So what makes a good exercise mat? First, think of its purpose: You use a mat for yoga, Pilates, or strength training because it provides a nonslip surface for moves that need stability, explains Holly Perkins, C.S.C.S., creator of the GLUTES Project. “They also cushion you against the floor, making exercises more comfortable.”
That’s why thickness is vital, but that doesn’t mean thicker is always better. While it certainly depends on what feels comfortable for you, what you are using it for also plays a role. For instance, a thick, cushiony yoga mat may feel great for easy moves when you’re sitting or lying down, but too much cushioning may actually make you feel less stable, especially on standing moves where you need to feel more grounded, says Duval. That means it may not be the best choice for strength training that requires lots of stability, like squats and deadlifts.
Then, think of portability. If you’re looking for an exercise mat you can carry with you—even if it’s just into the backyard for some outdoor yoga—or need to stow it under your bed, you may want to choose one that fits in a yoga strap or rolls up easily. If you intend to keep it parked on the floor, like as a permanent part of your home gym, you have a little more wiggle room on size and stiffness, says Perkins.
Especially in these stressful times, it can also be helpful to think outside its functionality for just a minute and choose a mat that just brings a smile to your face. “Find yourself a fun color or pattern so that you’re actually excited to roll out your mat,” says Duval.
Need some inspiration? Take a look at these picks for the best yoga mats and other exercise mats, chosen by fitness pros and instructors.
1. For Easy Portability: Manduka ProLite Yoga Mat
“Manduka mats are my absolute favorite yoga mat because they offer comfort and support without being too ‘fluffy.’ You want to be able to feel the ground beneath you rather than having the feeling like you are balancing on marshmallows. I find that the Manduka mats are also the best for hand and foot grip. When things get sweaty, you want to feel that sense of security.” —Kara Duval, Pilates instructor in Boston
Available in 71″ and 79″.
2. For Classic Pilates Support: STOTT Pilates Pilates Express Mat
“When it comes to a demographic that wants a little more comfort or more support for their joints, I highly recommend the STOTT Pilates mats, in particular the Pilates Express Mat. They are definitely on the thicker side, but for a classical Pilates workout that has an emphasis on rolling through the spine, I find that people love the comfort of these mats.” —Duval
Available in 70″.
3. For Hot Yoga: Yoga Design Lab Combo Mat
“It is a yoga towel and mat in one. The best surface for yoga imaginable—the perfect amount of grip, without restricting movement. Bonus: you will never have to worry about remembering a towel for a sweaty or heated class with this mat.” —Heidi Kristoffer, founder of CrossFlow Yoga and creator of CrossFlowX in New York City
Available in 70″.
4. For Extra Grip: JadeYoga Harmony Mat
“This is a great mat with grip! I recommend it for power or hot classes that tend to steam up a room and have you in Downward-Facing Dog with sweat dripping out of you. It’s a bit on the pricey side, but if you’re looking for a long-lasting mat to withstand the test of time, this is a great choice. Plus, since Jade mats come from trees, they decided to give back by planting a tree for every mat sold!” —Kelley Green, certified International Yoga Instructor in New York City
Available in 68″ and 74″.
5. For Asana Yoga: Alo Yoga Chakra Mat
“I love this mat because it has an alignment grid etched into the design of the mat. It also is nonslip, wet or dry, which means if I take a sweaty hot yoga class, I don’t need to worry about slipping around on my mat. It’s thick yet light, so it’s not too heavy to carry around.” —Kylan Fischer, founder of Bendy Babes and yoga instructor in Sunset Beach, CA
Available in 68″.
6. For Strength Training: Spri Exercise Mat
“I like that it’s durable yet lightweight. It’s got enough cushioning for ab workouts (and bony joints like knees, elbows, and tailbones).” —Perkins
Available in 48″.
7. For Ultimate Cushioning: Manduka Pro Yoga
“This is my go-to mat for my home practice. It provides much more cushion than other mats. It also is a little bit heavier than others, so I keep this mat at home.” —Jackie Skinner, yoga instructor business coach and certified yoga teacher in New York City
Available in 71″ and 85″.
8. For Fun Design: Gaiam Premium 6mm Extra Thick Yoga Mat
“It can be slippery until you wash it, then it has great grip and lots of wonderful qualities for under $50!” —Colleen Freese, ACE-certified group fitness instructor in Puyallup, Washington
Available in 68″.
9. For General Exercise: BalanceFrom GoYoga All-Purpose Exercise Yoga Mat
“I found this yoga mat on Amazon, and it had over 19,000 reviews with a very affordable price, so I was drawn to trying it out. Once I purchased it, the reviews did not let me down! This mat has a great grip, so I’m not slipping or sliding if I work up a sweat while transitioning through yoga poses.” —Green
Available in 71″.