A great pair of Muay Thai shin guards is an essential requirement for every single person who trains Muay Thai.
It doesn’t matter if you are a beginner, an enthusiast or a pro, the selection of your shin guard is an important equipment decision to make.
When it comes to choosing the right shin guard there are many options that are good for different needs. Some people prefer to go with more protection, while other people prefer lighter shin guards that offer less protection.
A good pair of shin guards will offer you adequate protection for your shin and ankle so that you don’t get injured in sparring. This is very important if you have a few sparring partners who like to go a little bit hard.
Most shin guards will try to balance between size and protection. Often the larger, bulkier shin guards will offer more protection, but they will come at the cost of being heavier. Shin guards that are bulky and heavy may result in you throwing slower kicks, which could lead to your kicks being blocked and caught more often.
On the other hand, if you are a beginner and have shins that are unconditioned, you will probably want to go with shin guards that have more shin protection so you don’t walk away with bruises on your shin. (Save the conditioning for your heavy bag training, not for sparring).
The best honest advice I can give you when choosing a shin guard is to invest in a quality pair. This is one piece of gear that it’s better to invest money in something that stays on your shins during sparring rather than a dirt cheap pair that needs to be adjusted every 20 seconds by you. There is nothing more annoying when sparring with crappy shin pads: you’ll bash your shins up because the shin pads slip around exposing parts of your shin. Trust me, I’ve used my share of cheap, shitty shin pads and they are not worth the few bucks you can save for the hassel (and pain) they cause.
Things to Consider When Buying Shin Guards
- Size and Weight – The more protection a shin guard offers, the heavier and bulkier the shin guard. There is a fine balance between full protection that takes away from your agility and movement vs. little protection that results in your shins and ankles being busted
- Hook and Loop vs Sleeve – The two main types of shin guards are hook and look vs sleeve. Hook and loop shin guards (most common ones) have straps at the back of the shin guards, while the in-step or sleeve shin guards require you to slide your leg in them. The sleeve often looks like large socks that you slide your foot in.
- Material – You typically have either leather or synthetic leather to choose from (assuming you don’t choose sleeve styles). Leather is more durable and more comfortable while synthetic leather is cheaper (but may feature more technological enhancements such as anti-order technology)
- Foot and Ankle Protection – Some shin guards don’t offer much protection around the ankle area. This means you will have a few swollen ankles if you kick the wrong areas of your opponent in training
- Quality vs. Price – If you buy the cheapest shin guards on the market, expect to get a product that is substandard. If there is one thing I have learned over the years is choose quality over price. This is especially true with shin guards. A cheap pair of shin guards will likely a) need to be consistently adjusted during sparring since they won’t stay put and b) may not offer full protection on your shin.
- Brand – I prefer to use brands that are made in Thailand because of they use quality materials and they are all individually hand made. Thailand-made shin guards by the top brands have been tested and used for decades by Thai fighters who use them every single day during training. As such, the design and functionality works.
Now that we understand some of the key things to look for when purchasing a pair of quality shin guards, we will take a look at some of the best options available on the market.
Why do shin guards slip out of place?
One of the reasons why some shin guards shift is because of the fit of the shin guard may be too big. If you have a lot of room in your shin guard, you might find it constantly shifts around because it is not made for your leg size.
You should try on a smaller pair of shin guards and see if it provides a better fit for you. Sometimes when you are really sweaty, it can also cause the shin guards to shift around. Make sure you are putting the right shin guard on the right leg, sometimes people mix of the shin guards and put them on the wrong leg, which can cause the shin guards to slip when you get hit.
While other brands offer a number of different types of shin guards, Top King produces one style of shin guard that offers excellent protection, comfort, and fit. The first pair of shin guards I bought when I arrived in Thailand was Top King, and I was not disappointed.
As far as shin protection goes, Top King offers excellent padding to ensure that your shins do not get smashed when you kick your sparring partner. Another key thing I like about Top King is the shin guards are narrow, which means your legs don’t look like they are a foot wide.
