Best Gym Mats

Updated April 2019
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BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We may earn a commission if you purchase a product through our links.
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.
We may earn a commission if you purchase a product through our links.
Bottom Line
Pros
Cons
How we decided

We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

77 Models Considered
17 Hours Researched
1 Experts Interviewed
121 Consumers Consulted
Zero products received from manufacturers.

We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

Why trust BestReviews?
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.
We may earn a commission if you purchase a product through our links.
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We may earn a commission if you purchase a product through our links.
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.
We may earn a commission if you purchase a product through our links.

Shopping guide for best gym mats

Last Updated April 2019

From tumbling and vaulting in gymnastics, to throwing and grappling arts like judo and jiu jitsu, to simple exercises like stretching, gym mats are all-around accessories that can enhance one’s game, protect athletes, or just keep you comfortable while exercising.

Yet there’s more to a gym mat than meets the eye. Its thickness, cushioning material, and covering are important to consider before purchasing because the wrong type of mat can cause discomfort or even injury.

Read our buying guide to learn more about the features you should look for in a gym mat, as well as price ranges and tips for caring for your mat. Of course, our product recommendations can guide you in your search for the perfect gym mat, too.

Folding mats come in bifold and trifold variations. This makes a difference in storage, especially for larger mats.

Key considerations

The two biggest things to consider when choosing a gym mat are where it will be used and its purpose.

Location: Where will the mat be used most often? Perhaps in a room set aside for practice or rolled out in the backyard on sunny afternoons. You might use it inside a gymnasium or fitness center, or use it as an additional piece of equipment in a dance or martial arts studio.

How much room do you need in order to perform the moves you need to practice? Measure the floor space where the mats will be used most often to figure out the length and width of the mat needed. Buying multiple mats that attach to each other allows you to expand the mat area or change the configuration as needed.

Purpose: Perhaps you need a mat for extra cushioning while doing exercises or stretching. Or it’s a practice mat for a new gymnast, a high school wrestler, martial artist, or stunt performer.

Choosing the right thickness of gym mat is important. Too thin and the user won’t be protected from falls. Too thick and hands and feet will sink into the mat, making practicing moves like cartwheels or flips nearly impossible. For a general-purpose mat used for tumbling, a thickness of 1 3/8 inches is about right.

EXPERT TIP

Carpet-surface mats provide a bit of grip and extra bounce for tumbling moves but are harder to clean than vinyl or leather.


Staff  | BestReviews

Gym mat features

Types

  • Crash mats: These thick, heavily padded mats are used during high-risk activities, such as where falls may occur from greater heights (like parallel bars) or when working on new moves that involve hard falls, such as practicing advanced throws in judo. The sole purpose of the mat is protection.

  • Landing mats: These mats provide a balance of cushioning and support so that users can practice tumbling, falls, and other moves with less risk of injury. There is some variation in thickness, but most landing mats are less than two inches thick.

  • Folding panels: These mats are a popular choice because they fold up easily for vertical or horizontal storage and they’re available in several different sizes and colors. Many models have hook-and-loop tabs running along one or two sides so that several mats can be connected to cover more floor space.

  • Foam panels: Also known as puzzle mats, these flat, square foam panels interlock securely and can be easily disassembled and stacked for storage. Their main disadvantage is that they’re much lighter than leather or vinyl mats and so are more likely to slip around when in use.

  • Cartwheel-beam mats: These mats are great for new gymnasts practicing their moves. One side of the mat is marked with guides for proper hand and foot placement for cartwheels. The other side is printed with a long stripe for working on balance beam routines at home.

  • Incline mats: Created specifically for beginners learning to do basic rolls, incline mats make rolls easier while helping to build body awareness.

  • Other mats: Less well known outside the gymnastics arena, these include springboard mats, which surround the launch area in vaulting; blocks, which are firm, stackable mats used to help climb onto apparatus; and beam pads, which are the length and width of a balance beam and used for practicing beam moves just a few inches off the floor.
     

Construction

  • Cover: Most gym mats have a cover, an outer layer or shell made of leather or vinyl. Some mats for gymnastics or cheerleading have a layer of carpet on the top of the mat.

  • Core: The inner core of a gym mat is filled with either polyethylene or polyurethane foam. The type depends on the intended use of the mat. Polyurethane is softer, ideal when practicing landings. Polyethylene is firmer and helps users stay in control of their movements on the mat. These two foams can be used in conjunction with each other, too. For example, a layer of softer polyurethane can line the bottom of a gym mat and firmer polyethylene make up the next layer, providing a combination of cushioning and control.

