Pilates, which targets the abdominal, lower back, and butt muscles, is a near-surefire way to achieve a strong core — but first you’ll need a good mat. While yoga mats tend to get the most attention, Pilates mats come in many forms, too, and often offer more padding than a yoga mat, which is helpful when you’re rolling. There is some overlap between yoga and Pilates mats, but the ones for Pilates tend to be thicker, which protect your spine while you roll, vertebrae by vertebrae, up and down the floor. And, unlike the classic Pilates Reformer machine, a mat can go anywhere. As Sonja Herbert, founder of Black Girl Pilates, notes, a Pilates mat allows you to “continue your practice outside of your sessions plus your work on memory and focus.”
We spoke with seven Pilates instructors and studio founders about their favorite mats, and they hit on some common themes: thickness, durability, ecofriendliness, and portability. Here are their picks for the best mats for Pilates, with suggestions for those with bone sensitivities, and for people who need a longer mat or want a mat they can take anywhere.
Most-recommended pilates mat
Four of the experts we spoke to recommended Pilates mats from Balanced Body, and each for a different reason. Marina Kaydanova, founder of BK Pilates, prefers these mats because “they are thicker and the extra padding feels better on your back.” The extra padding is particularly good for Pilates, she says, because “you roll up and down, giving each vertebrae a chance to touch the mat” and a padded mat “just feels much better.” Rodrick Covington, CEO and founder of Core Rhythm Fitness, also praises this mat for its “superb cushion,” and notes that it has a powerful nonstick grip. “It literally doesn’t move until you roll if up off the floor,” Covington says.
Karen Lord, owner of Karen Lord Pilates Movement in Venice, California, also recommended mats from Balanced Body — specifically the EcoWise mat, which she describes as “thick and really durable — they don’t tear,” and “the most nontoxic out there.” The mat is free of latex, PVC, and chloride, which, Lord emphasizes, is important because other mats can produce “off-gassing,” which is the release of chemicals in the form of gas from plastic products. Sonja Herbert also recommends the Balanced Body EcoWise Mat. She calls it “very economical,” and “very supportive for the spine and all exercises for the mat.”
Best long-lasting mats
Hugger Mugger was another brand that came up repeatedly on our experts’ lists. Erika Bloom, of Erika Bloom Pilates, loves Hugger Mugger’s Sattva Jute Yoga Mat and says, “There is no other mat that is this good!” She likes the mat because “it’s thick and more cushiony than most yoga mats,” which is helpful because “you need a little more padding in Pilates.” It’s long-lasting, too: “I’ve had mine for almost 15 years now and use it at least twice a day!” she says. “Because of the nice price point, I have one in my car, a few at home, and a handful at each of my studios so I can easily practice on my own or with my loved ones and clients.”
Covington also named Hugger Mugger mats as his “favorite,” and praised the mat’s “super-thick and complete nonstick grip that lies down on the floor perfectly.”
Best Pilates mats for sensitive knees and spines
A couple of experts recommended the brand Airex, which Rebecca Lubart, founder of Dynamic Body Pilates, says is “great if you have sensitive knees or a sensitive spine, so you’re not kneeling directly on the floor.” The cushioning of the mat can be used to avoid stress on sore body parts. Lubart says, “If you have sensitive wrists for weight-bearing exercises like plank, push-ups, or down dog, you can roll up the edge of this kind of mat to make a little shelf for your wrist so the angle isn’t so acute or stressfull. This is a better mat for exercises like rolling like a ball where you might find yourself wanting a bit more cushion. I would, however, get a mat cover of some kind. If you are going to get sweaty with bare hands or feet, it will get slippery.”
Herbert also suggested the Coronella Exercise Mat from Airex. “Typically you will see mats like this in gyms or some studios,” she says. “They are a little bit more expensive but worth the money if you can afford it.” This mat can be rolled out flat without any creases or bumps, but the only downside, Herbert notes, is that they “tend to be a little heavier, and not as easy to travel with.”
Annie Vennier, founder of Le Petit Studio, also suggests this Fitline mat from Airex, which at 0.4 inches thick is a great choice for older practitioners who need a little extra cushioning. The mat is 72 inches long, which Vennier notes is “great for tall folks.” The mat has an antimicrobial finish, which makes it easy to clean.
Best Pilates mat for heavy sweating
Though they’re technically made for yoga, Lubart also suggested Jade mats for sweatier workouts. She says, “If you’re doing an activity where you may sweat a lot, a mat like Jade yoga mats is ideal because they have a bit more grip to them.” They’re great for people without injuries or sensitivities because they are thin, “making you have better connection with the floor and less slip.” A thin mat is also “ideal for on-the-go travel,” Lubart says.
Best (less expensive) Pilates mat
Herbert calls this mat “the most economical, and yet still supportive with lots of cushion for the spine.” She says, “It’s easy to travel with and is best for home use or to take to outdoor classes. It’s also washable and can be hung out to dry.”
Best ecofriendly Pilates mats
Vennier notes that this mat is “recyclable and decomposable,” and, at a quarter-inch thick, still padded enough to protect your spine when doing exercises on hard surfaces. Covington also named Stott’s mats in his list of favorites, calling them “perfection,” and noting that they offer a more affordable mat option.
Rowena Villanueva, owner of the Pilates Nook, says that she uses EcoWise mats in her studio: “They just have the right thickness and grip to provide a cushion and joint support during all Pilates mat exercises. They’re also dense enough to do standing balance work, which I love. They’re easy to clean and 100 percent recyclable.”
Best Pilates mat for travel
Villanueva also recommended Manduka Pro mats, especially for travel, in part because they’re good for either Pilates or yoga. “They’re much thinner and easier to roll up and jump to a Pilates or yoga class,” she says. “They don’t absorb as much sweat as other mats, which leads to bacteria, so you will have them much longer!” Kimmy Kellum, founder and director of East River Pilates, also recommended Manduka mats, which she uses in her studio and says are “in exceptional condition after years of use” and dry quickly between classes.
Best Pilates mat for serious practitioners
Vennier suggests this mat for serious Pilates devotees. She calls it “the real deal,” and says it “will last a lifetime.” The mat comes in several colors and has a bar, which Vennier says can be used for more advanced exercises. Vennier calls the mat “so beautiful and comfortable that it will make you want to do your routine regularly,” but also notes that this one is “a space hog” and best for those who have a dedicated Pilates space in their homes.