Disclosure: I was given a TerraMat ergonomics standing mat by the Cubefit company and asked to do a review. This is my objective review.
Update 2/4/17: The Kickstarter is over and the TerraMat is available on Amazon.
I’m an ergonomics person. I’ve had a headache problem for many years, and some problems in my neck. So it’s a big deal for me to stay ergonomically healthy. I have so many accessories that I had to reserve a whole cabinet at home to store them, and on/beneath my desk at work is various contraption gathered all in the quest to have a comfortable work day. I also have super flat feet, so standing at a standing desk is both good and bad for me; good in that I need to keep my feet and ankles moving, bad in that standing on no-arches takes its toll.
One accessory is the Fluidstance balance board (seen here http://www.helloerik.com/fluidstance-level-balance-board-review). I’ve been enjoying this for over a year, and stand by my positive review. It’s not for everyone, but I love it.
The people at CubeFit saw that review and asked if I’d give their prototype TerraMat a try as they are doing their kickstarter, and write up my experience. You can see their Kickstarter here https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1298779273/cubefit-terramat-the-ergonomic-standing-desk-mat.
I’ve had it for about 3 weeks, and this is my review!
As I said above, I’ve tried all sorts of things. Standing desks, single-leg stools, floor mats, monitor mounts, special chairs. Some I like, some I don’t. I do have a traditional standing mat that I use, as well as the balance board, and even the weird single-leg stool you lean against and sort of half-stand, half-wobble on it. I am constantly moving when I work out of necessity, if I don’t, my neck will have all sorts of nerve problems, I’ll get headaches, muscle spasm, etc. I’m just not built for computer-desk jobs, but that’s what I have! So the only answer is to make the best of the sedentary work environment.
Story of use
Upon receiving the TerraMat, I moved my other mat and balance board out of the way and started using it exclusively when standing. I would still move the desk down and use a chair, which is normal behavior, so I didn’t want to over-stand when I normally wouldn’t. The mat is quite large, which I mention below, so it takes a little commitment to switch from chair to mat.
Once the mat was in place, I tried out all the different shapes on it and various things I could do, and then just got to using it like normal and listening to my body and feet. Inevitably, I’d feel the need to move around and change up positions, and the mat lent itself to that easily. One thing I especially liked was having the front of my foot elevated on the front of the mat, which gave me a nice achilles tendon stretching feeling. That is easily my favorite move so far. The other thing I like is the two rounded shapes on either side that you can stand on with both feet, or just work one foot over the shape and sort of do a massage (more on this below).
Now that I’ve used it and gave it a number of days to really use, I think I can safely write up my experience and recommendation.
Highlights and lowlights
Highlights: The TerraMat is pretty fun to have. It’s very tempting to switching positions, change up your stance, rock back and forth. Once I was on it, I did switch positions, use the various surfaces, absent mindedly found myself moving around.
After standing on it quite frequently over the course of a week, I found myself enjoying the variety of standing positions and the shape of the various parts of the mat. I wouldn’t have thought that I would, but those differences in how my feet and ankles could be frequently moved, flexed, extended, or otherwise activated made standing for longer periods of time a lot easier. I won’t compare it to a balance board since they are two different things and standing on a rigid balance board is not the same as standing on a forgiving mat surface.
I would have to use it for months I think to really know if it has long term, skeletomuscular benefits. I don’t think that shaping your calves and quads is really the intent, though, especially when you adapt to the new movement after a month or two, your body adapts and won’t just continually get stronger. Which is fine, since that is not why I would use it. The energizing effect of standing and moving subtly as you do really keeps you from dozing off or entering a mid-afternoon torpor, either on a mat or balance board, or just standing on the floor. The TerraMat does make it more interesting, and as I said above, I quickly would start to change positions subconsciously, just as I would if standing flat on the floor. Only with the TerraMat, I have all the options and different surfaces to use, which is a lot more hospitable than a flat floor.
Another thing I liked was using it without shoes on. That’s the real game changer, as both the balance board and floor are far too rigid for me to stand on for prolonged periods of time without shoes. The shapes on the mat and the softness make it easy to use in socks or bare feet, if you wanted. There is one little exception to that, which I cover in the lowlights.
Lowlights: As I used it without shoes, I found myself wanting some seriously firm spots, almost like solid hard plastic to rock my feet against. The mat itself is very much a foam/rubber type material. I have this assumption that if there were some hard nodes on it, I could really dig that into my feet and sort of get a deep tissue massage as I stood. Almost like halved golf balls on it. If there was a rigid option, that would be something I think people would like, or even maybe an addon that gives you the ability to overlay it with some harder surfaces.
The other lowlight is just the same as any mat or standing device, in that you can’t easily move a chair to the spot when you lower your desk. I don’t think anyone stands 100% of the time. The TerraMat is a good size, so if you want to sit, you’ll need somewhere to lean it or slide it. This is the same story for any standing mat or the balance board (though the balance board is small enough it can be a footrest). It’s not really a problem specific to the TerraMat, it’s just the nature of standing mats.
Essentially, the TerraMat is a full-body “fidget toy,” which is a good thing. Having something to move around on and basically “play with” like you would with your hands absent mindedly keeps you moving and that part of your brain occupied. It’s not something I can really see myself consciously using as a piece of “exercise equipment” throughout the day – the purpose is to get work done, not play around on a mat. The subconscious aspect of having the TerraMat’s surfaces available to you makes it easy to move around back and forth without thinking.
Overall, I like it and don’t have any reason I’d stop using it, other than when I feel like the balance board, but that’s an entirely different type of experience. The TerraMat Kickstarter page says it will retail for $129, but like most of these ergonomic devices, there is an emphasis on companies buying them as part of an ergonomics and comfort effort, not necessarily for people to buy personally, though I am sure many people would. For that price, I probably would buy it. I already own the best selling mat on Amazon, and it was $60 and is perfectly flat.
I am going to give the TerraMat a positive review and reiterate that I plan on using it frequently, replacing the existing mat that I have. It’s a very interesting take on standing desk support, and something I think most people who are interested in standing desks will appreciate.
Check out the Kickstarter here: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1298779273/cubefit-terramat-the-ergonomic-standing-desk-mat
You can also find it on Amazon here: https://www.amazon.com/CubeFit-Standing-Desk-Mat-Black/dp/B01N0DGA00