We break down exactly what you need to know in order to choose the best pair of Muay Thai Kick Pads for your training. Note, we’ve been using various kick pads personally in our own Muay Thai (and MMA) training for over a decade, so we know quite a bit personally about the what Thai kick pads are good and what kick pads are not so good.
The difference between a good pair and bad pair is not only how long they will last, but how comfortable they are to use. Even more important is how much protection the pads will offer your forearms. Blocking kicks with the pads sends shocks down your arms and wrist which can, over time, add up to chronic injuries (we see it all the time in Thailand among Thai trainers who hold pads all day, every day).
What are Muay Thai Kick Pads
An aspect of Muay Thai that makes it unique among the martial arts is its use of kick pads. Thai pads help fighters to develop their kicking techniques against a simulated opponent who is protected from injury by holding the pad. Quality Kick Pads are handcrafted to be durable and absorb the powerful shock from shin kicks, elbows, knees, and punches. Muay Thai Kick Pads are an essential part of Muay Thai training — without these pads, you can’t properly train.
Kick Pads are the bigger brother to Boxing Focus Mitts and designed for punching, elbows, knees, and kicks. They are essential for Muay Thai training, MMA training, and Kickboxing training.
Why Buy Your Own Kick Pads if Your Gym Has Them
Now in places like Thailand, the Thai trainers will hold their own pads for you, so you don’t need to invest in your own pair unless you own a gym.
But in back in Western gyms, you are required to hold pads for your partner, and vice versa, during pad rounds. As such, it’s a worthy investment to BUY YOUR OWN quality Muay Thai shin pads, rather than use the default, beat up gear from your local gym that probably won’t offer nearly as much protection and comfort as your own Kick Pads.
Muay Thai pads are known for their versatility. They are built to absorb contact from kickers of every kind of weight class.
Shopping for Thai pads can be extremely confusing. There are so many different shapes, sizes, and manufacturers. There are Thai pads priced ridiculously cheap (usually manufactured in China), but other pads cause sticker shock. The purpose of this guide is to help you assess what type of Thai pad is right for you.
Before we discuss what a buyer should look for in a Thai pad, here’s my personal preference on the subject.
The Best Thai Pad
If you’re shopping for Thai kick pads, you should begin and end your search with Fairtex Curved Kick Pads. These pads are used by some of the world’s best Muay Thai fighters, and that means they should be good enough for anyone.
Fairtex manufactures the best Muay Thai equipment. Using any of their products should be enough to convince you of their quality and durability. Fairtex kick pads are curved so that your kick can land on the pad. They are constructed to absorb the force of a heavyweight kick so the pad holder can avoid injury. These pads are made completely of leather, and will last longer than the average pad. The Fairtex pads are also lightweight, which allows for longer training time and less fatigue for the pad holder.
The Fairtex curved pads are a perfect choice if you are buying Thai kick pads. These are my favorite Thai pads for kicking because they are manufactured in Thailand and because they can handle the most powerful kick you can launch. Fairtex is one of the best Muay Thai equipment manufacturers, and anything you buy from them is made with quality and with fighter safety in mind. They are more than worth the cost, so buy a pair when your old pads need to be replaced.
Since I have given my opinion on the best Thai kick pads, it’s important to know the qualities that distinguish the best types of kick pads. These are the features to consider when purchasing Thai kick pads.
What to Look for in Muay Thai Pads
There are a few things to consider when choosing a pair of Muay Thai pads.
The Pad Thickness
The number one factor in selecting a Thai kick pad is its thickness. Thicker pads are more ideal than thinner pads. Smaller pads are often bought by fighters because they are not difficult to hold, and won’t exhaust the holder, but the flip side to these facts is that they won’t provide as much impact protection.
Cheaper and thinner Thai pads put you at risk for bruises and potential injury from a strong, powerful kick. Holding pads for an accomplished kicker using these pads will seem less like training, and more like being on the end of a losing Thai match in Lumpinee Stadium.
You will quickly understand the difference between a cheap Muay Thai kick pad and one made with greater quality. High-quality Muay Thai pads provide sufficient padding that protects the holder from feeling every kick. An acquaintance of mine was holding pads for someone and ended up with a broken arm. This is why the amount of padding is so important in choosing a quality kick pad.
The Pad Size
The second factor to evaluate when shopping for a kick pad is determining the size you need. There are four standard sizes of kick pads offered by most manufacturers. These sizes range from small to extra-large. For instance, the small size is appropriate for females and men in smaller weight classes.
I use the medium pads, and I’m 5’10” (178cm), and have an average build. A taller man might need a large pad, but I wouldn’t recommend getting an extra-large pad unless one of the trainees is extremely large.
