Foam rolling is an effective recovery tool in trained distance runners

  • Emma J. LeeEmail author
  • Erik H. Van Iterson
  • Sarah E. Baker
  • Alexander J. Kasak
  • Natalie E. Taylor
  • ChoungHun Kang
  • Christopher J. Lundstrom
  • Eric M. Snyder
Original Article



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.


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).


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).


Foam rolling decreases leg soreness in well-trained runners and attenuates soreness-related increases in perceived exertion during sub-maximal running.


Recovery Time trial Running economy Muscle soreness Foam rolling 



This study was funded by NIH grant R01 HL108962-03.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors have no conflicts of interest to report.

Ethical approval

All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki Declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards. The University of Minnesota’s Institutional Review Board approved the protocols for this study.

Informed consent

All participants provided written informed consent prior to enrollment.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Italia S.r.l., part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Emma J. Lee
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • Erik H. Van Iterson
    • 3
  • Sarah E. Baker
    • 4
  • Alexander J. Kasak
    • 1
  • Natalie E. Taylor
    • 5
  • ChoungHun Kang
    • 6
  • Christopher J. Lundstrom
    • 1
  • Eric M. Snyder
    • 1
  1. 1.School of KinesiologyUniversity of MinnesotaMinneapolisUSA
  2. 2.Physical Therapy ProgramMinneapolisUSA
  3. 3.Section of Preventive Cardiology and RehabilitationCleveland ClinicClevelandUSA
  4. 4.Mayo Clinic College of MedicineRochesterUSA
  5. 5.Pathology and Laboratory MedicineUniversity of Wisconsin Health Hospitals and ClinicsMadisonUSA
  6. 6.Department of Physical EducationInha UniversityIncheonSouth Korea

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