Shin guards should be an essential part of any Muay Thai or mixed martial artist’s life, that is, unless you have a special love for pain or if you have well-conditioned shins.
Does this mean that you can pick up just about any shin guard you find? The short answer is no.
This guide will point you in the right direction in your search for the most appropriate Muay Thai shin guards for your needs. You can also use any of the shin guards we suggest for any other martial arts training.
The first step to finding the right Muay Thai and MMA shin guard
Are you into MMA, kickboxing, Krav Maga, Karate, or Muay Thai? The training you are doing and the martial arts you take will generally determine the type of shin guard you should buy.
Many tournaments in Taekwondo and Karate have specific protection you must wear when competing.
There are two common types of shin guards on the market: stand-up shin guards and grappling shin guards.
Standup shin guards
You should consider going for the stand-up shin guards if you are into kickboxing, Krav Maga, Karate or Muay Thai. This type of guard generally comes with thicker padding for better protection.
They are also made in such a way that they don’t offer foot flexibility simply because they are meant for stand-up art as opposed to a martial art requiring plenty of groundwork.
Special attention is made to the shin and foot area to provide extra protection. These areas are more rigid compared to the rest of the guards.
Grappling shin guards
If on the other hand, you are into a martial art that requires plenty of groundwork, then you should look for grappling shin guards.
This type comes with thinner padding around the shin area and the guard is generally made from material (Velcro and neoprene) that offers plenty of flexibility.
Although you can get away with using grappling guards in kickboxing, MMA or Muay Thai, they are generally recommended for grappling or for when you have MMA training.
I have trained in MMA, Muay Thai, Jeet Kune Do, Krav Maga, and Karate. At one time I did use the grappling shin guards in MMA and Muay Thai. I do not recommend you do the same unless your shins are conditioned for the kicking.
My shins were killing me when I used the ground shin pads when doing Muay Thai kicks. They do not have the padding to hold up to shin-to-shin or shin-to-Muay Thai pads when training.
What you should consider when buying a shin guide
The number one thing you should consider when buying a Muay Thai shin guard is the kind of protection you will be getting. Ideally, you should opt for one with plenty of padding while not limiting your movements.
This is so important, especially if doing a kicking martial art.
You don’t want to enter the ring or go to practice with shin guards that do not fit right. Buying a shin guard is tricky because they usually just have small, medium, large and x-large.
If they do have measurements for buying a pair, make sure you take the measurements. Most of the stand-up shin guards have adjustable straps. The shin guards will fit most adults or kids just as long as you get close when picking size.
With really good material comes a cost. You will find different materials such as neoprene, vinyl as well as synthetic leather.
Ideally, you should go with the guards that meet your budget and needs.
However, if you are considering using shin guards for a while then I would recommend going for one made from leather. This is because the leather shin guards are usually thicker and come with additional padding for maximum protection.
The shin guard design will generally depend on the Muay Thai, MMA, or martial art activity you intend on doing.
If you are into Thai boxing, then you will definitely benefit from guards that provide maximum protection to the shins.
If you are a beginner, I would recommend getting a good pair because your shins are not conditioned for the kicks you will be doing.
You don’t know where the strike may land on your ankle or shin. As such, you should opt for a design that protects everything from the shin to the feet!
I will be honest when it comes to shin guards, I have bought the cheaper ones and my shins paid for them. I would look at buying good shin guards. If you are on a budget just get the ones that are a little bit cheaper.
Shin guard structure
There are basically two kinds of shin guards on the market: straps and socks. Understanding when to get one of the two will help in your decision for buying the most appropriate Muay Thai or MMA shin guard.
The more common of the two is the straps. With this kind of shin guard, the leg is held in place with the help of straps. This guard is structured to provide plenty of protection.
I used the strap shin guards when training in MMA and Muay Thai. It saved my shins and prevented a lot of pain.
Socks shin guards, on the other hand, come with a lot less padding and can be a disaster when sparring against an opponent wearing straps. This is where my shins took a beating because I bought a cheap pair of sock shin guards.
The only upside is that they are lightweight and provide for minimal movement as you spar.
With the sock guards, you don’t have to worry about constantly adjusting them during your training as would be the case with straps.
They are generally recommended for fighters who wish to enjoy fast kicks in a cozy, lightweight, and comfortable guard. You will need to have tough shins to use these in sparring.
How to ensure longevity for your shin guards
When you get the right shin guard, it is important to take great care of them if you wish to enjoy using them for a long period of time.
With all the sweating you will be doing, you don’t want to leave sweaty equipment for use repeatedly! If you forget about the smell, they will be stinking up the gym at your next practice!
