Put A Spring In Your Step With An Anti Fatigue Mat[Updated 1 June 2020]If like me you spend a lot of time on your feet or standing in one place and you get aches and pains in your legs, back or feet – or all three – then an anti-fatigue mat for the kitchen might well provide the support and relief you need to stand and cook dinner in comfort after a long hot day.
There are several different types and grades of performance and while I’m certainly not going to try and persuade you to buy one, I will try and demystify what your options are and which does what best, having gone through the process not so long ago for myself.
I’ll confess I didn’t buy my gel mat for the kitchen, but to use in the greenhouse where in January the stone floor is unbelievably cold. The mat goes into the hot tank cupboard to warm through and the gel holds this heat for a couple of hours, providing snug warm feet plus brilliant back and leg support when potting on or sowing seeds.
It was such a revelation in comfort another was swiftly ordered for the kitchen plus a more substantial industrial version of the anti-fatigue mat for the garage workbench area.
For this we needed one which would be more suited to my husband’s much bigger and heavier frame – the gel mats are quite expensive and he wanted a larger area of floor covered with mat, overall it was better and cheaper to go for the commercial option.
Who Benefits From Anti Fatigue Mats For The Kitchen?
Anyone who spends a lot of time prepping food, or who has spent all day on their feet and then has to get a meal, will get real relief and comfort from using a comfort mat for the kitchen prep area.
One of my buddies runs a home catering business and she has invested in several around all the work areas, in fact, it was her suggesting one for the greenhouse in the first place – yes, they have the added benefit of protecting you from a cold hard stone floor as well.
They come in all shapes and sizes, but more importantly, they come in different types.
Best Anti-Fatigue Mats
Basic Comfort Mats
You can find a wide range of rubber or vinyl protected foam mats advertised as comfort mats with anti-fatigue properties. Beware of foam mats which are too soft, you’ll do yourself more harm than good and feel like you’re walking on deep sand.
It’s worth keeping in mind that if real support is needed neither foam nor plain rubber will do the job properly, you’ll need something specifically designed and manufactured to reduce fatigues and relieve aches and pains.
The man pictured is a Genuine Joe Anti Fatigue Mat which comes in at around $25. Certainly good enough to offer support while cooking a meal or standing filing for an hour or so, it has a firm feel and you definitely don’t sink into it.
These are very popular and get largely very good reviews, so if you just want light support and protection from a cold floor, one of these will do very well. They aren’t very aesthetically pleasing but they are durable and if you have a tight budget, these are probably the best value for the money – Genuine Joe also make these up to sixty feet long by 3 feet wide which is ideal for a garage or workshop.
With over 1000 reviews and 4.6 out of five stars, the Imprint is a hit with most folks who have one, and had I not been after something I could warm up and ship out to the greenie, I probably would have gone for this and not looked any further.
If you’re looking at other makes in this price bracket, just check the essential guide below for any safety issues – and buy one substantial enough not to skid around the floor with you on it carrying hot pans.
Have you heard of gel comfort mats? Well, firstly check the one you like actually has gel in its construction – even those in the budget range from GelPro (pictured in green) have what is described as a ‘multi layer cushioning system’, but then they are half the price.
The company make several different ranges – Newlife Designer Comfort and the Gelpro Plush range – so what’s the difference apart from price that is?
The Designer Comfort range is a budget option with a filling not of gel and described by the company as having an Ergo-Foam core.
Starting at around $40 for the smallest size, they come in a range of bright colors and have a 4.4 star rating with plenty of very happy customers.
My friend and neighbor have one of these Newlife Designer Comfort Mats Gelpro make, and I can testify that they feel very good underfoot and are substantial enough not to slip around. After a few moments, the sensation of standing you get from niggling aches (mine are in the base of my back), ease away very well.
Genuine gel-filled mats like this GelPro Plush Kitchen Mat are expensive but offer unbelievable comfort and support. Designed and made in the US, they really do it for me, with the added advantage that I can warm mine up and use it elsewhere – I really loathe cold feet!
The best way to feel and describe the GelPro Plush Mat is in bare feet. Initially, you feel the lack of hardness, but aren’t aware of too much softness either and after a few minutes, you forget you are standing at all.
If it’s gel you want then I’d say buy one of these – I’m pretty sure you won’t regret it.
Though I do highly recommend them, they aren’t the cheapest option and in truth you can get similar or the same benefits from less expensive products – I think the industrial-grade mats are just as good, but they sure don’t look as pretty.
I’m no expert here, but I did look at a lot and read way too many reviews – enough to know that all industrial standard anti fatigue mats are 3/8” plus thick minimum. There are plenty to choose from for industrial use – just look for industry standards for the construction material, 3/8 thickness and you can’t go far wrong.
My husband chose a mat from SmartCell and he ordered a special size to fit the area. The price is awesome, but so is the performance in an area that gets a fair bit of hard wear.
Made from a specially designed and manufactured rubber, SmartCell mats are unique in that they get softer when compressed which is the opposite to most rubber and foam – most substances actually. I don’t mean they are ‘soft’ to stand on, they aren’t at all – but they are extraordinarily comfortable.
Even if you don’t intend to buy one of these, over at the SmartCell website there’s a lot of anti fatigue mat information generally and the technologies used to make them, plus some buying tips.
So to sum up, the choices come down to…
- Basic thin rubber or foam comfort mat
- Purpose made multi layer anti-fatigue mat
- Anti-fatigue gel mat (usually a combination for stability)
- Industrial grade – usually constructed from special materials
Things to consider when buying an anti-fatigue mat are…
Look for a non-slip underside, very important and what tends to be lacking in cheap mats.
Having a tapered edge prevents tripping up, equally don’t go for a paper-thin tapered edge either, they are inclined to wear, stretch and warp quickly.
Softness Isn’t Necessarily Comfort And Support
While you’re looking for skeletal and muscular support, you don’t want a mat that is too soft. Just think about walking on a plush thick carpet, its more effort than a firmer surface, basically you don’t want something so soft you sink.
Bodyweight does come into it and is something to consider when buying – my husband has an anti fatigue mat in the garage and he needed a heavier weight (and more expensive) one than I do in the kitchen or greenhouse.
Think About Stability
Be warned, cheaper thinner gel mats and anti fatigue mats made from foam may seem like an absolute bargain, but are inevitably lighter weight and more likely to skid around the floor both when you step on and off them, and when moving around on them.
Actually I had one of these for years but because it was wedged in the corner it never went anywhere, so I guess it depends on where you want to put it as well.
Look For Durability
Some of these mats come with long warranties, up to 10 years is not unusual in higher quality anti fatigue mats. In cheaper comfort mats, it’s usually the edges that go first often causing the mat to warp displaying uneven wavy edges – they then become a tripping up the hazard.
Given the mat is going to make a big difference to your overall comfort, good advice is not to buy the cheapest you can find unless it really is quality assured.
Like your kitchen floor and work surfaces, kitchen mats will need regular cleaning and sanitizing and for that reason, I’d avoid those with through holes or crevices where bacteria can hide. Make sure the mat can be vacuumed, swept and washed – by the way, I’ve found using handheld steam cleaners the most efficient way to sanitize anything like this quickly and thoroughly.
Beware Shipping Costs
If you order from anywhere where free shipping isn’t available, be careful to check the shipping costs. These anti-fatigue mats are quite heavy, especially the gel mats.
If you want gel to be aware to check what the mat is made of carefully. So far I’ve only found affordable genuine gel with GelPro – please do let me know if you know different!