Rubber Flooring V Foam Flooring - What is the best choice for Me?
Is Foam or Rubber Gym Flooring better?
When deciding on the right flooring for your gym, you’ll want to choose something that is safe and comfortable for workouts while also providing durability, affordability, and is extremely low-maintenance. This often comes down to rubber and foam which tick all the boxes in this criteria.
Rubber flooring is the most popular gym flooring option for the majority of fitness uses within the industry due to its versatility, various thickness options and its overall durability. Similarly, foam flooring also has these qualities but not to the same extent and in a slightly different way.
In this article we will look at the these 2 types of gym flooring in more detail and look at the best uses of each.
Rubber Gym Flooring
Rubber is often used in gyms due to its various sizes and thicknesses. These components are perfect for both low-impact and high-impact activities, including HIIT, weight training, and heavy equipment workouts.
As the most common type of gym flooring, rubber flooring is often the go-to choice. It looks good and it is affordable although prices varies in terms of thickness and design. Most importantly it provides excellent shock absorption and anti-fatigue properties which protects users from body injury. It also protects the under-flooring and gym equipment from damage. Rubber flooring comes in a number of thickness options which greatly determines the suitability of its use. Lower thicknesses are for lightweight workouts and lower impact whereas medium to high thicknesses support high intensity use and heavier weights.
Let's look at the key advantages more closely:
Advantages of Rubber Gym Flooring
- Durability - Rubber flooring is very strong and durable. It can withstand high traffic, high-intensity workouts, heavy exercise machinery and it will last for an extended period of time without wear or damage. Its durability gives the perfect balance between strength, compression, and comfort.
- Shock Absorption - Rubber is highly protective and provides excellent shock absorbtion when performing high impact gym activities. It prevents users from injury while shielding underflooring from damage. Another fantastic benefit is the sound-reducing qualities of rubber flooring.
- Easy Installation - Rubber mats are a bit heavier than foam mats, yet they are still very fast and easy to install DIY without a specialist fitter. Their versatility and design make them simple to install in any gym space. Tiles can be butted together without glue using a compression method (please see Gym Flooring Installation Guidelines here).
- Outdoor Options - Rubber is water resistant. Rubber tiles with feet or drainage channels can be used outdoors.
- Simple Maintenance - Fluid-resistant rubber makes these mats easy to clean and care for. Sweat, spills, and other fluids can simply be wiped up without the worry of mould and smells. Caring for rubber mats often involves just sweeping or vacuuming dust and debris as well as wiping fluids with a neutral cleaner.
- Eco-Friendly - Most rubber mats are made from recycled rubber, often from old tires. This makes them a very environmentally-friendly option for flooring.
While there are many reasons to use rubber mats for your gym floors, there are some disadvantages that cause people to choose foam instead. Take a look at the potential downside of rubber:
- Cost - The initial costs of rubber matting tends to be higher than the initial cost of foam. You’ll be making a larger upfront investment by choosing rubber.
- Less Soft - Rubber flooring although available in smooth surface designs is not as soft to the surface. For some activities such as Martial Arts where there is a high level of floor work, friction burn can occur unless the surface is ultra soft.
Types of Rubber Flooring
There are a few different rubber flooring options for gyms:-
Rubber Tiles - The most common type, tile format comes in various sizes, shapes and thicknesses to suit different uses. The good thing about rubber is that it is easily cut to size making it simple to install for most people.
Rubber Rolls - Rolls are widely used in larger, open-plan spaces such as Spin Studios or Fitness Rooms as it is cost-effective to use with less waste. Rubber rolls tend to come in different thicknesses but are not usually available in very thick options.
Puzzle Tiles - These are interconnecting tiles with a jigsaw profile which slot together. Puzzle Tiles are a great option for DIY installers. There is also interlocking tiles which differ from Puzzle tiles. These interlocking rubber tiles connect using hidden inserts which lock the tiles together for extra stability.
