You’ve been running for a while now. Long enough that stretching doesn’t seem to be enough. You may have seen or heard about The Stick or foam rollers, but what’s the deal with them? Are they worth the money? I wasn’t convinced until I had a chance to use both one day for free. Then I was and bought the Foam Roller for myself!
The Stick is essentially like a rolling pin. There is a core surrounded by plastic cylinders/large beads that rotate as they’re rolled on your muscles. As you run, your muscles get tight and, to use a word from The Stick’s website, become non-compliant. Stretching can only do so much. Your muscles sometimes need to be more forcibly broken down using a rolling pressure. You can’t get a leg massage every day, but The Stick painlessly (for the most part) breaks down scar tissue and tough areas. Because it’s relatively small (maybe 18 inches), it’s easy to take on the road and doesn’t get in the way at home. Its size also makes it easier to get to more sensitive areas like the muscle on your shin or your IT band right above the knee.
The Foam Roller
The Foam Roller is another great option for breaking down scar tissue and massaging stiff muscles. They’re larger; 3 ft long and about 6 in round. While not as ideal to take on the road, I’ve found the foam roller to be incredibly effective for IT band pain. (The IT band runs from the hip to the outer side of the knee. If you have pain on the lower, outer side of the knee, IT band tightness could be to blame.) Where The Stick is operated by rolling with your hands on each handle, the Foam Roller rests on the ground. You use your body weight to roll on it (which I think gives added pressure for especially non-compliant muscles). You can still massage your quads, hamstring, IT band, shins, and calves — just in a different way. It hurts like crazy when you find a knotted area on your leg, but boy have I seen improvement and reduction of IT band pain!
Depending on what you need, either The Stick or the Foam Roller are well worth the money. They keep your muscles stretched, lithe, and ready for a run. I see them as a means to heal after a long run, a way to prevent injury, and assistance in recovering from an injury. I’ve had more success with the Foam Roller, but The Stick is great and obviously more portable. You’ll spend around $30 on either. Visit a running or sporting goods store to see if they have one you can try out!