Updated 7 Apr 2020: here’s the updated guide with a few new options and removed models that are no longer in production.
Muay Thai is a high impact sports and you will be hitting a lot of tough pads, stubborn heavy bags and maybe also your sparring partners’ dense skull. You are going to need reasonably durable gloves to withstand the constant and regular pounding. Genuine leather has always been favored over synthetic material as it is believed to be more durable and comfortable. However, the quality of synthetic material has improved tremendously over the years and there are actually some advantages of synthetics over real leather. It’s time to break the stereotype.
Features of Synthetic Muay Thai Boxing Gloves
The most common synthetics used for boxing gloves are synthetic leather. There are two types of synthetic leather: polyurethane (PU) or polyvinyl chloride (PVC or commonly known as vinyl). PU leather is made from polyurethane and sometimes with a combination of leather leftovers while PVC leather is made primarily with vinyl. Just like real leather, there are varying quality of for both types of synthetic leather with really poor quality to high quality ones rivaling some genuine leather. Let’s look at both pros and cons of synthetic gloves:
Synthetic leather, especially vinyl, is generally very water-resistant and hence much easier to wipe clean. Leather is water absorbent to a small degree but it can retain some moisture from perspiration causing stains. Over time, this results in unsightly discoloration.
Synthetic gloves are the vegan’s choice for obvious reasons. If you are uncomfortable with wearing a dead animal’s skin on your hands, you can’t go wrong ethically with vinyl gloves. As mentioned above, PU leather may consist of partial real leather. Best to check directly with the manufacturer if you are unsure when it states PU leather on the tag. (See related article: “Vegan Muay Thai“)
Choice of Colors
Synthetic leather can often be produced in any color, style or pattern, that are difficult or too expensive to get made in real leather. If you see neon gloves, an uncommon colorway or wildly exaggerated design, chances are that it’s synthetics. And we all know looks matter as much as quality when it comes to what we wear.
One of the most often cited flaws of synthetics is that they are not breathable, especially with vinyl. As such, they tend to retain heat more easily. This can be problematic for people with sweaty hands. Because real leather are more breathable, they also won’t smell as much.
If you compare both materials within the same brand, the synthetic leather gloves will always be priced more affordably than the genuine leather ones. The price-conscious may be inclined to go for synthetic gloves for this reason. However, in Thailand, the labor costs are much lower than in Western countries. This is why a lot of Thai brand gloves using good quality genuine leather end up being priced cheaper than USA brand synthetic gloves.
As mentioned above, not all synthetic boxing gloves are built equally. There is a good selection of high quality synthetic gloves available in the market and here’s our top recommendations for your consideration:
Fairtex Synthetic Gloves
- Brand new gloves of Fairtex
- We design new pattern, new padding and use new material (Micro Fiber) for outer shell to make consistent weight.
- Micro Fiber is the same material we have used on "MADDOX" grappling dummy.
The BGV11 is Farirtex’s synthetic range of gloves made using “Micro Fiber”. It is a strong advanced composite made for long lasting durability. The BGV11s are basically synthetic versions of Fairtex’s flagship BGV1 model, well-known for the high quality padding and streamlined design. Even as synthetic gloves, you would expect nothing less than excellence from Muay Thai’s most reputable brand.
The F-Day military green BGV11 is truly a pair that catches your eyes. I personally own a pair and it has given me reasonable mileage and still going strong after over a year of usage.
Another option fom Fairtex is the BGV14 (mexican style boxing gloves with synthetic leather). These are more padded in the knuckle area for heavy hitters.
*Do note that in the Amazon link provided, check that the gloves are either BGV11 or BGV14 as the listing is mixed with the BGV1 (real leather) gloves.
Yokkao Vertigo Gloves
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Along with Venum, Yokkao has some of the flashiest and most eye-catching neon gloves. Price-wise, they tend to go for more than the other Thai brands so some people might find them a little too expensive. However, their synthetic range is very affordable and my synthex gloves have served me very well.
There are relatively less international stockists but you can order direct from their well-run website. These go down all the way to 4oz so kids can
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Hayabusa T3 Boxing Gloves
- A REVOLUTIONIZED TRAINING GLOVE: You need a glove that checks all of the boxes, from protection and comfort to durability and fit. T3 Boxing Gloves do just that, with a decade of sports science &...
- BUILT FOR COMFORT WITH A TAILORED FIT: Interior fabric feels smooth and cool on your hands and helps to regulate your hand temperature. Two interlocking velcro wrist straps adjust to fit your hands...
- WORLD RENOWNED WRIST SUPPORT: Dual wrist straps and splinting system work together to keep your wrists aligned with each punch. It locks your wrists in place when you strap up, preventing risky and...
Hayabusa is known for extensive research and innovation in the design of their products. The Tokushu T3 is an update of the most popular gloves model from the MMA brand. It boasts an engineered (synthetic) leather proven by their tests to outlast regular leather.
One of the outstanding features is the inner fabric which boasts an anti-microbial technology that delivers anti-odor properties, improved ventilation, enhanced breathability and thermo-regulating properties. What that means, is that they will keep your hands cool and will dry up fast despite being synthetic gloves.
These gloves are up there in many aspects such as quality, protection and especially wrist support via the dual wrist wrap. Little wonder this is appearing consistently on our gloves recommendations.
Venum Elite Boxing Gloves
- Triple Density foam
- Strengthened seams for long lasting quality
- Reinforced palm for maximum impact absorption
Venum are known for their eye-catching aesthetics, but they make pretty darn good gloves too. These gloves are constructed with skintex leather which is a high grade vinyl-based synthetic leather. These gloves have an enhanced grip giving it a really good grip when you make a fist. The multi layer foam padding is dense, and most of all, they are well ventilated through the mesh panel under the fist.
Elite models are also proudly made in Thailand and offer strong stitching and good wrist support and protection. The Elites come in wild neon colors, handsome black and a really classy white so these not only feel good, but they look really good too.
Rival Ultra Bag Gloves
- State-of-the-art "Freeman Microfiber" construction
- Ultra-comfortable laminated lining; Mesh palm for added ventilation
- High-density layered-foam padding for maximum hand protection
Rivals is a fairly new MMA brand. Like many MMA brands, they promote themselves based on research and innovative product design. These Ultra bag gloves feature a well-researched “Freeman Microfiber” which is a highly durable synthetic material. Rival has also intelligently overcome the breathability flaw of synthetic gloves by introducing mesh panel covering almost the whole palm.
The exclusive “Wrist-lock” system ensures that the gloves won’t shift around which is very useful for people with thinner wrists, but can be tricky to fasten due to the narrow straps. Probably just needs some getting used to. These are very good quality gloves although the price skews towards the higher range for synthetic gloves.
Although the general consensus is still to go for genuine leather, do not be too quick to dismiss all synthetic boxing gloves. There are advantages of going for synthetic gloves and in terms of quality, protection and aesthetics, they adequately match up to their leather counterparts. Just avoid the cheap, low-grade brandless synthetics. Give our recommendations a shot and add some variety to your workout aesthetic style. Look good, train hard and keep on keepin’ on.
(For the ethically-inclined, remember to also check out the companion article: “Synthetic Leather Shin Guards For Muay Thai”)