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Horse Stall Mats vs. Gym Floor Mats: Which is Better?

When building your home gym, the up-front price can be overwhelming. Costs for dumbbells, benches, and gym floor mats add up quickly. Budget-conscious shoppers have probably heard about using horse stall mats for gym flooring. 

But is this an effective hack for cheap gym mats, or just some bad advice? This guide will help you figure that out. 

In this comparison of horse stall mats vs. gym floor mats, you’ll discover the pros and cons of each, learn about the most important factors to consider, and compare their features head-to-head.

How to Choose the Right Gym Mat

1/4" Tough Mats

When it comes to mats, there are a few important factors you should keep in mind. Here’s a quick breakdown to help you shop smart. 

Indoor vs. Outdoor

Some mats are meant to be used outdoors and others perform best indoors. For example, our 3/4″ Extreme Mats can handle both indoor and outdoor applications. 

The main difference between indoor and outdoor mats is the smell. For indoor mats, manufacturers include smell mitigators that combat the sulfur smell, or the mat uses less crumb. Outdoor mats typically don’t use a lot of smell mitigant, which results in a strong smell That’s why we don’t recommend outdoor mats for indoor use. 

Vulcanized Rubber Mats vs. Non-vulcanized Mats

Vulcanized rubber is super durable, and you can find it in both gym mats and horse stall mats. It’s great for horse stalls to prevent dirt and waste from getting stuck in the small pores of the mat. In gyms, vulcanized rubber prevents sweat from getting in the pores and keeps your gym from smelling.

Non-vulcanized rubber mats are more porous, but that doesn’t mean they’re low-quality. For example, if you want a mat that is easier on the knees, non-vulcanized rubber provides more give. Non-vulcanized rubber is also great if you need a mat for an animal with joint issues.

Related Content >> How to Clean Gym Mats

What are Rubber Horse Stall Mats?

1" Horse Stall Tiles

Horse stall mats are made with high-quality recycled crumb rubber. As the name might suggest, these mats are designed for horses. They provide a comfortable floor for thoroughbreds and other large animals.

Horse Stall Mats for Gym Use

Because rubber stall mats are durable and shock absorbent, they can function well as an exercise mat. 

They are typically 4’ x 6’ mats of either 1/2” or 3/4” thickness. They’re a popular pick for home gym mats because they’re inexpensive and readily available. If you want to test the waters with your commitment to your home gym, these mats are an inexpensive way to get your feet wet. 

But this is still a mat made for large animals, and some features can disrupt your workout experience.

For example, some rubber flooring products have a strong smell, depending on the type of raw material used or how the flooring was made. And the recycled crumb rubber used for horse stall mats is known to have a pungent smell.

What else can you expect with horse stall mats for home gym flooring? Let’s weigh out the pros and cons:

Pros of Horse Stall Mats

  • Price: Horse stall mats are typically inexpensive.
  • Shock absorbency: These mats can absorb a high level of impact. This makes them great for hardcore exercise programs like P90X, plyometrics, and T25.
  • Water-resistant: One of the best things about rubber flooring is that it is extremely slip-resistant and water-resistant. 

Cons of Horse Stall Mats

  • Smell: Horse stall mats are made from recycled crumb rubber and may make your gym smell like a tire store. Not exactly what someone wants to inhale when they’re working out.
  • Movement: These mats can move around and come up at the seams when you perform forceful movements like snatches, power cleans, and jumps. At a commercial gym, your members won’t be too happy if they have to constantly kick and nudge their floor mats back into position.
  • Thickness variations: Rubber stall mats aren’t manufactured with as much precision as a gym mat. The quality of the cut and sizing can vary, so it can be hard to find two mats that are the same. Your gym might look especially DIY with uneven seams and jagged edges.

Shop Horse Stall Mats

What are Rubber Gym Floor Mats?

Horse stall mats vs. gym mats - which are better for gym flooring? These premium gym mats are going to give you a better bang for your buck.

Rubber gym mats are highly shock-absorbent and come in a variety of thicknesses and color selections.

Some gym mats are made from vulcanized recycled rubber tires, which makes them low-odor, high-density, and long-lasting.

Gym floor mats are what professional establishments use. You’ll see them in hockey arenas, schools, commercial gyms, hotels, and ski resorts. But high-quality gym mats are also a top choice for the home gym fitness buff because they are super durable, slip-resistant, and look amazing in a DIY gym.

Here’s what you get with a high-quality, premium rubber mat:

Pros of Gym Floor Mats

  • Low odor: While most rubber mats will have an initial smell that eventually fades, gym mats have a much less noticeable smell than horse stall mats.
  • Non-porous: That means easier maintenance! You can easily wipe away dirt and sweat after a workout.
  • Premium appearance: Quality rubber mats make any gym look more professional.
  • Best value: Rubber mats are super durable, ensuring that they’ll hold up through your toughest workouts. They may come with a higher price tag, but you get a higher quality experience.
  • Water-resistant: Gym mats and horse stall mats both get points for being made of rubber, a great water-resistant flooring option. From sweaty workouts to spilled water and even poolside yoga, rubber flooring can withstand it all.
  • Shock absorption: Gym mats, especially our Shock Mats, are some of the toughest and most durable gym flooring options on the market. These gym mats will absorb the shock and impact of tough workouts and heavy free weights, keeping your joints and subfloor safe and sound.
  • Durability: Gym mats are strong enough to handle the toughest workouts without wearing out.

Cons of Gym Floor Mats

  • Price: Although gym mats may not be the cheapest option, they still provide the best value. They’re more consistent in thickness and size, easier to clean, don’t smell as bad, and they’re more stylish.


