When I started Muay Thai, I found that having the right shin guards helped me improve much faster. But when starting out, it can be hard to know what equipment you really need. So, do you need to wear shin guards in Muay Thai, and which are the best to buy?
In Muay Thai you need to wear shin guards because they protect the shin, foot, and ankle of both yourself and your training partner. Most Muay Thai and Kickboxing schools will not allow you to take part in full-contact training without shin guards, and in sparring, shin guards are mandatory.
Like in any sport or martial art, there are some risks involved. Shin guards are designed to minimize those risks in Muay Thai, but there are a few important things to know before you get started.
Do You Need to Wear Shin Guards in Muay Thai?
To answer this question fully it is important to understand:
- Which areas of the legs are used in Muay Thai?
- Which areas shin guards protect and why its important?
I have also covered:
- Do shin guards affect shin conditioning?
- Choosing your shin guards (including types, size and a product link to my number 1 recommendation)
Which Areas Of The Legs Are Used In Muay Thai?
In Muay Thai, there is a lot of focus on kicking techniques and a vast majority of these target your opponent’s legs.
The reason for this is that leg kicks are an extremely effective way of slowing your opponent down, or even stopping their attack completely.
To fully understand the importance of shin guards we need to first look at which area of the legs are used in Muay Thai.
The two main areas of focus for Muay Thai kicking techniques are what I like to call the target zone and the strike zone.
The target zone is the area of your opponent’s leg on which you should aim to land your strikes on. The ideal target zones are both the inside and the outside of your opponent’s thigh.
The striking zone is the part of your leg with which you will aim to strike your opponent with. The ideal striking zone is the mid to lower part of your shin, above your ankle.
“Caution It is important not to strike with your foot. This is because the anatomy of your foot is made up of 26 small bones, 30 joints and over 100 little muscles. All of which can easily be damaged or even broken if used to kick with! The shin bone, on the other hand, provides a much stronger area and therefore, is safer to kick with and a much more effective weapon.”
Which Areas Do Muay Thai Shin Guards Protect & Why It’s Important
Shin guards are designed to protect the shin, the foot and the ankle. This is because, if left exposed, all of these areas are at high risk of injury during Muay Thai training.
A perfectly placed leg kick would see the strike zone of your shin landing on the target zone of your opponent’s thigh.
But nothing’s always perfect, and during training, it’s not uncommon to accidently land a kick with your foot which leaves you vulnerable to injury.
Also, in Muay Thai, when someone throws a leg kick at your thigh, one of the most common defence techniques is to ‘check the kick’.
This is done by raising your knee to block with either the point of your knee or the top of your shin.
In that battle, the point of your knee or the thick-upper part of your shin, is stronger than your opponent’s attacking lower shin.
There are many videos out there of just how effective ‘checking the kick’ can be.
One of the most famous examples of this took place in MMA in front of millions of viewers at UFC 168 when Chris Weidman checked Anderson Silva’s leg kick, which resulted in Anderson Silva’s shin bone snapping in half.
Shin guards are not worn in professional competition, but they can and should be worn during training to help prevent against any of these injuries from happening.
Do Shin Guards Affect Shin Conditioning?
Wearing shin guards does not affect the process of shin conditioning. Shin conditioning is the process of toughening and hardening the shin bones over time and is progressive.
Meaning, you might start out by kicking pads held by your training partner, then progress onto the heavy bag.
Then, at a higher more advanced level, onto tyres or even banana trees (really, they do this in Thailand).
Although shin conditioning does not protect you against injury completely, over time, the shin will be able to withstand more impact, while feeling less pain.
“Wearing shin guards does not affect the process of shin conditioning”
Shin guards are worn while doing contact training with your training partner, for example, one-for-one drilling techniques (you kick their leg, then they kick yours) or during sparring.
The reason you are required to wear shin guards during this sort of training is because it is easy to injure either yourself or your training partner if you misplace a kick or you use the wrong part of your leg to kick with.
In this situation, your shins will get no conditioning benefits, only potential injury without proper protection.
Choosing Your Muay Thai Shin Guards
Hopefully now, you can see the importance of wearing shin guards. The next step is to choose the right shin guards for you.
There are really only two main things to consider when choosing your shin guards:
- The type of shin guards
- The size of the shin guards
The type of the shin guards will determine how much protection and mobility you get.
Muay Thai Shin Guards [Most Protection]
These are very bulky and offer the most protection, this is because Muay Thai focuses a lot on kicking techniques and the shin guards will be taking a beating every training session, so they need to be able to withstand the impact.
These are the type of shin guards you will be required to wear during full-contact training.
MMA Shin Guards
These are less bulky in order to offer more mobility for grappling, but this means they offer less protection from kicking impact.
These generally come as an instep-sock design to ensure they fit tightly to your leg to stop them from moving around during grappling.
Amateur Competition Shin Guards
These are very similar to MMA shin guards. They also are an instep-sock design and offer minimal protection.
They are designed for amateur fighters as an intermediate step between sparring with normal shin guards and fighting with no shin guards.
Most Muay Thai schools will not allow you to train with these as a beginner.
How To Identify Muay Thai Shin Guards
The easiest way to identify a pair of Muay Thai shin guards is by the thickness of the padding on the front and by the fastenings at the back.
Muay Thai shin guards use two Velcro straps around the back of the calf, and two elastic bands around the ankle and under the foot.
Muay Thai Shin Guard Size
Most brands manufacture their shin guards in a variety of sizes ranging from small to extra-large.
It is important to get the right size for your shins because it will affect the level of protection you get.
- Too big and they won’t sit right on your shin and will move when you kick, meaning you will have to keep stopping your training to adjust them
- Too small and they will be uncomfortable and won’t provide enough protection
My Number 1 Muay Thai Shin Guard Recommendation
Fairtex SP5 Competition Shin Guards
Fairtex is a Muay Thai brand founded in Bangkok, Thailand in 1958.
They specialize in handmade Muay Thai equipment and are a trusted brand serving customers all around the world.
The Fairtex SP5 Competition Shin Guards are my number 1 recommendation because they are proper Muay Thai shin guards, with the correct padding and protection. You can use my product link to check out their reviews on Amazon.
I bought my pair for training in Thailand and they served me well with no issues at all.
While training for 3 hours every day, these shin guards offered me all the protection I needed and were extremely comfortable to wear.
Each shin guard has two velcro straps, and two elastic straps which keeps them comfortably and securely in place as you’re training.
If you’re looking for a solid pair of shin guards that offer both great protection and comfort, which are high quality, hand-crafted by a Muay Thai specialist brand – then you will not be disappointed with these.