Combat sports demand a lot from the body, and scrapes and bruises are an innate part of practice. Thankfully, nowadays, we can use a lot of equipment that makes our life as martial artists easier and safer.
A mandatory piece of gear in every gym bag is MMA shin guards. There are many different models on the market. Still, they all need to provide sufficient protection and the least amount of restriction of movement possible.
While going for the more expensive pair of any piece of MMA gear is always a safe bet, things are not so simple. I will help you differentiate between the different models of MMA shin guards and how to choose the best pair for you. Your legs will thank us afterward.
Best MMA Shin Guards
Best MMA Shin Guards With Most Protection
Best MMA Sparring Shin Guards
Best MMA Shin Guards
Usually, Muay Thai shin guards offer the most protection. They are thicker because of the heavy kick style of Thai boxing. Fairtex uses the shape of traditional Thai shin guards that go all the way to the knee (for better checking of both low and mid-kicks).
But they also shed a bit of the bulk, which provides better mobility, much needed in MMA. Another key design feature you might miss is the sides of the shin guards. They envelop the entirety of the calf, which helps immensely in protecting against the dreaded calf kicks, so popular in MMA these days.
The third specific characteristic that differentiates this model from the rest on the list is the extended instep, designed to protect the fingers, usually left open by most shin guard models. Some users don’t like this feature, though, as they feel it impedes their movement.
All Fairtex products are handmade in Thailand. They have rightfully earned the reputation for producing stellar equipment, and their shin guards make no difference. Given all the great features, outstanding durability, and overall quality, you can understand why we have chosen this model as our number 1.
Best MMA Shin Guards With Most Protection
Hayabusa products are of the highest quality and design, and their prices reflect this. Their top shin guard model offers unrivaled protection. They are always looking to push the boundaries of gear design. The T3 shin guards do just that with their side extension, which protects the side of the knee, which is a common target of low kicks.
The multi-layered padding on these Hayabusa shin guards absorbs impact while remaining relatively lightweight for their overall size. If you have the money, Hayabusa gear will not let you down.
Best MMA Sparring Shin Guards
It's no coincidence that Venum has become the official apparel of the UFC. They make top-notch gear, combining good quality, competitive prices, and killer designs. Their Elite series is aimed at people who demand a lot out of their training gear and put it through its paces.
Venum Elite shin guards are lightweight but provide excellent protection for the entire shin and instep. The straps are also very well done, and don't let the guard move around at all. Venum hasn't spared any high-quality materials for this model, so you can expect to use them for years.
Best Budget MMA Shin Guards
If you are looking for dependable shin guards without breaking the bank, the Sanabul essential model is your best choice. A hybrid design between Muay Thai-style guards and MMA shin guards, the Sanabuls have a hook and loop strap and a slip-on sleeve - providing excellent fixation.
They also have extra padding in just the right places, so protection is not something you will sacrifice with this model.
Best Venum MMA Shin Guards
We've already included the elite Venum model, but their Challenger model is so popular that it deserves a spot here. A bit thinner than the Elite model, the Challenger is preferred by some MMA fighters because the less weight and bulk make it better for all-around MMA sparring.
These lack some of the refinement of the Elite and Predator models but still offer a great compromise between all the aspects of great shin guards.
Best Top King MMA Shin Guards
Top King is a premier Thai brand that is not so well known in the west. But they are masters at creating top-quality Muay Thai gear, so if you are on the lookout for Thai-style shin guards, you should consider these.
Traditional design features raised shin and foot ridges for maximum protection. And even though the price is not low, when you consider that Top King produces these in full leather, they are quite a bargain.
Best RDX MMA Shin Guards
RDX is a mid-tier manufacturer in the UK that offers exciting products at reasonable prices. Their premium Maya hide leather model comes with certification from SATRA and SMMAF, so you have a guarantee that you are buying competition-worthy gear.
RDX likes to use fancy terms for its technologies and products. Still, even if you don't care what their marketing abbreviations mean (like QD-1 sweat-wicking lining and EVA-Lution foam), I can say that the RDX model provides adequate protection, comfort, and durability at a reasonable price.
