If you are going to train in the combat art of Muay Thai, you will need to own a solid pair of shin guards. Your choice of shin guards is extremely important, regardless of your level or amount of training.
There are shin guards that suit some needs more than others. This factor will come into play as you decide which pair is right for you. While there are fighters who prefer heavier shin guards that provide greater protection, other fighters prefer lighter guards that do not offer as much protection.
The right shin guards will protect enough protection to prevent you from being injured. They come in hands when you and your sparring partners are training hard and not pulling kicks.
Selecting the right shin guard requires deciding between protection or speed and power. The bigger shin guards will provide better protection, but you won’t move or react as quickly. Bulkier, heavier shin guard tend to slow down your kicking speed, potentially causing them to be frequently blocked or caught.
However, if you are just starting fighting and training, and are working on conditioning your shins, it is better for you to use the heavier guards because they will provide you with more protection. You are less likely to have bruises after training. It is better to condition your shins kicking the heavy bag, and not during sparring.
Factors to Weigh When Purchasing Shin Guards
- Weight and Size– As discussed above, the more heavy and bulkier the shin guard, the greater amount of protection it will provide. While deciding what kind of shin guard to buy, you have to decide which is more important to you: having robust shin guards that restrict your movement, or lighter shin guards that might lead to leg bruising or injury.
- Hook and Loop or Sleeve Style?– Generally, there are two kinds of shin guards: are hook and look style and sleeve style. Hook and loop guards are the ones owned by most fighters. They feature back straps. In-step (also known as sleeve) guards are designed to be stepped in. The in-step guard resembles a sock designed to slide into instead of strapping it on like the hook and loop guards.
- Lower Leg Shielding– There are guards that do not provide adequate lower leg protection. Using these guards means that you are likely to suffer mild to severe swelling and sprains if your kicks go off target.
- High Price/Quality or Low Price/Quality – This is the eternal consumer question. In most situations, whatever choice you make won’t lead to injury. That is why I recommend that you choose high price and high quality over low price and low quality. If you purchase low quality shin guards, you will get a lesser product. It has been my experience that quality combat gear beats cheap gear every time.
- Manufacturer– The preferred manufacturers of shin guards all originate in Thailand. The Thai guards are better due to their quality construction and the fact that they are made by hand.
Since we have discussed the important factors to consider when buying shin guards, let’s discuss some of the better shin guards and they might be right or wrong for your needs. For more information, please read our ‘how to choose Muay Thai Sin Guards‘ for a complete buyer’s guide overview.
The Best Muay Thai Shin Guards
Below, we give our specific recommendations for what we consider, after using various shin guards brands over the many years, as the best of the best shin guards you can buy when counting quality of construction, comfort, and protection.
Top King Shin Guards
There are a number of manufacturers that produce various styles of shin guards. Top King produces one kind of shin guard, but these are top notch, and are the best available all-around guards. This brand was the first pair of guards I purchased upon arriving in Thailand, and it was one of the best buys I’ve ever made.
Top King provides superior protection for your shins. This is because these guards have solid padding to protect your shins from damage in sparring. An extra benefit of Top King’s guards is that they have a slim profile, meaning your shins will look proportional and not too large.
Top King shin guards provide good lower leg protection, but it is still possible for to experience bruising, swelling, or another kind of minor injury if your kick lands in the wrong place.
- They offer a wide variety of colors and styles. They are enough kinds of guards to suit anyone’s tastes and preferences.
- They provide superior shin protection
- The guards have a slim profile that prevent the shins from looking extra large
- The guards provide quality protection and have considerable mobility, even though they are sturdy
- Lower leg protection is not perfect. A lack of kicking accuracy when using them can result in bruising, swelling, and other injuries
- The guards feature metal loops. They can corrode if not kept dry from sweat and humidity. This is only an issue if you train in an extremely warm and humid climate like Thailand or any other tropical setting.
- The guards will occasionally move out of place while sparring and will need readjusting
Twins Special Shin Guards
Twins manufactures a couple of very popular guards. One guard is the SGL2. This shin guard is well-padded guard that provides lots of protection. The other guard is the SGL3. The SGL3 is a lighter pair of guards that are easier to wear. These guards are not special, but solid and dependable. The SGL3 are the guards I use when I want to spar. I use this model because they are lightweight and fit easily on my shins.
I have used the SGL3s for several years. I use them along with Top King and Fairtex models. I don’t have much bad to say about the SGL3 guards. I’ve received some lower leg injuries when I’ve missed my kicks, and connected with elbows, but I appreciate the fact that they aren’t heavy and are comfortable to use.
To me, these guards are preferable to guards that provide better padding, but are heavier and make me slower. Some Muay Thai fighters aren’t bothered by the heavier guards, but they are the guards I like to use for sparring.
- They aren’t heavy, and you can throw strong kicks with them on
- They aren’t wide, so they don’t make your legs large
- The pads make sure that your shins don’t get hurt
- They are easy to wear when sparring
- The guards don’t go down over the feet so you have more mobility
- Doesn’t protect the lower leg as well as other guards. Giving or receiving lower body kicks might be a problem if you aren’t properly conditioned.
- The guard’s slim profile does not provide the best leg cover. It will be best to turn the guards out to parry low leg strikes. (This is the proper method to parry low leg strikes, but fighters wearing better padded guards don’t always do this)
Hayabusa Tokushu Striking Shin Guards
Hayabusa is one of the better guard manufacturers, even though they are primarily make MMA equipment. Their shin guards work pretty well. My opinion of this brand is not based on personal experience, but the experience of someone that I know, and whose judgment I trust. These guards work very well and feature two straps that helps to cinch the guard tight. This feature means that the guards will hold tight and not loosen after a lower leg collision.
