Finding the best Muay Thai headgear is only important if you decide to fully commit to the art of the sport and the intensity of training required, particularly when it comes to sparring and preparation for actual amateur or professional competition.
In any case, a high-quality piece of headgear (also called the head guard) can really help you in both the short and long run.
In this guide we'll explain everything there is to know about the best Muay Thai sparring headgear, for training and for competition.
Benefits of Using a Headgear for Muay Thai
We are all somewhat more familiar with the use of headgear in USA boxing competition, but did you know that wearing headgear is just as important (if not more important) in other martial arts such as Muay Thai?
Gear and equipment such as boxing gloves, kick boxing gloves, and Muay Thai gloves are touted as an absolute must-have. But we are here to argue that this kind of gear is not the only needed form of protection during sparring and competition.
A head guard can keep you safe and confident during sparring workouts and actual competition. And these days, special features such as high-quality durable leather, ultra lightweight technology and triple-density padding make for a more breathable and hassle-free sparring and competition experience.
In particular, there are three key benefits to gain when you wear headgear (or a head guard) in Muay Thai, both in sparring sessions and actual competition. Let dive into each of the three in detail.
Allows for Safer Muay Thai Sparring Sessions
Just like boxing, head injuries in Muay Thai are more common than you think while training in the gym.
To avoid or reduce the chances of getting seriously hurt during sparring, all sparring Muay Thai athletes must have protection through the use of a Muay Thai head guard.
If you want to check out what we believe to be the best headgear for Muay Thai sparring to wear, then take a peek at our list of recommended headgear products.
Durable Genuine Leather Construction, Quality Foam Padding, and Maximum Shock Absorption All Contribute to Significantly Lower Impact
Noteworthy features such as durable leather and high-quality foam padding, and shock absorption properties are things to expect out of excellent head guards. These are all important qualities to protect your face, chin, cheeks, eyes, and even the back of the head (if you would like to know more about the different head guard configurations and designs, check out the succeeding section below).
All these features may affect your vision, especially peripheral vision, but the trade-off you get out of head guards is well worth it, as we feel that you would rather be safer from incoming strikes than have a wider vision or field of view. However, if you truly need a head guard that offers no compromise and provides you with excellent visibility (or at the very least, somewhat good visibility), then choose one from our recommended head guards list.
Reduction of Short-term Head Injuries Such as Concussions and Long-term Head Injuries
Concussions, brain damage, Parkinson's, and a host of other head injuries and ailments are all cause for concern when engaging in martial arts and contact sports, especially one as dangerous and vicious as Muay Thai.
Even in sparring and Amateur competition, bodily injuries come in more frequently and come in a variety of pain levels and durations.
Luckily, gear and equipment such as gloves, shin guards, and head guards have been engineered to minimize the risk of injuries but not totally eliminate the likelihood. So we advise you to still be very cautious.
The Different Types of Muay Thai Gear for the Head
Similar to boxing and kick boxing, a head guard for Muay Thai can come in three generally accepted categories or designs. These are; the open-face head guard, the cheek protector head guard, and the full-face head guard.
Let's take a look at the key features and differences of each head guard.
Open-Face Head Guard
Open-face headgear is considered by some to be the best headgear for kick boxing and Muay Thai simply because of the vision it allows and the breathability offered simply because it takes up less space around your face and head.
This type of headgear is commonly treated as competition headgear for amateur bouts.
The protection offered by open-face headgear, however, is somewhat limited, but you would typically see this in competition such as USA boxing and other sanctioned kick boxing events.
However, if you are looking to invest in a piece of headgear that is efficient, has all the neat features such as a hook and loop strap, decent foam and padding, and a minimalist design, then a good piece of open-face headgear should be just right for you.
Check out the offerings by Fairtex, Twins Special, and Title as they are known to produce very good open-face (and arguably the best) headgear for Muay Thai, boxing, and kick boxing.
Full-Face Head Guard
Full-face headgear with a face bar is the polar opposite of open-face headgear in terms of design, padding, protection, and competition use.
This type of headgear is what professionals and amateurs use in the lead-up to sanctioned events and competition as this type of headgear offers the most protection among the three general types of headger.
In boxing kick boxing, this kind of headgear is crucial because of the different unique angles and strikes you could deliver to the head.
Similar to the two sports above, Muay Thai athletes can also utilize the maximum benefits of full-face headgear, given that strikes could come in the form of punches, elbows, knees, and kicks.
