The best way to learn how to fight is to simulate fighting in the gym, or sparring, as this type of training is known. But sparring hard and without gear is a way to drastically reduce the chance of doing enough rounds to improve. This is where protective equipment comes in.
We've already covered you on the best choices for a few types of gear, and now it's time to look at a crucial piece in every Muay Thai sparring session, the shin guards. They protect both partners and are as vital as boxing gloves in Thai boxing, where kicks are often the primary weapon used in a fight.
Still, different models cater to different preferences. We will review the most popular variations before giving you precious advice on buying the shin guards you need.
Best Muay Thai Shin Guards
Best Beginner Muay Thai Shin Guards
Best Budget Muay Thai Shin Guards
Best Muay Thai Shin Guards
Yokkao has dominated the Muay Thai equipment market since its inception in 2012, with a distinct blend of tradition and innovation. The Yokkao Muay Thai shin guards are our best choice because they cover all the essential details with secured stability, lightweight mobility, premium comfort, and optimal impact absorption.
Yokkao Muay Thai shin guards are handmade in Thailand from genuine cowhide leather and also boast stress-resistance straps and a non-slip interior. Yokkao has perfected the classic Thai-style shin guards through small design changes over the years. They have just the right length on the shin and the instep.
Designs range from the all-business single-color black to a few more exciting and flashy visuals for those who want to gather attention in the gym. There are also microfiber models for vegans out there. This is the best Muay Thai shin guard you can buy, and the only thing that may stop you is the price.
Yokkao Muay Thai Shin Guards
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Best Muay Thai Shin Guards For Beginners
XMartial may be a newcomer on the fight gear market, but they are aggressively attacking many segments at once. Their Muay Thai shin guards model is an excellent choice for all gym beginners who don't want to break the bank or sacrifice quality.
XMartial has taken the tried-and-true Thai shin guard formula and given it their own spin. With extra padding where needed and less bulk to avoid unnecessary bulk, these shin guards keep the weight low without sacrificing protection.
They are not suitable just for beginners, though. Advanced fighters will also like these and feel great in the ring with the XMartial shin guards.
XMartial Muay Thai Shin Guards
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Best Budget Muay Thai Shin Guards
RDX comes to the rescue of those low on funds but high on expectations. Their RDX premium Maya hide leather shin guards are incredibly well-reviewed on Amazon. They are the best budget option for a price less than half of the other models on this list.
These shin guards provide adequate protection and are well-designed. While they don't cover the knee as most Thai-style shin guards do, the instep is the perfect elongated length. Some users complain that the straps are too small for big-calved guys, but while this is a problem, it also means they are great for skinny legs.
Luckily, these days, low-cost options are also very usable and allow everyone to train with adequate protection without spending too much. RDX, in particular, is very good at that.
Best Fairtex Muay Thai Shin Guards For Big Calves
The battle between Fairtex and Yokkao for the best Muay Thai shin guards (and gloves, for that matter) is very close. Both deserve to be at the top and are worth every penny, but the genuine leather in the Yokkao takes first place.
The Fairtex Competition Muay Thai shin guards have a sleek design with no bumps but still, provide excellent shock absorption. The shin length covers the knee, and the instep is long enough to cover the fingers, which have the nasty habit of getting into the eyes from high kicks. Fairtex shin guards are handmade in Thailand, a sign of premium quality.
The wide design of this Fairtrex model, known as SP5, is also suitable for those fortunate enough to have big calves, which can be a problem with some other models on the list.
With 50 years of experience for Fairtex and over 1300 Amazon reviews for this model, you can rest assured these pads have been thoroughly tested in the real world. You can see my in-depth breakdown with more pictures and video in my Fairtex SP5 Shin Guards review.
Fairtex Competition Muay Thai Guards
Best Top King Muay Thai Shin Guards
Top King is another well-respected Thai brand. By buying their products, you can be confident that you will receive top-quality Muay Thai equipment. The Top King Muay Thai shin guards are your best bet if you are looking for maximum protection.
They are thicker than the rest of the models on this list, making them ideal for heavy kickers. They are made in Thailand from genuine leather and will last you through many hard sessions. The shin and foot pieces are elongated in classic Thai shin guard fashion.
Despite the bulk, the weight is nice and low. A common problem reported with the Top King shin guards is that their sizing is a bit off, and people often take a size that is too small. Otherwise, these are excellent premium Thai-made shin guards for the serious Nak Muay.
Best Hayabusa Muay Thai Shin Guards
The Hayabusa T3 shin guards are more popular in MMA than Muay Thai, but they are some of the best shin guards in any sport. The microfiber leather Hayabusa uses is a close competitor to genuine leather and provides premium durability and feel.
The T3s have a distinct pre-curved design. A key feature is a design outside the knee that protects against low kicks. Hundreds of silicone beads and two customized straps ensure that the shin guards don't move.
