The 7 best Muay Thai and Kickboxing gloves, reviewed
Whether you’re just starting out on your journey into Muay Thai or you’re a seasoned veteran, wearing the best Muay Thai gloves for your needs is a great way to get the most out of your training. This review is focused on entry and mid-level models appropriate for sparring, bag work, and focus mitt training. Check out this guide to make sure you’re getting the most out of this critical piece of equipment!
How to choose the right Muay Thai gloves
If you’re just starting out in Muay Thai you can be forgiven for thinking that all gloves are created equal. However, the gloves are a highly specialized piece of equipment and an improper selection could at best impede your progress or at worst lead to hand injuries.
While MMA gloves are easy to put on and offer finger mobility, they are inappropriate for Muay Thai as their lightweight design fails to offer enough protection from checked kicks and the like. Boxing gloves provide reasonable levels of protection, but their shape makes Muay Thai specific techniques like clinches difficult to do properly. If you want the best Muay Thai gloves, then you want a pair of gloves designed specifically for Muay Thai!
Whats your Training Style?
Depending on your training regime your requirements for gloves will vary. Essentially there are 4 types of gloves to consider:
All-Purpose Training Gloves:
All-purpose gloves are just that, jacks of all trades, capable of being used for pad work, bag work, and sparring (when sized correctly). If you want to only have a single pair of gloves, then you should select heavier 16-ounce training gloves as they’ll offer sufficient padding for sparring.
Some gyms require 16-ounce gloves for sparring. Be sure to check with your coach before buying a lighter glove to spar in.
If you’re just starting out this is the type of glove you should be looking for. However, if you’ve been training for awhile relying on an all-purpose glove then you may be better served with one of the more specialized varieties of gloves.
As the name implies, sparring gloves are best for sparring. They are softer than all-purpose gloves, offering all safer sparring experience. Additionally, sparring gloves have thicker padding around on the back and sides of the glove for parrying punches, kicks, knees, and elbows.
The typical weight is for sparring gloves is 16 ounces, although if you are a smaller or larger build you may find that a 14 or 18-ounce glove to be a better choice.
Unless you know you are required to own competition gloves, don’t buy this type of glove! These gloves are required in amateur and professional Muay Thai fights and the fight promoters or venue generally provide them to the fighters.
These gloves are 8-12 ounces and are stiffer than training gloves and utilize lace-up closures. A pair of lightweight training gloves will offer a similar feel to competition gloves while offering greater versatility.
These gloves are made specifically for bag work. They are made of denser materials than other gloves and offer very little protection making them unsuitable for sparring.
OK. These aren’t actually Muay Thai gloves at all. However, in recent years some Muay Thai promotions like ONE FC have moved to MMA gloves. MMA gloves offer far less support and protection for your hands, making checking kicks with your hands a riskier proposition. However, clinching in MMA gloves may be easier as the open fingers give you greater dexterity.
Depending on your gym and training regime these may fit your requirements. However, most people are going to want to stick with Muay Thai gloves.
Glove Size (Weight)
Muay Thai gloves range in weight from 8 to 20-ounces. Partially this is use dependent with heavier gloves (16+ ounce) appropriate for sparring. However, your choice of glove weight is also based on your physique: smaller practitioners may want to use lighter gloves while larger fighters may benefit from heavier gloves.
While there are no hard rules on the matter, if you’re over 180lbs (81kgs) then you may want to try out a heavier glove. Similarly, if you are under 130lbs (59kgs) then a lighter glove may be appropriate.
Materials and Design
Muay Thai gloves don’t offer a ton of features, but two of the most important to consider are the materials used in the glove as well as their design.
The durability of any given glove is going to be directly related to the materials used in its construction.
Leather: Generally considered to be the most durable, although due to differences in leather grade and thickness not all leather gloves are created equal.
Synthetic Leather: Cheaper than real leather, synthetic gloves offer slightly less durability and may be less breathable.
Vinyl: The cheapest exterior material available for Muay Thai gloves. Aside from their low cost and being easy to clean, these gloves offer few advantages and are probably not an ideal choice.
A note on padding:
The gold standard for Muay Thai gloves is a triple layer of foam padding. The top layer should ideally be a single piece that underlays the entire exterior of the glove. On the striking surface there are two additional layers of foam. All of the gloves shown here use this three layer construction.
