How to Buy Anti-Fatigue Mats

A SmartCells anti-fatigue mat

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There are many anti-fatigue mats on the market, some of which are designed for use in an industrial setting where workers stand for hours at the same workstation, while others have a lighter nature intended for light-duty work in the home environment.

But many spend countless hours in the home kitchen, garage or workshop while baking, cooking, or tinkering. And this can put the same undue stress on your feet and body, as it does for the industrial worker. If you have very hard surface floors like ceramic tile, even standing for one hour can be grueling.

The solution is a properly suited and well-designed anti-fatigue mat that can reduce foot stress and related back and knee problems. But with so many choices on the market, it can be difficult to find the right one for your particular needs. These tips will better equip you when it comes to buying an anti-fatigue mat.

Before Buying an Anti-Fatigue Mat

Let's face it; it's always nice to step onto a soft and comfy mat when you rise from the bed, or you're standing at the bathroom sink. But while softness and light cushioning may seem comfortable, it may not be adequate to reduce the risk of stress and foot fatigue when it comes to standing in the same spot for an hour or more. This cushioning is limited regarding shock-absorbing and stress-relieving qualities. When you need more than soft cushioning, it's time for an anti-fatigue mat. Anyone who suffers from foot, knee, or back pain should consider some type of anti-fatigue mat to reduce the stress on the body caused by standing for any length of time at the kitchen counter, bathroom sink or workbench.

The average cook or home chef can benefit greatly from an anti-fatigue mat to prevent foot stress problems. And for those who spend hours standing, such as the car or hobby buffs, busy cooks, home-based caterers, or professional cooks, an anti-fatigue mat is essential.

If you don't have one, and any of these issues sound familiar, now's the time to start searching for an anti-fatigue mat.

Buying Considerations for an Anti-Fatigue Mat

Mat Size

For industrial use, a square mat or long runner may be great, but for counter use, look for a rectangular mat at least 2' x 3' long, or if you have a long counter, a 6' to 8' longer mat would be ideal. The worst thing is constantly stepping on and off a mat when working in the kitchen, so choose the size carefully. You should also avoid positioning a mat where you are likely to be standing one foot on and one foot off, which would lead to posture issues. Measure the counter area where you are likely to spend most of your time and bring these measurements with you when you shop.​

Thickness, Density & Elements

A dense rubber mat is less tiring than a soft mat and will provide better support. But there's more to consider when it comes to density, and a well-designed anti-fatigue mat will be engineered based on key elements that are known to alleviate foot fatigue. Adding a vinyl cover to a foam construction may be fine for a comfy feel, but when you want to reduce foot fatigue, it's just not enough.

A foam mat that is too soft may look and feel nice at the first step, but you will constantly be balancing on the mat, similar to walking on sand. That can be extremely fatiguing in the long run. This balancing act also improperly shifts the weight, and that can lead to misalignment health issues. For chefs who spend hours cooking or baking, this type is too light to provide a good cushioning.

Mats that are at least 3/8 inch, 1/2 inch, or closer to 1 inch thick would be best, but not too high to create a tripping hazard. The best mats will also have a tapered edge to prevent tripping hazards and the wider the taper, the better.

The bottom line: If you've already experienced foot, knee, or back pain and you stand for hours, a lightweight mat will probably be inadequate. Go for an industrial-grade mat with essential features to reduce foot strain.

Material

Anti-fatigue mats can be made from various materials including rubber, foam, gel, and vinyl. They can also be made with a combination of these materials.

Sanitary & Safety Issues

Regardless of whether you choose a mat simply based on light cushioning or heavy-duty use, if the mat is for your kitchen or bath area, for sanitary reasons it must be washable. Kitchen mats can harbor food bacteria and bathroom mats are prone to germs and should be cleaned regularly.

An anti-fatigue mat with a grid or highly pebbled surface is great for industrial use where it can be hosed down but might be hard to keep clean in the kitchen. When a mat's top layer becomes cracked or peels, cleaning becomes ineffective, and the mat should be replaced. Read the product information and for health reasons, make sure you can wash or sanitize it.

To avoid tripping hazards, choose a mat with tapered edges that do not hinder the transition from floor to mat. And balancing on a soft foam mat can also pose a falling hazard to those with stability issues such as seniors.

Types of Anti-Fatigue Mats

Anti-fatigue mats generally have some stress-relieving qualities, but not all are equal regarding materials, features, and benefits. Some are considered light-duty, while others have industrial-grade properties that make them better suited for heavy-duty use. And for those who spend hours in the kitchen or home shop, this is the type of anti-fatigue mat you need.

Foam Mats

Foam mats are likely the most common and popular that you'll find. These mats are the ones that you see used in kitchens, bathrooms, home offices and sometimes in work areas. This type of mat is good for light duty and are easy to clean and waterproof. These type of mats are typically less expensive than other anti-fatigue mats.