A pad’s size affects how you will have to hold it. Because of this, you will need to buy pads that will able to be used by you and your regular training partner(s). Thai kick pads come equipped with an adjustable strap. As you and your training partners use the pads, just tighten or loosen the straps as needed to accommodate the differences in sizes and grips.
The Pad Shape
The shape of Thai kick pads varies depending on the manufacturer. For example, there are pads that have smaller heights, but also have the same amount of thickness. Because these pads are smaller, kicking accuracy is a must because not hitting the target accurately can result in bruising or injury.
Still other pads are made with a longer length. These pads are bulkier and sometimes more difficult for holders during punching drills. When using these longer pads for kicking drills, they provide a bigger area to land kicks, but the downside is that they are much heavier. With these pros and cons regarding size, the answer as to whether shorter or longer pads are preferable depends on holding style, which varies from person to person.
Another possible size option is using a hybrid Thai pad. The hybrid pads are combination of Thai and boxing pads. These pads allow a pad holder more flexibility and mobility during punching drills.
The hybrid pads’ drawback is they are thinner than traditional pads. Just as with the thinner regular kick pads, a holder using a hybrid Thai pad is putting themselves at risk for injury or damage if they are catching a powerful kicker. The hybrid Thai pads are more suitable as backup pads used when your regular Thai pads need replacing or are unavailable.
There are some Thai trainers who use a combination of a Thai pad and a boxing mitt. Only a veteran trainer who has conditioned his hand and knows how to absorb hard kicks has any business trying this in practice. Otherwise, I would strongly advise against this activity.
Curved Pads or Straight Pads?
Muay Thai practitioners shopping for new Thai Boxing pads must decide whether to buy pads that are straight or curved. Straight pads take time to break in and are hard to kick. A great analogy for using new straight pads is to think of how new shoes must be worn and broken in before they fit comfortably. Using a straight Thai pad requires the same kind of adjustment period.
There are some Thai pads that are manufactured with a curve. These pads allow for full, hard contact from the point of purchase. I recommend buying these pads instead of the straight pads because they more comfortable for the kicker and safer to use for the holder.
The more popular Muay Thai pad brands make the curved pads, and they cost more than the straight pads, but they are worth the cost for the immediate ease of use and safety factors.
You hold your Thai pad through the handle — usually two handles that you push your arms through to secure it. The handles need to be high quality to absorb the punishment dished out. If the handles are not of high quality make, they will rip and tear, rendering your Thai pads worthless.
One feature you’ll need to look at is how ‘hard’ or ‘soft’ the pads are. Different brands make a different ‘feeling’ pad. Basically, how hard the pad is. Some pads are softer with the padding absorbing more energy. This can help reduce the shock of the impact on your arms. However, softer pads may not give the same bouncy feedback that harder pads do when your partner kicks, knees, or punches them. Some people (I’ve noticed the Thai trainers) prefer harder pads. Harder pads, in my experience, tend to last longer than softer, though they do not absorb as much impact energy. If you have arm pain of some sort, opt for softer pads than harder pads.
Quality vs. Price
This question is as old as time itself. What makes more sense: paying more money for the best available or saving money by buying something with less quality? In many categories, you can make an argument for buying cheap and saving some hard earned dough. But martial arts training is not one of those categories. When preparing for combat, and helping others to prepare for combat, your health and safety and the health and safety of others are at stake.
Muay Thai equipment from Thailand is manufactured with much greater quality than anywhere else in the world. You can purchase much cheaper kick pads from China and Mexico, but they will not last and can prove to be dangerous to use.
Thai pads have been produced in Thailand for about a hundred years, which is one of the reasons that their pads are the best made pads. Another reason is that the Thais are generally the hardest hitting and kicking Muay Thai practitioners. They understand that health and safety has to be a priority in the manufacturing of their equipment.
Finally, it cannot be overstated how important Muay Thai is to Thailand. It is one of their greatest sources of pride, their national sport, and their favorite pastime. It would be disgraceful to the Thais if anyone else made better equipment for their beloved sport.
Authentic Thai pads will cost you around $150. That may seem very expensive, but these pads are long lasting if they are properly maintained and not abused by overuse. (Overuse can happen if they are the only pads used for training. The daily wear and tear will eventually degrade the pads).
If you are tempted to save money and buy a cheap pair of kick pads from China, your wallet may be happy, but your arms will hate you because of the lack of padding in the cheaper pad. Some would argue that this is a tough sport and that this is another way to toughen the body of the fighter and the trainer. Yes, it’s true that Thai boxing is a combat sport, but it is also true that the more punishment you take, the shorter your fighting or training career will be. Protecting yourself from unnecessary injury is always the wisest course of action.
