Updated 6th Feb 2018: It’s the beginning of the year and time yet again to revisit the annual search for the best Muay Thai shin guards. New models have been introduced, while some brands choose to retain their existing line-up (if it ain’t broke don’t fix it). If you are looking to replace your old pair or just getting into sparring, here’s the most up-to-date guide on the best muay thai shin guards.
If you have been training Muay Thai for a few months, your instructor will usually give you the go-ahead to join the sparring once you are familiar with the basic Muay Thai techniques to a certain degree. Muay Thai sparring is typically performed with the proper protective gear to prevent unnecessary injuries. Other than a pair of sparring gloves, the list of protective gear includes mouth guard, groin guards and in some gyms, head gear for extra protection. And of course, chief of your gear concerns, is a proper pair of shin guards. The very best Muay Thai shin guards, if possible.
The history of shin protectors dates back to ancient Greek and Roman times when heavy bronze shin guards were worn by warriors in battle as part of overall armour. Fast forward to modern times and shin guards -or sometimes referred to as shin pads- are worn for protection in many contact sports from baseball, football to ice hockey and of course, martial arts.
Sparring is done almost exclusively with shin protectors in the majority of modern-day fight gyms and dojos, . This is because our shins are one of the most sensitive bones. The first time you experience a knee or shin bone clash against your own shin, you will truly appreciate the importance of wearing shin guards especially during Muay Thai sparring. But whether you are a professional fighter or martial arts enthusiast, the physical pain of getting injured is as bad as the agony of being out of action due to injury. For your sake and everyone else’s, shin guards are typically a mandate in Muay Thai sparring practice.
How to Choose Muay Thai Shin Guards
Before we dive straight into the actual recommendations, it is helpful to know some of the various characteristics and differences, in order to choose the best Muay Thai shin guards for your sparring. There is no perfect shin guards but only one that meets your needs. Often times, it is a design of balance and compromise.
Protection and Mobility
Technically speaking, the wider the shin guards, the more protective they are since they cover a larger area of your legs. The compromise is that they are bulkier and will slow down your movements to a certain degree. Inversely, the narrower the shin guards, the lighter they are and so your movements will be faster. The downside is that you are more likely to get bruises on the uncovered area of your legs.
In terms of protection, this also extends towards your sparring partners. A thicker shin pad feels less excruciating on the ribs of your sparring partner than a thin one. This concept works the same way as using heavier gloves for sparring: the thinner the padding, the more impactful your shins of steel will feel to the opponent.
Sizing and Fit
Shin guards typically come in general sizing of small/medium/large/X-large. So, the taller you are, or the bigger your calves are, the bigger size you will need. If your shin guards are too big, they will shift a lot during sparring and you will need to readjust them constantly. If they are too small, they might not offer enough protection; fit too tightly; and can be uncomfortable to wear.
The fit of shin guards also varies from brand to brand. For the same size, Brand X might fit wider than Brand Y. At the same time. If you want shin guards that fit you exactly the way you want, it is imperative that you try on a few brands to find one that you like.
Muay Thai Shin Guards Vs MMA Grappling Shin Guards
MMA shin guards are designed with grappling in mind so they are usually less bulky compared to Muay Thai shin guards. MMA guards usually come in socks-like sleeves to keep the guards in place during intensive scrambling and rolling on the floor. Muay Thai guards held with straps are not practical under such conditions. Consequently, due to this compromise for mobility, MMA guards do not protect as much as Muay Thai guards. There is a lot more focus on striking especially with legs in Muay Thai and you need adequate protection when you block and check your sparring partner’s kicks.
Real Leather Vs Synthetic Leather
As with boxing gloves, genuine leather is still the most popular choice when it comes to buying shin guards. In most cases, they last longer than other materials such as synthetics. However, high quality synthetic leather can sometimes match up to the durability of real leather. You may also get more options with synthetics in terms of flashier designs and range of colors. If you are a vegan, synthetic leather is also the only way to go.
