Most of the tools we use in the kitchen are designed for our hands. Balloon whisks with comfortably grippy handles, chef’s knives with just the right amount of weight distribution, and even countertop equipment, like air fryers, all require manual use. But cooks who spend a lot of time in the kitchen—or suffer from joint or back pain—may be familiar with a tool made specifically for their feet: an anti-fatigue mat.
Anti-fatigue mats are floor mats made from foam; they’re intended to help relieve joint pain, as well as act as a preventative measure. While they’re not necessary for cooking in the way, say, a skillet is, they’re incredibly helpful for anyone who spends a prolonged amount of time in the kitchen..
All of the mats we tested came with manufacturer claims about the mats effectiveness; they would “relieve pressure,” “increase circulation,” and “reduce stress on your knees, muscles, and joints.” To better understand the function of anti-fatigue mats, we spoke with Austin Sumner, a physician specializing in Occupational Medicine and the Medical Director of Occupational Medicine at the University of Vermont Health Network. Anti-fatigue mats are spongy surfaces, he explains, requiring consistent corrective foot movement to maintain balance. These small, corrective movements are considered dynamic, and better combat fatigue and pain than prolonged fixed muscle contraction with non-movement (also called static movement) on a firm surface.
“[A] softer surface leads to more dynamic foot movement, better circulation, and better rhythmic muscle contraction. Keeping it dynamic, in theory, reduces discomfort,” he says, also noting that working barefoot on an anti-fatigue mat may result in more dynamic movement, thereby boosting its beneficial effects. (Shoes can lock the foot into a static, stabilizing position, which is important for some activities—like exercise. But prolonged static position can cause discomfort, like standing at a kitchen counter).
Although Dr. Sumner doesn’t endorse a particular brand of mat, he does prescribe and recommend them clinically to injured workers who have to stand for long periods on hard surfaces. (Dr. Sumner’s practice is in occupational medicine, but he notes that application in the workplace can also apply to the home).
To find the best anti-fatigue mat, we performed an extensive Lab test on a variety of mats—all available online from popular retailers, like Amazon, or for direct sale on their own websites. We then chose seven of the best lab-tested mats for further at-home kitchen testing, with considerations for performance, comfort, durability, and ease of maintenance and upkeep.
The Winners, at a Glance
The Best Anti-Fatigue Mat: House of Noa Nama Standing Mat
Ultra-plush yet firm enough to combat hours of work at a kitchen counter, this mat reminded us of a memory foam mattress: It was the most successful at molding to our feet without creating too deep of a depression in the foam. With an almost overwhelming amount of neutral-toned designs to choose from, this one scored high marks for aesthetics—a category that matters in a piece of equipment that’s essentially a hardworking rug.
Also Great: GelPro Commercial Grade Anti-Fatigue Mat
This mat is sold at Office Depot, and yes—it will remind you of your coworker’s standing desk mat. Despite its lack of design options (it comes in one color: black): It held up incredibly well against staining and extended weight application. Its durability and slightly firmer density than the Nama Mat make it a standout choice for prolonged use and chaotic kitchens.
To thoroughly review the mats, our test was broken down into three parts. We also considered aesthetics (including color options, patterns, and texture of the protective topper), because anti-fatigue mats are both a tool and piece of decor.
- Daily Use Test: We used each mat for two full days in the kitchen, cycling through sneakers, socks, and bare feet. The first day was situated between a cutting board and the stove, where we did basic meal prep tasks, like chopping vegetables, searing meat, and whisking sauces. For the second test, we positioned the mat at the sink, where it was used during dishwashing and cleanup. In both instances, we considered plushness, texture, grip, and whether the bottom and surface of the mat were at all slippery. We spent approximately six total hours standing on each mat.
- Durability Test: We placed a 15-pound dumbbell in the middle of each mat for four hours. Once the weight was removed, we noted the depth of the depression left behind, and timed how long it took to spring back fully.
- Staining Test: We spread a mixture of 1 teaspoon of vegetable oil and 1/2 teaspoon of ground turmeric on a small portion of each mat. After letting it sit for an hour, we followed manufacturer instructions for cleanup to assess both ease of cleaning and stain resistance.
What We Learned
Foam Density Mattered
Mat height is essentially useless for choosing the best anti-fatigue mat: It’s really about the density. Some mats, like one made by ComfiLife, were flimsy, with a low foam density underfoot, and failed to deliver support. Others, like an extra-long mat by Amazon Basics, were so firm and industrial-looking, they’d fare better as an entryway mat.
