These thicker mats offer optimal cushioning and support in the studio.

By Rachel Sokol
September 26, 2019
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Pilates vs. Yoga: Which practice do you prefer? Though some people assume the practices are very similar in nature, they’re most definitely not the same thing. “Pilates focuses on engaging smaller, often-ignored muscle groups to strengthen and improve posture,” says Vanessa Huffman, director of teacher training at Club Pilates. "In yoga, you typically hold poses for far longer, allowing you to fall more deeply into each pose. You often repeat the flow of these moves, which you do not always do in Pilates. In Pilates, the movements are shorter and with fewer repetitions that instead focus on control and precision."

If you had to boil it down: "Yoga adds strength through flexibility, while Pilates adds strength through core muscle activation and control," says Huffman.

Pilates Mats vs. Yoga Mats

It's true that both pilates and yoga use exercise mats (and some forms of Pilates even incorporate machines into their workouts) but the types of mats used in each are different. Whether you’re new to Pilates or an advanced practitioner, you’ll want to make sure you’re using the correct mat—one specifically made for Pilates—rather than a yoga mat, which is typically much thinner. 

“Many moves done on the Pilates mat require your spine to move through articulations that puts pressure on your back, which is why Pilates mats are traditionally thicker than yoga mats,” says Huffman. “In Pilates, thicker mats provide support for side-lying, prone (belly)-based moves, and standing-based moves. Also, standing on a cushion-like surface will force more foot muscles to stabilize the body, which activates more muscles overall.” (Check out Kate Hudson's favorite Pilates workout to get a taste.)

Exactly how much thickness do you need? “When it comes to mat thickness, it really comes down to how comfortable you need your ‘bony’ body parts to feel while on the ground, such as your knees, spine, and hip bones,” says Gosia Calderon, owner and instructor at Ridgewood Pilates in New York City. “However, if your mat is too thick, it can make it harder for you to feel balanced or connected to the ground.” 

In other words, finding the ideal thickness level for your mat will take some trial and error.  Until you find the perfect fit, Calderon recommends choosing a Pilates mat that’s at least 4mm thick and then determining if you need something more cushioned from there. 

To ensure you’re using the correct mat for your practice, we’ve done the research and outlined the eight best Pilates mats to keep you stable, supported, and comfortable through all your time in the studio this year. Browse our selections below—which include eco-friendly and affordable options, extra-thick mats, and no-slip finds best for hot Pilates—then add your favorite to your workout gear collection ASAP. 

Here are the eight best Pilates mats, according to Pilates instructors:

Best Overall: Aeromat Elite Workout Mat

Walmart

The Elite Workout Mat from Aeromat comes personally recommended by Huffman. “I love and use this Aeromat mat because it ‘checks off’ all the boxes for Pilates use, and it has an antimicrobial coating to prevent unwanted scents building up on the mats (and who likes to go home with a foreign scent on their shoulders?),” she says. Made of a plush foam material, the cushioned padding is available in three different thickness levels that each offer soft support to your bones and joints. The mat’s textured surface keeps you “held in place” so you won’t slip on the mat, and it comes with two reinforced holes so you can easily hang it up between uses.  Ideal for any floor exercises—from low-impact stretching to Pilates—this mat is lightweight, easy to clean, and available in a variety of colors. “We use the Aeromat mat in all of our Club Pilates studios,” says Huffman.

Aeromat Elite Workout Mat, Buy It, $21, walmart.com

Best Extra-Thick Mat: Stott Pilates Deluxe Mat

Dick's Sporting Goods

If you’ve tried your share of mats and have determined that you prefer highly-cushioned options, check out this one from STOTT Pilates. It’s a whopping 15mm thick—probably one of the thickest mats out there—so it’ll offer optimal comfort and cushioning on your spine and any other areas that need some extra love. 

With one ribbed side (best for classes when you need the extra grip) and one smoother side, the mat is also durable, rolls up easily, and has no odor.  Reviewers mention that the texture is just right—one user said it’s “not too firm, but not too squishy”—and that it’s very comfortable on your wrists and spine.

Stott Pilates Deluxe Mat, Buy It, $65 (was $75), amazon.com

Best 12mm Mat: SPRI Exercise Mat

Amazon

This 12mm Pilates mat (or 1/2-inch thick) is an Amazon’s Choice product with more than 230 positive customer reviews. Made of durable foam, it’s a great all-around, go-to mat for those activities when you need a mat with more cushioning—like Pilates, stretching, and other floor exercises. It comes with a carrying handle built right into the mat, so it’s easy to take on the go (and it’s a nice touch for those who constantly misplace their mat carrier or strap!). Users like that it’s easy to roll up, lightweight (at just under 3 pounds), and comes in basic colors. 

