Just as with a friend, the specifics of what makes an exercise mat great also vary a lot depending on your own needs. That’s why we’ve put together this extensive buyers’ guide.
We’ll cover every detail, every little quirk and the characteristics that gives exercise mats their own distinct personality. Then, we’ll pick some of our favorites before helping you choose the one that’s best for you.
- Features to Consider in Good Exercise Mat
- The Best Exercise Mat 2020
- 1. Best Overall Pick: BalanceFrom GoYoga All-Purpose ½” Exercise Mat
- 2. Best Premium Pick: Gorilla Mats Premium Large Exercise Mat
- 3. Best Budget Pick: BalanceFrom All Purpose Exercise Mat
- 4. Best for Easy Transportation: BalanceFrom Tri-Fold Exercise Mat
- 5. Best Looking Mat: Gaiam Yoga, Exercise & Fitness Mat
- 6. Best Adaptable Design: ProsourceFit Puzzle Exercise Mat
- 7. Best NBR Mat for Exercise: Sivan Health and Fitness Exercise Mat
- 8. Best NBR Mat for Yoga: ProsourceFit Extra Thick Yoga and Exercise Mat
- 9. Best Exercise Mat for Machines: BalanceFrom High Density Exercise and Equipment Mat
- 10. Best for Humid Climates and Sweating: Yoga Design Lab | The Combo Yoga MAT
- Guide to Buying the Best Exercise Mat
- Final Thoughts
Features to Consider in Good Exercise Mat
There are 4 key features of every exercise mat that make each one distinctively different. These are thickness, material, size and texture.
The thickness of your exercise mat makes a big difference. A thick mat can muffle impacts and movements, allowing you to make less noise whilst you’re exercising. It can protect your flooring from scuffs and marks, an especially useful feature if you’re training with weights. If thicker, it can be considerably more comfortable and provide a lot of support.
On the other hand, a thin mat can be much lighter and easier to transport. Furthermore, the lack of padding between you and the ground can give you a much greater sense of balance. It can also be easier to roll and store.
It isn’t just thickness that decides all of those things, however. To work out which mat is the right fit for you, you’ll also need to consider what material the mat is made from.
One of the biggest reasons that materials matter so much is because of their density. If the mat is 2” thick but stuffed with soft foam, it’s going to be comfortable but provide very little support. This is bad news if you want to protect your joints or your floors from damage.
You’ll also find that some materials have an excellent tackiness to them, allowing you to keep your grip on the mat even during challenging exercises. Some are easy to clean with a simple wipe down or can even be put into the washer. Some will still work well when wet, but others don’t.
The most common materials used to make exercise mats are:
Each of the materials has its own strengths and weaknesses and we’ll go into further detail about each one as they appear in the list below.
The size of the mat is another important consideration. Smaller mats are lighter and less bulky, making them easier to transport. They’re also less restrictive in where you can use them, as they’ll often need considerably smaller spaces to set up.
Larger mats allow a greater range of movements and exercises to be performed. There’s enough room for you to move around and jump without needing pinpoint precision to land back on the mat. You’ll also find it extra room helpful to safely place down weights, both before and after exercising.
The final thing to think about is the texture of the mat. Many exercise mats use a textured underside to help increase their friction with the floor. This enables them to stay in place, even during vigorous exercise. The last thing you want when you’re exercising is to feel the mat slipping underneath you.
There’s a lot more variety when it comes to the front side of the mat. Some prioritize smooth surfaces that feel good against bare skin, whilst others opt for an intricately textured surface that maximizes friction and grip. Think about what you’ll be using the mat for most when making your decision.
The Best Exercise Mat 2020
Size: 71″ x 24″ x ½”
Soft and supportive
The first thing you’ll notice about this mat is how comfortable it is. BalanceFrom has created an incredible cushion here that can really take a lot of impact. The high density foam used to make the mat also provides a good amount of support. It’s sure to help protect both your body and the surface underneath from pretty much anything a standard routine can throw at it.
However, the support isn’t quite firm enough to overcome the thickness when it comes to balancing. Basic yoga positions feel fine, but anything requiring precise balance is going to be a lot tougher. It’s a relatively minor complaint though, and something we’d expect from a thicker mat like this.
It’s also exceptionally light: this mat weighs in at just 1.8lb. Combined with a free, adjustable strap, it’s one of the easiest options to transport and store. This is a welcome contrast to many of the options at the ½” mark, which are surprisingly heavy and clunky to move around.
