Balance boards come in all different shapes and sizes and have many different uses, pros and cons. Picking the best for your workouts can be a bit tricky. However if you know exactly what you are looking for in features and functionality then it makes it much easier. Below I have broken down different types of equipment (some not boards at all) into like groups of the top three in each category, and ordered them from best to worst. Before you buy one, you need to know what functions and features are going to work best for you.
The best are not just for training your balance. Though this is their main function and purpose, they do a lot more than just improve overall coordination. An improvement in balance is also an improvement in reaction time and body awareness, which any athlete knows is imperative to giving you a competitive edge and any doctor can tell you is key to health and independence as you age. Another unintended benefit of using any device that challenges your balance (such as a wobble board, balance pad, or balance disc) is that it has a direct effect on your core muscles.
The extra effort it takes to steady yourself when using any of the previously mentioned tools causes your core muscles to work overtime which in turn tones and shapes your abdominals, lower back, and obliques. On top of getting an extra core workout with whatever exercise you are doing, you also burn calories at an elevated rate because of all of the muscles that have to constantly work to keep you upright.
In summary, using anything that challenges coordination not only improves your balance over time but also tones your core, and helps you burn more calories than when doing the same exercise without the added challenge.
Balance Board Reviews
This is traditionally a round wood or plastic board with a small dome on the bottom giving it a small point of ground contact that allows the board to move in any direction. These can be used with one foot or two and are the most common in balance training. These can range from easy to difficult, depending on the size of the dome on the underside of the platform.
1. Isokinetics Deluxe Balance Board - 16.5" - Adjustable
This is a great option that has two different domes for two different difficulty levels and it also happens to be the cheapest. However is it not intended for heavy users or those who will be holding some kind of extra weight while using the board.
2. 16" Fitter First® Wobble Board
I would have liked to put this in the number one position but there are a couple of things that kept me from doing that. One, this is a tool for advanced skills and not for the beginner; even the easiest of its three levels is difficult. Two, it is much more expensive than other options. However, with its solid wood construction, ability to hold 350 pounds, and the likelihood that this will be the last you will ever have to buy, I think it is well worth the extra cost- especially if this is for use in a gym.
3. Exertools Economy Wobble Board (Beginner)
Though not as heavy duty as the Fitter First version, this one is better for beginners and a bit cheaper, though still not as inexpensive as the Isokinetics board. This would be a great board for someone looking to save a little money but still get a heavy duty piece of equipment for their home gym.
This is different from the wobble variety in that it only tips in two directions; front to back or side-to-side, depending on how you are standing on the platform. This still challenges coordination but is not as challenging as a wobble board. These have different styles but perform basically the same and would be ideal for those new to this kind of training.
1. Fitter Rocker Board Tri Level Design - 20" - Beginner
This is the most heavy duty of the three but also the most expensive. It has three different levels of difficulty to choose from, making it great for increasing the challenge as you get better. This would be the best choice for a gym or institution where it will be getting a lot of use as it is built to last.
2. Thera-Band Rocker Board
This is made from a strong plastic which keeps it’s price lower. It has good traction both on the top and bottom of the platform. It’s main draw back it that it is easy to master. This is a beginner level tool but if you are a beginner or work with those who have substandard coordination, such as the elderly or rehab patients, then this is definitely the best option for you.
3. J Fit Balance Board with 5 Fulcrums
I really like this one because it comes with five different fulcrums to challenge your balance. This is a very challenging style but the fulcrums are held on with Velcro. If being used in your own home gym then the Velcro attachment should not be an issue, but this is not the best option for a high traffic institution. This particular piece of balance equipment would be great for individual use and it is the least expensive of the three.
This is a rectangular or oval shaped board that balances on top of a cylinder or roller of some kind. It will only tip in two directions, similar to a rocker board; front to back or side-to-side, depending on how you are standing on it. But the unique thing about roller boards is that when you lean (or lose your balance) the board will move on the roller, changing its point of balance. This dynamic shift in it's fulcrum point is what makes them more challenging and fun as compared to a rocker board. They are particularly useful for those who need to train for water sports such as surfing, wake boarding, and water skiing.
1. Original Indo Board Natural
This is probably the most versatile one I have come across. Not only is it made from strong materials but it can be used in many different ways that most other similar options cannot. This would be equally appropriate in a gym or in your home. Well worth the money if you need to keep your balance top notch and plan on using it frequently. If you really want a challenge try the:
2Fitter First® Bongo Board.
This is a great beginners board as the roller is connected to the device using an elastic band and the amount of movement of the roller is limited by the ends of the track on which the board and roller moves. However what makes this good for beginners is also the reason it is not in the number one spot; the limitations (which makes it safe for those with poor balance) keep it from being very versatile.
3. Carrom 510.01 Balance Board
This made the list because it is the least expensive of the bunch. It still works just like the others but has a full wood roller that you must first assemble yourself. Also it does not have grip over the full surface of the platform, which limits your foot placement. However, this is a good buy for those who don’t want to spend the big bucks.
Balance pads are foam pads that give your foot an unstable surface. These are very low-tech tools but still work very well. They can be used with one foot or two and can be sat, kneeled, or laid on. Slightly less expensive than most balance tools, they are great for hundreds of exercises.
1. Airex Balance Pad Elite
Though the most expensive of the three, this is as good as it gets. This is a high quality pad that is great for prolonged personal use in a home gym or for large institutions. I could easily have filled this list with just positive Airex reviews.
2. Thera-Band Stability Trainer
This style comes in three different densities which give different amounts of instability. They are smaller than the airex pad and are only meant to be used with one foot. They are less expensive and if you are planning on only training one foot at a time this might be the best equipment of this sort for you.
3. FitBALL Balance Pad
This is a beginners level balance pad and is of decent quality. The price is much lower than most other brands which makes this a good fit for those who will not be getting heavy use out of their balance pad. This pad is best for personal use and not recommended for large institutions.
These are similar to a balance pad but are filled with air and have a slightly different feel. They also can be used with one foot or two and can be sat, kneeled, or laid on as well. Another nice thing about the discs is that they can be inflated or deflated to achieve a different amount of challenge. These are the least expensive of the tools but still very effective.
1. J Fit Balance Training Disc with Pump
This is one of the higher quality versions of a balance disc and it will not break the bank. Though it is best used in a home gym, it will also do well in a commercial setting. This disc even comes with its own pump.
2. Harbinger 364060 Core Balance Trainer 3" High x 13" Diameter
This disc is probably the most heavy duty but also the most expensive. This would be best for those intending to use it in a commercial setting.
3. Isokinetics Inc. Brand Exercise Disc / Balance Cushion
This may not be the most heavy-duty out of the three but it is definitely the least expensive. Do not expect this product to last long in a commercial setting but it will be just fine for a home gym. This item does not come pre-inflated so you will need a pump and pump needle like you would use on a basketball, or soccer ball.
Each piece of balance training equipment has its pros and cons but whatever you take from these reviews, rest assured that no matter which tool you chose, training your balance is a great way to burn some extra calories and improve your overall physical ability. It will improve your athletic ability and reduce your chance of falls and injury. Adding balance training to any workout routine is never a bad idea.