While Muay Thai gloves are quite similar to one another, there are a few features to keep an eye out for:
Velcro versus Lace-up closures: Velcro gloves are generally the preferred choice of closure for gloves. While lace-up gloves have a lower risk of scratching your partners during clinch-work, they require the assistance of another person to put on and take off. All of the gloves listed here have Velcro closures. Unless you have a training buddy you can count on to help you get in and out of your gloves, Velcro is the way to go.
Ventilated Palm: Thai Boxing is a tremendously physical activity and no matter how lightly you sweat, you will get sweaty. Typical Muay Thai gloves have leather palms, perhaps with some holes added for additional breathability. Some gloves offer mesh inserts in the palm in an effort to make for a more comfortable wearing experience. Additionally, moisture is the enemy of glove longevity – promoting mold and mildew.
Color: The color of your gloves doesn’t change how you throw a punch, but that doesn’t mean you don’t have an opinion! Some companies offer an entire color palette while others only come in a few select hues.
The Best Muay Thai Gloves of 2020
Whether you’re looking for the best Muay Thai boxing glove for general training or sparring we’ve got you covered. Keep reading to see which of these 7 gloves is best for you.
1. Venum Contender 2.0 Boxing Gloves – Good Entry Level Glove
- Best for: All-purpose training
- Weight: 10, 12, 14, and 16-ounce
- Material: Synthetic Leather
- Design: Unventilated palm, 6 colors
Venum is a MMA apparel brand that has been in business since 2006, and began manufacturing equipment for Muay Thai in 2014 (1). Despite their relatively new position in the market, they are well known and widely available.
The Contender 2.0s are Venum’s entry level Muay Thai gloves. These gloves are made with synthetic leather, which is to be expected at this price. These gloves are relatively durable and should hold up to fairly heavy use.
The primary user complaints are that the gloves are stiff and don’t offer enough wrist support. The stiffness can’t be easily remedied but isn’t a universal complaint. In regard to wrist support, it is important to wear hand wraps underneath your boxing gloves. Boxing gloves soften impacts but are not designed to protect the small bones of the hand and wrist.
If price is the biggest factor in your decision, take a look at the original Venum Contender boxing gloves. They are available in the 10, 12, 14, and 16-ounce weights and a dozen colors. Their padding is not as robust and Venum claims that the new synthetic leather used in the 2.0s is more durable.
Alternatively, if you have a few more dollars to spend the Venum Challenger 3.0 is a slight upgrade to the Contender. The Challenger is almost identical to the Contender but offers a ventilated neoprene palm.
2. RDX Boxing Gloves – Best Value
- Best for: All-purpose training
- Weight: 8, 10, 12, 14, and 16-ounce
- Material: Maya Hide Leather (Proprietary Synthetic Leather)
- Design: Ventilated palm, 4 color
Based out of Manchester, UK and founded in 1999, RDX specializes in selling combat sports paraphernalia (2). RDX’s line of Muay Thai gloves come in a variety of materials with the Maya Hide synthetic leather serving as their entry/middle product level. While not as durable as leather, customer reviews suggest that the Maya Hide holds up well to heavy use.
Generally, customers reported a good fit with great wrist support. The color options are limited and might not fit everyone’s tastes.
The gloves are built as all-purpose gloves, soft enough for sparring, yet firm enough for bag work. This compromise means that you may find yourself wanting firmer gloves for long days of heavy bag work, but otherwise these gloves are great all-rounders.
3. Fairtex BGV14 Microfiber Boxing Gloves – Great for Sparring and Clinchwork
- Best for: Sparring
- Weight: 8, 10, 12, 14, 16-ounce
- Material: Microfiber
- Design: Unventilated palm, 18 colors
Fairtex has been manufacturing Muay Thai gloves for over four decades and has a well-deserved reputation for quality gear.
The BGV14’s are similar to Fairtex’s BGV6 sparring gloves. This means that the front padding is softer and is less likely to cause injury to your training partners. Unlike the BGV6’s which use a leather shell, these use a microfiber exterior. As with all sparring gloves, you can use these for bag work. However, don’t expect these gloves to be as comfortable when used on a heavy bag.
These gloves, like most Fairtex gloves, have a slenderer profile than a typical Muay Thai glove. If you’re used to boxing gloves the shape will feel more familiar, however they do offer less protection along the sides and back than traditional Thai gloves.
Despite their unusual construction these gloves are very durable, Fairtex even claims that the microfiber is more durable than leather. An added benefit is the surface is supposed to be less irritating to the skin, making these gloves a great option for sparring with lots of clinch work.
