Shinguards for MMA & Muay Thai

If you’re going to be doing standup training for MMA you’re going to need some shinguards to protect your self (and your partners) when throwing kicks.

Much of the striking in modern MMA is derived from Muay Thai kickboxing in which you inflict damage on your opponent by kicking their thighs, midsection and head. When kicking the Thai way you will ideally make contact with your shin—not the top of your foot (instep) as in other martial arts. Shinguard are necessary to protect your shins, calves and the top of your foot when performing these attacking moves. The protection is necessary because many of your kicks will be blocked or even partially blocked by your training partners—and when it does its usually going to hurt. Shin guards also perform the important duty of softening the blows on your sparring partners.

The most common way to block a leg kick is the “check”. The check is performed by your opponent when they raise their knee into your shin as you attempt to kick their leg or midsection. When executed correctly the check can be devastatingly painful to the kicker (and it can also be painful for the kickee). Protecting your sparring partners and protecting yourself against checked kicks is the main goals of the MMA shin guard.

In addition to protecting your shin most shinguards offer protection on the top of the foot (instep) as well. This is because you may inadvertently kick your opponent with your foot instead of your shin or perhaps an errant kick will go crashing into somewhere it wasn’t intended—like your training partner’s elbow.

There are two main types of shin guards that are commonly used by mixed martial artists and they are the following:

Traditional Muay Thai Shinguards

Muay Thai shinguards have not changed much in the last 10 years. The traditional design consists a very stiff piece of foam secured to your calves by two Velcro straps as well as an elastic loop under the arch of your foot (and sometimes another elastic loop behind your ankle). Real Muay Thai shinguards are capable of absorbing a ton of punishment, but can sometimes feel loose when sparring if the fit isn’t just right. The MMA Outlet staff recommends you tighten these up as much as possible before sparring for the best experience.

  • The best protection for pure striking sparring
  • Easily handle checked kicks and offer good foot protection as well
  • Ample protection for shin bone and also side protection for calf muscles
  • Sometimes feel loose and can twist around on your legs
  • Not suitable for transitioning into takedowns and grappling
Examples of good traditional shin guards are King Professional Shin Guards, Twins Competition Shin Guard, and Hayabusa Pro Striking Shin Guards.

Hybrid or Grappling Shinguards

These are the newest types of shinguards and have been designed primarily by North American MMA brands in an effort to combat the usual problems with traditional Muay Thai shin guards--slipping around your calves when sparring and the inability to stay in place and general clunkyness while grappling.

There is really one basic grappling shinguard design, it has a neoprene sleeve that goes around the calf instead of velcro straps. The neoprene offers a glove like fit and increased friction (and does not have buckles to harm your opponents when grappling). The padding on these is mostly limited to the front of the shin with a flexible padding extending over the top of the instep of the foot.

  • Stay in place very well
  • Slim design is easier to fit in your gear bag
  • Does not offer same protection for serious striking
  • Can be hard to get on and off
  • More prone to tearing and might not last as long as traditional Muay Thai guards
Examples of good hybrid or MMA shin guards are Hayabusa Pro Shin Guards, Combat Sports Gel Shock Grappling Shin Guard and Combat Sports MMA Training Shin Guards.

More Questions?

Still have questions about which shin guard is right for you? We’re here to help, just contact us here for help via phone, email or chat.