  • Attachment points: Many mats have hook-and-loop strips along two sides, allowing them to be attached to other mats.
CAUTION

Don’t use bleach, vinegar, bathroom cleaners, solvents, or an abrasive brush or pad to clean a gym mat.

Gym mat prices

Due to the variety of gym mats available, there is a wide range of prices, from about $16 to $600.

Inexpensive

Interlocking foam panels are a tempting choice for the budget-minded exerciser because they cost about $16 to $18 per panel, and you can buy more panels if you need to increase your exercise area.

Mid-range

Most people find that a folding panel mat with a sturdy vinyl cover and firm cushioning serves their needs. This type of mat ranges from about $60 to nearly $300.

Expensive

Specialty mats can add to the cost of outfitting a home gym or studio. While cartwheel beam guides rule the lower end of mat prices, ranging between $80 and $135, incline mats and FLEXI-Roll mats cost about $200 for a low-end incline and $300 for a FLEXI-Roll.  For those who also need a crash mat to practice landings, the price is even steeper, ranging from $300 to $600.

Cartwheel beam mats are great home training tools. Consider picking a mat with decals rather than preprinted hand guides so you can customize the mat to your gymnast’s size and reach.

Staff
BestReviews

Tips

  • Unpack mats with care. Wait at least 24 hours before unrolling a brand-new gym mat for the first time, especially during colder months. This allows the mat to warm up to room temperature and reduces the risk of damaging the foam interior.

  • Clean mats regularly. The upward-facing side of a gym mat should be cleaned after each use, while the downward-facing side only needs to be cleaned about once or twice a month and allowed to dry to remove any trapped moisture and prevent mildew. Clean mats by sweeping away grit and dirt with a soft-bristled broom and then wiping down with a neutral-pH cleaner and disinfectant.

  • Store gym mats flat. To save space, you can roll them up loosely and secure in place.

Other products we considered

With so many gym mats available, we sifted through plenty of worthy models looking for overall quality, durability, and value. We focused mostly on the landing mats category and particularly on folding mats, which have almost universal popularity and utility. We love the ProSource Trifold Exercise Mat. Its size is perfect for home use, it’s thick enough for practicing somersaults and breaking falls, and the handy carrying straps make it easy to tote. And for kids who are graduating from rolls to more difficult floor exercises, the Tumbl Trak Junior Practice Mat has an impressive four inches of cushioning to handle harder falls.

Thinner, smaller gym mats are easier to carry but too narrow for some exercises and may not provide adequate cushioning.

FAQ

Q. How firm should a gym mat be?

A. That depends on what you’re using it for. For practicing rolls, cartwheels, or extra cushioning for calisthenics, a mat that’s soft but not too thick – between one and two inches – is best. For mats that have a polyurethane foam core or bottom layer, ask about the mat’s indentation load deflection/indentation force deflection (ILD/IFD). The higher the number, the firmer the foam.

Q. Which cover is better: leather or vinyl?

A. The mat cover, or shell, protects the foam core from water (or sweat) and offers a firm surface that you can easily move around on. Leather and vinyl both provide water resistance and a smooth surface. The biggest differences are price and durability. Lower-end vinyl gym mats may not last as long as higher-quality, more expensive leather mats.

Q. Should I choose a mat with a polyethylene core or polyurethane core?

A. The difference isn’t quality but practicality. Polyethylene is a firm, rigid foam with a closed-cell structure. It absorbs shock, returns to its original shape quickly, and provides a bit of bounce to boot. This makes it good for gym mats that are less than two inches thick. Polyurethane is a softer foam with a lot more “give” thanks to its open-cell structure. There’s more air flowing throughout the foam, and this allows the foam to absorb shock and distribute it more broadly than polyethylene. This type is good for very thick crash mats that protect against injury from hard falls and throws.

Q. Can gym mats be stacked up to provide extra protection?

A. Yes, they can! Stacking mats provides a noticeable increase in cushioning. Just be aware that smooth vinyl or leather covers are slippery and the mats will likely need to be moved back into place after each fall or roll.

The team that worked on this review
  • Bronwyn
    Bronwyn
    Editor
  • Devangana
    Devangana
    Web Producer
  • Eliza
    Eliza
    Production Manager
  • Jennifer
    Jennifer
    Writer
  • Melissa
    Melissa
    Senior Editor
  • Samantha
    Samantha
    Writer

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