Here are a few maintenance tips you should consider:
- Always disinfect your shin guards to avoid infections or bacteria build-up
- I put a fan on my shin guards to dry them quickly
- Not all shin guards can go in the washing machine, use some elbow grease and clean them manually with a piece of cloth and disinfectant. The only exceptions may be those constructed with cotton wool or those which the manufacturer recommends putting into the washing machine
MMA Shin Guard Reviews
1. Elite Sports Star Series Muay Thai / MMA Shin Guards
The Elite Sports Star Series is constructed using high-density foam padding to ensure maximum protection during your training or sparring. These lightweight shin guards are not only comfortable to wear but remain securely in place thanks to the stretchable strap on the Velcro closure.
With these shin guards, you don’t have to worry about bacterial build-up or horrible odor thanks to the Antimicrobial inner lining used.
The construction is pretty sturdy thanks to the premium leather used while the Velcro strap helps ensure a decent fit for the wearer. With this product, you also get maximum protection from intense injuries thanks to the shock absorption technology incorporated.
As for movability ad flexibility, the Elite Sports definitely comes off great.
- Lightweight and easy to wear
- Constructed using high-density foam padding for maximum protection
- Incorporates an Antimicrobial Inner Lining for anti-odor and minimal sweat discomfort
- Relatively pricey
2. RDX T1 Black Shin Instep Guards
The RDX T1 black shin instep guards are lightweight, quality shin guards that are suitable for any serious MMA or Muay Thai training. It is designed to endure even shock absorption thanks to the gel cushioning and well-structured foam padding.
You will be ready for any blow or kicks coming your way.
With these guards, you don’t have to worry about your sweaty self as they are designed to conveniently absorb moisture and sweat thanks to the special lining.
Finally, the secure straps will help ensure that during sparring you will not have to adjust straps.
- Made using quality non-slip material
- Lightweight compared to standard shin guards
- Affordable price
- Comes with a moisture management lining to keep you dry
- Provides a snug fit and is easy to wear thanks to the hook and loop closure used
- Not suitable for grappling
- There are complaints of tight straps specifically for those with big calves
- Limited color choices
3. RDX T4 Leather Shin Instep Guards
The RDX T4 leather shin instep guards are made from cowhide leather and are suitable for sparring, karate, kickboxing, MMA, Muay Thai as well as several other martial arts.
They are infused with extra thick gel to provide for extra protection through shock absorption.
In addition, they make use of a dual cross-directional strap system to help ensure easy wear and a snug fit for your shins.
As for breathability and water resistance, this product is constructed with a Porelle membrane to help ensure enough breathability as your train.
Overall, they are a bit higher in cost but well worth every penny.
- Made using great quality cowhide leather
- Even with heavy use, the pads in these shin guards will barely shift
- Thanks to the dense padding and the three layers of gel foam used, you won’t have to worry about intense injury or damage to the guards themselves.
- If you have big calves, you may have a hard time using the relatively short straps in this product
- These shin guards are a bit higher in price
4. Venum “Kontact” Shin and Instep Guards
The Venum “Kontact” Shin and Instep Guards are constructed using high-quality cotton. They provide a snug, comfortable fit around your shin thanks to the material used.
This allows for a lot of flexibility as you go about your Muay Thai or MMA training.
When it comes to protection, the Venum “Kontact” Shin guards are constructed using reinforced foam to provide pretty decent protection. Considering they are made from cotton, however, you should not expect these to hold up to a shin-on-shin kick. You will feel this type of kick.
On the bright side though, the mesh panels incorporated help ensure that you don’t suffer from sweaty shin guards.
These are a perfect fit for martial artist that wishes to condition their shins while sustaining minimal injuries and enjoying more realistic training.
- Made using high-quality cotton
- Provide a snug, comfortable fit
- Perfect for conditioning shins
- Provides no protection against heavy strikes
5. Venum Elite Standup Shinguards
The Venum Elite Standup shin guards provide mid-level or higher protection to fighters. They are suitable for intermediate or higher Muay Thai or MMA fighters who intend to endure intensely heavy blows.
Not only are these shin guards relatively comfortable, but they also provide decent breathability to the fighter.
In terms of affordability, you don’t have to break the bank to acquire these babies. Thanks to the straps, putting on and taking off these guards is easy.
- Skintex Leather
- High-Density Foam Padding
- Easy to wear
- Comfortable straps with Velcro Enclosure
- May shift during practice/ training
- Offers limited protection
In conclusion, the RDX T4 leather Instep shin guard is my shin guard of choice as it ticks off most of the necessary boxes: weight, protection, material, design, durability, and usability.
This product is might be on the pricey side but if you are a serious Muay Thai or MMA fighter looking to invest in a durable, lightweight shin guard then the RDX T4 leather Instep is the one for you.
Not only is it lightweight but it is constructed of quality cowhide leather and high-density padding for durability and maximum protection.