Shin & Instep Buying Guide

In combat sports, the risk of personal injury can be mitigated by having the right gear to protect yourself when sparring with partners or in a professional bout. At AWMA, we offer industry-leading protective gear for sparring and competition. You can focus on developing and applying your technique and kicking power with shin and instep guards like the ProForce® II Leg Protector.

Thai vs. MMA Shin Guards

You should take into consideration the martial art/fighting style you practice when choosing shin guards for purchase. Two of the main shin guard types are Thai shin guards and mixed martial arts (MMA) shin guards. Thai shin guards feature protective instep pads and are fastened around the calf using adjustable straps. Mixed martial arts shin guards feature a sock-like sleeve that wraps around the lower leg, with padding covering the shin.

Detachable Shin Guards

Detachable shin guards feature a removable instep guard that offers greater protection while still being lightweight for speed and not restricting mobility. These guards are versatile since you can protect your feet and shins with one piece or remove the foot pads as needed.

The Beginner's Choice

Shin guards are especially needed for children and beginners of all ages as they do not yet know how to control their power and technique. Even if you don't plan on sparring, shin and instep guards are used in a variety of training drills.


The sock-like shin guards—which snugly fit the shin and move around very little—are mainly used by MMA fighters and occasionally in amateur Muay Thai fights. They require less readjustment during sparring and fighting, but offer less protection than Thai shin guards.


There is almost invariably a big difference in quality between cheaper shin guards and premium shin guards. If you are just training for exercise, cheaper shin guards may serve you well. However, for the serious martial artist in any kickboxing art or MMA, premium protection is a must. Find shin guards that are comfortable and aesthetically pleasing. Many shin guards sold by AWMA are available in a range of colors so you can show off your style during training and amateur bouts.

Finding the Right Size

To find a shin guard that fits you, measure the distance from your ankle joint to the bottom of your knee. If you are buying MMA shin guards, measure the circumference of both legs around the thickest part of your calf as well. Match this measurement to our size chart and choose the appropriate size from child, medium or large. If you are in between sizes, opt for the largest size without going over your measurements to ensure a snug fit. For shin and instep combination protectors like the ProForce® Gladiator Thai Shin & Instep Guard, measure both the shin and the instep to ensure a proper fit.

Quality Construction

Shins are hard bones that can cause severe damage to both parties when used for striking, so full coverage is very important. Shin guards feature interior padding covered by leather, synthetic fabrics, or other materials. The ProForce® Lightning Shin & Instep Guard features 1/2-inch-thick vinyl covered foam for lightweight protection that allows speed and movement. Another alternative is a vinyl laminate that makes these Thai shin guards stronger than leather. Look for a canvas backing that prevents slippage even when you sweat it out during a long fight. Most shin and instep guards feature elastic fasteners for a secure yet comfortable fit.

Stay Within the Rules

Talk to your martial arts instructor to find out if shin guards are allowed at your next competition. Some martial arts governing bodies restrict the use of shin guards during professional bouts, so make sure to find out which ones, if any, are approved. Even if you can't use shin guards during fights, using them to train and spar helps prevent injuries so you can show up on fight night feeling prepared and ready to go. Make sure to fight smart and buy other protective martial arts gear, such as handwraps and mouthguards, so you can fight your hardest while decreasing your risk of injury.


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