It’s light on the wallet too: this mat is available for an incredible price. Many other ½” mats cost double what it’s priced at, which makes it a real bargain.
A moisture resistant coating on the top of the foam helps to make this mat a dream to clean. Simply take hot water and a little soap, wipe down and you’re done. It also stops sweat from soaking in and giving the mat an unpleasant odor.
The downside of this is that those who sweat an unusual amount will find that the surface of the mat starts to become slippery. For most exercises, it won’t be a problem but it does once again make it a mat that’s not quite right for yoga.
Size: 72″ x 48″ x 0.236”
Fusion of rubber and foam
Each Gorilla Mat is made of a combination of natural rubber and PER foam. The foam makes up the core of the mat and provides soft, flexible cushioning. The rubber is used to coat the foam, providing excellent grip and support.
This combination also helps to make this mat extremely durable. Other high density foam mats suffer from a tendency to wear from friction, leaving to fibers fraying from the surface and sometimes even ripping. With the Gorilla Mat, however, all the surface tension is placed on the robust rubber layer, allowing it to deliver peak performance even after heavy use.
The only downside is that it’s considerably more heavy than the competition, weighing in at 14lb.
The differences don’t stop there. Unlike other mats, which use the same texture on both sides, Gorilla Mats use two distinctive designs.
The top uses a textured surface that’s designed to help you keep your grip even when you’re sweaty or making rapid movements. What’s truly excellent is that it does all this without creating a surface that’s irritating against bare skin, so you can use this durable mat for a sustained yoga session!
The bottom is lined with circles that provide an excellent grip on the floor, ensuring the mat won’t slip out from under you. This, combined with its larger size, make this a great exercise mat for carpets as well as harder floors.
The gorilla mat is considerably wider than many of its competitors. This can be used to place an exercise machine securely in its center, to have multiple people work out on the same mat, to provide additional room to store weights or even just so you have room to exercise freely without having to worry about stepping off the mat.
One of the best things about Gorilla Mats is the brand’s guarantee. If your mat tears or fails beyond reasonable wear and tear, they’ll happily replace it. This is a lifetime guarantee, something that none of its rivals are offering.
If you’re not sure about spending the extra cash on a premium mat, this can definitely be a deciding factor. Not only are you paying for a great mat, you’re also investing in a product that you know will either last or be replaced.
Size: 68” x 24” x 0.2”
Great all rounder
This mat really is an all-purpose pick. Its ¼” high density foam provides a great mix of support and comfort that’s well suited to a number of exercises. It’s thin enough to provide great grounding for balance exercises, but thick enough to cushion much of the impact of exercise.
It’s also extremely light, weighing in at just 1.5lb. It even includes a removable strap to help you roll, store and carry it. This strap is completely adjustable, allowing you to choose how tightly you want to keep your mat rolled.
It’s great to see a mat as affordable as this also include many of the features seen in premium competition. A textured underside, for example, helps it to make a great connection with the floor and stay in place even during enthusiastic exercise.
Then there’s the moisture resistant coating on the foam. This stops sweat from soaking in, even during longer sessions. That makes for a very easy clean-up afterwards. All you’ll need to do is take a damp sponge and some soap, wipe the mat down and leave it to dry.
Worth the trade off
In theory, this mat should also be pretty resilient. It’s made of a high density foam and even includes an anti-tear net. In practice, however the results are inconsistent.
Whilst it delivers excellent performance, this mat does seem to have a tendency to shed fibers relatively quickly. This raises some concerns over its long term durability, although with a price this low it’s hard to really complain.
Size: (expanded) 72” x 24” x 2” (folded) 24” x 24” x 6”
Thicker than the rest
The first thing to note about this mat is that it’s extremely thick. 2” of padding makes this mat easily the most cushioned on this list and as you’d expect, it offers a superb level of comfort.
It’s also firm enough to do balance work or even yoga on, though the feeling is obviously not quite as secure as it is on a thin mat. This is a serious achievement for a mat this thick, and it’s all down to the material used for the padding. The Tri-Fold uses extra firm EPE foam to give it a remarkably solid feel that’s still more than capable of absorbing shock.
The Tri-Fold really shines when you’re performing high impact exercise routines like HIIT or if you’re suffering from joint pain. The combination of firm support and thickness really help to take the impact out of movements, letting you go all out with your routine without worrying about injury. This is especially useful on a hardwood floor or on concrete.
