Manduka eKO Review
Cons: A little heavy, not durable
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Our Analysis and Test Results
While the Manduka eKO has been an award winner in the past, new yoga mats in our fleet have surpassed its performance.
The Manduka eKO is a 5mm mat made from biodegradable non-Amazon harvested rubber. The standard size of this mat is 71" long by 26" wide, and it also comes in a 79" extended version. This is a two-layer rubber mat — the bottom layer is the typical open-cell" construction, and the top layer is a sealed-cell one for increases durability and impermeability.
Ease of Care
The bonus to the smooth top layer of this mat is that it is easy to clean. While this mat does attract lint, dirt, and animal hairs like moths to a flame, we found that simply wiping the mat off is easy. Manduka recommends cleaning this mat with a 50/50 mixture of water and apple cider vinegar. They also advise against soaking this mat in a tub or putting it in a washing machine.
When transporting this mat, it was easily scrapped, and the sides became frayed. If you decided to get this mat, we suggest using a mat bag for longevity.
The Manduka eKO has decent dry traction. However, mats that use polyurethane on the top were better. We did a series of Sun Salutations side-by-side on each mat, and with both eKO and poly mats found ourselves sticking like glue. While some of our testers might have preferred one over the other, at the end of our testing, it was hard to distinguish between the two, particularly when compared to other mats that felt like ice-rinks.
The rubber on the Manduka eKO has a slightly tacky feel to it, and when you set your hands and set your feet and raise your rear to the sky in Downward Facing Dog, everything stays where it's supposed to stay. Manduka states that this mat was developed over four years by seasoned yoga teachers, and it shows, as they better than anyone know how important traction is for safe and enjoyable practice.
Whether you practice in a heated room or not, as you build up your internal fire during your practice, your body will start to sweat. Where and how much varies from person to person, but for many of us, some of that sweat comes out of our palms. And as soon as it does, the real test of our mats begin.
Some of the mats in this review, like the Mika Mat, and Yoloha, became much slicker when wet. Unfortunately, the traction on the eKO does decrease when wet. There is some texturing on the upper, which helps, but as you start to sweat, you will notice a lack of traction. If you practice heated yoga, though, then you'll be better off with a towel over the top this mat or consider the Yoloha or the Lululemon Travel Mat for Hot Vinyasa-styles or Hot Pilates.
Comfort and Stability
We liked both the comfort and stability of this mat. Sometimes mats will sacrifice one for the other, but this model does indeed provide both. The 5mm thickness is not too squishy underfoot, and the heaviness of the mat makes it stay in place when moving around during your practice.
Some lighter mats, like the Clever Yoga Better Grip, tend to shift underfoot, particularly when making dynamic movements like jumping from Downward Facing Dog to standing. Not so with this mat — it stayed in place all the time, and we felt confident and secure while practicing challenging arm balances and inversions on it.
The top layer of this mat helped increase its durability when compared to other Manduka mats like the Manduka Pro. Over time we did notice that the topper, which is supposed to make the mat more durable, unfortunately frayed. This happened when traveling to and from the yoga studio with the mat. We like the feel and traction of some of the other rubber mats in this review, but have not been that impressed with their longevity, particularly around the feet; this mat was not any different. We noticed that over time, little holes popped up around the hands and feet, and the pattern on the mat (which helps with traction) faded away.
One thing to keep in mind is that like all other rubber mats, you should not leave this one in direct sunlight or a hot car for prolonged periods, as it will cause the material to break down.
Portability is a huge downfall for this mat as it weighs 5 lbs 15 oz, making this mat one the top four heaviest mats we tried. While all of these mats roll up easily and can fit in a mat bag, if you live in a city where you have to cart around your mat, is the extra weight really worth it? If you are looking for a lighter alternative that is still durable with tons of traction, we recommend the Yoloha Native Cork, which weighs 3lbs 8oz, and is extremely easy to carry around.
This mat costs a big chunk more than the Lululemon The Reversible Mat and Lululemon Travel Mat. While these mats were all fairly similar in their performance, the Lululemon mats held up slightly better in our testing and are likely to last longer overall, which will end up saving you money in the long run.
In the last few years, we've now tested almost every mat from every major manufacturer. The Manduka eKO, while comfortable and stable, does not offer the best traction when wet - only when dry. We're disappointed in the eKO's performance, especially compared to others in our fleet.
— Bo Outland & Cam McKenzie Ring