into really tight muscles because of their ability to penetrate deeper than trigger point balls, which are usually about two inches in diameter.
Since they’re smaller, tennis balls are especially helpful on the calves and feet where larger muscles seem to generate more tension. You can use these the same way you would use the trigger point balls.
Sore Muscle Massage Oil
Rubbing oil onto your skin before you use a foam roller or trigger point ball can increase the effectiveness because it provides you with better traction as you roll, which allows the muscles to relax more. This makes for an even deeper massage that improves circulation and loosens up built-up lactic acid that’s making your legs feel sluggish during your next training session.
You can also rub massage oil onto your skin after using one of these products to help you cool down, which relieves muscle tension and cramping. Using an oil infused with herbs like arnica, peppermint, lavender, ginseng or witch hazel will stimulate blood flow while cooling your skin.
Arnica is especially good for injuries where there is soreness or bruising because it takes down swelling, while peppermint will help your body cool down after an intense workout.
Massage Sticks vs Foam Rollers: Which One Is The Better Option?
Foam rollers are an excellent option for runners looking to get in a good workout while giving themselves some relief from the aches and pains of running. However, massage sticks are more intense tools that can help runners relieve more tension from the muscles.
If you’re very sore or have any injuries that are causing significant discomfort, then massage sticks are the better option because they can help you get a custom massage in spots where foam rollers can’t reach.
However, if you’re looking for something to use on a regular basis, foam rollers are often more convenient thanks to their portability–especially when traveling.
How Often Should You Massage?
Usually, people massage once or twice a day for 2-3, 15 minutes sessions. Of course, the amount of time you spend massaging those sore muscles will depend on your personal preference as well as how often you’ve been running.
Running injuries may require more regular treatment to help relieve discomfort that is caused by working out too much or not recovering enough (most runners experience this problem). As long as you’re using your massage tools regularly, it shouldn’t take long to see an improvement in your running life.
Benefits Of Massaging Your Quads & Hamstrings:
Relieves pain from tightness in your muscles
This is a really common problem for runners, but it’s especially bad if you have a lot of tension or knots in your quads or hamstrings.
Breaks up knots, kinks, and other serious problems in your muscles
If you feel like there’s a knot somewhere in either muscle group, chances are good that it’s pretty big and tough, especially if you aren’t getting the relief you want from a regular roller. Gradually apply pressure to see what kind of reaction you get out of that knot. If it gets worse, ease up on the pressure and try again later.
Improves blood circulation and flexibility
When you’re using these tools, they increase blood flow because they stimulate the muscles while helping them to relax. This improvement in circulation can directly affect your flexibility also because healthier muscles are stronger ones, which means better stability and performance. Plus, when you improve your range of motion, it’ll be easier for your body to recover after tough workouts so you can keep up with high mileage.
Massage tools help runners relieve tension and improve blood circulation so they recover faster after hard workouts. For people with really tight muscles, rolling sticks provide deeper massages than foam rollers do.
Tennis balls work well too but require direct skin contact in order to increase effectiveness. Use any one of these tools before or after your run for better results.