When it comes to boxing gloves, the average person may have a hard time telling the difference between one pair and the next. Choosing the correct glove will not only improve your experience, but will also help you reduce your risk of injury. Whether you need gloves for fitness, bag training, or any contact sport, this article will help you to understand some of the basic differences between several styles of boxing gloves, including weight, material and the training style you intend to use them for.
NOTE: This is for boxing gloves only! MMA gloves are a separate animal. We’ll cover that later.
This style of glove is the most readily recognized. Although boxing gloves may vary slightly in design, shape, weight and size, they’re all associated with the popular Western style of boxing.
Boxing gloves are padded in a round shape all the way around the hand, with a focus of heavy padding on the knuckle area. They can be laced up, or closed at the wrist by a Velcro (aka hook-and-loop) strap, or may have a combination of the two. Boxing gloves can be made from a variety of materials, the most common being leather and polyurethane.
Boxing gloves are not as flexible as muay thai gloves (which we’ll get to in a moment). Your will not be able to bend your palms or flex your fingers as readily in a boxing glove as you can in a muay thai glove. Typical boxing gloves weigh between 6 and 18 oz.
Muay thai gloves are a lot more compact than boxing gloves. Where boxing gloves can almost be thought of as the “generic” glove, muay thai gloves are more stylized to a specific sport. This makes them ideal for muay thai, but less versatile overall.
Muay thai gloves have less padding on the knuckles than a standard boxing glove, but more padding on the back of the hand. This is for the back fist strike used in muay thai.
There are several other differences between muay thai and boxing that affected the design of the gloves. Muay thai allows kicks, knees, and the use of the clinch (clasping your hands behind your opponent’s head to pull them into knee strikes). Therefore, although the thumbs on boxing gloves are sewn down, the thumbs on muay thai gloves are typically left unattached, to allow the wearer to grab kicks and enter the clinch.
Although boxing gloves can be used for muay thai training, Thai-style gloves should be used for muay thai sparring and competitions.
When shopping for boxing gloves, you can go super-cheap and spent less than $10 – or go off the deep end and spend several hundred. Both of these are terrible choices for your first pair.
Suspiciously cheap boxing gloves – especially if you buy them used or from an unfamiliar online retailer – are likely poor quality and will not offer the durability or support you need. This can lead to injury, especially if you’re just starting out and haven’t perfected your technique.
On the other end of the spectrum, there’s nothing wrong with spending hundreds of dollars on high-quality gloves. But if you’ve just recently started martial arts training, you may not want to invest that much money until you’re sure it’s something you plan on sticking with long-term. There are plenty of excellent gloves out there that cost a lot less.
Gloves made of vinyl or synthetic leather are usually less expensive. Often times, these will close with a hook-and-loop strap. More expensive gloves are typically made out of leather.
Gloves come in many sizes and weights. The correct glove for an individual is determined by that person’s size, weight, and if they will be sparring/fighting (some gyms require that anyone participating in sparring wear a certain weight of glove).
General sizing rules of thumb are: a youth or adult under 120 pounds would want to train with a 6-12 oz. glove. A fighter weighting 120-180 pounds would want to use anywhere from 12-18 oz. gloves.
If you’re sparring, most times you will use a pair of heavier gloves, stuffed with a softer type foam. If you plan on heavy bag training, you will want heavy gloves with harder foam. Soft and medium foam gloves are for sparring and training, but using them too much against a heavy bag can wear them down.
For the most part, lace-up and Velcro gloves are comparable in looks, size and shape. The way they are attached or tied to your hand is what makes them different. A lace-up glove is secured with a single lace that criss-crosses up the wrist, is pulled tight, and tied around the hand. Think of it as a shoelace but on a glove. The wrists are often more padded than those of a Velcro glove and provide you with a closer, more-secure fit around the wrist. They will often have a longer cuff as well.
There is also less chance of a lace-up glove coming untied. If you use Velcro gloves, you also run the risk of the Velcro scratching your partner or yourself. However, the lace-up gloves also have drawbacks: they require two people to put on (there’s no way you can lace up a glove while wearing it), and they take longer to put on. If you’re going to be doing partner training and taking turns holding pads or mitts for your partner, hook-and-loop gloves are a better bet.
Velcro, or hook-and-loop, gloves, are put on and secured by an elastic strap with a Velcro patch. Some gloves will have two straps: one small one across the inside of the wrist and a larger one that goes around the wrist outside the glove. They come in a wide variety of styles and designs.
These gloves are quick to put on and take off for training. Again, the downside of Velcro is that it can come unfastened and scratch your partner. And if you have small wrists, you may not be able to adjust the strap as tight as you need – or you’ll have to leave part of the strap sticking out, exposing Velcro and, again, possibly scratching someone. Velcro gloves also tend to have less wrist padding.
Choosing a pair of boxing gloves can feel overwhelming, but arming yourself with knowledge makes the process much easier. Knowing how you plan to use your new gloves is very important.
Remember, muay thai gloves are not universal, so unless you’ll be training in that sport, they’re not the style you need. Boxing gloves, on the other hand, are a lot more versatile in their uses. Just make sure you get a pair that are the right size and weight, fit, and feel comfortable.
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About the Author:
Amy Koller spends hundreds of hours researching, analyzing, and testing combat sports products and training equipment at MMAGearAddict.com. In her spare time, she enjoys training MMA with her husband, keeping up with all things martial arts and healthy living related, and of course, taking her kid to karate practice!