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The Very Best Gym Mats

Photo-Illustration: The Strategist; Photos: Retailers

Gym mats are crucial for any home-gym setup. They provide a dedicated surface to work out on and serve as the foundation for your equipment and machines. “Good gym mats protect your floors, dampen noise, and give you grip and some cushion for floor exercises and plyometrics,” explains strength and conditioning coach Hayden Carpenter. Yoga mats can meet those needs to a degree, but generally they’re too narrow and thin and not as durable as mats designed to handle heavier weight and more activity. At its best, a good gym mat could encourage you to have a solid workout without leaving the house, so we spoke to personal trainers, strength coaches, professional home-gym installers, and fitness enthusiasts about the mats they prefer for their sweatiest sessions.

Best overall | Best less expensive overall | Best to put under exercise equipment | Best rolling | Best for light workouts | Best rolling for light workouts

What we’re looking for

Material: There are two main types of gym mat to look for: thick rubber construction and foam construction. Rubber mats are more durable than foam ones but might not be as plush. They’re great for workouts that involve lots of movement, weights, or gym equipment. Carpenter has a continuously evolving home gym setup, but he swears by rubber gym mats for most activities. “Foam mats were not worth it in the end, since they get beat up superfast — even doing a simple plank with shoes on can chew up a foam mat,” he explains. “I’ve had foam tiles disintegrate within six months and leave gray flecks all over my body. So definitely avoid foam, no matter what the marketing says, and go with rubber, which is more expensive but well worth the price.” While lighter foam mats are less durable, some users might find them to be a better choice if they’re doing lighter workouts, bodyweight exercises, or stretching. And because they’re so light, foam options are generally more affordable, too.

Grip: Grip is one of the most important things to look for in a gym mat — you want sure footing when moving, jumping, pushing, or carrying anything heavy. By nature of their rubber and foam surfaces, the mats we included in this list will provide solid grip for both shoes (best on rubber) and bare feet (best on foam; the soles of your shoes can rip and tear some fragile foam mats, as Carpenter mentions above). We note the mats’ surface quality as well as the textures on the bottom. Some mats will be flat on both sides and lay flush against the floor, while others will have a textured or ribbed side. Mats with studs or raised tread will provide more grip, but those features can trap dirt more easily and might be harder to clean than a flat surface.

Thickness: A mat’s thickness goes hand in hand with your intended activity. If you’re looking to do any kind of weight training where dumbbells and plates will be hitting the ground, you should opt for a thicker mat to protect the floor. If you’ll be laying down a mat each time you work out, you might want a thinner mat that you can roll up and store easily. Note that a mat’s thickness doesn’t correspond to its level of cushioning. Some mats that go underneath stationary bikes, for example, are thinner and meant to sit on top of hard floors to limit movement that would cause the bike or machine to wobble or tip over, while thicker, rigid mats can serve the same purpose on top of carpet. A squishy thicker foam mat, on the other hand, could cause a bike trainer to dip and move around. While the ideal thickness will come down to your preference, most of the mats we wrote about fall between three-eighths to one-half-inch thickness, which seems to be the sweet spot for rubber mats, according to Carpenter.

Storage: There are four main types of mats as far as how they can be stored. Flat, rigid sheets can be heavy (some up to 100 pounds per mat) and are better suited for a more permanent installation. The more pliable kind can be rolled up, like a yoga mat, while a third type consists of interlocking puzzle-piece tiles. Other gym mats fold up, but none of the mats in this list have that feature. Marc Dern, CEO of Carter’s Home Gym, specializes in setting up home-gym spaces. He says one mistake that folks make when adding gym flooring (particularly puzzle-piece flooring) is that they forget to add borders and corners on the mats they purchase in order to create a flat edge. Those exposed cut-out edges are easier to trip on and can potentially lead to injury.

Overall size: The size of your gym space will depend on what kind of activity you do — and how much available space you have. If you’re setting up a new gym space, make sure to leave room for movement. “Another common mistake I see my customers make is they overstack their room with equipment, forgetting that some of these machines need room to actually function,” Dern notes. “And you need room to move in between the equipment too.”

Best overall gym mat

Rubber | Flat and grippy on both sides | 3/8-inch thick | Puzzle-piece tiles | 2-by-2-foot tiles, up to a 20-by-40-inch set

These tiles offer the versatility of puzzle-piece mats, but also the sturdiness and durability of a large, sheet-style horse stall mat (more on that below). “I use these rubber tiles for my indoor gym space and love them,” Carpenter says. “The seams all but disappear, and I’ve never had a tile separate or move an inch, even with lateral bounding.” The tiles’ grip is ideal for weightlifting and can be used for supporting machinery. “When you’re weight training, you want to feel the floor,” says Colin Gray, the general manager and master trainer at EVF Performance. That close-to-the-ground feel will lend a strong, stable base for your feet. “You want a sturdy, rubber mat that is easy to wipe down and clean,” he says, citing the rubber-tiled flooring at EVF CrossFit’s space on the Upper East Side of Manhattan. American Floor Mats makes a rolling version (below), but these two-foot-by-two-foot tiles make it easy to accommodate different spaces and rooms. “I first bought six tiles (fills a 6-foot by-4-foot space), and then later bought two more to extend the mat to 8 feet,” Carpenter explains. “And if we eventually move and have a house with a garage, I can keep expanding, so it’s a good investment.”

