So far, we’ve covered virtually everything that you need to rock in Muay Thai and mixed martial arts including gloves and headgears. In this article, however, we will be touching on yet another protective tool that you don’t want to spar or train in these branches of martial arts without; the best shin guards for Muay Thai and MMA.
A shin guard is just what it sounds like… a guard for your shin. If you’ve been perfecting your kicks, defenses, and counters but you’ve not had a chance to spar with a partner so far, believe us, you don’t want to know what it is like for 2 unprotected shins to meet at full force. Saying that it’s extremely painful will be an understatement.
Shin guards differ in a myriad of ways including size, weight, and the amount of padding. Your choice will be highly determined by where you are in terms of experience (beginner, intermediate, or pro) as well as your budget.
We will be explaining these and more vital considerations on the section about how to buy the best Muay Thai shin guards later in this guide. But regardless of how tight your budget is and how experienced you are, NEVER fall for some crappy shin pads. These not only expose you to the risk of broken bones and injured tissues, but most of them might require adjustment after every kick which is quite annoying.
6 Best shin guards for Muay Thai and MMA
Venum is probably among the first brands that hit your head when you started your search for the best shin guards for Muay Thai or MMA. This is a giant combat accessory manufacturer based in Thailand and boasts some of the sturdiest shin protectors on the market today, including our top pick here- the Elite Standup.
To be honest with you, we are not always great fans of most of this company’s fighting gear especially gloves as it seems to concentrate more on design than performance. But the mere fact that this pair scooped the first slot on this list is a guarantee that they have a lot to go for!
It’s Skintex leather… but durable
The Elite Standup is a step-up from the Challenger Standup- another solid pair that has been rocked with fitting and slipping issues.
These guards are handcrafted from Skintex leather. We’ve seen several sources claiming that this is pure leather which isn’t true. Skintex is indeed synthetic leather only that it is well-known in combat industry for its above-average durability and resiliency.
Designed for optimum protection
For protection, these shin guards feature a 3-piece high-density foam that covers the shin and another 3-piece set for the instep. We like that this padding is fairly thick and has been evenly distributed across the shin area. In our opinion, the 3-piece design really does the trick in offering optimum protection regardless of the angle of your kicks without making the shin guards heavy and cumbersome.
We appreciate that these guards are hand-made- actually, this is what makes most Thailand-made shin guards and combat gear in general a hit in the market. As the reviews affirm, this is a guarantee that these protectors will meet most of your expectations in terms of fit, comfort, and protection.
For the price, the Venum Elite Standup guards are a great quality pick for amateurs and novice fighters. They are not made from genuine leather and they will eventually start peeling. The good news, however, is that with good care, the skintex leather used and the fact that they are hand-made mean that they might last you a long time before showing any signs of wear.
These guards are available in all sizes and have strong Velcro closures at the back. In addition, they conform nicely to your foot for a comfortable fit throughout each round and don’t slide a lot to necessitate readjustment mid-round.
Simple? Check. Easy to put on? Check. Durable? Check. So, what’s so unique about these shin guards? Fairtex is yet another Thailand-based combat gear manufacturer. Although it is not a match to Venum in terms of popularity, this brand has put up a stiff competition with its SP5 shin guard- no wonder they have been qualified for major events including amateur competitions.
Design and quality
The thoughtful construction design featured in these guards is actually what got our attention- and it might appeal to you too. The shell itself is made from Syntek leather- just a fancy name for synthetic leather- and there is a soft lining on the inside that gives it a smooth feeling.
Notably, there are no stitches between the lining and the shin guard. This is a great feature that means that there won’t be any irritation to distract you during your training or sparring sessions.
These protectors again boast a superb ergonomic design with a smooth curve that wraps around your calf nicely for a comfortable and secure fit (more about fit below).