Ease of storage and carrying
When it’s not in use, the Tri-Fold simply folds away into 3 equally sized panels. These panels are 24″ x 24″ each, making it easy and convenient to store. There are even carry handles fitted to each of the outer panels, allowing you to carry it like a grocery bag. It’s certainly a lot easier than packing away multiple tiles or having to tightly roll a yoga mat!
The Tri-Force uses a vinyl coating on its surface to help provide excellent tackiness. This helps it stay in place on the floor, and allows you to exercise with much less risk of slipping. Our only real complaint about this mat is the lack of a more detailed, grippy texture on the vinyl, as it can become a little slippery when wet.
The vinyl does, however, protect the mat from wear and tear. Pure foam mats, or those with only a thin coating on the outside, will often become distorted with time or even begin to fall apart. Here, quality stitchwork and a thick outer layer leave the foam-free to focus on what it does best: providing excellent support to anyone lucky enough to use this mat.
Size: 68” x 24” x 0.157”
The Gaiam mat is one of the thinnest on our list, measuring in at just ⅛”. Whilst this does limit the amount of support that it provides, it makes balancing far easier as it allows you to really feel the solid ground underneath your feet.
It’s also surprisingly comfortable, thanks to its textured PVC surface. This provides a relatively soft surface that feels more cushioned than you’d expect for such a thin mat. The texture is soft enough not to feel awkward against bare skin and helps you to maintain your grip on the map.
Lightweight and long-lasting
The Gaiam yoga and exercise mat is one of the lightest on our list, weighing in at just 2 lbs. Combined with its minimal thickness, this makes it an absolute dream to roll up and carry.
Don’t think that means it won’t be durable though. Unlike foam based designs, the pure PVC used here makes the Gaiam deceptively robust. It’ll stand up to regular use without breaking down or shedding fibers, providing you with a consistently excellent experience. Even the pattern seems to last for a long time.
Speaking of the pattern, the thing that immediately stands out about this mat is how stylish it is. Most exercise mats are very much function over form and are happy to settle for an ugly or simply plain mat, so long as it works. This mat asks, why can’t it look good and be brilliant? This can be quite an important consideration if you’re planning on using the mat in group exercise or storing it somewhere visible in your home. It’s nice to have a mat that isn’t either black or a very bold primary color.
Size: 6 pieces: 25” x 25” x ½”
The ProsourceFit Puzzle is probably the most unique entry on our list. It arrives in 6 puzzles pieces which can then be slotted together to form one larger mat. As designs go, it’s incredibly clever and offers a whole host of possibilities that aren’t available with a standard mat.
Looking to exercise in a small, square space? Then you can just put down 4 of the tiles. Want to make it even bigger to incorporate an exercise machine or more expansive exercises? You can just order another pack and expand your mat easily. It already comes with an impressive amount of coverage: the full 6 piece set-up is around twice the width of the average yoga mat.
Leave it down
This design also makes it an excellent source of flooring for a home gym or in any other space where you want to exercise consistently. Instead of having to roll out the mat and align it every time, you can simply leave the tiles down as a form of semi-permanent flooring.
Each puzzle piece is made from dense EVA foam. EVA is a commonly used material in exercise mats, due to its excellent cushioning. By using dense EVA, ProsourceFit is able to provide a mat that offers great support as well as comfort, whilst remaining lightweight considering its size.
It can stand up to daily use with minimal wear and tear, an essential element for any mat that’s going to see rigorous use. It’s also water-resistant and easy to wipe down with a cloth. If dirt or dust build up, it’s easy to take the mat apart and clean each part individually.
The ProsourceFit Puzzle features a textured underside to help it stay exactly where you want it. It has the same texture on the topside, which helps minimize the risk of you slipping. The only downside to this is that it’s not the most comfortable for bare skin contact.
Size: 71″ x 24″ x ½”
Powerful NBR Construction
Sivan have chosen to make NBR as the core material for their popular Health and Fitness Exercise Mat. NBR is stronger, more durable and denser than other common foams like EVA. That means it will provide an outstanding amount of support and help to protect floors and joints from the impact of exercise.
It also has a wonderfully smooth finish. This makes it extremely comfortable for use with bare skin, whilst still providing a good grip. The downside is that this smoothness does reduce the overall grip of the material.
