At some point in your MMA Training you’re going to spar with kicks and learn what it’s like to throw kicks, defend kicks and when to do both, in the meantime while you learn that, you will 100% need the best muay thai shin guards you can find and afford.
The great thing about kicks is their power and accompanying potential devastation, which is also what makes them so difficult to train.
Unless you want to spend hours on a heavy bag and guess when you should throw a kick in a real fight, you’ll want to get shin guards in order to train with kicks.
Shin guards, like most other MMA equipment, come in many different styles and have different theories behind why they’re shaped the way they are.
There’s the traditional Muay Thai shin guards with thick shins that protect up to your knee, the grappling shin guards which have a neoprene backing the length of your calf, and then there are the hybrids which seek to cover all facets of training.
The biggest things to consider before purchasing shin guards is the frequency of use, type of training, and intensity of training. If you’re only sparring once a week, chances are you won’t want to spend hundreds of dollars on shin guards.
Likewise, if you’re sparring consists mostly of takedowns and grappling with a few kicks thrown here and there, you’ll want a different style of shin guard than if you were training straight kickboxing or Muay Thai.
Many Muay Thai gyms specify which shin guards must be worn, so first and foremost, respect those recommendations and pick up a pair authorized by the gym.
Padding is one of the most important considerations when choosing a shin guard.
Keep this in Mind!
In the art of Muay Thai, they kick harder than any other combat sport!
Muay Thai has these features which set it apart:
- Kick harder– Kicking is central to the art of Muay Thai to penetrate the guard of your opponent
- Kick into each other– again, the goal is to break through the opponents defense, so your shin bone will potentially meet an elbow, knee, their shin etc. I do not need to tell you that hitting a hard object with your shin bone without sufficient protection HURTS!
- High contact– Muay Thai is a high contact combat sport. You will be coming into contact with elbows, knees, shins, feet, toes, fists and the floor. You need to be protected!
- Lots of pair or partner work– There is a high amount of pair work in Muay Thai, Some work will be bag work, but it is a low percentage. You will train heavily with a real live, unpredictable human being. That being said, your shins need to be prepared for whatever that person throws (or kicks) at you.
- MMA generally uses Muay Thai kicks. MMA is a mixed discipline that draws moves from other arts, including Muay Thai. So MMA practitioners need the same shin guards as Muay Thai practitioners.
PADDING OF MMA, MUAY THAI AND KICKBOXING SHIN GUARDS SHOULD:
COVER FEET WELL
The foot has many small bones that are vulnerable to injury and breaking. The foot pad should cover your foot well, but not extend past the foot to the point you are tripping over it.
If you have tiny feet, you may need to order a jr size. If you have very large feet, you may need a larger shin guard, even if you do not use a large or XL for other gear.
BE HARD OVER THE SHIN BONE
This is where sock style shin guards fail, they do not have hard padding covering the shin.
Most Thai Boxing and Muay Thai style shin guards DO have hard padding covering the shin bone.
COVER THE ENTIRE SHIN BONE
The padding should stop short of the kneecap, but not go over or cover the knee cap. Leaving any part of the shin bone exposed is asking for pain, bruising and possibly worse.
IMPACT AND SHOCK ABSORBING
The gear should absorb the force of the kick. This protects you and your partner. Some shin guards use a gel technology with others have layered foam, and even shock dispersing sheets.
All of these are helpful at breaking up the power of the kick.
The best shin guards for Muay Thai have good ankle mobility. You want a shin guard that moves at the ankle and does not inhibit movement.
The ankle is prone to injury when kicking, so it is important to have padding at the ankle. Just make sure the padding does not prevent movement and you can maintain the ankles range of motion.
- You need thick straps! Look for a fat wide Velcro strap- the weakest link of the shin guard is the back strap-it will break first before the shin guard itself wears out.
- Does it spin? Does it wick moisture to prevent spin? Spinning is hard to prevent, but some shin guards do better than others. The straps need to secure tightly, and the fabric needs to be moisture wicking. If you get really sweaty, this will encourage the shin guard to spin and shift as you kick.
- Strap placement– The calf straps should sit an inch to an inch and a half below where the knee bends. You want it this low so it is not digging into the joint. Same goes with the ankle strap.
The ankle strap should sit a half inch to an inch above where the ankle bends. Some brands like RevGear and Fairtex has an additional elastic strap at the heel. This is ok, because elastic does not dig into the heel like the thick pads on the shin guard.
- Does the shin guard cover the top of the foot? The vast majority of kicking injuries happen in the foot. The foot needs to be covered, but not so much so that the guard becomes a shoe. It is ok if part of the toe is uncovered.
- Foot strap– the foot strap should sit at the arch of the foot and fit secure and snug. If it sits near the ball or heel of the foot, you can bet you will slip, and possibly fall, while kicking. Not cool. If it is too loose it can be worse, as it will shift out of place and surprise you.
- How long is the shin Guard? The guard should cover the patella, just below the knee cap, but should not cover the knee cap itself. This applies as you are standing up. The guard with naturally shift up a bit as you stand, so take this into account.