The ankle coverage of the Top King shin guards is also pretty good, however, if you kick an elbow with your ankle you can still expect them to be sore the next day.
- Top King offers a number of fancy designs in their shin guards – From silver and gold designs to pure colors, you have many options when it comes to design
- Excellent padding and protection for your shins
- The narrow design ensures your legs don’t look like they are twice the size
- Not the lightest shin pads on the market, but they are fairly light and provide excellent comfort
- Area around the ankle is still a weak spot. Try not to kick elbows with your ankles.
- The loops are made of metal, which means that they will rust if they are constantly soaked with sweat and do not try (this is only an issue when you train in Thailand where there is high humidity and hot temperatures)
- Sometimes you need to adjust the shin guard when you are sparring and they shift
Twins offer two different shin guards that are widely used. The first model is the SGL2, which is a thicker pair of shin guards that offers more protection. The other model is the SGL3, which is a lightweight shinguard that fits comfortably. In terms of design, these shin guards are not revolutionary, but they are the pair I use for sparring. I like the fact that they are very light and you don’t notice them when they are on.
I have owned a pair of SGL3 shin guards for a few years now and I rotate them in with my other Top King and Fairtex ones. I don’t have many complaints about these shin pads because they get the job done. While there have been a few swollen ankles because of kicked elbows, I like the light weight and comfort that these pads offer.
I prefer these twins shin guards to the standard ones that offer more protection but are much bulkier. I personally don’t like using bulky shin guards when I spar, but some people don’t care.
- These shin guards are light, which gives you good movement in your kicks
- Not very bulky, doesn’t feel like your shins are twice the size with them on
- Padding provides enough protection for your shins
- Comfortable fit makes it easier to spar with
- Don’t cover your toes, makes it easy to move around
- Padding around the ankle areas is lacking. If you happen to kick a lot of ankles and have problems with your ankles this might not be the best option for you.
- Narrow width of the shin guard does not give you the best protection for the side of your leg. If you block low kicks you better turn your shin guards out (which is the correct form anyways).
There are cheaper shin guards available (from LOW-quality brands like RDX), BUT you can’t find a fully functional set of pro-level shin guards for the same price you pay for these; at least not outside of going to Thailand in person. The key distinction between these cheap (but not too cheap) shin guards and cheaper shin guards is that you can actually use them comfortable when sparring without having to adjust them every damn second!
For about 50 bucks, you get a fully functional pair of shin guards that are padded AND comfortable to wear — ones that don’t always come undone with every single kick.
As stated, you might be able to find some knockoff no-name brand cheaper, but a couple rounds of sparring with such and you’ll toss them in the garbage because they will need to be adjusted with every kick.
Not so with these Fairtex shin guards.
There’s cheap and cheap but good enough to actually use. These fit in the later.
I will be the first to admit that I do not like many MMA brands, but Hayabusa does make a decent pair of shin guards. While I have never owned this particular shin guard, I know someone who has a pair and they love it. The Tokushu shin guards offer excellent protection and they have a double strap that ensures you get a good snug fit. This means you don’t have to constantly adjust the shin guard around when you clash shins.
Another benefit of these shin guards is they have a lightweight design to ensure you can kick with speed and power. If you happen to be a fan of Hayabusa products, this is definitely a shin guard that you should check out. However, if you are a Muay Thai purist, then you would probably want to avoid wearing an MMA brand shin guards.
- Great design – These shin guards look great. Expect a few compliments from people at the gym.
- Light weight ensures that you don’t feel burdened by the shin guards
- Good ankle and cushion protection for the shins
- Expensive – These shin guards are one of the more expensive ones that you will find on the market
- Lower Quality – Compared to some of the other brands Hayabusa does not produce the highest quality products
If you have a problem with your ankle constantly becoming swollen after hard sparring, you might want to consider the Fairtex Twister shin guards. These shin guards have a detachable toe guard that allows you to adjust the height of the guard depending on your own preferences.