To counter this, and enhance its grip on the floor, Sivan have used a ribbed texture for the bottom of this mat. This creates a greater amount of friction and allows you to enjoy the benefits of EVA without having to worry about the mat slipping out from under you.
Unfortunately, there’s no ribbing on the top of the mat. This means that if the mat gets especially wet or sweaty, it becomes quite slippery.
This mat can easily be rolled up and transported with its built-in strap. This is a very helpful feature to have in general, but it’s most appreciated on a thicker mat like this one. Without a strap, it can prove difficult to keep the mat in a tight roll over time, often leading to it unraveling in a closet or trunk of a car.
Size: 72” x 24” x 1”
Prosource are the second brand on this list that’s chosen to use NBR for their mat. As we mentioned before, it’s stronger, more durable and denser than other common foams like EVA.
As a result, this 1” mat is exceptionally thick and offers a level of comfort that’s perfect for chronic pain and aching joints. That level of thickness would normally be too cushioned for yoga and other exercises involving balance, but thanks to NBR this mat is actually able to create a firm, dependable base.
It also provides an outstanding amount of support to protect joints from vigorous exercise. Your knees will be glad if you choose a mat like this to practice HIIT on, and so will your floors!
One sided solution
NBR does have a downside though. It’s very smooth, which can make its contact with the floor less secure and cause grip issues for those using it if they get sweaty.
Like Sivan, Prosource has partly solved this issue by creating a ribbed texture on the underside of the mat. This creates considerably more friction than a flat surface and helps the mat maintain its grip on the floor.
The issue is that there isn’t a lot done to help aid the grip on the upper side. In many cases, this won’t matter, but if you’re a naturally sweaty person, living in a humid climate or you have slippery floors, it can be very irritating.
Size: 78” x 36” x ¼”
Shield your flooring
This mat is specifically designed to be used underneath an exercise machine, and that makes a big difference. Whereas foam and other mat materials can crumble under the additional weight and stress caused by a machine, the high density PVC used in this mat makes it robust and shock-absorbent.
The surface also gives extremely good grip, both on machines and on the floor underneath. This is essential: the last thing you want is for your mat to move during the workout or, even worse, for your machine to not be stably fixed on the mat. This makes it this a particularly great exercise mat for hardwood flooring, as it will help to ensure that there are no scuffs or grooves left by your machine, even if you use it frequently.
Even works on carpet
You can even use it on carpet! The mat is large enough and the PVC sticky enough to ensure that it will still perform well as an exercise mat for carpeted areas. The dense material is even bleed proof, so you won’t need to worry about it leaving stains.
Please do note that exercise mats should only be used on specific types of carpet. If you’re unsure if your carpet is suitable, check out our more detailed guidelines in the buyers’ guide below.
You will find, however, that machines tend to leave lasting indentations on this mat over time. These don’t affect performance but can make the matt look scruffy if you’re frequently changing the position of your machine or machines.
Although it is primarily designed for a machine, the PVC construction of this mat makes it suitable for basic exercises too. Whilst we probably wouldn’t do a rigorous floor routine on it, the ¼” thickness and high density provide a solid base for lifting weights or even doing yoga.
Size: 70” x 24”
Simple solution to sweat
There’s nothing worse than a traditional exercise mat that’s slick with sweat. Not only is it a pain to clean at the end of a session, but it can also put you at risk of slipping. This will often cause people to work out with shoes on in order to give them some extra security. This in turn can cause softer mats to wear considerably faster than they would if you were barefoot.
This is a real problem in both hot yoga and humid climates. In those situations, it’s common to place towels on top of the mat to absorb the extra sweat. The Combo Mat solves this issue by integrating the best features of a towel into the mat itself.
Microfiber and Rubber Construction
It achieves this by being primarily made up of a microfiber blend that’s specifically designed to absorb excess moisture. Not only that but it actually excels when wet, providing a truly exceptional level of grip. This can be a downside, as the dry mat isn’t especially tacky, but it’s one that’s very easily alleviated with a quick spray of water before use.
You might think that this would cause a problem with the mat gripping the ground but Yoga Design Lab has already solved that by lining the bottom of the mat with natural tree rubber. This helps to ensure that the mat has a solid, grippy base that won’t move around during your exercise.
Being made of microfiber, this mat naturally absorbs a lot more sweat than others. This means you’ll need to clean it more often than a traditional mat, otherwise it can develop an unpleasant odor over time.