Comfort and Fit
Fairtex has one of the best approaches to designing a great pair of guards that will require virtually no readjustments. These guards have a total of 4 straps that hold them in place: 1 just above the calf, 1 just below the calf, 1 around the ankle, and another 1 under your foot. These straps are easily adjustable and should, therefore, offer anyone a magnificent fit without restricting movement.
Protection and padding
The SP5 are also among the best shin guards for MMA and Muay Thai that we came across from a protection standpoint. These models feature a double-layered foam core that offers excellent protection against high impact strikes. This dual-layer design doesn’t make the padding either too soft or too flimsy. But the best part is that it does not make the guard feel overly heavy for your strikes.
Quite unique from the Venum Elite above, these guards’ instep has been extended to offer ultimate protection around the lower foot region.
The Fairtex SP5 shin guards offer a good mix of weight, protection, and affordability and this is what makes them one of the best shin guards available today. They have an ergonomic design and are fitted with thoughtfully positioned straps to give you optimum comfort and protection from high-impact strikes.
We are always too high on shin guards made in Thailand, just as our first 2 picks above suggest. But we are also open to other offerings from other manufacturers provided they take protection, ease of use, and value for money seriously. Hayabusa is known for just that and their T3 guards are among their best.
As a side note, these shin protectors come from the same collection that gave us our runner-up pick for the best boxing headgear in another write-up. This series continues to rake in a lot of positive reviews credit to its top-level craftsmanship and eye-catching classic designs.
Currently one of the best shin guards for kickboxing and Muay Thai at this price range, the main material used on the front of these guards is what this manufacturer has dubbed ‘Vylar’ leather. This is an engineered animal-free material that, as Hayabusa claims, surpassed their performance expectations when compared to genuine leather.
This material isn’t as soft as Syntek leather that Fairtex uses for the SP5 above. But there is a fairly natural look to it that cements its durability aspect. On the inside, these guards feature a fabric lining with small silicon grip dots whose role we’ll talk more about in section below.
Comfort and engineering
This guard has one unique design that gives it an edge on the Venum Elite that we saw earlier; an angled top. Unlike the Elite, the angled top of the Hayabusa T3 not only protects your knees from strikes, but it won’t be digging into your skin when striking or blocking.
In addition, these guards have been pre-curved to give you an assuring embrace especially after adjusting the fit on the straps at the back.
Remember the fabric lining that we mentioned a few seconds ago? It adds a nice feeling when your foot lies against it and it also tends to wick away sweat to keep you cool and dry for some time. The small grip dots on it again complement the wraps to prevent the shin guards from sliding all over.
Hayabusa has taken an entirely different route on the padding department. As opposed to using a single piece of padding that runs from the knee to the bottom of the shin, this model features several segments that work independently to protect your foot from heavy impacts. These nicely stitched panels again create an impressive angular look that is bound to turn heads in the gym.
The Hayabusa T3 is notably pricier than most models in our best Muay Thai shin guard reviews. However, this pair also has several additional features that any serious fighter might find worth paying the extra bucks for. If you train with rough-sparring partners and you’re looking for a guard that will offer optimum protection without compromising comfort so much, you have our word on the T3.
This brand- Kingtop- might sound relatively new especially if you rarely search for boxing items online. This is a professional gear brand that was formed in 2009 after one of Twins’ (yes, the renowned Thailand-based combat gear manufacturer) designers opted out to start a brand of his own.
Mind you, this manufacturer is commanding a lot of respect in the boxing gear industry at present arguably because of its good mix of quality and affordability.
It’s pure leather!
Don’t let the price fool. The Top King might be considerably cheaper than most of our recommendations in these best MMA shin guard reviews. But that’s not an indication of low-quality materials or poor construction. In any case, this is the first model here that boasts a pure leather shell. This will be a great pick for fighters who want nothing but leather for their fighting gear collections.
One advantage that a leather shin guard like this one has over its synthetic leather alternatives is that it does not budge during training or sparring. In addition, it will take quite some time and a good amount of abuse to tear as opposed to low-end synthetic guards that start peeling after several months of hard training.
