About a year ago, Lori Lowell posted on Club Solutions website’s Group X blog, with an entry entitled “The Best Group X Flooring.” She commented, “Save yourself the headache and stick with a traditional suspended real hard wood floor. In my career, I have looked and tried many options, usually in the hope of saving money. However, this is not an area to save money in.”
This is excellent advice. I completely agree with Lowell, that when it comes to Group X, nothing works better than suspended hardwood flooring. It offers excellent shock absorption, is easy to maintain, is durable and provides for easy “slide and glide” movements common in Group X classes. You can find flooring systems out there that match many of these criteria, but, there always seems to be some stumbling block that makes the floor unequivalent to what we’re looking for in hardwoods. However, like she expressed, hardwoods can be a bit pricey.
In my opinion, thick rubber flooring comes the closest. It provides the shock absorption needed, is durable and is typically easy to maintain. The problem lies with the surface friction of rubber. When you’re on a rubberized floor, especially in rubber-soled shoes, the grip of the rubber does not allow for the “sliding and gliding” movements that you find in many Group X classes. After all, one of the main reasons for using rubber in weight rooms is to ensure excellent traction when lifting heavy weights. Even with a sealant on the rubber, the problem remains. To complicate things even further, these types of rubber products, while ideal for weight rooms, do not save you much money, as they are comparably priced to suspended hardwoods.
Finished foam product is another that bears some examination. The technology has really come a long way in the last few years, with some impressive products now developed specifically for Group X. Here again, foam provides the shock absorption necessary, as long as the foam is thick enough. But, foam also needs a stable surface to rest on, so members’ feet do not sink in too far, twisting from side to side. The typical response to this dilemma is to make the foam thinner or markedly denser, but, this then subsequently reduces the shock absorption substantially.
There are also other products, including rolled vinyl, PVC tiles and martial arts tiling. Here again, some attributes of these floors are comparable to a hardwood floor, yet they fall short on the other qualities and aren’t considered ideal alternatives.
So far, like Ms. Lowell, it’s my opinion that nothing beats suspended hardwood flooring as the best option that meets all of the criteria necessary for Group X safety and performance. It meets all of the safety criteria, as measured by DIN and EN Standards, and is easy to maintain. And, we all know that hardwoods are extremely durable and should give you a lifetime of use.
Additionally, hardwood systems provide by far the best aesthetic look of any other product available. None of the products that I’ve mentioned above are comparable to the appearance of a solid hardwood floor. Even if aesthetics aren’t important in your decision process, you should consider the other criteria to ensure that you’re providing a safe alternative for members.
Steve Chase is the general manager of Fitness Flooring. He can contacted at 800.428.5306 or by e-mail at Steve@fitnessfloors.com.