At some point in your MMA training, you’re going to spar with kicks and learn what it’s like to throw kicks, defend kicks and when to do both, in the meantime while you learn that, you will 100% need the best muay thai shin guards you can find and afford.
The great thing about kicks is their power and accompanying potential devastation, which is also what makes them so difficult to train.
- How to Choose the Best Shin Guards for MMA or Muay Thai
- Best Shin Guards for MMA and Muay Thai Reviews 2020
Unless you want to spend hours on a heavy bag and guess when you should throw a kick in a real fight, you’ll want to get shin guards in order to train with kicks.
Shin guards, like most other MMA equipment, come in many different styles and have different theories behind why they’re shaped the way they are.
There’s the traditional Muay Thai shin guards with thick shins that protect up to your knee, the grappling shin guards which have a neoprene backing the length of your calf, and then there are the hybrids which seek to cover all facets of training.
The biggest things to consider before purchasing shin guards is the frequency of use, type of training, and intensity of training. If you’re only sparring once a week, chances are you won’t want to spend hundreds of dollars on shin guards.
Likewise, if you’re sparring consists mostly of takedowns and grappling with a few kicks thrown here and there, you’ll want a different style of shin guard than if you were training straight kickboxing or Muay Thai.
How to Choose the Best Shin Guards for MMA or Muay Thai
Many Muay Thai gyms specify which shin guards must be worn, so first and foremost, respect those recommendations and pick up a pair authorized by the gym.
Padding is one of the most important considerations when choosing a shin guard.
Keep this in Mind!
In the art of Muay Thai, they kick harder than any other combat sport!
Muay Thai has these features which set it apart:
- Kick harder– Kicking is central to the art of Muay Thai to penetrate the guard of your opponent
- Kick into each other– again, the goal is to break through the opponents defense, so your shin bone will potentially meet an elbow, knee, their shin etc. I do not need to tell you that hitting a hard object with your shin bone without sufficient protection HURTS!
- High contact– Muay Thai is a high contact combat sport. You will be coming into contact with elbows, knees, shins, feet, toes, fists and the floor. You need to be protected!
- Lots of pair or partner work– There is a high amount of pair work in Muay Thai, Some work will be bag work, but it is a low percentage. You will train heavily with a real live, unpredictable human being. That being said, your shins need to be prepared for whatever that person throws (or kicks) at you.
- MMA generally uses Muay Thai kicks. MMA is a mixed discipline that draws moves from other arts, including Muay Thai. So MMA practitioners need the same shin guards as Muay Thai practitioners.
Padding of MMA, Muay Thai and Kickboxing Shin Guards Should:
Cover feet well
The foot has many small bones that are vulnerable to injury and breaking. The foot pad should cover your foot well, but not extend past the foot to the point you are tripping over it.
If you have tiny feet, you may need to order a jr size. If you have very large feet, you may need a larger shin guard, even if you do not use a large or XL for other gear.
Be HARD over the shin bone
This is where sock style shin guards fail, they do not have hard padding covering the shin.
Most Thai Boxing and Muay Thai style shin guards DO have hard padding covering the shin bone.
Cover the entire shin bone
The padding should stop short of the kneecap, but not go over or cover the knee cap. Leaving any part of the shin bone exposed is asking for pain, bruising and possibly worse.
Impact and shock absorbing
The gear should absorb the force of the kick. This protects you and your partner. Some shin guards use a gel technology with others have layered foam, and even shock dispersing sheets.
All of these are helpful at breaking up the power of the kick.
The best shin guards for Muay Thai have good ankle mobility. You want a shin guard that moves at the ankle and does not inhibit movement.
The ankle is prone to injury when kicking, so it is important to have padding at the ankle. Just make sure the padding does not prevent movement and you can maintain the ankles range of motion.
- You need thick straps! Look for a fat wide Velcro strap- the weakest link of the shin guard is the back strap-it will break first before the shin guard itself wears out.
- Does it spin? Does it wick moisture to prevent spin? Spinning is hard to prevent, but some shin guards do better than others. The straps need to secure tightly, and the fabric needs to be moisture wicking. If you get really sweaty, this will encourage the shin guard to spin and shift as you kick.
- Strap placement– The calf straps should sit an inch to an inch and a half below where the knee bends. You want it this low so it is not digging into the joint. Same goes with the ankle strap.
The ankle strap should sit a half inch to an inch above where the ankle bends. Some brands like RevGear and Fairtex has an additional elastic strap at the heel. This is ok, because elastic does not dig into the heel like the thick pads on the shin guard.
- Does the shin guard cover the top of the foot? The vast majority of kicking injuries happen in the foot. The foot needs to be covered, but not so much so that the guard becomes a shoe. It is ok if part of the toe is uncovered.
- Foot strap– the foot strap should sit at the arch of the foot and fit secure and snug. If it sits near the ball or heel of the foot, you can bet you will slip, and possibly fall, while kicking. Not cool. If it is too loose it can be worse, as it will shift out of place and surprise you.
- How long is the shin Guard? The guard should cover the patella, just below the knee cap, but should not cover the knee cap itself. This applies as you are standing up. The guard with naturally shift up a bit as you stand, so take this into account.
Below are the 7 best shin guards on the market and the best uses for all of them.
Best Shin Guards for MMA and Muay Thai Reviews 2020
Fairtex Muay Thai Shin Guards
Review: One of the originals in Muay Thai and kickboxing equipment, Fairtex has a reputation for reliable, durable equipment that is perfectly suited for the up and coming kickboxer or the long-time pro.
Constructed without metal fastening loops (so they can be used in amateur competitions), the stitch-free design allows a more comfortable fit without the irritation that comes from stitching.
