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The 8 Best Muay Thai Shin Guards of 2020

Perhaps you’ve seen videos of professional Muay Thai fighters conditioning their shins by kicking down banana trees or bending rebar with a Thai kick? While these are impressive feats of strength and pain tolerance, the reality is that most of us don’t need to subject our shins to this sort of abuse!

If you have any intention of sparring in Muay Thai then shin guards are an essential piece of gear, protecting both you and your partner. This list examines 8 of the best Muay Thai shin guards on the market in 2020!

How to Choose the Right Muay Thai Shin Guards

Picking the right shin guard for Muay Thai doesn’t have to be difficult – after all, they have a very simple job. All shin guards need to do is protect your shin from thrown and checked kicks while remaining comfortable enough to wear during prolonged training sessions.

Muay thai shin guards are relatively easy to choose (when compared to Muay Thai gloves)

Despite their simple task, not all shin guards are equally capable. Some pairs of shin guards have a tendency to twist, leaving the striking surface of your shin unprotected. Shin guards like this are annoying at best, wasting your training time as you reposition them, and potentially injurious at worst. Others are uncomfortable, or interfere with natural body motion.

Resist the temptation of cheap pair of shin guards; getting shin guards that fit badly or don’t offer enough protection means you’ll train in discomfort until you decide to buy a quality pair. The best Muay Thai shin guards will be unobtrusive, letting you focus on your training instead of on your gear.

muay thai fighters fighting with shin guards

Closure Style

Hook and Loop vs. Slip-on

Shin guards come with two main types of closure: Hook and loop and Slip-on (sometimes referred to as MMA shin guards).

  • Hook and Loop: The gold standard for Muay Thai shin guard closures. This style of closure is long lasting, easy to adjust, and resists twisting.
  • Slip-on: Originally developed for MMA, this style of shin guard resembles a heavily padded sock. Unfortunately this style is prone to twisting or slipping out of place.

All of our recommended Muay Thai shin guards employ hook and loop closures.

Types of Hook and Loop Closure

There are three common implementations of hook and loop closures:

  • Dual straps: This type is easy to slip in and out of, but offers slightly less compression than the other styles.
  • Pull Strap: This allows for a tighter fit but is slightly more cumbersome to use.
  • Opposed straps: This style of shin guard is less likely to twist than the standard overlapping or dual strap designs. Like the standard pull strap design, this type of closure is slightly more difficult to put on or remove.

Knee Protection

One question to consider when looking for your next pair of shin guards is whether or not you want integrated knee protection.

Checking kicks is an integral part of Muay Thai, and through a process called cortical remodeling your shin bone will become more and more durable as your training progresses. (1) On the other hand, joints don’t become stronger with repeated impact and taking hard shots to the front or side of your knee can lead to debilitating injuries in the long run.

Pros of Knee Protection

  • Protect your joints from misplaced kicks or checked kicks

Cons of Knee Protection

  • May interfere with mobility
  • May make throwing knees more difficult

Foot Protection

Knee protection may be a matter of personal preference, but the vast majority of shin guards also cover the foot. This is important because the foot is made of many small bones which can be easily broken by a misplaced kick.

Kicking with your foot is a great way to get injured. Generally Thai kicks should hit with the shin in order to avoid hurting yourself!

There are shin guards on the market that do not provide foot protection, however these guards are typically not marketed towards Muay Thai. For most practitioners, foot protection is a must.

All of the shin guards recommended here include foot protection.

Material

Shin guards are offered in the same materials as boxing gloves: leather, synthetic leather, or vinyl. Where shin guards differ from gloves is that the material is not as closely linked to longevity.

Color Options

Just because looking cool doesn’t make your Muay Thai better doesn’t mean that you have to settle for a drab aesthetic! Shin guards typically are sold in fewer colors and designs than gloves, although certain brands offer a wide variety of options.

A general rule is that solid colors age better than complex designs, however this will vary by manufacturer and material.

Related: Muay thai combos you should be drilling.

The 8 best Muay Thai Shin Guards in 2020

Whether you’re just getting started or you’re replacing your 10th pair of shin guards this list includes options worthy of your consideration! Keep reading to find which is the best Muay Thai shin guard for you.

1. Top King Muay Thai Shin Guards – Classic Excellence

Top King Muay Thai Shin Guards

Specifications:

  • Closure Style: Pull strap
  • Knee Protection: Yes
  • Material: Leather
  • Colors: 7

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Top King is known for their high quality, long-lasting Muay Thai equipment and this is one of the best shin guards on the market. This is a classic design that has been left unchanged for years – because why mess with something that works?