Poured Rubber - This rubber floor solution is mainly used for outdoor sports venues and play spaces where the area is extensive. Rubber is poured and dried similar to how a concrete surface is created. Very costly and time consuming, poured rubber is not the best option for indoor sports and gym facilities due to more cost efficient options being available to hand.
Foam Gym Flooring
Foam flooring is another widely used choice for fitness and sports. It is naturally anti-fatigue, resilient and cushions impact from high intensity movements and fitness workouts. It is particularly popular in disciplines such as MMA, Martial Arts and Boxing because these types of training rely on superior cushioning and grip while being soft to the body and joints such as knees, hands and feet.
In fitness, foam is best used for activities with lighter weights and gym equipment as heavier free weights or machines may not be supported as well as with rubber flooring and foam mats can become damaged easier. It is the most suited for activities such as Pilates, Yoga, lighter weight training, bodyweight and workout classes, Martial Arts, Boxing and Gymnastics.
Like rubber flooring, the suitability of a foam mat to the intended use usually comes down to the thickness. Very thin, lightweight foam flooring will provide good support to a degree. Thicker options in 20mm and 40mm work best for higher impact workouts and activities.
Advantages of Foam Gym Flooring
- Easy Installation - In puzzle tile format, you only need to remove the tiles from their packaging and connect them by the interlocking edges.
- Simple Maintenance - Cleaning foam mats is just as easy as cleaning rubber mats. Similar to rubber mats, they are waterproof so spills and fluids can easily be wiped off. They can be cleaned regularly using a mild solution.
- Impact Absorbent - Foam floors are used for sports such as gymnastics, martial arts, and boxing. These types of sports need flooring that absorbs impact well to provide comfort, support, and protection for the participant. Foam mats contain small pockets of air that make them flexible and able to carry the weight of users and equipment.
- Soft Surface - For sports which require a soft surface, foam mats are the best choice. They prevent friction burn from consistent contact with the surface as they have a very soft top layer.
Foam mats are a great option for gyms that are typically used for certain sports. However, there are some disadvantages that you’ll want to consider when deciding on the type of floor for your gym.
Less Durability - Foam mats are less durable than rubber mats. In a regular gym with weight training, heavy equipment, and high-intensity training, foam mats won’t last as long as rubber.
Less Protection - For regular workouts, foam mats provide less protection for athletes, subfloors, and equipment. Too much intensity can cause damage to the mats.
Types of Foam Flooring
Foam flooring is available in different styles:-
Foam Tiles - Foam tiles come in a variety of designs and thicknesses and are used in Boxing Gyms, Martial Arts Studios and Gymnastic Centres. They are installed together permanently or are sometimes laid loose.
Roll-Out Foam Mats - Many Gymnastic Studios and some dance facilities use foam roll-out mats which allow for easy mobility and long, wide surfaces for specific moves.
Puzzle Foam Tiles - Shaped like a puzzle to the edges, these interlocking tiles are commonly used in MMA and children’s play spaces. The easy design means the tiles can be joined and glued together permanently or loose-laid for mobile use.
Foam Crash Mats - These are a specialist type of mat used for tumbling, Gymnastics and Parkour.
Both rubber and foam mats are popular types of flooring for gyms. They both have many advantages that make them a good choice, depending on your needs. Many sports facilities will opt for a combination of the two types of surface to use for different activities.
Rubber mats are best for traditional gyms where HIIT, heavy equipment training, and weight lifting take place. They are strong and durable and will provide the protection and comfort needed for workouts.
Foam mats are the right choice for gyms where martial arts, boxing, and gymnastics are the norm. They have the right impact absorbency for those sports and are simple to install and clean. Similarly, foam mats work well for fitness classes and home gyms with lighter weights and activity.
You may also be interested in:
The Advantages of Rubber Matting for Your Gym Floor
Benefits of Foam Flooring for Gaming & Play Rooms