When it comes to any sport that involves impact to the head, it is important to realize that there is risk involved anytime you are taking strikes to the head. While the sport of boxing has long documented the long-term effects of impact to the head, Muay Thai is another sport that can result in long-term brain damage.
While it is true that striking arts like Muay Thai that utilize more weapons don’t produce as many constant blows to the head, over time the damage can still add up. Anyone who ever spars boxing is likely going to suffer from damage to the head over time. Even if you wear padded gloves, the impact can still “shake your brain,” which will cause it to deteriorate.
One way to prevent long-term brain damage is to wear boxing headgear to help protect your head from some of the impact.
Note, if you are looking or PURE boxing headhear, please check out our Best Boxing Headgear list, in which we give boxing headgear recommendations. There’s a lot of similarity between both (and you can certainly use boxing headhear for Muay Thai and vice versa), but boxing headgear is usually designed by boxing brands FOR western boxing. Muay Thai headgear is designed with kicks in mind and may (or may not) feature some extra protection.
While headgear WILL NOT stop all damage, it can help to mitigate some of the impact that you take.
Anyone who is planning on competing in amateur tournaments should also realize that rules and regulation require the use headgear in competitions. This means that you NEED to get comfortable sparring with headgear to prepare yourself for the amateur circuit.
The decision to wear headgear is a personal one, but I do recommend if you are sparring HARD, it is better to have more protection than not. Headgear doesn’t give you a reason to go harder, it just gives you a bit more protection than normal. It should be noted that if you are technical sparring then you shouldn’t need to wear headgear. It is better suited for people who are going 100% with people who are lacking in control.
In addition to the general protection, wearing headgear can allow you to work on your Muay Thai elbows without injuring your sparring partners. While elbow pads are a necessity when throwing elbows in sparring, headgear is also recommended to prevent injuries from people who don’t have any control in their elbow strikes.
Our Recommended Pick
While Winning is the best Head gear on the market, not everyone can afford the $250 price tag. If you want to look at a headgear that offers good value and protection, consider our MTP Fight Gear headguard.
Overview (Ideal for Muay Thai Sparring)
When it comes to headgear there is no question that Winning is the best. However, not everyone can afford to spend $200 on premium headgear.
Our MTP Fight Gear Headgear is hand crafted in Thailand and is designed to provide excellent protection, on the forehead, cheeks, and under the chin.
We feel that our headgear is an excellent choice if you don’t have an unlimited budget and want a quality product that will provide you with an excellent level of protection.
Keep in mind that just because you are wearing headgear, doesn’t mean you can’t get injured in sparring. Headgear is designed to protect you from hard damaging blows and should be still used under controlled sparring.
Our headgear offers a combination of wight, coverage and visibility to ensure you have the protection that you need, while at the same time offering you comfort.
Muay Thai Sparring Conditions
It is important to point out that just because you are wearing headgear on does not mean you should be throwing unprotected elbow strikes to the head. Elbows can still cause damage if they miss the padding area and should only be used with elbow pads.
Considerations When Buying Headgear
Here are a few factors that you should use to determine what headgear is the right one for you. It should be noted that everyone will have individual preferences. What I considered heavily padded, might not be enough padding for someone else. Some of these factors may or may not matter to you, but I will talk about them anyway.
Comfort and Fit
The first thing you should think about when buying headgear is the comfort and fit of the headgear. When you first put on your headgear it should be snug, yet it shouldn’t be too tight that it impacts your performance. Your headgear doesn’t need to feel custom fit, but you need to have confidence that it will do a good job protecting you. If you have never worn headgear before, it takes time getting used to how it feels, so don’t expect to fall in love with it.
When you are sparring you will have a lot of things on your mind, your headgear shouldn’t even be a thought. You don’t want to be thinking how uncomfortable your headgear feels when you have someone trying to punch you.
If a headgear has a slippery lining on the inside of it, you might find that it moves around your head when you are a getting punched. This will not only irritate you, it can also obstruct your vision if it gets twisted to the side. This is why you need to have headgear that is a tight fit that stays put when you get hit and when you are sweaty.
The chin strap of your headgear can also be another factor that determines how well it fits on you. If the chin strap is too loose, it can make the headgear feel loose. Conversely, if the chin strap is too tight it might feel like you are being choked by the strap. You want to find something that fits nicely.
The most dangerous punches are the ones that you don’t see coming. Visibility is extremely important when it comes to choosing the right headgear.
As a general rule of thumb, the less visibility you have, the more protection you have. So if you want the ultimate protection when you are sparring, you will need to give up more visibility.
However, if you can’t see the punches coming at you, you will end up taking more blows to the head, which can lead to more long-term damage. This is why it is important to have enough visibility that allows you to see punches and kicks coming at you from various angles.
The visibility of headgear is determined by how thick your cheek protection and forehead protection is. If that area is covered in thick padding, you won’t have as much peripheral vision compared to thinner gear. If you choose padding that is too thick, you will probably feel like your entire face is covered by the pads.