The shin protector and the toe protector can shift 90 degrees to ensure that you can get full range of motions when you are kicking and blocking. The sides of the shin protectors go out further, so it can protect a larger area of your shin.
These shin protectors require a little more work as there are two components (shin and toe protector), but they offer complete protection.
- Detachable toe protector allows you to adjust the fit to ensure that it fits you properly
- Provides a high level of protection of the shin and the ankle area
- Rounded sides offer you more protection on the side area of your leg
- Comfortable fit
- More components mean more can go wrong. If you want shin guards that you just slip on, you might want to consider different options.
- When you sweat heavily the shin guards can end up sliding around at times
I will be the first person to admit that I never use shin guard sleeves (socks) when I train. However, I know there are a lot of people who like using the shin guard sleeves because they have a tight fit and are used in some amateur competition.
If you are the type of person that likes training with minimal protection when you are sparring, you might want to consider the Venum In-Step Shin Guards are an option for you. These shin guards are very light, offer a comfortable fit at minimum protection.
Venum is an MMA brand, and they make cheaper quality products, but these are decent if you are looking for something on the cheap.
Since some amateur Muay Thai competitions require you to wear In-step shin guards, this could be a good option for competing (always check your amateur rule set to see what kind of shin guards are allowed). However, I would recommend that you purchase a shin guard sleeve in addition to a regular pair of shin guards. If you ever do hard sparring you might find your shins bruised up after you have a few low kicks blocked by your opponents.
These In-Step shin guards also have a velcro strap at the top of them, to ensure that you get the right fit and they do not slide around when you sweat
- A good pair of shin guards to have in addition to your regular pair of shin guards
- Can be used for amateur competition (always check the exact specifications of your Muay Thai organization to see if they match your requirements)
- Light weight allows for weightless kicks
- Velcro strap keeps the shin guards in place when you get sweaty
- Machine washable
- Cheapest price (under 25 bucks)
- Very little protection compared to more traditional shin guards that are made from leather
- These shin guards often don’t last nearly as long as the traditional shin guards made from leather
- Should be used as a secondary pair of shin guards
Venum is a popular MMA brand (ostensibly produced in Thailand, though in reality a bunch of their products are made outside of Thailand).
Their Predator Shin Guards are their best Shin Guard, similar in form and function to the Top King style. While they are not as good as Top King (which are readily used by most Thai’s across Thailand every single day), they do a pretty decent job, though are more expensive.
However, they have that over-the-top aggressive MMA design that some might like. What’s also nice is that they do not use metal in the strap connections (something that you don’t want in a shin guard if you live in a tropical place, as the metal rusts and in time your shin guard will start falling apart at the connectors).
If you want to choose a quality shin guard that will last you and provides adequate protection this is a good option. It is not the smallest shin guards on the market (the Twins SGL3 is smaller in weight), but they offer good protection and curve nicely to your shin.
These are hook and loop shin guards that are made with a synthetic leather shell and high density, shock absorbing foam. If you like Fairtex gloves and other products, you won’t be disappointed with these shin guards.
These don’t have as much padding along the instep section of the foot, compared to the Twister model, which makes them slightly thinner and less bulky (though arguably, less padded). Some may prefer this.
- Nice design and comfortable fit – These shin guards are simple and look very classy
- Good overall protection offered for these shin guards
- Toe protection is longer to ensure you don’t hurt your feet
- Quality shin guards that can last you a long time if you take care of them
- The height of the shin guard is good, goes up to your knees
- Not the lightest option on the market
- Bulkier than other shin guards out there
When it comes to selecting your shin guards there are a lot of options that are available. If you already know your size in one brand, then most likely that will be the same size that you choose if you go with another brand.
This list contains shin guards that I would buy, but that doesn’t mean that there aren’t other good brands out there. As you can probably tell, I favor shin guards that are made in Thailand because I have had a lot of positive experiences with each of these brands.
However, if you want to go with something else that is up to you. At the end of the day, you need to find something that is comfortable for you. So as look as you are happy with your shin guards, that’s all the matters.
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