It’s easy to assume Pilates mats are all made the same, but much like a comfortable pair of running shoes or a sports bra that’s actually supportive, the right one can be a game changer for your practice. Whether you are new to Pilates or have been doing it for years, a good mat is worth investing in. And if your sessions are constantly leaving you with a sore tailbone or achy joints, it might be time for an upgrade.
To help you determine which Pilates mat is right for you — and to explain why a yoga mat won’t cut it — we consulted experts Vanessa Johnson, a master Pilates instructor at Club Pilates, and Lynne Alberding, a Pilates instructor at BIÂN Chicago and the founder of CLĀ Fitness.
How to Pick a Pilates Mat
Both Johnson and Alberding agree that there are three main qualities you should look for when shopping for a Pilates mat.
Thickness: To properly cushion your spine, knees, and wrists, opt for mats that are on the thicker side. “The majority of Pilates mat exercises are performed on the floor,” Alberding explains. “Therefore, you will want enough padding to make your workout effective and comfortable.” Anywhere between 5/8 to 3/4 inches is considered ideal, but don’t rule out thinner mats. “Thinner mats offer better stability and support for balance-focused movement,” Johnson says.
Material: A good Pilates mat doesn’t just provide cushion, it can also prevent slipping. “Textured or ribbed surfaces can provide extra grip, especially if you tend to sweat during your workouts,” Johnson says. Even non-textured mats made with slip-resistant material can still go a long way.
Dimensions: You could have a Pilates mat that checks off all the other boxes, but it won’t do you any good if the dimensions of the actual mat are off. “There are numerous fitness mats out there which are too short to properly perform Pilates mat exercise,” Alberding warns. “Make sure your mat selection is long and wide enough for your height and particular needs.” You want something that’s at least as long as the length from your hips to the top of your head — though extra space is always a good idea.
Pilates vs. Yoga Mats
While there’s nothing wrong with using a yoga mat for Pilates or vice versa, they’re technically intended for different exercises. “Pilates mats are designed with a specific texture and grip for Pilates movements, so using a yoga mat for a Pilates exercise will not provide the best experience,” Johnson says.
In general, Pilates mats tend to be thicker. Yoga mats are typically 1/8 to 1/4 inch thick, but 5/8 to 3/4 is ideal for Pilates, especially if you are practicing on a hard floor or have sensitive joints. If you do both yoga and Pilates, ideally, you should have a dedicated mat for each, but Alberding says a 1/4-inch Pilates mat can work if you want to invest in only one mat that can do both. Ultimately, you can choose whatever feels the most comfortable for you.
Don’t have time to test out a bunch of different Pilates mats? Luckily, we’ve rounded up 10 of the best options on the market according to our experts’ recommendations and customer reviews. Shop them all ahead.