The next thing you should consider when looking at headgear is the coverage of the headgear. Most headgear will cover 4 areas of your face: your forehead, your cheeks, your chin, the back and the side of your head. Each area will have a different level of padding that allows for different levels of protection.
The coverage of each of these areas will vary depending on your level of padding on each area. Some headgear even has coverage for your nose to prevent it from being broken in sparring, but this is overkill. The best headgear will provide you good coverage that doesn’t affect your vision too much.
Remember that being able to see a punch is more important than coverage. If you see a punch you can avoid it or even brace for it. It is the punches that you don’t see are the ones that cause the must damage.
Size and Weight
The size and weight of headgear that you choose can also affect your mobility. If you are strictly boxing sparring, you want headgear that is light enough to allow you to slip punches, without greatly affecting your speed and movement. Headgear that is too big and clunky, may actually have the reverse effect and result in you getting hit more because of your slow movement speed.
If you choose bulky headgear that offers more protection, you might find that the weight of the headgear can affect your performance. Generally speaking, look at the reviews of specific headgear and try to find something that offers a good balance of protection, but doesn’t weigh too much.
Muay Thai vs MMA vs Boxing Headgear
One thing that sets Muay Thai apart from Boxing is the clinch. This means that Muay Thai headgear is not as thick as Boxing headgear because it allows you to work around in the clinch. Since your head will get tied up, you don’t want to have headgear that completely stops you from escaping a hold that you are put in.
Since there is no clinching in boxing, the headgear can be a lot thicker because you don’t have to worry about your head getting tied up in the clinch. The added thickness to boxing headgear gives them more protection from punches, but less versatility as the Muay Thai headgear.
If you train MMA then you will want to choose headgear that provides you complete coverage and allows you to roll around on the ground with it on. This often means you don’t have as much protection on the face, in exchange for a tighter fit. Because MMA gloves are smaller and also involve wrestling on the ground, the fit needs to be very tight.
Someone who trains Muay Thai should stick to boxing headgear unless they plan on wrestling with the headgear on. If you want to use headgear for MMA and you train boxing separately, you should consider having one headgear that you use for MMA and one that you use for Boxing/Muay Thai.
Note that ‘boxing headgear’ is often made by the boxing brands (RINGSIDE, TITLE, CLETO REYES, EVERLAST, WINNING, GRANT, etc) while Muay Thai headgear is often made by the Thai brands. But you can use both interchangeably for the most part.
Quality and Price
If you do a quick search for headgear online you will notice there are hundreds of products that are available online. Depending on the brand that you choose, you will find that the quality may differ. If you opt to go with a cheap piece of headgear, you should be aware that you may be getting a substandard product.
Since you can’t put a price on your health, you should not try to save money by buying cheaper headgear. Headgear is one piece of equipment that you want to make sure you have the right one.
The price of the headgear will often be correlated to the make and quality of the product. If you purchase cheap products you can expect them to use cheaper materials in the manufacturing process. In my experience, the big boxing brands have years of experience and product a number of good headgear options, that work well for Muay Thai or boxing.
The Best Boxing and Muay Thai Headgear
Now that we have discussed some of the factors that you should consider when selecting your headgear, we can take a look at some of the best options that are available. Please keep in mind that your head shape can play a factor in the fit and comfort of the headgear. It is important that you look up the reviews and see what other people say about the fit of the gear.
Best NO Budget (Premium) Headgear
Overview (Premium Headgear)
If you ever watch sparring footage of professional boxers, you will notice that they ALWAYS use Winning headgear for protection. This headgear is by far the most expensive headgear you can buy, however, it provides excellent protection from punches.
Winning is known to provide the best padding, which ensures that the impact of punches and kicks are absorbed during sparring.
Winning is manufactured in Japan, which is another reason for the price tag.This headgear can be used for Muay Thai sparring and boxing sparring and is very versatile. This is the Rolls Royce of headgear, which is why you can expect to pay upwards of $220 for these bad boys.
Buy it, absolutely if you spar often and hard.
If you want to get the best headgear on the market that offers premium protection and comfort for boxing, Muay Thai or MMA sparring then choose Winning. If you can’t afford the high price tag then scroll up the page and select another good option above. This is only for people who have an unlimited budget and don’t mind paying more for better quality.
Best Muay Thai Sparring Headgear (Best Overall)
Overview (Ideal for Sparring)
Given the fact that Muay Thai sparring can involve elbows, it is important to have headgear that provides adequate cheek protection when you spar with elbows.
The Super Sparring HeadGuard from Fairtex is one of the best Muay Thai sparring head guards that is available. The full protection provided from the headgear ensures that you will be fully covered when you are boxing or Muay Thai sparring.
This particular headgear offers a combination of weight, coverage, and visibility to ensure you have the protection that you need, while at the same time offering you comfort.
If you want a good pair of headgear that can take impact when you spar and provide good visibility, this is a great pair to choose. Fairtex is known for making quality products that are built to last, and this item is not different. Anyone who ever spars hard with punches or elbows, this is a recommended handguard to use.
