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One of the first purchases you will be making after a good pair of gloves and wraps is shin guards. It doesn’t matter if you are just starting out in the sport, shin guards are an essential piece of equipment that will allow you to perform drills and spar in safe manner. Even if you don’t plan on sparring, shin guards are used in a number of training drills to ensure that you and your training partner are protected. Since beginners aren’t able to control their power, shin guards provide the necessary protection when performing different Muay Thai drills.

Shin Guards with Straps: 

There are two types of shin guards that you will see in Muay Thai. The most common shin guard used in Muay thai is the traditional leather shin guards that have a lot of padding in the center and on the foot. These shin guards are designed to give the wearer the most protection if they kick and shin or elbow. The protection is padded and covers their foot in case something goes off course.

Almost all people who train Muay Thai use the shin guards that have straps. They are specifically designed to offer you the most protection from kicking and getting kicked in sparring. If you are planning to buy shin guards you should definitely purchase this type, unless you want to do MMA sparring with grappling.

Shin Guard Socks:

 The second type of shin guards you will come across are shin guards that have sleeves to put your foot into. These shin guards are made out of stretch cotton and have minimum padding to protect the shins of the kicker. These shin guards are mainly worn for people who compete in MMA. They are designed to have minimum movement within the shin guards to ensure you don’t have to keep adjusting your guards.

These are usually used in amateur fights and tournament as they are form fitted around the leg to ensure they are not moving around during the fight. In sparring most people use leather shin guards as they offer more protection in a fight.

Generally, when it comes to choosing a shin guard for your training there are dozens of different brands that you can choose from. There are huge differences in quality if you choose a cheaper option versus a more premium brand. It is important for you to look for something that you find aesthetically pleasing and something that you find comfortable.

The Balance Between Size vs Protection:

When choosing the right pair of shin guards it is important to find something that offers you good protection, without taking away your mobility. If you get something that is too bulky, it can be difficult to land kicks because the shin pads will slow you down. Conversely, if you get something that is too light, you will notice that your ankles get swollen after kicking far easier.

The perfect shin pads for you really depend on your own preferences and what you like. People who are more cautious in training are likely going to want a bigger shin guard, where as someone who likes to kick might want smaller guards so they can kick faster. Whatever type of guard you choose, you should use a shin pad that has straps on it, because the socks don’t provide a enough protection for general training.

Wide vs Narrow:

In the battle of size vs protection, you will find that most shin pads will either be wide or narrow. The wider shin guards provide more protection for your entire leg. This is good if you have someone low kicking you and you don’t block it from the side. These pads have more padding in the front and the sides and are very useful.

The more narrow shin guards are designed to be lighter and allow you to kick faster. Because they are not as big, they are also harder to grab a hold of. The down side of the smaller shin guard is that you will notice more bruises on your leg after sparring. This is especially true if you are sparring at a more vigorous pace in training.

Detachable Shin Guards:

One of the latest shin pads to hit the market is the new detachable shin guard that was created by Fairtex. These guards are extremely versatile because they have two separate components. The foot has its own guard that is Velcro strapped to the larger shin pad. This allows you to have good mobility when you are moving around, while providing optimum protection.

Having recently purchased a pair of these shin guards, I have been very impressed by the quality and design. The unique design gives these shin guards more protection to your foot when you are sparring. Anyone who has every had a swollen ankle after kicking an elbow can attest to the importance of ankle protection.

Things to Consider:

Find a Shin Guard with Good Protection: – Choose shin guards that you feel comfortably sparring in and that offer you a good amount of protection. The people you are sparring with might not appreciate it if you choose shin guards that don’t offer a lot of padding and protection from your kicks.

Don’t go too cheap: – When I first started training I bought the cheapest brand I could find. Those shin guards did not offer much protection and the elastic straps eventually broke after a few months. Sometimes it is better to invest in quality and you will save money in the long run because you won’t have to replace your shin guards.

Get the Right Size: – There is nothing worse than choosing a shin guard that is too big or small for you. Shin guards that are too big for you will be lose and you will find them very awkward when you are sparring. Conversely, if a shin guard is too small it will not protect the upper part of your shin.

Choose the Right Fit:  Not all shin guards fit the same of different people. You might like the feel of a specific brand over another brand. If you can, try on the different brands of shin guards to find something that works for you.

Go with Leather:  I prefer Shin guards that are made from quality leather material over other materials that are made with stretch cotton etc. Always go with quality leather and it will last you longer.

There are a number of brands that offer good quality shin guards. Try a few different shin guards on and find one that fits you properly. It is important to choose a quality product that will last you, otherwise you might find the fall apart rather quickly.

All of the brands offer different shin guards designs that give them a unique look. When you choose as shin guard, your priority should be the fit and feel of the shin guard. Once you find a shin guard fit that you like, then you can decide which flashy colors and designs you like the best.

Maintenance and Care:

When it comes to maintaining you shin guards it is important to clean them down with proper disinfectant spray or with a cloth to ensure they don’t get any buildup of bacteria. Unlike gloves, that are closed and difficult to clean, shin guards can easily be wiped down with a cloth after training.

To ensure that your shin guards last a long time, make sure that you dry them off after training. If you are in a hot climate like Thailand where you are constantly sweating, your shin guards will absorb a lot of water after training. Make sure you leave out your guards in the sun, to help dry them off. This will prevent the leather from tearing and the rings (only some brands) from getting rusty.

Taking good care of your shin guards should ensure that you will be able to use them for a few years if you are training casually. However, if you end up training in Thailand be prepared to change your equipment every 6-9 months if they are constantly getting wet. This is especially true if you are training twice a day and sweating in your equipment constantly.

If you take good care of your shin guards and aren’t training in a very hot climate, you can expect to get one to two years of use out of them. This number drastically reduces if you are training twice a day and they are constantly getting wet. The moisture in the shin guards will cause they leather to tear easily. 

The Final Word:

When it comes to choosing a quality pair of Muay Thai shin guards it really comes down to you and what you want. Since sparring is one way to condition your shins in Muay Thai, I personally don’t like the shin pads that provide too much protection.

As you spar and bang shins, that is how you will slowly develop more conditioning in your shin over time. The biggest weakness in most shin guards is in the ankle area. If you kick an elbow with your ankle, expect to see your shins swelling up after the kick.