These shin guards have a leather exterior and come in 7 designs that match Top King’s glove designs. They close with two overlapping single straps, allowing for a very secure fit. Some people have reported that the straps are a little on the short side, so those with stocky calves may find the fit challenging.

The shin pad’s protection is biased towards the front, offering a more streamlined profile. However, as is common for Top King products, these guards favor protection over a minimalist profile.

While the padding is ample, you’ll still feel a solid kick to an elbow. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, as it offers you feedback and prevents you from developing bad habits or false confidence. The Top King shin guards have a small gap in the padding between the foot and the shin. This allows for easy articulation of the foot but does mean you have a bit more exposure there. Some users prefer more protection at the ankle while others appreciate the range of motion.

2. Fairtex Competition Muay Thai Shin Guards SP5 – Well Rounded

Top King Muay Thai Shin Guards

Specifications:

  • Closure Style: Pull strap
  • Knee Protection: Yes
  • Material: Synthetic leather
  • Colors: 5

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Fairtex is a well-respected brand in the Muay Thai world and is known for durable, high quality gear. Curiously, the Fairtex Competition SP5 shin guards are made from an artificial leather, which for the price is a little surprising. However, material selection is less important for shin guards so this is not a significant downside.

The name “Competition” comes from the fact that this model doesn’t include any metal hardware that could make it ineligible for use in certain competitions.

These aren’t the slimmest pair of shin guards on the market, but neither are they excessively bulky. The closure uses dual pull straps for a secure fit. Be aware that if you have larger calves you may need to go a size up.

The shin pads on these guards provide generous protection and should permit long sparring sessions without discomfort. Some users report that the elastic strap that goes around your ankle tends to chafe, so if you have sensitive skin you may want to look elsewhere.

Fairtex also offers the SP3, SP7, and SP8 models – all of which are fairly similar with minor differences. The SP3 “Pro Style” and SP7 do not include knee protectors, while the SP8 “Ultimate” moves the knee protection to the side of the knee. The SP7 “Twister” also includes the unique ability to remove the foot protector.

3. Venum Elite Standup Shin Guards – Great For Larger Calves

Venum Elite Standup Shinguards

Specifications:

  • Closure Style: Dual straps
  • Knee Protection: No / Marginal
  • Material: “Skintex” Synthetic leather
  • Colors: 13

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Venum is best known for their MMA equipment and is relatively new to Muay Thai. Since entering into the Muay Thai market in 2014, they’ve quickly developed a reputation for good products, albeit ones with relatively garish design language. The Venum Elite Standup shin guards are situated in the middle of Venum’s product line, slotting between their top-of-the-line Gladiator 3.0’s and the entry level Challenger line.

The differences between the Elite and the Gladiator 3.0’s are very slight, with the Gladiator using what Venum calls “semi-leather” versus the Elite’s “Skintex” leather. The Challenger offers less padding and uses a polyurethane shell. While the exterior of shin guards is less of a factor for long term durability than it is for gloves, the Challenger’s are intended for lighter duty usage and won’t last as long or offer as much protection.

If you’ve had difficulty finding a pair of shin guards that fit around your calves, the Venum Elite’s have a generous amount of slack in their Velcro straps and should work great.

On the other hand, if you are vertically challenged (or, specifically, if you have short shins) you may find that the top strap of these shin guards is positioned a little close to your knee for comfort. If you are on the cusp of two sizes, consider going with the smaller of the two in order to avoid the strap chafing the back of your knee.

Overall the protection offered by these shin guards is top notch. While some brands focus the padding along the front of the shin, Venum provides ample padding even along the sides, allowing for a bit more forgiveness in terms of placement.

If there is one area of contention with these shin guards, it is their design language. Venum’s trademark snake logo and huge branding is not to everyone’s liking. However, the black on black designs minimize the logo’s impact.

4. Hayabusa T3 Muay Thai and Kickboxing Shin Guards – Style and Function

Hayabusa T3 Striking Shinguards

Specifications:

  • Closure Style: Pull Strap
  • Knee Protection: Yes / Side of knee
  • Material: “Vylar” Synthetic Leather
  • Colors: 7

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Founded in 2006, Hayabusa is a Canadian MMA and fight apparel company that makes premium gear for Muay Thai. (2)

The T3 line of shin guards comes in three different versions, with the base version offered in “Vylar” faux-leather, the Kanpeki in full-grain leather, and the “LX” line in full-grain Italian leather. Functionally, the three models are identical – the exterior material of shin guards is not as important as the exterior of gloves. However, if you wanted to go for the genuine leather you will be rewarded with that intoxicating scent of tanned hide, and I for one would not blame you.

If you don’t opt for real leather, the “Vylar” leather of the base model is some of the best fake leather on the market.