Best Competition Muay Thai Headgear
Overview (Competition Headgear)
If you plan on competing in an Amateur Muay Thai or Kickboxing competition it is important to understand that you cannot wear your standard training headgear.
Competition headgear must be between 10-12 oz in weight and cannot have a thick padding on the side of the head and there cannot be a bar under the chin or across the face.
The Fairtex competition Headguard meets the requirements of the standard amateur Muay Thai requirements that need to be in place for the fight to be sanctioned by the IKF Amateur rules.
If you are planning on having an amateur fight you should train with the same headgear you use for competition for the last 3 weeks leading up to your fight. This will ensure you get comfortable using the gear you will use in the ring.
Buy it….if you compete or plan to.
If you are competing in Amateur competition then I recommend you own a pair of pair of Fairtex competition headgear. While this Fairtex competition headgear is less padded than its sparring cousin, it still does a good job of providing adequate protection.
Best Budget Boxing Headgear
Overview (Boxing Sparring)
One of the highest rated boxing headgear on Amazon is the Title Gel Full Face Headgear. This headgear offers maximum protection in the cheeks, forehead, the sides back and even under the chin.
If you are looking for some headgear to use during your boxing sparring, this could be a good option for you. The design is meant to absorb some of the impact that you will feel from the punches.
Title is one of the most well-known boxing brands, so it shouldn’t be surprising that this particular headgear ranks high on our list of boxing headgear.
Buy it…..if you train with heavy hitters.
In my opinion, headgear is most suited for boxing sparring because that is when you receive the most trauma to the brain. Muay Thai sparring involves a lot more kicks and techniques that target areas other than the head. This is why headgear is an ESSENTIAL component for people who spar boxing.
If you have a few guys who like to spar hard with their hands, this is a good option that can provide you with adequate protection.
Cheap Boxing Headgear
If price is the only thing you care about then you should consider the Everlast Everfesh headgear. This headgear can be purchased for under $30 and provides light protection that is useful in boxing or Muay Thai sparring.
It should be noted that this is a very light headgear that does not provide a high level of protection and will move around if you decide to clinch with it. This is an ideal option for people who want to do a bit of light sparring and don’t have someone going 100% trying to knock them out. While you don’t have as much protection as other headgear out there, the low price is a trade off that many people are willing to make.
This is the perfect option for people who are doing a bit of light sparring and want a bit of protection for “just in case” their sparring partner slips up and throws something hard. This is the best option for people who want something and price is the number one factor.
Don’t Buy It.
I know the low price might be tempting, but this headgear doesn’t provide enough protection. You are probably better off without it.
Another popular Muay Thai brand that produces good headgear is twins. This headgear is ideal for Muay Thai sparring and provides decent padding around the cheeks, forehead and your chin.
Because there is padding under the chin you will not be able to use this headgear in competition. That being said, you should be using thicker headgear during sparring anyways.
This headgear doesn’t reinvent the wheel, but it is made in Thailand and it will last you if you take care of it. People who are fans of Twins special gear may want to consider their headgear as a good option.
If you like Twins equipment better than Fairtex, then buy this one instead. Twins make excellent products and you won’t be disappointed with the design. Good visibility will allow you to see punches and kicks coming at you.
Best Full Face Protection Headgear
Overview (Ideal for Beginners)
If you are the type of person who is training Muay Thai for purely fitness reasons and doesn’t want to have any glove contact on your face during sparring, this is a good full protection option.
The front bar that goes across the face ensures that the glove will not be able to touch your face at any point during sparring. The downside of this is that it limits that vision, so you won’t be able to see as many punches (especially kicks) coming at you.
It is important to remember that the most dangerous punches are the ones that you don’t see. This means that limited visibility may result in you getting punched more in sparring.
Don’t Buy it.
This headgear is only suitable for people who don’t want to have any contact in sparring. Most of you reading this review probably don’t fit into this category. This Fighting Sports headgear is mainly suitable for boxing sparring. If you plan on Muay Thai sparring I would consider another option for your money.
While headgear can absorb some damage that you take, don’t ever rely on your headgear to eat up punches and kicks to the head. Amateur fighters still get knocked out in the ring with headgear on, so don’t think you are invincible.
Headgear is a must if you ever spar with heavy punches, kicks, and elbows. I have seen too many guys get accidentally knocked out or injured in sparring to understand the risks involved. Be safe and use headgear if you are sparring with weapons that you don’t have any control over.
In Thailand, they don’t use headgear in Muay Thai sparring because they spar very light and controlled. Since they are fighting every 3 weeks, they already get enough experience in the ring to ensure they don’t need to spar hard.
Someone who doesn’t have the same fight experience will need to get used to sparring hard before they fight. This is where headgear can really help you in training.
If you are boxing sparring I highly recommend you use headgear during sparring. Boxing is by far the most dangerous sparring because of all the punches that land on the head. If you have access to headgear I would suggest you wear it whenever you are boxing sparring.