Tips on choosing your Muay Thai Shin Guards
Now, if you intend to get your shin guards from online shops, don’t go scurrying off to purchase them just yet. You should ideally know the model and size before hitting that “buy” button. Here are a few tips for choosing the right model and size:
Tip 1 – Your fight gym is the best and first place you should turn to. Ask your instructors or gym mates if you can try out their shin guards to check the fitting. There will be a myriad of brands, models and sizes being worn at your gym so you can try them all out. It’s also a good way to make more friends at the gym and remember to ask for some sparring tips while at it.
Tip 2 – If your gym is of a decent quality, it is likely that they carry their own line of fight gear or even a few of the more popular brands. The best thing about buying from your gym is that you get to try them on first and you will often get a discount as a member. Prices, however, are usually higher than what you can source online for the same items.
Tip 3 – There’s a good chance that you can find at least one fight store in your town or city. If you don’t feel shy about it, you should head down to check the selection and try them on for size before committing to a purchase online. Due to rental and other operating costs of a brick-and-mortar retail store, the prices will usually be higher than online retail price tags. However, if you are able to maintain a good relationship with your local fight store, you may be able to get some good deals or discounts. Nothing beats feeling/trying out the gears in real life and rubbing shoulders with fellow fight enthusiasts.
Top 10 Best Muay Thai Shin Guards 2018
Now that you have some clues on choosing shin guards, bear in mind that your ultimate choice depends on what you are looking for. Ask yourself if you are looking for best overall protection, lightweight (for mobility), attractive aesthetic design, or a price tag that fits your budget. Here is my selection of the best in the market to help you further narrow down your options:
Top King’s premium leather shin guards are constant chart toppers in Muay Thai gear reviews. With good leg coverage that reaches around the shins completely, and a high density foam padding, these shin guards will give you ample protection for your sparring needs. For a secure and stable fit, the shin guards feature a hook and loop strap system that holds them comfortably in place.
The sleek silhouette of Top King shin guards is another of the reasons for their popularity with the Muay Thai crowd. They fit better, look better, and feel less bulky -and hence more mobile- compared to other brands. The compromise made with such a design is that the sides of the lower legs may not be as well protected as a result. The dual tone tribal accents provide a reinforced padding for added protection while adding a nice aesthetic touch. There ain’t no perfect shin guards but these are as good as it gets.
|– “If you’re looking for shin guards, just buy these.”
– “Excellent product. I would recommend without hesitation.“
|Rating: (4.7 / 5)|
Featuring the same narrow design, same secured hook and loop strap system, same premium quality leather, and same high density foam padding, the Superstar is Top King’s other excellent offering. Besides the obvious difference in aesthetic design, the Superstar features a more extensive raised layer of padding compared to the Empower model. This raised layer covers a larger area of the shin and so ensures relatively better protection.
The Superstar model comes in a gradation design (as shown in the image) or the more fancy snake skin design. These pattern prints are made with carbon kevlar for durability so you can rest assured they won’t be fading easily. With great looks and great quality, you really can’t go wrong with any of the Top King shin guards.
|– “I love them. I feel like voltron with them on. Haha.”
– “Best shin guards money can buy“
|Rating: (4.7 / 5)|
As far as leg protection goes in sparring, this is the creme de la creme. These are favored by the Thai trainers over at my gym for the ultimate protection to keep them safe in their treacherous line of work. The SP7 covers as much of your lower legs as is possible without restricting your Muay Thai kicks. Your feet, shin, and ankles (nearly up to the knees) are all padded up for maximum protection and safest sparring experience. When you have these on, it makes it feel like wearing armour.