Protection and Fit
The Top King Shin guards are available in all the sizes with lengths: S-15.5’’, M-16.5’’, L-17’’, and XL-17.5’’. Note that Kingtop has given the size of their shin protectors in terms of length. If you prefer going by the circumference of the calf, here is a breakdown of the information that we got from the manufacturer:
Extra Large 15’’-16’’
Still on the subject of fitting, the Top King shin guards come pre-curved. However, compared to the Hayabusa T3 above, the Top King has a narrower design and appears less bulky. Thus, it will definitely appeal if you fear that the T3 might be too bulky for your needs. This design again gets a really good boost from the dual hook and loop closure to give you a perfect fit.
This model is also a good performer in terms of protection and has a good amount of padding on all the key areas; top of shin and instep.
These are currently the best affordable leather Muay Thai shin guards on the market and offer an excellent combination of construction, performance, protection, and fit. Considering its leather construction, it might take a few sparring sessions for the part between the instep and the shin protector to break in although not most people report issues about it. Do we recommend it? Wholeheartedly! If you are on a tight budget but are looking for durability and protection, this might be your chance.
Other than protecting your shin and instep from injuries and broken bones and tissues, the best Muay Thai and MMA shin guards also condition your shin to make you a hardcore fighter. If you are seriously into MMA or Muay Thai and look forward to competing in future, a thinly padded elastic cloth guard will go a long way into speeding up the conditioning process besides allowing you to maximize on your foot speed.
Protection and Padding
We beg to begin with these 2 components because they are hands down, the most crucial when sparring and training. Right off the bat, these models offer the least padding here- but that’s because they are ideally meant for light sparring, conditioning, and training leg check drills.
Fitting and comfort
One thing that sets these shin guards aside is their low-profile slip-on design. Compared to other models that we’ve seen so far, these are not only the easiest to put on, but you might also forget that you have them on during your training sessions.
They are available in x-small (for youths), small, medium, large, and extra-large sizes and fit like a sock to become more or less like a part of you. In addition, they have a unique hook and loop strap that further secures them on your foot to prevent them from sliding down or getting turned around when sparring.
Another great feature that you’ll come to love about these guards is that the pad tends to mold to the shape of the leg thereby becoming an extension of you. Even better, the fabric is breathable, so you won’t be wiping off sweat mid-sessions.
Considering the price tag, you’ll be hard pressed to get another pair that matches this model’s feel, adaptability, and reliability. They are affordable and molds nicely to your foot to become a part of you and they have a lightweight and low-profile design that allows you to train some leg check drills as well as foot speed.
Remember that we recommend you to put on the Meister MMA cloth shin guards only when light sparring and conditioning your shins. A good idea would be to get both a heavily padded pair of shin guards such as the Venum Elite alongside these protectors.
Our last recommendation here is from one of the best fight brands in the UK that are currently gaining a solid reputation in the USA too. RDX is widely known for offering great quality combat gear at reasonable prices. In the light of this statement, the RDX Shin Guard is one of the best MMA shin guards for beginners more so if you are trapped between a tight budget and the need quality.
Materials and craftsmanship
The RDX shin guards boast several advanced engineering technologies that we’ve not seen in any other model so far. The very first feature that we like is that these protectors have been 3D molded to attain an impressive, uniform quality.
The manufacturer uses a 300 Denier nylon cover for the exterior that guarantees months of hard striking without the slightest hint of wearing out. The interior features the QD0-2 lining whose primary role is to keep skin dry even in the hottest training sessions.
Padding and weight distribution
Protection is everything in Muay Thai- and RDX seems to understand this better considering the 26mm padding that they use in the padding department. Actually, this is a dual-layer protective padding consisting of Shell-shock gel and Max-shock padding.
Thanks to the 3D modeling technology used, these guards’ padding seems evenly distributed although you might feel like a good portion of the weight lies at the lower side. This can, however, be corrected by tightening them sufficiently against the foot using the Velcro and Neo-1 neoprene enclosures.