Microfiber isn’t just for cleaning. In fact, when the microfiber came onto the market, in 1970, it was an imitation leather called Ultrasuede. (3)
These gloves come in a huge variety of colors and designs, so no matter your aesthetic you’ll be able to find a design that suits you.
4. Twins Special BGVLA 2 Muay Thai Gloves – Great Protection
- Best for: Sparring / All-purpose
- Weight: 8, 10, 12, 14, and 16-ounce
- Material: Leather
- Design: Ventilated mesh palm; 8 colors
Established in 1992, Twins Special is one of the most popular brands of gloves in Thailand. This popularity is well deserved as Twins Special makes a robust, no-nonsense, and high quality gloves.
The best-known product from Twins is their BGVL3 gloves, a workhorse of a boxing glove at a great price. This model, the BGVLA 2, is based on the BGVL3 and is largely the same except for its “Air Flow” palm which makes for a cooler wearing experience. Otherwise the two models are almost identical, with both offering real leather exteriors.
An important thing to note about these gloves is that they are physically larger than much of their competition. This isn’t necessarily a problem but is something to be aware before purchasing them.
The size comes with another benefit: padding. These gloves are very heavily padded and offer great protection for checking kicks.
These gloves are best used as sparring gloves, where their extra padding really shines. However, the heavier models are sufficiently padded for bag work as well.
From a design perspective, these gloves should charitably be called understated. If you want catchy logos or fancy designs, look elsewhere. However, if you want your skills to be on display instead of your gloves these are a great place to start.
5. Yokkao Matrix Muay Thai Gloves – Style and Substance
- Best for: Sparring
- Weight: 8, 10, 12, 14, 16-ounce
- Material: Leather
- Design: Ventilated palm, 12 standard colors, 15+ premium designs
Yokkao is a newer brand, started in 2010, but they have a tremendous market presence both in Thailand and abroad. In a lot of ways these high quality gloves are quite similar to the Twins Special gloves.
Like the Twins, the Yokkao is made in Thailand and features a leather exterior and Velcro closure. Additionally, the Yokkao features extra padding compared to brands like Fairtex. This extra bulk can be seen as a nuisance or as a perk, providing protection for your entire hand.
The Matrix line is made for sparring but can provide adequate cushioning for moderate bag work.
Where the Yokkaos part ways from the Twins Specials is in design. The Matrix is offered in 12 colors ranging from staid black to an eye-pleasing green/blue that they call Petroleum.
Not content with a solid color? That isn’t a problem as Yokkao annually releases a line of premium designs that include everything from stylized Thai artwork to skulls atop a radioactive green background (4). These premium designs carry a fairly heft premium over their monochromatic brethren, but they are fantastically eye-catching.
6. Sanabul “Battle Forged” Muay Thai Gloves – Best Glove for Subtle Branding
- Best for: All-purpose
- Weight: 10, 12, 16-ounce
- Material: “SBL engineered leather” (Proprietary Synthetic Leather)
- Design: Ventilated palm, 3 colors
Sanabul is one of the newest companies to enter into the Muay Thai glove arena. Founded in 2015 they initially focused on BJJ apparel and MMA gloves. (5) They have recently branched out into Muay Thai and Boxing accessories.
“Battle Forged” is Sanabul’s mid-range product line, slotting between their Essential and Seven Zero Professional lines. Curiously, this glove is only available in 3 weights, so if you want a 14-ounce glove you’re out of luck.
These gloves are made from Sanabul’s proprietary SBL engineered leather and incorporate an anti-microbial treatment. The gloves themselves are well made and are comfortable to use for both sparring and bag work. These gloves are generally durable, although it seems that Sanabul’s quality assurance may need work as some people report the gloves seams splitting or foam padding shifting during use.
The exterior of the glove has an aggressive leather print – which given the synthetic nature of the shell feels a bit unnecessary. Sanabul only offers 3 color options, black, white, and brown. The color palette in combination with their understated embossed logo make these very low-key gloves. If you are tired of loud branding, then the Sanabul Battle Forged gloves should be on your radar.
7. Top King “Super Air” Gloves – Well-Rounded Excellence
- Best for: All-purpose / Sparring
- Weight: 10, 12, 14, 16-ounce
- Material: Leather
- Design: Ventilated mesh palm; 14 colors
Top King has been producing gloves since 2009 and is well known in Thailand for their high quality products. Based on the Top King “Super Star” model, the “Super Air” glove offers a ventilated palm for a more comfortable wearing experience and quicker drying in between sessions.