These are very comfortable in all ways and the detachable shin and foot design allows for the most natural range of leg movements. The super thick padding are excellent and will withstand even the hardest of kicks. As synthetic gear, these hold up against to any other genuine leather shin guards in the market and lives up to the reputation of the brand name. Admittedly, they are bulkier than other options but are surprisingly lighter than you would expect. For best overall protection, these are my top choice.
|– “They are innovative and yet actually work as advertised. True to western size”
– “I highly recommend these to anyone looking for superior comfort, protection“
|Rating: (4.2 / 5)|
The SP6 was designed for MMA and grappling, but can also be used for Muay Thai sparring. There are some distinct pros and cons for this style of shin protectors. These guards differs from the usual Muay Thai guards basically in the way they are worn. They are worn over your calves like sleeves instead of the usual hook and loop velcro straps. Such a design makes them less likely to shift during sparring and is a much appreciated advantage.
The biggest gripe for these is that the sizing runs a little small so this also makes them a little harder to put on or take off compared to the usual velcro straps. The snug fit borders on being a little tight so it is recommended to get 1 to 2 sizes up. The other major disadvantage is that the padding just adequately covers the shins, leaving a sizeable area of the inner and outer sides of the calves and the ankles unprotected. On that note, having less protection isn’t always a bad thing and it helps to condition the shins, if you look at it more positively. For great mobility and stability, however, these are second to none.
|– “I like it because when your sparring they don’t fall off and they don’t start moving side to side.”
– “Great padding for sparring but they run VERY small. “
|Rating: (4 / 5)|
I feel inclined to add these Twins classics to the list as they were my very first experience with shin guards and sparring. These were my gym’s training shin guards for the trainers and were free to use for sparring by anyone. While I went away with bad thigh bruises from some unforgiving low kicks at my first spar, my shins were left intact from the session, thanks to these SGL-2s. Regrettably, they cover till under the knees like most shin guards and I was also blessed with some knee bruises. The thing I love most about Twins shin guards compared to Top King and Fairtex is that they are lighter but yet provides adequate protection.
As with all Twins gear, these cowhide leather shin guards are of high quality and are extremely durable. The fact that they are still used and abused after so many years at my gym, is a true testament to their durability. Aesthetics-wise, the standard SGL-2s are really plain and simple but they do come with more fancy designs under a different model code (FSG).
The SGL-2 has been around for a while so the looks and ergonomics seem dated compared to more modern designs. But these are old skool workhorse gear that will serve their very purpose of protecting your shins -and your partners- during sparring. No fancy patterns or cutting-edge technology. Just a good old pair of thick cushions for protecting your shins. As they say, ain’t nothing like the old skool.
|– “I have used these for Muay Thai and kickboxing for almost four years and they are awesome”
– “They fit really well and stay put while sparring.“
|Rating: (4.8 / 5)|
In terms of overall protection, these Hayabusas are right up there with the very best. The Hayabusa T3 is the latest upgrade from the Tokushu Regenesis model that was also recommended on previous edition of this guide. With the update, the T3 shin guards offer a number of nifty features. These shin guards are lighter than before, and offer the best balance between protection and mobility. The straps are wide and comfortable and there is a non-slip inner lining for added security against shifting during intensive spars. The best part is the inclusion of an anti-microbial technology for the lining that helps extends the life of the shin guards, keeping them clean and smelling fresh.
The foam padding is thick on both the shin and the foot padding (that covers all the way over the toes) and you will feel indestructible during your bouts with your sparring partners. Like most Hayabusa gear, these boast an engineered (synthetic) leather proven by their tests to outlast regular leather. Prices do run slightly higher than the other choices here but well worth it for the excellence in overall design.
|– “Excellent fit, lighter than their size would suggest and very excellent protection. They stay in place and fit as advertised.”
– “They’re comfortable, durable, and they don’t slide when defending against kicks.“
|Rating: (4.8 / 5)|
If loud colors are your thing, then Venum is our top recommendation. Venum are best known for their eye-catching aesthetics, but they make pretty darn good fight gear too. The Elite model is a step-up from the entry level Challenger shin guards. Like the popular Venum Elite boxing gloves, these shin guards are proudly made in Thailand for the best assured quality, using a high grade synthetic “skintex” leather.
The lightweight design provides unrestricted mobility while the dense dual layer foam padding offers protection against the hardest knocks. There is also padding on the foot for a more well-rounded protection. To round it up, the extra wide double velcro straps provide a good enough secure fit.
