Abstract Recent research activities in elastic metamaterials demonstrate a significant potential for subwavelength wave propagation control owing to their interior locally resonant mechanism. The growing technological developments in electro/magnetomechanical couplings of smart materials have introduced a controlling degree of freedom for passive elastic metamaterials. Active elastic metamaterials could allow for a fine control of material physical behavior and thereby induce new functional properties that cannot be produced by passive approaches. In this paper, two types of active elastic metamaterials with shunted piezoelectric materials and electrorheological elastomers are proposed. Theoretical analyses and numerical validations of the active elastic metamaterials with detailed microstructures are presented for designing adaptive applications in band gap structures and extraordinary waveguides. The active elastic metamaterial could provide a new design methodology for adaptive wave filters, high signal-to-noise sensors, and structural health monitoring applications.