The RDX shin guard is available in small, medium, large, and extra-large sizes. These models have won our hearts in terms of great build, aesthetics, as well as their high level of protection. The only complaint that we came across is that they tend to wiggle around a lot although this might be as a result of getting the wrong size.
Your pick of the best Muay Thai/MMA shin guards is dependent on your specific needs as well as style. Beginners tend to favor heavier models more since they are the best in terms of protection. Experienced fighters, however, opt for lightweight guards since they don’t compromise movement and speed.
Whatever you choose, what’s more important is to ensure that your shins and ankles will get the best protection from injuries even when sparring with the roughest partners. Striking your sparring partner’s elbow or knee at full throttle can be super painful especially if your shin isn’t used to it, and can even put you on crutches for some time at worst.
HOW WE CHOSE THE BEST MUAY THAI & MMA SHIN GUARDS
The first thing that you’ll need to do when shopping for a shin guard will be to determine what you’ll be using it for- MMA, grappling, or striking. If you are a beginner in the gym and are not exactly sure about what you’ll major in as time goes by, our honest recommendation would be to go with a model that cuts across several branches of martial arts.
As you may have realized in our reviews of the best Muay Thai Shin Guards, these protective gears come in different types. Precisely, shin guards can be broken down into 4.
Striking/Muay Thai Shin Pads: these models are engineered purposely for Muay Thai. They are designed with the main aim of allowing the fighters to utilize their shins and feet to attack and block low attacks. That being said, most of these pads tend to be heavily padded around the middle region of the shin where most of the impacts land and also have a separate instep as well as thick straps that run to the back to secure the guard in place.
The amount of padding may differ though and it’s common to come across super thick padded guards which are best for beginners as well as thin, fitted models that are best suited for experienced fighters with nicely conditioned shins.
On the same note, you’ll find some Muay Thai shin guards that extend to cover the knee while some are cut lower to sit just below the knee such as the RDX Shin Guard.
Grappling shin protectors: these guards are designed purposely for use in mixed martial arts. They were developed out of the need for a pair of protective shin guards that allows the fighter to alternate between stand-up striking and grappling without having to take off the shin guards.
Compared to Muay Thai shin pads, grappling protectors are slightly thinner and considerably lightweight with the tradeoff being minimal padding. The best MMA shin guards for grappling again are fitted with a neoprene back that makes it easy change positions, defend takedowns, and set up and escape submissions which might be a little bit difficult to do with buckles and Velcro straps that can get caught easily.
You can also tell a pair of MMA grappling shin guards from Striking/Muay Thai guards since the former feature several sections of padding around the joint and often leave the toes exposed.
Hybrid shin guards: these models are a breed between striking and MMA grappling shin guards and try to offer the best of these 2 worlds. Basically, these models aim at offering you a light and comfortable pair of shin guards without compromising protection too much.
There isn’t a standard blueprint for these models. As such, what one manufacturer claims to be a hybrid shin guard may be totally different from another brand’s.
For instance, some, such as the RDX Shin Guard bring together the instep protection of grappling pads plus a full pull-on neoprene sleeve that is commonplace with grappling protectors. On the other hand, other brands including the Tuff Products Hybrid borrow their padding style from grappling guards but tie at the back using straps.
Competition shin guards: they are used in amateur competitions. They are the lightest of the bunch and also offer the least protection. They are also the cheapest. However, even at their lower price tags, we’d never recommend these guards especially if you are a total beginner and haven’t perfected the art of landing your shots well.
Of course, as your shins get more conditioned, you’ll want to switch on to these pads since they are lighter and don’t stand in the way you throw your kicks especially in terms of speed.
Shin guard size and fit
Getting the right size and fit when buying a protective shin guard is of paramount importance. These 2 aspects determine how protective and comfortable the pads will be on you. Most brands offer their MMA and Muay Thai guards in all the 4 major sizes; Small (not so common in Muay Thai guards though), Medium, Large, and Extra Large.