In fact, Hayabusa partnered with the University of Cincinnati to find the best vegan-alternative for leather and Vylar was found to outperform leather in flexibility, surface abrasion, tear resistance, and crack resistance (3).

Users generally seem happy with the fit of these shin guards, although people with smaller calves report difficulty finding a size that fits well. These guards offer generous protection, including a tab that covers the side of your knee. The positioning of this knee protector is supposed to keep your knee safe from kicks while not getting in the way while throwing knees.

Stylistically these shin guards are works of art. Rather than use a monolithic slab of shiny leather/faux-leather, these use smaller pieces that have been stitched together to give the guards an appearance more similar to a designer motorcycle jacket. The effect is magnified if you opt for the genuine leather finish, but even in Vylar these are probably the best looking shin guards around.

Unfortunately, style comes at a price, and these are among the most expensive shin guards on the market.

5. Twins Special SGL-10 Shin Guard – Timeless Protection in Great Colors

Twins Special Shin Guards Pads

Specifications:

  • Closure Style: Pull Strap
  • Knee Protection: Yes
  • Material: Leather
  • Colors: 10

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If you’ve spent any amount of time practicing Muay Thai then you’ve either used or at least heard of Twins Special. This brand has been around for nearly forty years and produces tried and tested gear.

The Twins SGL-10 design very closely resembles the Top King shin guards and this shin guard offers a similar level of build quality and protection. The biggest difference between these two brands is that the Twins shin guard offers longer Velcro straps, making them a more comfortable fit for people with more generously endowed calves.

Just like the Top Kings, these shin pads offer more padding along the front of the shin, with slightly less protection off to the sides. Again mirroring the Top Kings, the Twins have a knee protector that covers the patella.

Where the Twins differ from the Top Kings is color selection. Top King offers 7 colors, but for the most part the design uses a muted color palette. Twins on the other hand offers bold color options like neon green, bright blue, and orange.

6. RDX Maya Hide Muay Thai Shin Guards – Great Budget Choice

mmat-muay-thai-shinguards-20

Specifications:

  • Closure Style: Pull Strap
  • Knee Protection: Yes
  • Material: “Maya Hide” Synthetic Leather
  • Color: 1

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Despite not being as well known as some other brands, RDX has been making MMA and Muay Thai equipment for over 20 years. The RDX Maya Hide shin guards are one of the cheapest options to make this list, and are a great option for beginners or someone looking into getting into Muay Thai.

The RDX shin guards use RDX’s proprietary “Maya Hide” faux-leather and “shell-shock gel” cushioning. Fancy names aside, the exterior should hold up well to regular use and the cushioning should be adequate for beginners. Some users report that the cushioning wasn’t quite as robust as they wanted, but generally people are satisfied with the level of protection these guards provide.

Where the budget nature of the RDX shin guards manifests itself is the footpad. Depending on your build the joint where the footpad and shin guard come together can fit badly, digging uncomfortably into your skin. Also, some users report the footpad detaching or tear away from the shin guard.

For light duty use these shin guards should serve you well, but if you are looking for the absolute best shin guards then you may need to look at a slightly higher price range.

RDX has taken the Ford Model T approach to colors: you can have them in any color you want, as so long as it’s black. Again, at this price this is par for the course.

7. Revgear Defender Gel Shin Guards – Best Value

Revgear Defender Gel Shin Guard

Specifications:

  • Closure Style: Opposed Pull Straps
  • Knee Protection: No
  • Material: n/a
  • Colors: 1

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While not quite as well known as some other brands, Revgear has been making MMA equipment since 1996. The Revgear Defender Gel shin guards offer some premium features at a mid-range price.

Revgear doesn’t disclose what these guards are made of, but it is reasonable to assume that they use a faux-leather as companies are quick to embrace the marketing potential of real leather.

Where the Revgear shin guard shines is its closure system: Revgear uses what they call a “diametrical strap system.” This means that the top and bottom straps close from opposite directions, which according to Revgear helps these shin guards fit better and prevents them from spinning. 

The straps themselves come with a removable pillow-like pad that sits on between the strap and the back of your calf, offering a more comfortable fit.

Unlike some brands, Revgear’s straps are long enough for individuals with bigger calves. Of note, the Revgear shin guards are available in XX-Small and X-Small making this a great brand to check out if you are on the shorter side.

The Defender Gels are so called because they offer 5mm of a gel-based pad that runs along the center of the shin guard. (4) This in combination with a layer of EVA foam offers very robust protection. In fact, some users have noted that they feel the protection may be too good, isolating them from the impact to a greater degree than they prefer.