The Tokushu guards are lighter and will help you kick with authority. If you don’t mind using products made by an MMA manufacturer, these are excellent guard and worth wearing. But if you are a self-respecting practitioner of Thailand’s national sport, you will probably won’t want to use shin guards made by an MMA company.
- These guards are well made, and look awesome. They usually attract lots of positive attention and approval.
- They aren’t heavy, and consequently, won’t slow you down
- They provide great lower leg protection
- The Tokushu guards are pricey. Expect to pay more for these guards than the average pair.
- This brand is not known for making great equipment
Fairtex Twister Shin Guards
The Fairtex Twister shin guards are great equipment to use when your lower legs swell during grueling sparring. They feature removable protection that allows the guard’s height to be moved back and forth to suit the wearer’s taste.
The lower leg protection shifts 90 degrees allowing complete mobility whether you are on offense or defense. The guard’s side protection extends out, providing extra protection for your leg.
These guards are more burdensome to use because they come in two pieces, but they provide the most protection and coverage for your lower legs and feet.
- Removable foot protection is adjustable for a custom fit
- Gives outstanding lower leg coverage, preventing unnecessary injuries to feet and ankles
- Edges are curved for greater padding coverage
- Easy to wear and to spar in. Doesn’t weigh shins down like other guards
- Extra pieces add to more prep, cleaning and maintenance time. These are not the kind of padding to just wear and go. If that is your preference, it will be better for you to look elsewhere for your Muay Thai guards.
- If you are prone to profuse sweating or train in a tropical or humid climate, these guards are not ideal. They do not hold in place well when damp.
Venum Kontact In-Step (Sleeve) Shin Guards
I confess that I have not personally used this type of shin guard in my training. That being said, there are many Muay Thai fighters who enjoy using sleeve shin guards due to their being snug fitting and are mandatory for use in some non-professional events.
The Venum In-Step (Sleeve) Shin Guards might be the guards for you if you prefer to train with as little covering as possible. They are extremely lightweight, and have an easy fit.
These could be the protection for you if you’re an amateur competing in non-professional Muay Thai events that require sleeve shin guards (It’s best to investigate to see what equipment requirements exist in your tournaments. Check with the tournament’s governing body for complete details). Even so, I would recommend that you purchase a set of standard shin guards in addition to the in-step (sleeve) guards. You will need the standard guards to provide the kind of hard contact protection needed for regular sparring. Your lower legs will feel the effects of checked kicks if you spar using just the sleeve guards.
The Venum Kontact guards also feature a Velcro closure to assure a custom fit and holds the guard in place in case of sweat or moisture.
- An additional pair of guards to supplement your standard pair of guards
- They are good for non-professional events (Be sure to contact your amateur Muay Thai association to verify the prevailing rules and regulations regarding equipment)
- Lighter design for increased mobility
- Velcro closure holds guard tight when it sweaty or moist
- Machine washable
- Reasonably priced
- Unlike regular guards, provides much less protection
- Wear out much faster than the more durable regular guards
- Can’t function as a primary pair of guards
Fairtex SP5 Shin Guards
These Fairtex full contact shin guards are well-made. They are more streamline than standard Muay Thai shin guards, and have a comfortable fit.
As always, Fairtex can be counted on to make quality Muay Thai equipment. This pair of guards is durable and affords decent protection. They are not lightweight, but they will offer enough protection and are contoured to the shape of the shin.
These are fastened by hook and loop, and are constructed with faux leather material and durable foam that lessens the impact of strikes. These guards are typical of the high quality, functionality, and excellent craftsmanship one expect from Fairtex products. The Thailand combat equipment mainstay does not disappoint with the SP5 Shin Guards.
- They feature a great design and wear easily – classic basic shin guards
- Provides solid protection
- Excellent foot protection to help avoid toe injuries
- Will last a long time with the proper care and maintenance
- Great guard height that covers the knee area
- Heavier than some shin guards
- Thicker fit can constrict speed and freedom of movement
The Biggest Problem with Shin Guards and How to Fix It
One of the most nagging problems faced by Muay Thai fighters is the constant slippage of shin guards. This can be a huge problem when sparring, and you are kicking or blocking kicks. A slipped guard can lead to bruises, swelling, and possible broken bones. Here are some of the facts about shin guard slippage and what you can do about the issue.
- Shin guards can shift they are either too big for your leg, or because you don’t have them properly adjusted. If there is a lot of empty space inside of your guard, it is advisable for you to find a smaller and better fitting guard.
- Sweat and moisture can cause shin guard movement. Keep the inside of your guards dry by drying them off after each use. If you live/train in a moist, humid environment like Thailand, this is a necessity anyway, but let’s face it. Every good Muay Thai session will lead to sweat and moisture, and it is good maintenance, good safety, and good hygiene to keep your equipment dry.
- Another problem that causes shin guard slippage is putting the wrong guard on the wrong leg. Be sure to be the left shin guard on the left leg and the right shin guard on the right leg. Fighters will sometimes carelessly mix them up or think that it doesn’t matter, but will experience guard slippage and wonder why it is happening.
The Final Word
This article makes it obvious that Muay Thai fighters have a large number of shin guards available to them. Guard sizes are fairly standard through equipment manufacturers so your size in one brand should correspond exactly to the same size in every other brand.
This article features shin guards that I look on favorably, but that does not mean that aren’t other brands and styles of Muay Thai guards that are also well-made, stylish, and fit properly. I make no secret of my bias toward equipment made in Thailand, but that is because I have either tried these brand and styles, or I know enough about them to strongly recommend them. As a general rule, Thai equipment is better than equipment made anywhere else in the world.
Perhaps you will discover other brands or styles that are more satisfying to you than the ones listed here. Finding the shin guards that make you happy and meet your needs is what is more important than anything else.