All anti-fatigue mats are made from foam, despite different wording in the marketing copy for each one. Jargon like “energy-returning” and “Biofoam” is a sales point. Although “high density” should tell you more about the makeup of the mat (higher density means more support), none of the manufacturers we tested gave actual specifications or details about the production. The only way to determine a foam mat’s density without slicing it open is to stand on it yourself. (Dr. Sumner recommends testing mats in person before buying, if you can.)
Some of the mats we tested felt too plush under our feet, reminding us of water beds: feels great at first, but with prolonged use becomes unsupportive and posturally problematic. Others were so dense, there was minimal difference between standing directly on the floor and using the mat.
The mats we liked best performed like memory foam mattresses: thoroughly molding to our feet with gentle spring back, and without too much of a depression.
The Surface Texture Was Important for Safety AND Maintenance
Some of the mats we tested had a slick, slippery surface. Although it made cleanup easier, we didn’t like using these mats in socks or slippers. An accidental slip or slide is annoying at best, but dangerous when working with knives or heat. Since so many kitchen tasks involve one of the two, it’s hard to argue in favor of an ultra-smooth mat topper.
On the other hand, very textured surfaces—like pebbled or waffle-weave toppers—made cleanup unnecessarily challenging. One of the mats we tested had grooves so tiny, only a toothpick could dislodge small crumbs (and forget about stains).
Our favorite anti-fatigue mats had slightly different textures that both worked well. The House of Noa mat topper was slightly rough, which discouraged slipping. On the other hand, the Office Depot GelPro mat had a rubbery, “grippy” texture on its surface that felt virtually accident-proof.
A piece of equipment that lives in close proximity to your cutting board or kitchen sink needs to be easy to clean. We found that with daily upkeep, the mats were mostly easy to maintain. A stick vacuum and damp rag worked just fine for a full day’s worth of crumbs, pet hair, and spills, like maple syrup or a blob of yogurt. But when it came to staining, the darker colored mats won out. Our top pick, the House of Noa Nama Standing Mat, was a low performer in a turmeric stain test, owing to its beige and pale blue coastal motif. However, with dozens of designs to choose from, a darker, more camouflaging pattern could be chosen.
Quality Construction Reduced Tripping Hazards
Some of the mats experienced a slight flare around their edges and corners, while others sat firmly and entirely on the floor. At first, we wrote off the flare as a minor aesthetic flaw—it looked sloppy—but after our daily use test, we realized that flared edges can be a tripping hazard, too. While stepping onto the mat, it was easy to trip or scuff the lifted edge, especially if we had our eyes elsewhere, or were shuffling our feet. We also experienced awkward step-ons and step-offs with one of our competitors, which featured a large bevel and a towering (by comparison) 9/10-inch height.
While moving about a kitchen with hot pans, knives, and other sharp objects always presents hazards, a central piece of equipment that ups the risk factor is unnecessary. Price does matter here: the two sturdiest mats were also the most expensive.
Design, Color, and Pattern Options Matter More than You May Think
Although it didn’t rank higher than other requirements, we also considered aesthetics. Unlike bulky or unsightly small appliances that can be tucked away in a closet, anti-fatigue mats double as decor. Most home cooks wouldn’t consider buying a rug that didn’t match their kitchen design (or at least offered a little personality), so we held the anti-fatigue mats to the same standard.
Of course, looks are subjective. What we found attractive may not be your cup of tea. Instead, we favored mats with a variety of colors and patterns, so cooks could choose from a handful of styles.
The Criteria: What to Look for in an Anti-Fatigue Mat
The best anti-fatigue mats have a moderately high density, which allows the foam to mold around your feet without a feeling of “sinking in.” We favored mats with well-constructed, heavier edges to avoid annoying (and potentially trip-hazardous) flared corners. A very gently textured topper is ideal for ease of cleaning, but deep grooves will collect crumbs and stains. Super smooth surfaces, while attractive, invite slipping—especially when wearing socks. Finally, aesthetics matter for this tool. We liked mats that offered a variety of colors and patterns, or at least blended into the background with basic colors.
