Hands-on Gear Review

Manduka eKO Review

Top of the line mat that works well for a variety of styles.
By: Cam McKenzie Ring ⋅ Senior Review Editor  ⋅  Oct 28, 2016
Price:  $88 List  |  $60.73 at REI - 31% Off
Pros:  Great traction, comfortable and stable
Cons:  A little heavy, expensive
Manufacturer:   Manduka
80
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#1 of 13
  • Comfort & Stability - 20% 9
  • Portability - 20% 5
  • Durability - 20% 9
  • Traction Dry - 15% 9
  • Traction Wet - 15% 8
  • Ease of Care - 10% 8
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  • 2
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Editors' Choice Award

Our Verdict

The Manduka eKO is similar to the Jade Harmony Professional but elevated in certain ways that ultimately make is a better overall mat and well-deserving of our Editors' Choice Award. If you've come to love the feel and traction of a rubber mat, but are tired of seeing it disintegrate within a year, the eKO has tried to solve that problem by having a separate top layer that resists wear and keeps water out of the inner mat. While this decreases the traction a little bit compared to other rubber mats, it's still fantastic, and the increased durability is a welcomed feature. This mat is on the heavy side, but it rolls up compactly and still transports easily. Overall, we were very impressed with this mat, but it is on the expensive side ($88). If you're looking for a more affordable mat that still works well, check out our Best Buy winner, the Clever Yoga Better Grip, and if you practice in a heated room, our Top Pick for Hot Yoga, the Aurorae Synergy, is a great choice as well.


Compare to Similar Products

Our Analysis and Test Results

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Ongoing Test Results
It's been over a year since we first tested the eKO, and we loved the mat so much that we used it for our personal practice since then. This one mat now has over 100 yoga sessions on it, and it's still in great shape! Just in the last month are we starting to see some micro holes in the foot area (see photo below), but the amount and size is minimal when compared to the Jade Harmony mat after "only" 60 classes. We are even more impressed now than we were a year ago!

It's taken a while to see any impact on this mat  but after over 100 classes there are now a few holes and some wear showing. We are actually very impressed  as other mats we've had have literally disintegrated with the same amount of use.
It's taken a while to see any impact on this mat, but after over 100 classes there are now a few holes and some wear showing. We are actually very impressed, as other mats we've had have literally disintegrated with the same amount of use.


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" long 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.

While Manduka states that this mat is 99 percent latex-free, if you have a latex allergy you'll still want to avoid all rubber mat products as they contain small amounts of natural latex that could still trigger a reaction.


Performance Comparison


Our Editors' Choice Award winner is a pleasure to practice on. It has great traction  and provides the proper cushioning for your bones while remaining stable enough for Pincha Mayurasana (Forearm Balance).
Our Editors' Choice Award winner is a pleasure to practice on. It has great traction, and provides the proper cushioning for your bones while remaining stable enough for Pincha Mayurasana (Forearm Balance).

Traction Dry


This had some of the best dry traction of all of the mats in this review. Only the Jade Harmony Professional was better.


We did a series of Sun Salutations side-by-side on each mat, and with both of them 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 slip and slides. The textured surface of the Jade Harmony made its traction slightly better in the end, but it was a close call, and that texture leads to some cleaning and durability problems, which we discuss below.

When pushing forward with your front leg and backward with your back (such as in Warrior I pose here)  it's easy for your feet to start slipping if the mat doesn't have great traction. On the Manduka eKO our feet stayed planted in one place  as did our hands in other poses like Downward Facing Dog.
When pushing forward with your front leg and backward with your back (such as in Warrior I pose here), it's easy for your feet to start slipping if the mat doesn't have great traction. On the Manduka eKO our feet stayed planted in one place, as did our hands in other poses like Downward Facing Dog.

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. 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 a safe and enjoyable practice.

Pro Tip
Good traction is one of the key features you want to look for in a yoga mat. The slightest slip of a hand or foot during your practice could result in an injury. A slippery mat also requires you to put more effort into holding a pose and can be distracting if you are worried about slipping or shifting. If you practice any kind of flow style of yoga with multiple vinyasas and Down Dogs, this is an important buying consideration.

Traction Wet


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 Prana Revolution and Manduka PRO, became much slicker when wet. Others, like the Lululemon The Mat, actually improved their traction. Unfortunately, the traction on the eKO does decrease a bit when wet. It's still good, but we noticed a difference between the wet traction on this model vs. the Jade Harmony Professional. The main difference in design is that the Jade has a textured upper surface, whereas the top sealed layer on this mat is smoother. There is still some texturing which helps, but as you start to sweat you may notice a slight lack of traction. This is perhaps the only downside to this mat, and the slight decrease in wet traction comes with better durability and less sweat absorbing into your mat, which in turn will lead to less bacteria building up in there. If you do practice heated yoga though, then you'll be better off with a towel over the top this mat, or consider the Kulae Elit Hot Hybrid for Bikram-style classes and the Aurorae Synergy for Hot Vinyasa-styles or Hot Pilates.

With added water  or a little sweat on our palms  this mat does get a bit slicker  but not too much. The water didn't absorb into the mat as quickly as some other models  like the Lululemon The Reversible Mat  so if you do sweat a lot in class you might want to bring a small hand towel to wipe it off.
With added water, or a little sweat on our palms, this mat does get a bit slicker, but not too much. The water didn't absorb into the mat as quickly as some other models, like the Lululemon The Reversible Mat, so if you do sweat a lot in class you might want to bring a small hand towel to wipe it off.