- Shape of the guard allows full coverage to the base of the knee without obstructing movement in the ankle
- Removable shin pad to allow use in other fighting styles
- Shin moves independent (somewhat) of foot, offering more flexibility
- The strap behind the heel could be tighter
Takeaway: These are the best (for the price) shin guards for Muay Thai especially for those just starting out.
Combat Sports Pro-Style MMA Shin Guards
Review: Designed for the intermediate or advanced MMA practitioner, these shin guards allow the wearer to spar with takedowns without the guard itself slipping around.
- Neoprene backing helps keep the shin guard in place during takedowns and grappling
- Thick padding allows for near-full power kicks without imparting too high an impact
- Hard shin, good shin protection
- Padding does not cover entire foot
Takeaway: The best MMA shin guards, these will keep you safe while training hard for your next fight.
Venum “Kontact Evo” Shin Guards
Review: Made for the MMA fighter, the Kontact Evo provides adequate protection while allowing the most movement possible. Designed as a leg sleeve, the Kontact uses neoprene to keep the guard tight to the shin with padding in key areas.
- The three separate pads protect the foot, the ankle joint.
- The length of the shin provides protection without sacrificing the natural movement of the foot.
- The thin padding can help condition the shins for fights where shin guards are not allowed.
- Foot is not completely padded, and the thin padding is not good for Muay Thai style kicking.
Takeaway: Great for amateur competitions, because the thin padding feels more natural when you are on the mat these are some of the best shin guards for MMA.
Ringside Combat Sports MMA Kickboxing Shin Guards
Review: Kickboxing specific- best kickboxing shin guards! The base layer of protection wraps around the front of the shin to the base of the calf.
A second strip of gel padding is added to the middle of the shin bone, allowing a fighter to check kicks at will without damaging any part of the leg. These shin guards are heavy.
Similar to adding weight to a bat for baseball, the shin guards help to quicken kicks when shin guards aren’t used or aren’t allowed.
- The most protective shin guards- fearlessly kick and be kicked
- These Shin Guards are slightly heavier, however, this provides a strengthening of your kicks
- Shin guards provide two layers of protection through the middle of the shin.
- They are very thick
Takeaway: These are the best for higher level kickboxers and one of the best kickboxing shin guards.
Revgear Defender Gel Shin Guards
Review: Clever design makes this Revgear defender absolutely one of the best shin guards for MMA due to its versatility. Two different types of padding for impact resistance, with a hard outer pad.
- Heel strap to stop backward movement
- Opposing straps-one on each side which prevents spinning
- Side lip prevents metal on the straps from contacting your skin.
- Pad on the back of the calf strap, so you can strap it tighter, or remove it if you have large calves
- Only available in black, not in the traditional Muay Thai style.
Takeaway: An excellent choice as one of the best MMA shin guards with a reasonable price point.
Windy Traditional Shin-Instep Guards
Review: A traditional shin guard with a twist, the Windy shin guards follow the traditional, single-layer protection scheme and offer ample (some might say too much) protection over the foot and instep.
The Windy shin guards are highly durable and reliable and will certainly last through many, many sparring sessions.
- Inner canvas backing offers a comfortable fit with minimal slippage and movement
- Made of the highest quality synthetic leather
- Good foot padding coverage
- Wide Velcro straps hold the guard in place.
- A little pricy
Takeaway: These may be the most versatile shin guards on the market. Among the best muay thai shin guards available.
Hayabusa Ikusa Recast Shin Guards
Review: A great hybrid shin guard, the Ikusas from Hayabusa are best for MMA fighters looking to have high-intensity sparring sessions that include takedowns and grappling.
The shin gel pad allows the fighter to check harder kicks and throw harder kicks while minimizing potential injuries to the user and their partner. The best MMA shin guards Hayabusa makes.
- Neoprene backing around the calf means less lateral movement along the shin
- Heavily padded with added strip of gel padding down the middle at the shin
- Sleeve design for less shifting
- Run small, may not have enough passing at the foot, especially for larger feet
Takeaway: The perfect combination of protection and mobility, the Ikusa’s are great for high-level MMA fighters and those looking to take their training to the next level.
When all is said and done, the best shin guard for you comes down to personal preference and overall fit.
Similar to shoes, different brands offer different fits and a large made by Venum may be a different size than a large made by Hayabusa (typically, they’re pretty similar though) so it’s best to try on shin guards before you buy them.
A great way to save money is to try them on at a store and then purchase them online if you can wait to get them.
In terms of fit, generally, you want shin guards to fit snug against your leg without cutting off circulation. You also want some sort of instep protection while maintaining adequate mobility at the ankle joint.
The instep guard on most Thai style shin guards has an elastic band that fits over the Achilles Tendon and should be snug but not so tight it creates a lot of tension on the tendon itself.
Tension in the Achilles can cause both discomfort and, potentially, serious injury.
One thing many complain about when it comes to shin guards is the length of the instep pad, many preferring longer pads with more protection while others prefer shorter pads along the top of their foot citing comfort and mobility. This debate comes down to use and style of sparring that you’ll be doing.
Alternatively, if you prefer sparring without takedowns and grappling or will mostly be training in a striking discipline, the longer instep may be beneficial for those kicks that don’t quite have the right range or against a partner who checks a majority of your kicks.
It comes down to what you want and need out of your instep guard.
If you don’t want to spend the money or you simply don’t spar enough to warrant purchasing your own pair, many gyms have extra shin guards you can borrow.
Just remember other people have probably worn them before so if you’re a germaphobe, it’s probably best to buy your own so you feel comfortable when sparring.
There’s nothing wrong with trying out shin pads at the gym and buying a similar style or the same brand but make sure you try several different types of shin guards before settling on one particular set.
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