The Best Anti-Fatigue Mat: House of Noa Nama Standing Mat
What we liked: This mat has just the right amount of plush and comes in over two dozen designs and color options. Of the models we tested, House of Noa also offered the greatest array of mat sizes. While it would be easy to fall for the company’s glossy marketing (the website is highly polished), our testing cemented this as our top pick. It had the most luxurious, cushion-like feel under our feet without being too soft to actually provide support. The edges stayed firmly put on the floor, and the just-barely-textured surface minimized slipping without being a pain to clean.
What we didn’t like: The light coloring of the mat meant deeply hued stains were obvious. But basic daily cleanup (a quick swipe with a stick vacuum and wipe with a damp rag) kept the mat looking almost brand-new. It’s the priciest option of the bunch.
Price at time of publish: $139 (for the 20 x 48 inch mat).
- Materials: High-density foam (per manufacturer)
- Size options: 20 x 32”, 20 x 48”, 20 x 72”, 30 x 72”, 30 x 108”
- Thickness: 3/4-inch at the highest point
- Care instructions: Use all-purpose cleaner or mild dish soap and water; dry completely
The Best Anti-Fatigue Mat: GelPro Commercial Grade Anti-Fatigue Mat
What we liked: This a serious mat that can handle heavy use and mess, and would work well in an office or laundry room space, too. The mat topper was slightly rubberized, with a very grippy feel that made us feel confident to cook in socks. In fact, the GelPro outranked every mat in the staining test and durability test, and stood neck-and-neck (or rather, toe-to-toe) with the House of Noa in our daily use test. It’s comfortably heavy, well-made by a reputable office supply company, and carries a certification by the National Floor Safety Institute, an organization that aims to “aid in the prevention of slips, trips-and-falls through education, research, and standards development.”
What we didn’t like: The lack of customizable options was disappointing. While black works just fine at a standing desk or garage workbench, it will fall short for cooks with strong design opinions or a themed kitchen. While slightly less than the House of Noa mat at the same size, it still costs just over $100.
Price at time of publish: $101.
- Materials: “Energy returning biofoam” (per manufacturer)
- Size options: 20×32”
- Thickness: 3/4-inch at highest point
- Care instructions: None given
- Gorilla Grip Anti-Fatigue Cushioned Comfort Mat: Although we liked its variety of colors and patterns, this mat had lower-density foam than its competitors, making it lightweight and not supportive enough for long-term use. The beveled edges and corners curled up slightly, which could cause tripping.
- Amazon Basics Anti-Fatigue Standing Mat: Despite its appealing XL length, this mat’s ultra-firm texture wasn’t much better than standing directly on the floor. Due to its industrial aesthetic and almost perfect stain resistant topper, we felt it would fare better as an entryway mat or at a garage workbench.
- Sky Solutions Anti-Fatigue Mat: This mat was the least expensive—and poorest performer—of all we tested. A slick, slippery surface, too-hard firmness, and sloppily printed design were too much to compromise, even in exchange for an sub-$25 price tag.
- FEATOL Anti Fatigue Standing Mat: Although this mat had the tallest profile of any we tested, it was far from the comfiest. Its textured, intricate waffle-weave pattern also made it impossible to clean—the grooves were a magnet for stains, pet hair, and crumbs.
- ComfiLife Anti-Fatigue Floor Mat: A slight sheen and texture on the surface highlighted the stain during our cleaning test. Its lightweight construction, flared corners and poor spring back made it an underwhelming option.
What size anti-fatigue mat should you buy?
Anti-fatigue mats come in a variety of sizes. Some, like House of Noa, offer multiple lengths and widths. But for most kitchens, the standard 20 by 32 inch mat will work just fine near your cutting board or by the sink. If the design of your kitchen allows for a longer length, it may be worth buying one that covers a larger footprint. But, for the most part, you won’t need extra width—20 inches is plenty of room to work before straying too far from the counter.
What’s the best way to clean an anti-fatigue mat?
For everyday cleaning, use a damp cloth to wipe the mat free from crumbs and spills. Bigger messes can be cleaned with a gentle multi- or all-purpose cleaner. It’s best to dry the mat immediately with a dry cloth or towel. Avoid dampening the underside of the mat; if you do, allow it to dry completely before you place it back on the floor. Every mat we tested also stood up to the vacuum (without an agitating beater bar).
Will an anti-fatigue mat ease back pain?
According to Dr. Sumner, an anti-fatigue mat’s spongy texture leads to “more dynamic foot movement, better circulation, and better rhythmic muscle contraction.”