Gel Mats

Gel mats are certainly worth considering for light duty. Many people love their gel-filled shoe insoles, so this concept can certainly be extended to the kitchen. It's really a matter of taste and how it feels for you. Gel-filled anti-fatigue mats tend to be much higher priced and this may be a constraint. Because kitchen mats may feel great for one person and not another, keep in mind that it may take trial and error to find the right one for you.

Industrial-Grade

An industrial-grade anti-fatigue mat should be at least 3/8 inch thick and constructed with special properties to alleviate foot stress. Look for a top pattern that is easy to wipe clean and suitable sizing for your area. Though a heavy-duty anti-fatigue mat may not be as pretty as some kitchen mats, remember that it's the quality that counts, and that's a small trade-off when it comes to easing foot pain. Black is easiest to find; colors are more limited. Be prepared to pay for this grade of the mat; they're usually more expensive.

Regular Floor Mats vs Anti-Fatigue Mats

When a little cushioning is all that's needed, carpeted mats are probably the most economical and may be sufficient for light duty if they have a rubber backing for safety. But make sure that they are washable and will withstand many washings. There's also a good array of rubber or foam vinyl-covered mats for home use, but these may lack anti-fatigue properties and simply provide light cushioning. Rubber interlocking mats sold in hardware stores for workshops or play areas can also be very practical and economical for light duty, depending on use.

Cost

The cost of an anti-fatigue mat will vary in price due to size, thickness, type, and grade. They can range from $26 up to as high as $250.00. A small mat that is 2 x 3 feet in size and 3/4 inch thick has an average cost of $30 to $60. While a 4 x 6 feet mat that's 5/8 inches thick can cost around $130 or more.

Save yourself some money and watch out for sales on anti-fatigue mats. In early August, when it's back-to-school time, you will find bargains on many office supplies, so make sure to check then for sales.

How to Choose an Anti-Fatigue Mat

Choosing an anti-fatigue mat is all about what works best for you and what you prefer. It needs to fit your needs, your budget, and your taste. As you go on your journey to find the right one for you, ask yourself these questions:

How Will You Use Your Anti-Fatigue Mat?

Will the mat be used by just you in front of your computer in your home office? Or will it be placed in front of the kitchen sink or counter and used by everyone in the family? Or maybe it will be placed in front of a workbench in garage? Determining how the mat will be used on a day-to-day basis will help you when deciding on what you need in an anti-fatigue mat.

What Does the Rest of the Space Look Like?

While many anti-fatigue mats come in the standard black color, there are other colors and patterns available. Solid colors that are neutral, such as tans, browns, blues, and black will tend to blend in well with almost any room, while brightly colored geometric, striped, or ones with figures or designs on them stand out. Industrial mats can have pebble or grit texture, or sport holes in them for fluid drainage.

Where Will it Be Located?

A mat that is used in the kitchen needs to be able to withstand spills and stains, plus it should be able to be wiped clean easily. One that's used in a home office, along with a standing desk, doesn't have that worry since it's a dry area, and its main requirement is to be the right thickness for comfort for standing for long periods. While one in the garage should be more of an industrial-grade mat that is able to withstand stains, such as oil and grease, it could also sport holes in it for drainage. 

Where to Buy Anti-Fatigue Mats

Anti-fatigue mats can be found in many stores, including office supply stores, home improvement stores, general merchandise stores, electronic retail stores and online retailers.

If you prefer to shop online, you'll find a good variety of types and prices of mats available. For personal shopping, carpeted and foam vinyl-covered mats can be found in most merchandise stores. Interlocking rubber mats are sold in packages of 4 or 6 at hardware or large merchandise stores.

FAQ
  • Can you trim an anti-fatigue mat?

    Some anti-fatigue mats can be trimmed down, while others cannot. If your mat has beveled edges, you should not trim it. Make sure to read the manufacturer's label to ensure that the anti-fatigue mat can be trimmed.

  • How often should you replace an anti-fatigue mat?

    An anti-fatigue mat has a lifespan of around one to three years. How long one lasts depends on its usage and how it is maintained.

  • Can you use anti-fatigue mats on carpet?

    Anti-fatigue mats can be placed on tile, linoleum, wood and vinyl flooring and yes, even on carpet. Make sure your mat has anti-slip backing on it for safety.

Article Sources
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  2. Yamaguchi T, Higuchi H, Onodera H, Hokkirigawa K, Masani K (2016) Misalignment of the Desired and Measured Center of Pressure Describes Falls Caused by Slip during Turning. PLoS ONE 11(5): e0155418. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0155418

  3. Cleaning and Disinfecting Your Facility. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.