If you need a type of headgear that has maximum padding, a more secure fit, and the highest level of protection among all, then a full-face headgear is what you are supposed to invest in.
However, the most significant drawback of this type of headgear is the fact that your vision will be severely impaired, so if you are working on sharpening your reflexes and peripheral vision, this may not be the best option for you right now.
Cheek Protector Head Guard
For those looking for a level-up in protection from open-face headgear without compromising the vision aspect of sparring and certain sanctioned bouts and competition matches, then the cheek protector headgear should be the most ideal type of headgear for you.
Similar to the two previously mentioned types of headgear, the cheek protector headgear offers a great degree of padding and is most commonly constructed with either genuine leather or synthetic leather.
However, there will always be a compromise, depending on the type of headgear you select for sparring and competition.
In the case of cheek protector headgear, you get a hybrid between the full and open-face head guards, offering you great levels of protection without affecting your direct vision and side vision as much.
Brands such as Fairtex and Twins Special produce several cheek protector headgear products, so it is worth checking out their products.
Things to Consider When Choosing Headgear for Muay Thai
There are several factors and considerations to be looked into when picking an amazing piece of headgear.
In this section, we'll tackle each important aspect to understand, even without knowing the best products in the market, what makes a piece of headgear the best, whether it be sparring headgear or competition headgear.
Protection Level and Coverage
Protection level and coverage are primarily dictated by the type of construction or design that goes into a particular headgear product.
If you want maximum protection and a secure fit, especially during sparring, then look for a leather (or even synthetic leather) full headgear with face bar.
If you need something that is lighter in weight, provides you with good direct vision and vision in the peripherals, try checking out either the cheek protector headgear or open-face headgear.
Materials and Durability
Materials and durability are everything when it comes to protection in sparring. The leather build and padding engineering will dictate how much your chin can handle before getting knocked down from vicious strikes or haymakers, as they call it in boxing and kick boxing.
If you have the budget to invest in the best type of headgear, then you should be getting yourself a real leather piece of headgear.
Otherwise, just go for synthetic leather headgear from reputable brands such as Fairtex and Twins Special.
Size and Fitting
Headgear products can have an awful or awkward fit on your head, and provide a weird feeling for first-time wearers of head protective products.
For optimal results, always test out the different shapes and sizes of head equipment to have a feel for what shape or design fits your head the best.
We usually go with Fairtex products since they have a wide array of sizes, shapes, and styles to accommodate most head shapes and head configurations.
Weight is important, especially if you are looking to work on head movements such as bobbing and weaving (both of which are boxing and kick boxing terms) and footwork drills.
A heavy piece of head equipment can truly bring down your performance over time, so it is best to go with a head piece that is reasonable in terms of size and weight so you can keep up for longer periods of time, especially during sparring in boxing, kick boxing, or Thai boxing.
As mentioned generously throughout the guide thus far, visibility is something to heavily consider when selecting a piece of head equipment.
We ultimately recommend giving all types of headgear a shot, and although each has their own level or degree of getting used to, once you get used to having something on your head, you will learn to make the adjustments and improve in skill and technique in sparring.
We ultimately recommend prioritizing protection over visibility, even if your sparring experience may be severely affected or hampered, as protection is what will help you have sparring and workout sessions longer, and if you would like to fully commit to the sport, protection aids you in terms of longevity and overall durability.
Another important consideration (beyond padding, leather material, and chin protection) would be the closure system of the headgear.
Most headgear products have either a variation of the hook and loop system or a variation of the velcro system, both of which would help provide you with a secure fit, even with all the leather material and padding put into the headgear product.
The closure system is usually positioned around the chin area and the back of the head, but there are some custom pieces of headgear that conform to the shape of the face, chin, and forehead for a better fit and even better vision.
There are several reputable companies and brands in the market that offer headguard equipment, including Fairtex, Twins Special, and Venum Challenger.
We would always advise our readers to go with reputable brands, and this is not even a sponsored message. We simply believe that the craftsmanship and overall build and durability of reputable brands are far more reliable and distinguished than that of lesser-known brands.
However, if you are already committed to purchasing headgears from lesser-known brands, just keep in mind the factors we have mentioned above and you will be set up for success in your purchase.
Last but not least would be user reviews. We live in a digital era, where unboxing videos and product reviews are so common that we are now over-saturated with content.
Despite this oversaturation, what we draw from this is an abundance of opportunities to take a look at the opinions and reviews of others when it comes to headguards, especially from popular brands such as Fairtex and Twins Special.