Reviewers mention that the mat is superb quality—especially given the affordable price—and that it has the right amount of cushion. “Perfect size, perfect thickness. Very soft too. LOVE IT!,” said one shopper. Another wrote, “Perfect! Size and thickness is absolutely perfect for exercises on a hard cement floor. I definitely recommend this product.” 

SPRI Exercise Mat, Buy It, $24, amazon.com

Best Cheap Pilates Mat: BalanceFrom Go Yoga All-Purpose Mat

Amazon

Another great 12mm option, this 1/2-inch mat from BalanceFrom strikes a nice balance between softness and firmness and is super affordable at just $16. It’s a number-one best-seller on Amazon with nearly 13,000 customer reviews (yes, you read that right!), comes with a carrying strap for easy transport, and has double-sided, non-slip surfaces for all the traction and stability you need during your practice. What’s more, the lightweight mat is moisture-resistant and can be easily cleaned with soap and water. “Prior to this mat, I was using a thin yoga mat and any time I was on my hands or knees for a long time it was very uncomfortable. This mat still allows me to do the poses, but much more comfortably than before,” wrote one reviewer. 

BalanceFrom Go Yoga All-Purpose Mat, Buy It, $16, amazon.com

Best Eco-Friendly Option: Ewedoos Eco-Friendly Yoga Mat

Amazon

The best eco-friendly option, this impressive Pilates mat is made with TPE material (thermoplastic elastomers) that's better for the environment than plastic or PVC mats. An added plus is that when the mat is unraveled, there’s no plasticy odor that lingers for days, and the good-for-the-earth materials don’t make the mat any less effective—it’s durable, flexible, and has a textured side that offers superior grip. The 10mm mat weighs less than two pounds, comes in a variety of colors, and is adorned with built-in body lines to help keep your body properly aligned during your practice—a feature many reviewers absolutely love. One five-star reviewer called it a “great mat at a fabulous price” and continued, “[This is] the best mat I've had so far and for once I wasn't sliding all over the place on the mat. It's also not very thick but because of the quality of the material, it provides the same support as the thicker mats. All in all, it is fabulous value for money and it looks and feels far more expensive than it really is.” 

Ewedoos Eco-Friendly Yoga Mat, Buy It, $23, amazon.com 

Best for Beginners: Gaiam 4mm Classic Yoga Mat

Dick'S Sporting Goods

“As you begin your yoga/Pilates journey,  you’ll want to start off with the best basic options at the best price,” says Calderon, who recommends this mat from industry leader GAIAM for Pilates newbies. It’s super affordable and has a thickness level of 4mm, which is ideal for most beginners who may want to feel the floor a bit more as they get accustomed to their practice.

The lightweight, cushioned mat has a non-slip surface that  provides solid traction when placed on a hard floor, and it’s available in tons of beautiful shades and patterns. With more than 1,200 perfect five-star reviews from customers, you can trust that this go-to, no-frills mat will do its job. “This mat is perfect for me. I do light workouts 2-3x a week using weights and bodyweight, sometimes cardio. This mat is lightly cushioned (I have carpeting where I exercise) and provides plenty of grip for my bare hands and feet,” wrote one reviewer. “The print is nice (I have the blue tie-dye). No chemical smell. No peeling pieces as I have had with some other yoga mats in the past. I would recommend!”

Gaiam 4mm Classic Yoga Mat, Buy It, $18 (was $22), amazon.com

Best for Travel: Merrithew Folding Travel Mat 

Dick's Sporting Goods

Calderon recommends this Pilates mat from Merrithew for anyone who’s looking for a foldable option to bring on trips. “It’s ultra-lightweight (just one pound), has a non-slip texture, is compact, well-priced,  and easily fits into your carry-on bag,” she adds. The thinnest option on this list, this versatile, travel-friendly mat can be used solo or on top of another mat if you prefer more cushioning. Made of waterproof and sun-resistant materials (meaning you can opt to use it outdoors), it’s also machine washable, so you can simply toss it into the washing machine to clean after use. 

Merrithew Folding Travel Mat, Buy It, $40, amazon.com

Best Hot Pilates Mat: Manduka GRP Mat

Amazon

If you’re a fan of hot Pilates, there’s a good chance you’ll work up an intense sweat in your class—so you’ll want a mat that maintains its grip even after your sweat has dripped all over it, like this heavy-duty option from Manduka. Since it’ll be exposed to heat from the room (and your body) in a heated class, it’s also a plus that this 4mm option is durable and easy to clean. Thanks to the innovative charcoal-infused rubber material, the cushioned mat will mask any odors and still maintain it’s super sturdy grip even after the toughest sweat sessions. (Related: Are Hot Yoga and Fitness Classes Really Better?)

One five-star reviewer called this mat “the best for sweaty yoga,” and given that it comes from Manduka—a trusted brand among yogis everywhere—you can rest assured that it’ll be a high-quality, long-lasting investment. 

Manduka GRP Mat, Buy It, $98, amazon.com 

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