If you are looking for something a bit different but equally good as the best Thai brands, the Hayabusa T3 should be your first choice.
Best Venum Muay Thai Shin Guards
A combat sports gear list can't go without Venum, and their Elite Shin Guards rightfully find their spot here. The Venum Elite shin guards are thick and offer supreme protection. The material is premium skintex leather, which is very close to genuine leather in quality. Unlike their lower-range stuff, the Elite is made in Thailand.
Venum always grabs attention with slick designs, and their Elite shin guards can be ordered in many colors, each of which looks very cool. They are also very lightweight for the level of protection offered.
One problem with this model is that the straps may be very good and secure, but the top one is placed a bit high and may rub against the back of the leg when you lift your knee to check.
How To Choose The Perfect Muay Thai Shin Guards
Thai Shin Guards vs. MMA Shin Guards
Where MMA and Muay Thai differ the most is the inclusion of grappling in mixed martial arts. While MMA fighters also often do pure striking sparring, which you can do perfectly in Thai shin guards, the needs change once you hit the ground.
MMA shin guards have less padding, so they can provide better mobility in the legs, making them less protective than Muay Thai shin guards.
The key visual difference between the two types is the closure system. Muay Thai shin guards are usually held with straps, which are not good enough for ground scrambles. This is why many MMA shin guards are designed with a complete sock-like sleeve that is slipped on.
To sum up, Muay Thai shin guards offer the most protection. In contrast, MMA shin guards are thinner and less protective, but much better for intensive rolling on the ground. The slip-on system is much harder to untangle while grappling.
Another thing you may notice is Muay Thai shin guards usually have an elongated shin piece on the top that covers the knee and is used for checking kicks.
Genuine leather remains the best material for shin guards and many other types of equipment. Still, the price and availability limit it to premium offerings.
The good news is that synthetic materials like microfiber leather have generally caught up and are a suitable replacement for the real thing, both in feel and durability. Each brand's top models are very well made from genuine or synthetic leather.
Protection and mobility
Shin guards are there to offer maximum protection, but usually, the more protective they are, the less mobility you have. So, the wider and thicker the shin guards are, the more they soften kicks. This also means they are heavier and bulkier and will inevitably reduce your movements, at least to some degree.
As a sport that relies so much on full-power kicks, the better option is to go for better protection and sacrifice a bit of mobility.
Still, comfort is important and must not be neglected. The usual problem with shin guards is that the edges where the shin and foot piece come together may be too firm and hurt your foot in the first few sessions.
Another problem is that the top strap may be too high and interfere with the bending of the leg on the back side of the knee. If possible, it's good to try out the pair and check these things before buying.
Sizing and fit
All good Muay Thai shin guards have a few sizes available, ranging from small to extra-large. Shin guards must be the right fit, or they will get in the way during training. They will be highly uncomfortable if they are too small and leave too many unprotected spots. If shin guards are too big, the straps won't be able to hold them, and you will have to readjust all the time.
When consulting the sizing chart provided by the manufacturer, take your measurements. Both in the length of the legs and the thickness of your calves, and pick the correct size. Scanning through online user reviews is also an excellent idea and will help you if the sizing chart is off somehow.
Frequently Asked Muay Thai Shin Guard Questions
Why Do Muay Thai Fighters Wear Shin Guards?
Muay Thai fighters wear shin guards during sparring and other types of training to protect their shins and feet when kicking. The shins are a primary weapon in Muay Thai, as opposed to the foot kicks of other traditional martial arts like karate and taekwondo.
But the shin bones and the muscles and ligaments in the lower leg are also very sensitive and easily prone to injuries. Shin guards minimize the pain and allow safer training.
Shin guards also protect the one receiving the kicks very well, regardless of whether they land or are blocked. Sparring will be almost as damaging without proper protection as a real fight.
Are Fairtex Shin Guards Good?
As one of the oldest active brands producing Muay Thai gear, Fairtex offers some of the best fight equipment on the market. Many fight promotions trust Fairtex with the production of all their fight night gloves and shin guards, so we say without any doubt that Fairtex shin guards are good.
What Size Shin Guards Should I Get For Muay Thai?
All brands have a sizing table with at least a couple of measurements. Take your own leg measurements, compare them with the table, and pick the correct size. Of course, this is only if you can't try them on in person, which is always the best option.
How Tight Should Muay Thai Shin Guards Be?
Not too tight or too loose. If the shin guards are not tight enough, they will displace all the time and become a nuisance. If strapped too tight, they will restrict the blood flow and mobility in the legs. Keep your shin guards strapped to a point where they don’t move around while still being comfortable enough.
Shin guards are mandatory in Muay Thai training, and investing in a quality pair is an excellent idea. If you have the money, Yokkao is your best choice and has no downsides besides the price. Other Thai brands also offer very high-quality Muay Thai shin guards. If you want something a bit different, you can always trust Hayabusa.
Yokkao Muay Thai Shin Guards
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