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 Hugger Mugger Earth Elements, 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. If you know that you prefer a mat with slightly less cushion underfoot, there are thinner versions of this mat available, like the Manduka eKO lite 4mm, that are still stable. The 4mm version is not quite as comfortable to lie on but is better for poses that require you to balance on one leg.

This was one of the more comfortable and stable mats that we tested. The full 5 mm provides a lot of cushion without feeling squishy. It's also a little wider (26")  which our bigger testers appreciated.
This was one of the more comfortable and stable mats that we tested. The full 5 mm provides a lot of cushion without feeling squishy. It's also a little wider (26"), which our bigger testers appreciated.

Durability


As we mentioned above, the top layer of this mat helped increase its durability. 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. When you practice a Vinyasa or Ashtanga style of yoga, the repeated rolling over your toes can easily cause wear and tear on your mat that is visible within a few uses. We haven't noticed any wear in that area on this mat even after several months of use.


One thing to keep in mind though is that like all other rubber mats, you should not leave this one in direct sunlight or a hot car for prolonged periods of time, as it will cause the material to break down.

100 classes on the eKO (left) vs 60 on the Jade Harmony Professional (right). The eKo could easily handle another 60 classes  while the Jade is ready for the recycling bin.
100 classes on the eKO (left) vs 60 on the Jade Harmony Professional (right). The eKo could easily handle another 60 classes, while the Jade is ready for the recycling bin.

Portability


This mat weighs 6 lbs 8 oz, which is two lbs more than the Jade Harmony Professional, but it still rolls up compactly and is not too difficult to tote around. It's two inches wider than the Jade and slightly thicker, and our testers appreciated the extra coverage in those dimensions, but it's also a little shorter (the Jade is 74" long vs. 71" for the eKO).


If you're taller than around 5'9, you'll probably want to order the long version of this mat (79") so that you are not constantly hanging off the edges. If you really like this mat but need something that is more portable, the Manduka eKO lite 3mm is quite a bit lighter at only four pounds. If you are looking for an even lighter mat, the Prana E.C.O. and Hugger Mugger Earth Elements are considerably lighter than this model (2 lbs, 1 oz).

There's no question that the Jade mat (left) is much smaller and lighter than the eKO (right). This mat is available in 3 and 4 mm thickness though if you prefer a thinner and lighter mat.
There's no question that the Jade mat (left) is much smaller and lighter than the eKO (right). This mat is available in 3 and 4 mm thickness though if you prefer a thinner and lighter mat.

Ease of Care


The bonus to the smooth top layer of this mat is that it is much easier to clean than the textured Jade Harmony Professional. While both mats attract lint, dirt, and animal hairs like moths to a flame, the texture on the Jade model made it almost impossible to wipe any of those off with a towel and mat spray. Dirt and animal hairs came off this mat more easily. 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.


As shown in the chart above, some of the easiest mats to care for are the two towel/mat hybrids in this review, the Aurorae Synergy and Kulae Elite Hot Hybrid, which are very easy to clean. Simply put them in the washing machine and hang them to dry, and they're fresh smelling for every class.

While both this mat (left) and the Jade mat (right) seemed to attract and show dirt  lint and animal hairs  the Jade was more challenging to clean due to the textured upper surface.
While both this mat (left) and the Jade mat (right) seemed to attract and show dirt, lint and animal hairs, the Jade was more challenging to clean due to the textured upper surface.

Best Applications


This mat works well for a variety of styles. It has the cushioning and wider coverage for Yin classes, and the traction and durability needed for Vinyasa styles. It's not the best choice for Hot Yoga, but for all the many other styles out there this is a great choice.

Ashtanga  Vinyasa  Baptiste  Power Flow ... if you're practice involves any of those styles or lots of Sun Salutations and flows  this is the mat for you.
Ashtanga, Vinyasa, Baptiste, Power Flow ... if you're practice involves any of those styles or lots of Sun Salutations and flows, this is the mat for you.

Value


This mat retails for $88 in the regular length ($98 long). That's a few more dollars than its closest competitor, the Jade Harmony Professional ($80), and a big chunk more than the Lululemon The Reversible Mat ($68). While these mats were all fairly similar in their performance, the eKO held up better in our testing and is likely to last longer overall, which will end up saving you money in the long run. You can also check out our Best Buy winner, the Clever Yoga Better Grip, which retails for only $25 and is a good overall mat.

Conclusion


In the last few years, we've now tested almost every mat from every major manufacturer. Somehow, the Manduka eKO slipped under our radar in previous reviews, but we tried it this year and are happy we did. This mat is comfortable and stable, with great traction both dry and wet. It's not the mat for Bikram or other Hot Yoga styles, but for everything else, this mat is a great, and eco-conscious, choice.

Other Versions


This mat is available in several thicknesses, including the Manduka eKO lite 4mm (4.5 lbs, $64), Manduka eKO lite 3mm (4 lbs, $52), and Manduka eKO Superlite Travel Mat (1.5mm, 2.2lbs, $40). Not sure which one is right for you? Check out our Buying Advice Article for more information on mat thickness.

Cam McKenzie Ring

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OutdoorGearLab Editors' Rating:  
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 (5.0)
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