Luckily, it’s one of the few mats that’s completely machine washable. This takes a lot of the hassle out of cleaning your mat. Simply put it in the washer, hang it out to dry and it’s as good as new. The inks used in the design are even strongly water resistant, ensuring your mat stays vibrant and patterned, wash after wash.
Guide to Buying the Best Exercise Mat
With our top picks still fresh in your mind, it’s time to choose a mat. It might still seem a little overwhelming, but there are 3 big factors that will help you decide which exercise mat is perfect for you.
1. The exercises you’re planning
First things first, you’ll need to work out what sort of exercise you want to do on this mat. It’s easily the most important factor in your decision, as it affects the size, material, texture and thickness of the mat you should ultimately purchase.
Below, we’ve listed many of the most common exercises and how they impact the mat you should choose,
One of the most important factors here is getting a stable base to stand on with plenty of grip. The last thing you want when doing a deadlift is to slip or to feel your foot shifting. You’ll also want a surface that’s durable enough to have weights repeatedly placed (or even sometimes dropped) on it.
Finally, it would be nice if it was big enough for you to be able to lower your weights at your side or in front of you. This isn’t essential but it’s definitely something to keep in mind.
For mat exercises, you’ll want something that blends comfort with decent levels of support. The exact blend you prefer is largely a matter of personal preference. Some people love the cushioned feel of a thick mat, others prefer the stability of a thinner one. Think about your own needs and prioritize based on that.
Anything that can cause discomfort or slipping when barefoot shouldn’t be used for yoga. Nor should anything that doesn’t provide a solid base. If you’re going to go for a thicker mat, make sure that you find one with stable support, otherwise you’ll find it hard to keep your balance in anything but the most basic poses.
Finding a mat to place an exercise machine on is a lot like finding one to lift weights. It should be spacious, exceptionally durable and have plenty of grip. It’s especially important to use a mat that’s larger than the standard size, as a larger mat will allow the weight to spread out over a greater area. This will really help to keep your floor free from damage and blemishes.
HIIT or other high impact training
High impact exercises demand a great blend of cushioning and support. You need something robust enough to take frequent shocks, stable at its base and with great support. You’ll probably want to look at mats that are ½” and above, though the exact thickness is up to you.
2. The place you intend to use it
Where you intend to use your mat is another key factor. A mat that works well on concrete for example, might not be as great when you put it on spongy carpet.
Start by asking yourself how solid the surface will be under your mat. Will it shift around like carpet or is it firm?
If it’s firm, then you’ll want to find a mat with sufficient cushioning. Hardwood floors and concrete can be both painful and stressful to your joints if you’re exercising on them with a mat that’s too thin.
Meanwhile carpet poses its own unique challenges. If you have a plush carpet, we would strongly advise trying to find another space to set up. It’s almost impossible to balance a mat on without either damaging the carpet or creating an unstable surface. Even the mats specifically marketed at carpets suggest that they only be used on a short carpet.
If you have a short carpet, opt for something super stable without too much cushioning. The Gorilla Mat would be an ideal choice, thanks to its excellent underside grip. It also has a larger surface area, which helps spread the force out more evenly and can help to stop your carpet from getting flattened.
How much grip?
Once you’ve decided how solid your surface is likely to be, it’s time to think about how tacky it will be. A slick floor for example, makes a textured underside that prioritizes grip essential. Slippery floors might especially need the additional stability that’s provided by having a larger mat, even if you don’t need all that room to exercise. The increased surface area of a larger mat makes it more stable and allows it to stay in place even during particularly sudden movements.
How consistent will your location be?
Of course, you might not be intending to only use it in a single place. If you want a mat that can cope with a variety of common locations, then it’s important to choose something versatile and easily transportable.
It’s a lot easier to roll or fold up a mat than it is to disassemble tiles, pack them together into a box then reconstruct them at a different location. Likewise, a textured, grippy underside will give you a lot more potential spots to set up in than a more slippery alternative.
3. The things that matter to you
If comfort matters less to you than convenience, and you don’t need too much support, you might be better off with a thinner mat. Similarly, if you sweat a lot and absolutely need something that’s easy to clean after every session, go for something that’s easily wiped down.
You ultimately need to choose a mat that works for your own individual needs. The mats on this list all cater to a variety of different uses and purposes, so you’re sure to find one that suits your particular regimen and available space. A good mat can make working out a pleasure instead of a chore, so pick the one you like the look of and enjoy the burn.