Ventilated palms are not a panacea and your hands will still sweat, especially in hot and humid environments like Thailand. However, they will dry more quickly!
These gloves have a genuine leather shell; however, their appearance is slightly plasticky due to the paint and color options. Despite that, these gloves are robustly made and are on par with other mid-range Muay Thai Boxing gloves.
These gloves are well padded, offering enough protection for sparring and for bag work.
From a design perspective, Top King offers a wide range of colors, as well as “snake-skin” prints that may or may not appeal to your aesthetic sensibilities.
Best Value: RDX Boxing Gloves
If you’re just starting out, you can’t go wrong with the RDX Boxing Gloves. They are priced competitively, offer a ventilated palm, and can be used for sparring and bag work. The only downsides are their synthetic leather construction and dearth of color options – but for the price both of these are to be expected.
Best Overall: Yokkao Matrix Muay Thai Gloves
If you’re looking for something a bit more special, the Yokkao Matrix is the glove for you. Fantastic build quality, genuine leather construction, tons of color options, and a ventilated palm make this glove a great choice.
Can I use boxing gloves instead of Muay Thai gloves?
You can use boxing gloves instead of Muay Thai Boxing gloves, however there are good reasons to have Muay Thai gloves. Muay Thai gloves are purpose built for the sport and include extra padding on the back and sides of the gloves to allow you to more safely block kicks and elbows. However, in MMA people routinely block these types of strikes while only wearing MMA gloves, so it is only an elevated risk rather than a guaranteed injury.
Additionally, Muay Thai gloves offer greater articulation at the wrist than boxing gloves making clinching easier.
Can I use kickboxing gloves instead of Muay Thai gloves?
Generally, you can use gloves that are marketed as kickboxing gloves for Muay Thai. However, manufacturers sometimes label different styles of gloves as “kickboxing” gloves and not all are appropriate for Muay Thai boxing. Make sure that your gloves resemble boxing gloves instead of MMA style gloves and if you aren’t sure just ask your coach!
Related: Muay Thai Shin Guards (don’t use anything else)
Do I need to wear hand wraps under my gloves?
Yes, you should wear hand wraps underneath your gloves. While Muay Thai Boxing gloves offer enough support for light pad work without wraps, wraps are a great idea for any amount of serious training.
The handwraps are there to secure all your loose joints and moveable bones… You can suffer a fracture if joints are moving in their own direction.Johnny N. at Expertboxing.com
Gloves allow you to hit harder, for longer, which exposes the small bones of the hand and wrist to extra risk of injury. Hand wraps provide wrist support and offer protection for these small bones, preventing fractures and sprains.(6)
How do I clean my gloves?
Keeping your gloves clean is the best way to preserve their longevity. Cleaning Muay Thai gloves is a straightforward process: after training wipe down the exterior with a damp cloth and do whatever you can to ensure the interior dries as quickly as possible. Some people even stuff their gloves with microfiber towels to absorb extra moisture after training.
Leaving your gloves in your gym bag overnight is a great way to trap moisture and cause your gloves to become intensely stinky!
Over time your gloves will probably develop a bit of a funk regardless of your drying regime. When this happens using a deodorizing or disinfecting spray can help cut down on the smell.
Do not put your gloves in the washing machine! The detergents will quickly breakdown the leather and cause your gloves to deteriorate more rapidly.
- Our Story. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://asia.venum.com/highlights
- About Us: RDX® Sports. (n.d.). Retrieved February 11, 2020, from https://global.rdxsports.com/about-us
- The Indian Head Connection – Skinner & Sons: Fabrics.net Fabrics.net. (n.d.). Retrieved February 11, 2020, from http://info.fabrics.net/the-indian-head-connection-skinner-sons/
- Check Out the All-New YOKKAO Full Catalog for 2017/2018. (2018, November 29). Retrieved from https://yokkao.com/blogs/news/yokkao-full-catalog-20172018
- Sanabul. (2015, February 10). SANABUL 2015 PRESS RELEASE. Retrieved February 11, 2020, from https://sanabulsports.com/blogs/news/sanabul-korea-press-release
- N, J. (2015, October 14). How to Wrap Your Hands. Retrieved from https://expertboxing.com/how-to-wrap-your-hands