Best less expensive overall gym mat

100 percent recycled rubber | Grippy on both sides, one raised button surface, one flat surface | 3/4-inch thickness | Single flat sheet | 4 by 6 feet

Nearly every expert I spoke to for this article recommended rubber horse stall mats for a home gym space. While originally designed for livestock and farm houses, many home-gym builders buy these mats to put under power racks and machinery. This is definitely a mat you’d use for a long-term gym setup; each of these mats weighs 94 pounds. “Horse stall mats are the easiest option for gym flooring,” says certified Olympic weightlifting coach Paolo Galang. “They’re easy to trim, to fit any space. They’re absorbent (for dropping barbells loaded with bumper plates), sturdy, and stable. Plus, they’re easy to clean and mop,” he adds. “Horse stall mats are very good for garages,” Dern explains. Because they’re rock-solid and three quarters of an inch thick — thicker than any of the other mats on this list — “they’re ideal for heavy weights and functional movement.” This stall mat offers the same durability and sturdiness that the Fit-Lock rubber tiles do, without the seams. Some customers have noted that the rubber smell is overwhelming at first, so it might help to air these out before installing them indoors.

Best gym mat to put under exercise equipment

Rubber | Flat and grippy on both sides | about 1/4-inch thick | Single, rollable flat sheets | 2.5 by 5 feet

For placing exercise equipment like bike trainers on hard floors, this thin option from Supermats is the mat you want. “Some mats, like these from Supermats, are meant to protect your flooring — it’s a good preventative measure to take,” says Dern, who frequently uses Supermats for his clients’ home-gym spaces. “These are great for treadmills, ellipticals, and rowing machines.” For use on top of carpet, some customers say that this mat works well, while others note that their stationary bikes still feel wobbly on it and say it would work better with a harder surface underneath. The sturdiness of your setup will depend on the thickness of the carpet you’re resting it on. The more space (and carpet) between you and the hard flooring beneath the mat, the more wobbling you’re likely to encounter.

Best rolling gym mat

Rubber | Flat and grippy on both sides | 3/8-inch thick | Single, rollable flat sheet | Available in 4-feet widths, up to 100 feet in length

This rolling version of the Fit-Lock rubber tiles is a more stowable option for all types of workouts and gym spaces. “I bought this three-eighths-inch-thick four-by-six-foot Rubber Roll for my front porch four years ago now, and it hasn’t shown any signs of wear,” Carpenter says. “It’s made from recycled rubber and weighs about 50 pounds, so it’s not going anywhere with the strong spring winds here in New Mexico.” (He notes that his foam mats used to blow away.) Multiple sheets could be used to line a big gym floor, or you could use a single sheet as a heavy yoga mat. Like the American Floor Mat Fit-Lock model on this list, this mat is sturdy and a breeze to clean. “It can get wet, and it’s easy to wipe down if it gets sweaty or dirty,” Carpenter says. “The mats come in a handful of different speckled colors, which hides dirt, dust, and chalk well.”

Best gym mat for light workouts

EVA foam | Flat and grippy on both sides | 1/2-inch thick | Puzzle-piece tiles | 2-by-2-foot tiles, up to 144 square feet

When Strategist contributor Jason Stewart built his home gym for under $700, he used these mats to create his space: “They’re easy to clean and give enough cushion for jumping rope, squat jumping, or the dreaded burpee,” he writes. “The pieces come in thicknesses ranging between half an inch and an inch; if you need more support, layer them on top of each other like a stack of flaxseed pancakes.” Keep in mind: While these tiles are thick, they’re still made of foam and have more potential to tear than a rubber mat would, so we’d recommend these tiles for lighter workouts and not Olympic weightlifting.

Best rolling gym mat for light workouts

Closed-cell foam | Flat and grippy on both sides | 5/8-inch thick | Single, rollable flat sheet | 2 feet by 6 feet

This plush, five-eighths-inch thick foam mat from Harbinger is one of the cushiest mats on this list, and that comfort has made it the go-to exercise mat of freelance writer and home-gym enthusiast Joe Jackson for more than seven years. “Technically I have a home gym … one out of every eight months. And then my garage gets busy and cluttered, and I no longer have that space,“ Jackson explains. “I’ve been looking into horse mats, but they’re a pain to install and reinstall if I’ll be moving everything in my garage around. That’s why I like the versatility of this simple foamy roll-up mat.” Jackson uses it for bodyweight workouts, yoga, and stretching, and he recommends it as an all-purpose gym mat. He admits that it feels “really cushy,” which is what Jackson prefers for his barefoot workouts, and that the foam has gotten beaten up after countless sessions. But after seven years, the mat holds a special place in his heart — even if it gets rolled up and tucked away in the garage corner for the majority of that time.

Some more gym mat we've written about

Our experts

• Hayden Carpenter, strength and conditioning coach
• Marc Dern, CEO of Carter’s Home Gym
• Paolo Galang, certified Olympic weightlifting coach
• Colin Gray, general manager and master trainer at EVF Performance
• Joe JacksonOutside magazine columnist and home-gym expert
• Jeremy Rellosa, Strategist writer
• Jason Stewart, Strategist contributor

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The Very Best Gym Mats