Foam rolling is an effective recovery tool in trained distance runners

Emma J. Lee, Erik H. Van Iterson, Sarah E. Baker, Alexander J. Kasak, Natalie E. Taylor, Choung Hun Kang, Christopher J. Lundstrom, Eric M. Snyder

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Purpose: Many endurance athletes use foam rolling (FR) to decrease muscle soreness, but it is unclear whether FR effectively treats soreness in this population. Moreover, the effects of FR in highly trained runners are unknown. The aim of this study was to use downhill running (DHR) to induce muscle soreness in runners and to determine the influence of FR on soreness and running performance when compared to sham compression tights. Methods: Participants performed a running economy (RE) test at 75% of 5-km race speed and a 3-km time trial (TT). In a crossover design, subjects then completed DHR followed by either a FR protocol or wearing sham compression tights. Two days post-DHR, subjects repeated the RE and TT tests. Crossover visits occurred 2–4 weeks later. During RE tests, VO2 and rating of perceived exertion (RPE) were recorded. Passive and active soreness were measured on a scale of 0 (no soreness) to 10 (extreme soreness). Results: Eight runners (aged 31 ± 7 years; four females; VO2peak 57 ± 7 ml kg−1 min−1) completed the study. Both treatment conditions experienced passive (p = 0.026) and active soreness (p = 0.012) induced by DHR. Active soreness 2 days post-DHR was significantly lower after FR than after sham compression tights (p = 0.025). With tights, there was a trend for an increased RPE compared to pre-DHR (p = 0.056). Conclusions: Foam rolling decreases leg soreness in well-trained runners and attenuates soreness-related increases in perceived exertion during sub-maximal running.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)105-115
Number of pages11
JournalSport Sciences for Health
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 1 2020


  • Foam rolling
  • Muscle soreness
  • Recovery
  • Running economy
  • Time trial

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Orthopedics and Sports Medicine


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