We know them from gymnasiums, but soft floor mats are an indispensable tool for cushioning falls and falls not only in professional and popular sports. They are also available for use at home for gymnastics exercises. But not all soft floor mats are the same.
The most important facts in brief
- Soft floor mats are large mats that are made of a foam material and are characterized by a high penetration depth. They are also available in a foldable version.
- The mats are suitable for various purposes and sports. The appropriate model also depends on the weight of the user.
- Design and color, material, weight, waterproofness and accessories are important criteria for deciding for or against a model.
What is a soft floor mat?
A soft floor mat is a mattress-like piece of gymnastics equipment designed to soften a person’s jumps or fall so that they don’t hurt themselves. Most likely, you’ve had some contact with it in gym class. Unlike gymnastics mats or floor exercise mats, soft floor mats are particularly soft, so they have a high penetration.
Because soft floor mats are used for purposes where it is not clear from the start exactly where a gymnast will land on it, they are larger than other mats. They are made of a special foam that is particularly crushable and are covered with either fabric or a tarpaulin fabric.
What is a soft floor mat suitable for?
Soft floor mats are suitable for sports in which uncontrolled landings can occur.
Soft floor mats make little sense where you land on a certain spot, in a certain way, for example in apparatus gymnastics. Because, for example, when landing feet first, they can “sink” into the mat, there is a high risk of injury when using a soft floor mat there.
Sports and purposes for which a soft floor mat is ideal are:
- Warm-up: Here, it is a good idea to spread one or more soft floor mats around the gym and do casual running laps over or around them. Also somersaults or certain running combinations over the mat can be used during the warm-up.
- Bouldering: soft floor mats are also used in bouldering, especially for children and teens who are still practicing, to help mitigate falls.
- Handball: to practice certain throws, you can place a mat in front of the goal, where the player is supposed to land.
- High jump: it’s hard to imagine Olympic Games broadcasts without them, whether for the high jump or pole vault. There are also special soft floor mats for this sport.
- Children’s gymnastics: You can find lots of exercises for children’s gymnastics on the Internet. For example, children love to use the mat to slide off a wall bars or to be pulled through the hall on it.
- Physiotherapy: Because it is much more difficult to walk on the soft, wobbly soft floor mat, you can also use it in physiotherapy to teach people how to walk (again).
- Skipping: You can also do rope skipping on a soft floor mat. It takes a special level of coordination to jump high enough to keep the rope from catching on the mat and to land well enough to keep your balance.
- Games: From balancing, to using a soft mat as a slide, to a special variation of dodgeball, there are several games that are fun for more than just kids and teens.
- Long jump: It makes sense to train climbing jumps with a landing on the soft floor mat already at the age of children and teenagers. The “dry training” is an essential part of the long jump training and a soft floor mat offers the possibility to do this also in winter indoors.
What are the alternatives to soft floor mats?
You may think of other types of mats as alternatives to a soft floor mat, but calling them alternatives is difficult: only soft floor mats offer the advantage of a high penetration depth among sports mats to perfectly soften falls.
Another real alternative to soft floor mats are foam pools. A foam pool, just like a soft floor mat, is placed behind a piece of sports equipment.
Foam pools are containers filled with mostly cuboid foam pieces that are about the same size as soft floor mats. When jumping into the foam pieces, a similar mitigating effect is achieved as with soft floor mats.
What types of soft floor mats are there and which one is right for you?
Soft floor mats can be divided into two types, which differ in one important feature:
- Folding soft floor mat
- Non-folding soft floor mat
There are foldable and non-foldable soft floor mats. This differing feature results in different advantages, disadvantages and peculiarities. We will introduce these to you below.
What are the features of foldable soft floor mats and what are their advantages and disadvantages?
Soft floor mats that are foldable have developed with the increase of interest in fitness and sports in recent years. They are more for home use because they tend to be a little smaller than non-folding soft floor mats.
Foldable soft floor mats you can mostly fold in the middle of the long sides, because they are made of several blocks and not just one.
- Storage needs less space
- Easy to transport
- Useful as mattresses for overnight guests
- Risk of slipping (light weight)
- Low penetration
- Usually not suitable for outdoor use
What distinguishes non-folding soft floor mats and what are their advantages and disadvantages?
Non-folding soft floor mats are the ones you know from the gym. They are also used in professional sports and are characterized by their size and the fact that they have a high penetration depth.
They also slip less because they are much more sluggish due to their weight and rough underside. On the other hand, because they are very smooth on their upper side, there is a risk of skin burns if you “slip” over them or fall on them at high speed.
- High slip resistance
- High penetration
- Available in large sizes
- High space requirement for storage
- Transport difficult (size and weight)
- Risk of skin burns
Accessories for soft floor mats
Although the soft floor mat is, of course, the gymnastics equipment it is about, the choice of the product you buy could also be decided by some accessories that are – or are not – available for purchase.
You can find the following accessories for soft floor mats:
- Cover: there are soft floor mats whose cover is removable via zippers. No matter how carefully you handle the mat – it will be unavoidable that it gets dirty. To maintain a nice overall appearance, the cover can be replaced from time to time.
- Strap: Due to their size, soft floor mats are often stored standing up against a wall and attached to it with a strap. If you want to do the same, you should also make sure that there are eyelets on the narrowest side of the mat where you can hang such a strap.
- Transport Trolley: As with regular gym mats, there is also a transport trolley with wheels for soft floor mats that allows for easy transportation.
- Wall mounting: To the already mentioned retaining strap, of course, you also need a corresponding counterpart on the wall. This usually means eyelets or hooks that are attached to the wall.
Some of the accessories may not be available for sale for certain sizes or models, which could influence your decision for or against a model.