Usually, the larger and heavier the shin guard is, the more protection it offers. The trade-off, however, is that bulkier and heavier shin protectors tend to hinder your ability and freedom of moving and landing kicks the most.
But then again, this depends on your weight, height, and calf size. At the end of the day, what you want is a sweet spot between protection and comfort.
Generally, to get the right size for your shin guards, you’ll need to measure the circumference of the widest point of your calf. The length of your shin doesn’t matter so much unless you have abnormally long legs and shins that may not be covered properly by an average guard.
Note that while most manufacturers utilize the widest part of the calf to size up the shin guards, their charts may differ slightly. So, always ensure that you double check each sizing chart carefully before committing.
Let’s get this out of the way: Competition shin guards (a.k.a Sock style) are for the pros since they offer the least protection. Most of these are made of cotton and are easy to clean.
If protection ranks highly in your must-have lists, you’ll want to consider heavy-duty training or sparring shin guards. These are made from either pure leather or synthetic materials.
As it’s always the case with other leather combat gears such as gloves, the best leather shin guards for MMA/Muay Thai cost top dollar. But they are the best performers in terms of protection and durability too.
Synthetic leather shin guards, on the other hand, are inexpensive but don’t last as long as their real leather alternatives. Their definite advantage is that depending on the manufacturer, they may sport a few additional improvement technologies (for instance, anti-odor) that might go a long way in boosting your satisfaction.
Quality vs. Budget
Muay Thai and MMA shin guards come in all prices ranging from as low as $30 to as high as $200 and even more. One common mistake that most first time buyers make is to skimp on these protective gears. Most of them end up paying for that mistake sooner than later. Believe us: you don’t want to go cheap with these items.
While we don’t claim that the most expensive shin guards always offer the best quality, most cheap pads have tons of issues ranging from ill-fitting sizes to guards that don’t stay in one place. This is a recipe for injured ankles and broken shins.
Q: Which are the best Muay Thai/MMA shin guard brands?
A: Well, what matters most isn’t the brand but the assurance that you are getting good value for your money in terms of protection and mobility with each pair of guard. All in all, we are huge fans of Thailand-based shin guard manufacturers. In our experience, these brands offer the best quality in terms of size, protection, and construction designs.
Q: Can I use a soccer shin guard for MMA?
A: Short answer: NO!
Long answer: Soccer shin guards are way different from MMA guards. The former is notably harder due to the material used and might, therefore, cause a lot of pain to you as well as your sparring partner when hit at full speed.
Q: Can I throw my shin guards in the washing machine?
A: No. Whether you are using leather or synthetic shin guards, subjecting them to excessive moisture can easily wreck their shell as well the padding. In addition, soaking them in water means that they’ll take some time to dry completely. If they are not dried properly, the high humidity may create a breeding site for bacteria and this might cause a musty smell.
And don’t think of tumble drying them either. Even the minutest knocks coupled with the heat hasten the disintegration besides minimizing the level of protection.
Q: How do I clean my Muay Thai/MMA shin guard?
A: Keeping your shin guards clean is super easy whether they are all-leather or synthetic. Immediately after use, use an absorbent paper or a towel to wipe them dry. You might also use disinfectant papers to disinfect them.
Treat your shin guards just like your gloves: never leave them in your gym bag overnight. Actually, the best idea is to get them out first thing after getting home.
Q: My leather Muay Thai shin guards are wet, how do I dry them?
A: Wet shin guards can easily develop an embarrassing foul smell after a short time. To dry them;
- If they are totally wet, a common recommendation in most Thai gyms is to place them in the sun for around 30 minutes
- Stuff dry newspapers on the inside to absorb the moisture
- You can also use a hairdryer that has been set to high cool to get rid of any residual moisture (avoid using high heat as it might destroy the padding)
- Storing the guards with cedar wood bags also helps in eliminating the unpleasant odors and replacing it with a cool and fresh scent