They are priced on the higher side but you will get good lasting quality gear for what you pay. The Elites come in neons, all-black and a standard design. As an added advantage, match these with your Elite gloves and your sparring partners may just get blinded by the flashy neons and won’t see your strikes coming.
|– “These shin guards are amazing!! So lightweight and very comfortable.”
– “Great protection, definite high quality, pricey but you get what you pay for.“
|Rating: (4.4 / 5)|
The Venum Fusion shin guards feature all the benefits offered by the Elite model with a few subtle design differences. The first difference is the use of a narrower padding on the raised layer but not so much to make any functional effect on protection.
The more obvious difference is of course, the sleek glossy surface as is also used on the Fusion line of boxing gloves. This unique aesthetic touch will appeal to some but may be too outlandish for more conservative tastes. Both the Elite and Fusion shin guards are priced very similarly. In short, it all boils down to pure appearances. The Fusion model comes in blue, red and a neon green colors.
|– “they offer quality, durability, visually awesome.”
– “I love these and I recommend this to all my friends“
|Rating: (4.5 / 5)|
If you are looking for a low cost solution for your light sparring needs, then these affordable RDX shin guards may be what you are looking for. With dual padded shock-absorbent gel and foam, you can rest assured that your shins are properly protected during sparring. These pads are made with neoprene material, making them very lightweight . An outstanding feature of these RDXs is the use of moisture wicking lining to keep the wearer dry and lessen the possibility of the guards slipping due to sweat.
The calf straps seem to run a little short so if you have muscular calves, these might not wrap completely or securely. The instep guards, however, run a tad long and there have been reviews of minor toe/feet discomfort. Overall, these shin guards offers decent protection and are a cost-effective solution. For casual sparring and light usage (or perhaps shin conditioning purpose), the RDX gets the job done.
|– “Pretty good for the money”
– ” Too thin for heavy sparring and checking. Good for light kicks and checks“
|Rating: (4.2 / 5)|
Presenting another new addition to this year’s recommendation list. This is another option for the budget-conscious. Sananbul Essentials is one of a number of MMA brands offering good-quality, affordable martial arts training gear and equipment. The Hybrids combine the secured comfort of mma guards with the protection offered by Muay Thai/Kickboxing shin pads. Very light and mobile, but yet offer amazing shin protection.
The Neoprene slip-on, combines with a mid-calve fastener to secure the shin guards in place during intensive sparring without the need for constant readjusting. Foam padding is adequate but definitely not comparable to the big boys – you get what you pay for. Like the RDX above, these are ideal for light sparring or shin conditioning.
Sananul Essentials Hybrid shin guards are available in size XS, suitable for kids weighing less 110lbs and measuring between 4′ 4″ to 5′ 1″.
|– “ The perfect combination of comfort, fit, function, and durability. We love them, and can’t recommend them enough.”
– ” Very snug and secure. Because of the leg “sleeve” they don’t slide around to the back like some other designs. Just a bit difficult to get on and off.“
|Rating: (4.3 / 5)|
If your shin guards tend to shift easily during training, it can be quite an annoyance. Here are some of the most common causes:
#1 Wrong sizing. This is most probable if your shin guards are a size too big. You may try to secure them more tightly but this can get uncomfortable. You are better off to get one size down.
#2 Wrong sides. Some shin guards have designated left/right sides so if you got them on wrongly, they may have a tendency to shift. Check before you put them on.
#3 Poor fastening design. You would think it’s just a matter of velcros but some brands do it better than the others. You can consider getting yours replaced with a better model.
Sparring is fun and is where you learn the most in terms of improving your game. You now have the chance to put all the techniques into practice. However, you should only spar with the proper protective gear to prevent unnecessary injuries. The right shin guards will go a long way in enhancing your performance and enjoyment while minimizing sparring injuries. And this goes for experienced fighters and total noobs alike. Train hard, train safe.