Muay Thai Pad Brands to Avoid
As I said above, the best Thai pads are those manufactured in Thailand. Even though this is generally true, FBT pads (Thai made) are not recommended because of their poor construction, and they are extremely overpriced. The best Thai-based manufacturers provide excellent quality Muay Thai kick pads.
As I also mentioned above, a quality set of Thai kick pads will cost about $150. Any pads that you find that cost less than $100 are to be avoided. These pads will not provide the necessary protection and might result in injury to the holder. Besides the lack of proper padding, you will need to replace them much sooner than you would with a quality pair of pads.
Some MMA equipment brands sell Thai kick pads. I have tried them, and they seem inferior. Most MMA equipment seem to be mass manufactured to be sold cheaply. Therefore, you are better off buying the high-quality pads manufactured in the home country of Muay Thai.
Smart Tip – There are kick pad makers that sell individual pads instead of by the pair (for both arms). Be careful if you order pads online that you order them by the pair, and not individually. Expecting to get two pads, then only getting one pad is extremely frustrating.
When is it Time to Replace Your Pads?
Even though high-quality pads should last a long time, heavy use will cause them to disintegrate. Even those manufactured in Thailand will suffer the same fate.
After continual heavy use, the pad will bend inward, causing the cushion in the center of the pad to shift.
You will know for sure that it is time to replace your Muay Thai kick pad when the holder feels the kicks through the pad on their forearm.
If you are unsure that your pads have worn out, compare the amount of impact with newer pads. If there is a considerable difference, it is probably time to buy a replacement pair of pads.
Another sign that it is time to replace your old pads is when the side stitching begins to deteriorate. When the stitching wears out, the stuffing will start to fall out of the pad. This is a sure sign that the pad needs replacing because the pads are losing their ability to protect the holder from being bruised or injured.
Another Recommended Kick Pad
Top King Super Curved Kick Pads
If you have the money, and are willing to spend it on a great pad, Top King’s Super Curved pads are a great buy. They are pricey, but superior-quality kick pads. These pads provide a number of benefits. One benefit of these pads is that they feature extra underarm protection.
Another great feature is its curved shape. The curve helps the kicker to accurately strike the pad. Top King is one of the best manufacturers of Muay Thai products in the world, and the Super Curved Pads help to make Thailand the world headquarters for great Muay Thai merchandise.
These pads provide a great alternative to buying Fairtex pads. Both are high-quality, durable pads.
The Top King pads are perfect for the fighter/trainer who wants an outstanding pair of pads that won’t wear out after a few months. The fact that they are manufactured in Thailand assures their quality and durability. When I am working on my kicks, I use the Top King Super Curved. The King Kick Pads are one of the best Muay Thai equipment investments on the market. I strongly encourage you to purchase these pads.
The best way to assure that you have longer lasting kick pads keep them dry. This means that you need to thoroughly dry them after every training session.
The reason this is important is that if you don’t dry the pads before they are put back in their bag, they will remain damp. You can get away with doing this occasionally, but if it continues, the leather will begin to separate from the stitching. Living and training in an extremely cold or extremely humid environment only makes the situation worse. Thailand’s humidity makes it one of the places that takes a heavy toll on pads, not to mention the constant training environment that exists in a country full of dedicated warriors.
To keep your pads clean, use Dettol, a natural disinfectant, or another germicide. Thoroughly clean the pads to kill bacteria. Not only is keeping the pads good hygiene, but it is a sign of disrespect to hold a dirty pad for a fighter.
It isn’t necessary to sanitize your pads every day, but you should clean them at least weekly. If different people are using your pads, wipe the pads between uses. (Unfortunately, this is not a common practice in Thailand).
The lack of proper hygiene is the chief culprit in the spread of Staph and other infections. For example, if the pads are not being cleaned between users and a kicker using your pads has an infection, the infection will spread to the next person who kicks the pad. It is imperative to clean the pads when more than one person is training on the pads.
The Final Word
While the temptation may be strong to buy cheaper Muay Thai pads, it is a much better idea to buy a more expensive pair that is well-made and will last longer. The right pads will reap a number of benefits, last years rather than months, and provide maximum protection to the kicker and holder.
Buy the Fairtex Curved Kick Pads to get the best balance of value and price.
Curved Thai kick pads are best because the curve helps the kicker to maintain contact with the pad. Kicks to a curved pad will slide naturally to the center, instead of hitting the side of the pad. Buying pads from top Thai manufacturers will ensure that you are making a wise investment.