This weird-looking muscle roller is the only thing that gets me to stretch
If you don't like stretching, you'll love the Roll Recovery R8.
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I’m a retired Olympic figure skater, newly-minted amateur runner, and an all-around Pilates enthusiast. All this is to say, I’m an active person, so I’m well acquainted with the act of foam rolling and its benefits for muscles both for warm-ups and recoveries. Foam rolling is a proven way to help decrease muscle pain and increase range of motion, but despite all the benefits, it was a part of my workout routine I would skip more often than not. I never was able to find a roller I really liked and—let’s be real—crawling around on dirty gym floors to use the roller effectively was never something I wanted to do after a long session of program run-throughs or HIIT circuits.
Enter the Roll Recovery R8.
I first tried the R8 after one of my training mates purchased it. At first, I was intimidated by its strange appearance—it looks more like a medical device than most other standard cylinder-shaped foam rollers—but after she described it as the “lazy person’s foam roller,” I knew I had to give it a try. Eventually, I bought one for myself. Since then, the Roll Recovery R8 has become one of my favorite training tools.
What is the Roll Recovery R8?
The R8 is not quite the same as a foam roller—for one thing, the $129 device doesn't contain any foam. But it delivers a similar massaging effect to the muscles with a row of thermoplastic polyurethane (TPU) loops that look kind of like rollerblade wheels on a spring-loaded, clamp-like shell. To use it, you place it over the legs or arms—the springs put pressure on the muscles, so all you have to do is glide it over tight and sore muscles. This is a marked difference from the usual foam rolling process, which involves placing the roller on the ground, laying a body part atop it, and moving back and forth to loosen up the muscles. It's also less noisy, less expensive, and less heavy than most massage guns. In other words, it does the hard work of self-myofascial release with the least amount of effort possible.
In 2018, Roll Recovery released an updated version of its roller, which I don’t own but have used many times. The crucial difference is that the new model allows you to switch out the standard roller with two different inserts: "Super Deep," which has sharper ridges and is made of harder material for more intense massages, or "Super Plush," which is made of softer material to provide a gentler massage. Both are $27.99 each. It also has an improved spring design and softer handles. Finally, the new model has three color options: carbon black, alpine white, or lava red. If none of those strike your fancy, you can get a custom R8 for $149 that allows you to mix color options, pick the insert you want to begin with (so you can get the Super Plush or Super Deep insert from the start, rather than the standard roller), and add a lasered monogram.
What I like about the Roll Recovery R8
My retirement from international competition has caused a significant change in my activity level, but the R8 is a tool I still use every day. Throughout my skating career and now as I have turned to running as my go-to form of exercise, I have struggled with posterior tibial tendonitis (basically, a constant nagging tightness on the inside of my calves). With a traditional foam roller, I could never really get in deep enough to release the muscle. Using a lacrosse ball was helpful, but I never thought to bring one with me.
One of my favorite things about the Roll Recovery R8 is how portable it is. Before I got it, one of the main reasons I would skip foam rolling was the inconvenience of having to find a large enough space to put down my yoga mat to sprawl out and roll. But the R8 enables me to roll just about anywhere. I can do it lying down, seated, or even standing up, all without compromising on the quality of my foam-rolling experience. At 12.5 by 9.5 inches, it's an all-in-one package at a relatively compact size. It is able to effectively roll out larger areas like my IT band, but it also helps me get into my calves and alleviate some of the tightness I hold there. Although it is a bit heavier than traditional foam rollers, it takes up way less space in my gym bag, which makes it super convenient and easy to travel with.
It’s also great quality. I have had my R8 for nearly five years, and in that time it has traveled with me to dozens of countries, been dropped countless times, and used every single day (no, I'm not exaggerating). Even after all that, it still works and feels like new. None of the traditional foam rollers I have tried have had that kind of durability.
What I don’t like as much about the Roll Recovery R8
After using the newer model a few times, for the most part, I can say that the experience is fairly similar to my trusty older R8 model—except for switching out the inserts. I like the idea of different inserts, and I could really feel a difference using the Super Plush or Super Deep versus the standard insert, but changing them out is a bit of a hassle. If I had the newer model, I could see myself finding an insert combination I liked and just leaving it, which kind of defeats the purpose of having interchangeable inserts.
The R8 also doesn’t work on one vital area of the body: the back. It’s fantastic at rolling out quads, hamstrings, calves, IT bands, glutes, hip flexors, and arms, but due to the diameter of the rollers and the hardware they are confined to, no matter how you approach it, there is absolutely no way you can use it to roll out your back. I am not a big back roller, so for me this isn’t an issue, but if you primarily use your foam roller to roll out your back, this lack of reach could be a dealbreaker.
Is the Roll Recovery R8 worth it?
The Roll Recovery R8 turned me from a foam-roller agnostic into a muscle-rolling obsessive. Its convenience and effectiveness made me want to roll out before and after every workout, allowing me to reap the many benefits of foam rolling in a much easier way. Yes, it is pricier than more traditional foam rollers, but it allows you to give your muscles a good roll wherever you are and is durable enough to last for years and years. If convenience, quality, and a really good massage are important to you, the Roll Recovery R8 is totally worth the investment.
Prices were accurate at the time this article was published but may change over time.