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What are the different types of athletic foam flooring?

What are the different types of athletic foam flooring?

The top three foam materials for athletic mats are as follows: ethylene-vinyl acetate, polyethylene, polyurethane, or a combination of the three. Don't be intimidated be the long and science-sounding names - each type of foam offers something unique, and it is helpful to get to know the difference between the three. By learning a little bit about each, you can make a more informed decision when shopping for an athletic mat.

EVA Foam Mats

First up, ethylene-vinyl acetate, also known as EVA. This popular, elasticized foam is relatable to rubber in its softness and flexibility. Although it does not contain any rubber at all, it is sometimes referred to as foam rubber for its shock absorbing qualities and buoyancy. EVA foam typically has a glossy appearance and waterproof surface. Another awesome quality: EVA foam is resistant to UV radiation and cracking.

Because EVA foam is so shock absorbent, it is a safe material to have underfoot when falls or heavy impacts happen. This foam is closed cell and is thus firmer than open cell foams, which means it is supportive for feet, ankles, joints and limbs. Plus, this foam is easily cleaned and disinfected. For all of these reasons, EVA foam is a top choice for athletic activities, martial arts facilities, kids play areas, basements, trade shows and much more.

PE Foam Mats

Polyethylene, or PE, is the most common plastic available today. If often feels waxy to the touch and carries high impact strength, meaning it can absorb a lot of energy before rupture. It's also very ductile, which means it can easily deform under tensile stress. Plus, this closed cell foam is known for its effective thermal insulation capabilities. Many thicker foam products are constructed with PE foam because it is so much lighter-weight than other alternatives.

When used as a foam flooring or matting material, PE is often cross-linked, creating a fine, closed-cell foam that is unaffected by mildew, mold, rot and bacteria. The cross-linking strucker also creates rigidity and more bounce back than other foams. If impacted, smooshed or stressed, it quickly rebounds back to its original shape. PE foam is a firm material with excellent strength and shock absorption. However, the landing will not necessarily be a soft one, as the energy from a hard-hitting impact from a fall would be contained to a smaller area and would not be softened by wide energy distribution.

PE foam mats are one of the softer and easily damaged foams, so it is not ideal as a finished surface. Furniture, feet, paws, or equipment can scratch, puncture or gouge out the foam without much force. Thus, this foam tends to be found on the inside of cushioned products. It is often wrapped in vinyl or has a vinyl or carpet bonded surface. You'll often find PE foam in folding or roll-out cheerleading, gymnastics or grappling mats or as a foam underlayments.

PU Foam Mats

Polyurethane, or PU, is an open cell foam best known for providing extreme cushion. As air is allowed to flow through the foam, it enables the foam to create a much softer and giving surface.

Polyurethane foam is superior to other foams at absorbing energy, but lacks some in the stability department. This foam is used in much thicker mats designed for high impact landings, such as crash pads due to its broad distribution of energy.

The same features that make it excellent for absorbing impact and distributing energy also make it less desirable for walking, running or jumping as it simply crushes and collapses underfoot instead of springing back or providing resistance.

You'll often find this foam in landing pads or fluff mats as they help take the sting out of falls or landing on your body, rather than springing off your feet or hands.

Like PE foam, PU Foam is not ideal for use on its own and needs to be wrapped with another durable surface, such as vinyl or denim.

Moving Forward

When browsing through different foam mat options, make sure to keep in mind how much spring, firmness or energy absorption you may need. You can also consider what kind of surface would be ideal and how easily cleaned and disinfected you would like that surface to be. Now that you know the specifics of different flooring products, you will have a better idea of what to look out for. For any questions that may remain, however, check out Gym Rubber Floors' Foam Floor Tiles and Mats product page. Here you can find a wealth of information and assistance in finding the best athletic foam mat for you.
For more on this topic please review our Foam Flooring All Types product page.