Best Cloth Shin Guards
Cloth shin guards will likely never be used for striking sparring, but they have their uses. Many amateur Muay Thai and amateur MMA competitions use cloth shin guards. They have significantly less protection than solid ones, but they are so light that they almost don't get in the way of striking or grappling.
Meister has created an outstanding cloth shin guard. They are slip-on, but with the addition of a strap on top, they become as secure as any. The most vital points of all cloth shin guards are agility and mobility, and Meister's design covers them perfectly.
How To Choose The Best MMA Shin Guards For You
Size & Fit
When choosing shin guards, you have to make certain compromises. The bulkier the model is, the more protection it provides. But this is a direct correlation with the mobility it takes away.
So you need to make the choice which is more important to you. And some gyms may require specific models of shin guards, just like they demand 16-ounce gloves for sparring, so in these cases, the choices narrow quite a bit.
As for the size, every brand has its size chart that usually includes the length of the shin or instep or height and weight of the practitioner. Read carefully and take measurements to make sure you pick the correct size. Ill-fitting shin guards may cause you more problems than they protect your feet.
Even without explanation, you will quickly distinguish a few different types of shin guards. Each of them was designed with a specific purpose in mind which you should also consider before buying.
MMA Shin Guards
MMA shin guards are generally shorter and less bulky than Muay Thai protectors. The top end is level, and the protective shell has a medium thickness. This is all done to find the perfect balance between mobility and protection.
The inclusion of takedowns and grappling means the bigger Muay Thai style shin guards often get in the way. Some models of MMA shin guards feature a fabric backside that is slipped on. This helps with stability as the regular Velcro straps may get untangled in grappling.
Muay Thai Shin Guards
Muay Thai is centered around devastating kicks, so it's only natural that Thai-style shin guards offer the most leg protection. The shin part usually has double or triple layers of protective material, and the top end is elongated to reach the knee. Muay Thai shin guards are preferred by most MMA fighters for their purely striking sparring sessions.
Grappling shin guards
As the name indicates, grappling shin guards are not intended to handle powerful kicks but instead offer some protection for MMA sessions focused on grappling.
They usually feature a full-sleeve or slip-on design that prevents the shin guards from twisting and loosening. Some people even prefer neoprene shin guards because they are incredibly lightweight and cheap.
The focus with grappling shin guards is always agility and mobility over protection. This makes the transition from striking to grappling training very easy.
Generally, the two materials used for shin guards are natural and synthetic leather. Genuine leather is the most durable but also the most expensive. There are excellent synthetic materials that are almost on par with the real thing in terms of durability while offering some nice features like anti-odor technologies.
Shin guards with sleeve backs can be very comfortable initially. Still, the material will wear out much quicker. Once it loses its elasticity, the whole pair pretty much becomes useless.
Protective gear does what it says—it protects you and your partners. One sound advice you can follow is not to go for the cheapest gear. Often, the more you spend, the better quality you receive.
Fortunately, there are plenty of budget-friendly options that offer adequate protection and comfort. In these cases, something twice as expensive is not twice as good. If you have the money, always go for the higher-priced option. Still, luckily, you can buy great equipment for a reasonable amount of cash.
Frequently Asked MMA Shin Guard Questions
Do MMA Fighters Wear Shin Guards?
Sparring in MMA is always done with shin guards, so yes, MMA fighters wear shin guards in training. In professional competitions, only MMA gloves are used. Still, amateur MMA rulesets also require competitors to use shin guards, usually approved and provided by the governing body sanctioning the competition.
How High Should Shin Guards Go?
The height of the shin guards depends on the model. Muay Thai-style shin guards are longer and cover the entire shin up to the knee, while MMA models have a level top and cover about 3/4ths of the shin.
When it's time to pull the trigger and buy a pair of MMA shin guards, any of our top recommendations will be an excellent choice. Our top choice is the Fairtex competition model, but the Venum Elite and Hayabusa T3 are equally good. The choice comes down to personal preferences of the level of protection, overall bulk, and of course, price.