The Defender Gels do not include knee protection, which may be for the best as these are already quite bulky shin guards. This bulk becomes more apparent if you are trying to use these as MMA shin guards. While all shin guards compromise grappling to some extent, maintaining positions like the mount in these is awkward due to their height.

Their bulky design’s appearance is not aided by the lack of color options: black is the only choice available.

8. Yokkao Matrix Muay Thai Shin Guard – Elegant Simplicity

YOKKAO Matrix Muay Thai Shin Guards

Specifications:

  • Closure Style: Dual Strap
  • Knee Protection: Yes
  • Material: Leather
  • Colors: 13

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Yokkao has a well-deserved reputation for making great Muay Thai gear and these shin guards are no exception. They don’t have fancy gel inserts or patented closures systems, but what they lack in technology they more than make up for in craftsmanship and quality.

The Yokkao Matrix shin guards use a dual strap design and come with long straps, allowing these guards to fit over larger calves. The straps themselves are quite wide and have nicely integrated piping which helps mitigate chafing.

These are well padded shin guards, offering substantial protection to the front and sides. A consequence of this generous padding is a fair amount of bulk, although the tapered design helps to mitigate the appearance of strapping pillows to your shins.

These shin guards include a prominent knee protector, which depending on your preferences may or may not be a good thing.

One area that Yokkao always excels in is aesthetics and these guards are no exception. Available in 13 colors (10 solid and 3 patterns), there is a color option for every preference.

The Verdict

Best Value: Revgear Defender Gel Shin Guards

The Revgear Defender Gel Shin Guards combine a great price, tons of protection (although no knee protector), and a great closure system. If you’re just starting out or are looking to replace a worn out pair, the Revgear is worth a closer look. Also, with sizes ranging from XXS to XXL, Revgear does a great job offering products that fit almost anyone.

Best Overall: Hayabusa T3 Muay Thai and Kickboxing Shin Guards

The Hayabusa T3 shin guards are works of art that double as shin guards. Impeccable craftsmanship, ample protection, and style for days combine to create one of the best Muay Thai shin guards on the market. The only downside is that Hayabusa knows the value of their product and has priced it accordingly.

FAQs

Can I use hockey or soccer shin guards for Muay Thai?

No, you may absolutely not use hockey, soccer, or any other sports’ shin guards for practicing Muay Thai! While the products are similar in that they protect your shins, Muay Thai shin guards are also designed to protect your training partners.

Do I really need to use shin guards?

Yes, you have to use shin guards! Training without shin guards is a wonderful way to get injuries ranging from bone bruises to fractures. Injuries keep you off the mat, so injury prevention is one of the best ways to ensure you continue improving!

Do I need to use shin guards for bag work?

No, unless your shins are injured you should not need to use shin guards for bag work. In fact, bag work serves an important physiological role, encouraging a process known as bone remodeling. During this process, the bones adapt to the increased stresses being put on them and become more durable. (5) Wearing shin guards during bag work will significantly reduce these benefits.

Can I use Muay Thai shin guards for other martial arts?

Yes, you are likely able to use Muay Thai shin guards for other martial arts. The only exceptions to this are martial arts that require padding along the heel. Muay Thai shin guards do not include any padding at the back of the foot, and thus offer no protection for axe or heel kicks. 

Muay Thai shin guards may interfere with grappling making them less than ideal for MMA, but they’ll serve in a pinch if you don’t want to buy a second pair of shin guards.

Do I need to wear ankle supports with my shin guards?

You do not need to wear ankle supports with your shin guards, however they will protect you from rolling your ankle! The dynamic nature of Muay Thai means there is always a risk of having your foot land at an awkward angle, which is painful at best and potentially catastrophic at worst. So, while not essential, ankle supports are inexpensive insurance against injury.

References

  1. Piekarski, M. (2019, January 21). Shin Conditioning Explained. Retrieved from https://www.mmaleech.com/shin-conditioning-explained/
  2. Hayabusa Fightwear Inc. (2017, July 14). Hayabusa Fight. Retrieved from https://www.hayabusafight.com/pages/about-us
  3. Hayabusa Fightwear Inc. (n.d.). Hayabusa Fight. Retrieved from https://www.hayabusafight.com/pages/technology
    ; MMA-Fanatics.com. (2013, October 4). Hayabusa® Tokushu™ Series – Vylar™ Engineered Leather . Retrieved February 26, 2020, from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wHwN1WKh9-w
  4. Revgear. (2013, May 14). Revgear Defender Gel Shin Guard – Combat Series. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v76iSzHCOu8
  5. Castro, D. de. (2019, October 15). Can Muay Thai Strengthen Shin Bones? Retrieved from https://www.sportsrec.com/479177-muay-thai-to-strengthen-shin-bones.html

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