The first point to consider when you're purchasing a pair of shin guards are the two different types available. Most prevalent among combat sports are Muay Thai and MMA shin guards.
Muay Thai Shin Guards
Thai boxing shin guards are thicker and more robust than MMA ones. They are constructed to survive the rigors of Thai boxing, which involves a huge amount of kicks that would otherwise wear down the material of a thinner guard. They are thicker down the centre of the padding and are generally made from high quality leather to prevent this happening.
Thai guards also have a thick, padded foot area that can prevent breaks when kicks stray away from the shin and land with the foot. Thai boxing includes knees and elbows and as any Muay Thai trainee or fighter will tell you, kicking an elbow or knee is extremely painful. Thai shin guards try to mitigate the impact of such heavy strikes and connections by being reinforced, thick pieces of gear.
The main aesthetic difference is that MMA shin guards have a neoprene (or similar) material sleeve that attempts to keep the guards tight to your leg whereas Thai boxing guards, which deal in heavy kicks minus grappling so are instead held in place with thick leather straps to secure the guards in place.
Realistically people still train MMA in Muay Thai Shin guards, as they are almost essential for any kind of hard sparring. MMA shin guards are great for MMA sparring, but when an increase in contact takes place, you need a pair of Muay Thai Shin Guards to protect your own shins and your partner from harm.
Sizes come in small (though not commonly), Medium, Large and Extra Large. The size of the guard you're after is generally measured by your shin's length so it's worth visiting our store to try them on. However, as a general guide, if you're a smaller fighter (Under 5'8) you can use a medium sized shin guard, large is for an average size range (roughly 5'8 to 6'0) and extra large for heavyweights. REMEMBER that the sizing varies depending on the length of your shin. This is as rough a guide as you can get.
MMA Shin Guards are designed with one purpose in mind: Full MMA sparring. They are built by forgoing the leather straps of Thai shins and instead incorporating a sleeve that wraps the entirety of your calf and lower leg. This is ideally made to stop the pads sliding around on the leg when grappling. However, because of the full contact nature of the sport, it's never possible to rule out slippage.
Despite this, MMA guards are the best option for someone looking to take part in full MMA sparring as they are designed for purpose. The padding is thinner though, so if you're going to be engaging in harder sparring it's better to grab some Muay Thai shin guards.
Sizes here are similar to Muay Thai ones, but because most MMA shin guards are manufactured in the west they are sized slightly larger than their eastern counterparts. (with the exception of Thai made MMA shin guards like Fairtex and Twins).
If you're looking for a bespoke MMA shin though, our two top picks would have to be the Revgear MMA Shinguard, or the Fairtex SP6 MMA Shinguard. Both of these are designed from the ground up to be used in MMA.
Written by Craig Thomas Boyle