I want to buy an exercise mat. I just did a quick check on Amazon and it was like I expected, you get mats in all different price ranges.

What are possible differences between cheap and expensive mats?
What should I look for, when I intend to buy a high quality mat?
Are there possible pitfalls or features that sound useful but no one really needs?
Are there fitness mats for different exercises (some are called yoga or pilates mat)?
How long and wide should a mat be, considering my height and the types of exercise?

  • Note: This is not intended to be a shopping question. You can of course use examples to support your answer, but please bear in mind, that I am not looking for the best mat on the planet.
    – Baarn
    Commented Nov 11, 2012 at 11:08
  • 2
    Consider the mat grip on both sides. For the bottom side, check to see if it will grip to your floor/rug, or will it slide from underneath you (can be remedied with an anti-slip insert). For the top of the mat, check that the mat doesn't grip or stick to your body. When you are doing yoga, you don't want the mat to be constantly sticking to you and being lifted up every time you raise your hand or foot.
    – Moses
    Commented Nov 21, 2012 at 20:43

5 Answers 5


I'm thinking about buying a mat myself so I thought I'd share my research so far. As expected different the price is determined by material, thickness and size. Different mats are appropriate for different types of exercises.

If you want to do some general exercises like sit-ups a 'general' exercise mat will do. The thickness of these mats varies between 1 and 1.5cm and are made of pvc/foam.

If you want to do some pilates, guess what, a pilates mat is what you want. These tend to be 1.5 to 1.9 cm thick and made of Thermal Plastic Elastomer (TPE).

For yoga you'd want a yoga mat. These mats are like pilates mats but thinner, around 0.3/0.6cm. These tend to come in roll-up models, I guess for people who bring them to a yoga class or something.

Then there are heavy-duty mats, the one you find in gyms. These are available in thicknesses up to 5cm (I've seen such mats with a thickness of +30cm, but these are not made for general fitness).

As for the length, this is dependent on what exercises you want to do. For sit-ups you'd want support for at least your tail bone, back, shoulders and head. I can't realy think of an exercise that requires the mat to be as tall as you are.

Be sure to check how to clean the mat (as you eventually will need to do this) and how/where to store the mat. Checking for user reviews (if available) is generally a good idea.

Some mats also have special features such as anti-slip, anti-bacterial, anti-odor, easy to clean, able to roll up the mat, etc. These may effect your choice so I thought I'd mention this.


I'd recommend to buy the mat in a store so you can touch and feel a sample mat.

How will you have to carry it? The thinner the mat, the easier it'll fit in a single bag together with your other stuff.

Some considerations in case you sweat a lot:

For yoga/stretching/pilates/... you sometimes have to roll up the mat to a very specific height (less than brick height) to facilitate certain twisted poses. Buy a mat that is not damaged by sitting on it (mat in partly rolled-up state).

Also check it out if the mat still feels right with sweaty palms (or sweaty bare feet). Is it slippery? Does it soak up the sweat like a sponge (and do you want this?) How difficult will it be to remove the sweat, or to wash the mat? If a towel is put on the mat as a second layer, how does the towel move?

If the mat is too thin the temperature of the floor will pass thru. If the mat is thicker it'll insulate better.


Read the reviews and then compare them to what you're needing it for. For instance, if I needed a mat for jumping barefoot, one thing I would keep in mind is whether the reviews speak of how comfortable the mat is, easy to jump on, etc. When I briefly looked up exercise mats, I noticed that the top ones had tons of reviews so in a sense, depending on what you need it for, your work is done for you in terms of what users write about it.

  • One problem with online reviews is that you never know who wrote them.
    – Baarn
    Commented Nov 23, 2012 at 19:31

Some of the most important elements to a great gym mat are durability, grip, comfort, and size.

Yoga and pilates mats are great for posing and stretching. But if you're looking for something for cardio and bodyweight exercises, it's really nice to have something larger.

I bought a 7' x 5' Gorilla Mat that I absolutely love. It not spongy thick, but really makes working out on my hardwood floor comfortable. And I can do any exercise without worrying about staying on the mat. It's huge!

Here's a link on Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Premium-Extra-Large-Exercise-Mat/dp/B01MSU203S


I used to be the owner of the #1 rated yoga mat company on Amazon. My company was called Tomuno.

I am NO LONGER in the yoga mat business so I hope I can provide an unbiased answer?

I am VERY glad you asked this question because I spent many years thinking about it.

I am hopeful my answer for yoga mats is applicable to “fitness exercise mats” in general. Typically they are made in the same factories.

If you prefer not to read what I wrote below, I also for fun created a “Yoga Mat Chooser Quiz” which will help you find the right mat without doing all the reading below. It offers videos. Here is the link:


Your Question: What are possible differences between cheap and expensive mats?

The three major raw material types that make up the vast majority of yoga mats in the wild are: PVC, TPE, and natural rubber. There are also cork mats, jute mats, etc. but these mats have less of a statistical track record and as such are harder to reliably score against the following criteria…

Yoga mats can be scored on several criteria:

  1. Grip: How well does it prevent slipping if the user’s hands and feet get sweaty. In descending order of performance: rubber is grippier than TPE which is grippier than PVC (in general).

  2. Cushion: How well does the mat prevent pain if the user has nerve issues or sensitivity in their joints, e.g., knees.

In terms of cushion, thickness is not important. Density is. A 5 mm TPE mat will not provide the same cushion as a 5 mm rubber mat because a rubber mat is much denser and hence provides much more cushion per mm of mat.

  1. Weight: How heavy is the mat? If you walk to your yoga studio with the mat, yogis typically want a lighter mat. But if the yoga mat just sits at home heavier if fine. Heavy mats tend to perform better at a high level. In terms of weight, rubber is a lot heavier than TPE and PVC.

  2. Compatibility with skin moisturizers, essential oil based mat cleaners, other lipids. Some mats are ‘closed cell’ meaning their surface has no pores and is smooth. Hence oils, sweat, liquids just bead and pour off the mat. Other mats are ‘open cell’ meaning they are literally like sponges. These mats soak up oils and moisturizers. The problem here is if you want a grippy mat and then put essential oils on it the oils will build up INSIDE the mat and create slipperiness. Some essential oils, for example, are also used as massage oils to create lubrication and slipperiness during massages. If these oils are used to CREATE slipperiness during massages they will also create slipperiness on yoga mats.

Rubber is open-cell in general. TPE and PVC are closed cell in general. But there are exceptions so it is important to read the label.

  1. Durability. Some mats only last a year on average, e,g., yoga mats made of natural rubber. Other mats will last practically forever, e.g., plastic PVC mats. Rubber performs quite well but it is very expensive. Many yogis rightfully do not want to spend that kind of money each year on a new mat like they have to buying new rubber-soled running sneakers every year.

  2. Ease of maintenance. Some mats are very easy to take care of, e.g., PVC mats. You don’t need to read a booklet to learn how to maintain them. Other mats do require quite a bit of reading to learn how to take care of them. For example, natural rubber mats cannot be left in the sun, they cannot be left in a hot car trunk, the cleaning process is a bit complex, etc. If you aren’t eager to invest the time in learning these things sometimes ‘easy to maintain’ is the way to go with your yoga mat selection…

To help you choose what type of mat (PVC, TPE, natural rubber) is best for you, a yoga studio owner would typically ask you about the SIX criteria listed above to find out your relative preferences and then recommend the yoga mat raw material that works best specifically for you.

“Raw material” is more important than “brand” when it comes to yoga mats in general.

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