Through reliable reviews from reliable reviewers (of course), you can get an idea of how good the leather, padding, and overall protection is for a particular product.
You also get to understand the benefits of synthetic leather over actual leather and how headguards could translate into safe, practical, and effective sparring.
Just know where to look for the right reviews, as there are some reviews that are either extremely biased or severely limited in terms of information-sharing.
The 6 Top Headgear Products for Muay Thai
If you have made it this far, then you should be readily equipped to determine the important factors to consider or look at before purchasing a great headguard.
Nevertheless, we believe it would be beneficial for you to learn about our top picks for this piece of protection as reference for your potential headguard purchase.
As the name itself suggests, the Fairtex Super Sparring Headguard is a piece of equipment built for intense sparring workouts.
Fairtex crafted this product with a unique design and full head coverage, you get to work on techniques and combinations with a clear view, as well as a diagonal view.
This Fairtex product offers great all-around protection and padding, and is most suitable for beginners as it covers all vulnerable and sensitive areas of the head.
You can never go wrong with Twins, much less the company's Special line.
With the Twins Special Headguard, you get an exceptional piece of equipment that is a go-to for most gyms and facilities.
This piece of equipment offers great value and most importantly, a great degree of protection.
The product's relatively lightweight and flexible base allows for better defensive maneuvers and evasive tactics, which is your best weapon against injuries, both long-term and short-term.
The leather is also made from cow skin, so expect to have an unbelievably tough and durable piece of equipment that could last for several years, as long as it is well-maintained and stored in a safe location.
Next up, we have the mainstream Venum Challenger 2.0 Headguard that comes at an affordable price and ultra lightweight build.
The triple-density foam architecture of this product makes for great protection and the contoured design also provides a better fit (for most face shapes and sizes).
The velcro closure and the ear guard allow for a very breathable and relaxed fit, which means that you can grind as long as you can without feeling the negative effects of wearing a headguard for extended periods of time.
Venum also advertises this product as "one size fits all" so there should be no hassles when purchasing this particular product (although we would still recommend that you test the product yourself before finalizing the purchase).
If you need to simulate actual bouts, then look no further. The Ringside competition-like headguard without cheeks would be an amazing addition to your arsenal of protective equipment.
Although not officially approved for sanctioned bouts, you can be confident in making this purchase just to simulate what it would actually feel to wear a professional headguard outside of the actual bout.
The sleek contoured design of this product allows for a more comfortable fit.
The product is also made with durable leather and a laminated padding system to ensure a very tough and rugged base for maximum impact absorption and injury prevention.
5. RDX Headgear
The RDX headguard that looks very stylish and sleek. However, do not let the wonderful appearance fool you.
Behind its dashing appearance and eye-catching colorways, expect maximum protective qualities and a very durable base and exterior.
The product is made with genuine Maya Hide material that is tougher to breakdown, even with several hours of abuse and strikes landed.
We also find this product to be the most versatile as it can cater to almost all combat sports.
The closure mechanism is also very convenient and hassle-free. Adjustments are also very flexible and allow for a wide range of shapes and sizes so there should ultimately be no problem with fitting this on.
Last but definitely not least, we have the amazing Hayabusa T3 Adjustable Headguard.
Crafted with a synthetic base and a polyester interior, this cool-looking product has a compact design without compromising the protective aspects such as padding and impact absorption.
This is also the only product in our list that utilizes a t-cross closure, which is a customizable yet secure fitting that ensures that the headguard stays in place when strapped on the right way.
The product is also marketed as very durable and comfortable, which are two aspects you would need to consider, especially if you plan to use this product for a long time.
Conclusion (Plus Our Personal Favorite)
Choosing your headguard ultimately depends on a lot of factors, but hopefully with our guide, we have helped you narrow down the search. Whether you need to invest in one for casual workouts or are in need of the protection and padding for a more serious commitment to combat sports, this guide should have all the information required for you to make an educated purchase.
As for our personal favorite, we had to go with none other than the Fairtex Super Sparring Headguard.
By no means are we professional fighters who engage in a constant stream of sanctioned bouts, but believe us when we say that when it comes to safety in sparring, this product is an absolute beast.
If you need a refresher on the best headgear for Muay Thai, do not hesitate to re-visit this comprehensive guide to double-check the factors to consider and the reasons behind finding a good quality piece of gear for the brain. If you would like to learn more about the unique aspects of Muay Thai, sparring, and all the gear and equipment involved, then check out the rest of the website.