Related Content >> Can Rubber Gym Mats Damage Hardwood?

Horse Stall Mats vs. Gym Floor Mats: Which is Better?

Horse stall mats vs. gym mats - which are better for gym flooring?

Since horse stall mats and regular gym mats are made of durable, shock-absorbent rubber, both options can potentially serve you well for a workout area. So, it all comes down to whether or not you want a high-quality gym.

Let’s compare and contrast the two and see how they measure up in different categories. Whether you go with horse stall mats or premium mats depends on what qualities matter most to you.

Horse Stall Mats vs. Gym Mats


Horse stall mats attract budget-conscious DIYers, while premium mats are the more durable, long-lasting investment. Gym mats are the more economically smart option in the long run because they’re more durable and won’t need to be replaced if you start investing more in your fitness. 

But if the price is the most important factor for you, you may want to start with horse stall mats as an inexpensive way to test your commitment to your home gym.

Winner: Horse Stall Mats


It’s hard to focus on your fitness when your gym smells like a tire store. All rubber flooring has a distinct rubber smell, but it’s stronger with some products than others. For example, stall mats have a very strong smell that doesn’t typically fade. Meanwhile, rubber gym mats have a milder smell, and that smell can fade over time, especially if you mop the mats with soap and water and let the room air out.

Winner: Gym Mats


It’s simple to install both gym mats and horse stall mats  – just lay them out and you’re done.

Winner: Tie


Since both horse stall mats and gym mats are rubber, they both provide strong, durable, and shock-absorbent flooring for high-impact workouts. 

Winner: Tie


Gym floor mats come with a ton of color fleck options so you can match them to the decor of your gym. 

Meanwhile, rubber stall mats are designed for function rather than style. They typically only come in black. If the look and feel of your home gym are important to you, you’ll want premium gym mats.

Winner: Gym Mats


Both horse stall mats and gym mats are made for easy cleaning. They’re very easy to wipe down.

Winner: Tie

Additional Rubber Gym Flooring Options

Gym mats are great for covering small areas and having the convenience of laying the mat down wherever you want it, but they’re not your only option for getting durable rubber flooring in your gym. If you have a larger space to cover, rubber rolls or tiles are a great solution.

Horse Stall Mats vs. Rubber Flooring Rolls

3/8" Heavy Duty Rubber Rolls

Rubber flooring rolls are a premier flooring type you’ll see in most traditional gyms. Known for their sharp, sleek looks and extreme durability, rubber rolls give your gym a professional appearance. When installed correctly, it is nearly impossible to see where one roll ends and another begins.

Pros of Rubber Rolls for Gym Flooring:

  • Great for large spaces
  • Cost-efficient
  • Custom cut rolls allow you to purchase just the amount you need
  • Durable
  • Slip-resistant
  • No seams or separating with heavy movement

Cons of Rubber Rolls for Gym Flooring

  • Very heavy — may need additional help installing
  • Installation is a larger process than simply laying a mat down
  • Pricier than horse stall mats


Related Content >> Rubber Flooring Rolls Buying Guide

Horse Stall Mats vs. Rubber Floor Tiles

3/8" Sport-Lock Rubber Tiles

Interlocking rubber floor tiles are another popular type of flooring you’ll see in traditional gyms. Known for their ease and simplicity, rubber flooring tiles click in together like puzzle pieces. Sure, it doesn’t get much easier than laying down gym or horse stall mats, but rubber floor tiles are the next best thing in terms of DIY-friendly installation!

Pros of Rubber Tiles for Gym Flooring

  • Professional appearance: Though you can see where tiles come together, high-quality rubber floor tiles can appear virtually seamless.
  • Easy installation
  • No glue or tape necessary!
  • Easy to cut to fit the shape of your room
  • Durable
  • Slip-resistant

Cons of Rubber Tiles for Gym Flooring

  • Installation, while simple, can be time-consuming in large spaces


Related Content >> Rubber Floor Tiles Buying Guide


Now that you’ve seen a detailed comparison of horse stall mats vs. gym floor mats, you should have a better idea of which option works best for you. For people just starting out with a home gym, the cheaper option may be best, at least until you start getting more serious about your fitness. 

For dedicated weightlifters and home gym enthusiasts, we recommend gym mats. While you may be tempted to go with the inexpensive horse stall mats, it’s worth saving yourself money and frustration down the road by investing in strong, durable gym floor mats right from the start. Your gym floor is the foundation of your fitness journey – set yourself up for success with reliable premium flooring.


About Michelle Barichello


Michelle Barichello helps passionate DIY-ers envision the home/gym/garage of their dreams. Michelle has contributed posts on topics such as gym flooring, decking options and pet-friendly solutions. Michelle has also written for publications such as Fit Bottomed Girls, the Girls on the Run Remarkable blog, and Women’s Running Magazine.

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June 6, 2019 2:06 pm

Horse stall mats are the same material as “gym rubber,” with cost being the differentiating factor. One is marketed towards commercial gym spaces, so they are priced higher…

Crossfit gyms and other strength training facilities use horse stall mats all over the world because anyone who has been in the gym business for a while know that anything marketed towards a gym is going to be priced higher, even if the product is the exact same 🙂

Ari Ziskin
July 31, 2019 8:05 am
Reply to  adam

Hi Adam,

This is the common misconception. As someone who has done CrossFit on both horse stall mats and gym mats, the quality, smell and durability are not equal. You can absolutely use horse stall mats for a cheap option – you’re totally right, many gyms do – but there are other options for those looking for something more sleek and durable.

Flooring Inc