Thai pads are the centrepiece of a Muay Thai Coach’s arsenal, and for good reason. Thai pads are highly versatile, and provide the ability to quickly adapt for both boxing and kicks in ways that traditional boxing Mitts, martial arts paddles or kick shields simply don’t allow for.
What makes Thai pads unique is that you don’t hold them with just your hands. Instead, most of the work is done with the forearms, with the padding held on to the arm with straps in addition to a handle bar at the top. You can check out some of the Thai pads we’ve reviewed in our Equipment Reviews section.
Considering that pad work is a huge part of learning Muay Thai and Kickboxing, it’s important to have a solid pair of Thai pads. While for the most part Thai pads all work the same, there are some variations, which can sometimes change the feel quite dramatically, for either holding or striking. If you’re looking into grabbing a pair either for yourself or a gym, then here’s what you need to know.
Curved thai pads vs Flat thai pads
Most Thai pads will be sold as either flat thai pads or curved thai pads. The amount of curve can vary a bit, and some ‘Curved’ pads don’t look very curved at all when new. In the case of the Sandee Curved Thai Pads above, the curve isn’t instantly noticeable, however the way the sides of the pads are curved means that the kick sinks in to the middle of the pad a lot more, which over time develops a more natural curve. Curved pads are usually preferred for kicking, as you can almost catch the kick a little better with the natural shape of the pad. Flat Thai pads aren’t designed with this curve, and are usually slightly cheaper as a result. Because of this, they don’t have the same ability to catch kicks and can take a bit longer to break in, but can sometimes provide a flatter surface for boxing.
Thicker thai pads vs Thinner thai pads
Possibly the most important thing to look at when selecting Thai pads is the size and thickness of the pads. The thickness and weight will have a huge impact on the impact absorption and speed. Larger Thai pads are great for big strikes, while the smaller pads tend to be more targeted towards boxing heavy combos.
While it’s easy to think a thinner pad will be better for combos, we’d suggest it’s actually better to go for a slightly thicker pad. Thicker pads are simply more enjoyable to hit, not to mention that it will protect your arms a lot more if you’re holding for a heavy kick or knee (especially if you’re holding for a bigger guy).
As well as the physical thickness, you also have to keep an eye on density. Most pads made in Thailand have a solid construction, however if you buy a cheaper pair of Thai pads the padding can sometimes be a lot lighter and end up leaving your forearm with bruises from the lack of protection.
Forearm padding vs No forearm padding
There’s an increasing focus on comfort for the pad holder recently, with many brands adding an extra line of padding along where the pad holder’s forearm is. This padding is usually a little softer than the actual pad, and cushions the arm from any impacts. As seen on the Twins Deluxe Curved Leather Kick Pads (above, left), it also raises the arm away from the pad slightly so that your wrist is in a more natural position when holding the handle. Some pads choose not to use this forearm padding. This not only makes the pad a little cheaper to produce, but can also make the pad feel a little lighter and quicker to use.
Strap padding vs No strap padding
On most Thai pads, the forearm straps are thick enough that they hold in place well and are fairly comfortable. Sometimes when a pad has been used heavily and worn down, these straps can rub on the arms a little, which can get uncomfortable if holding pads for long periods of time. Some brands choose to include extra padding on the straps – either stitched in place, or ones that slip on. While they can add some comfort, they can also add a little more friction when turning the wrist, especially when new. They can be great for coaches holding pads all day, but if you only tend to hold pads for short periods of time then the difference isn’t as noticeable.
Single arm strap vs Double arm strap
Thai pads will almost always have one or two forearm straps. usually the number of straps is dictated by how large the pad is. Smaller pads only need one arm strap to hold in place. Having just a single arm strap can make the pad a little easier to twist, making them great for boxing-heavy combos, however there’s not as much wrist support or stability for the wrist, which can be an issue when holding for hard kicks if the pad isn’t thick enough. Most part pads will have two straps, which holds the pad in place much better and allows the pad work to be a little more well-rounded.
Velcro closure vs Buckle closure
These days, almost all pads will use velcro, but if you look a bit harder you can still find some pads available with buckles. Realistically if you go for buckles, you’re opting for a slightly more vintage look and feel. The buckles mean you can get a consistent level of tightness every session and don’t have exposed velcro to scratch on skin or clothing. With Velcro closures it’s much easier to put the pads on or off, adjust them on the go if you need, and there isn’t an exposed metal buckle to look out for. In terms of usability, velcro is just that bit better, which is why it’s the standard closure type today.
What brands should you go for?
We’re not going to recommend any particular brands here as you should always check out reviews or try equipment out before purchasing, rather than blindly following any particular brand. That said, when talking about Thai pads, you’ll tend to find that pads made in Thailand are built much better and with much more durable materials. Muay Thai is the national sport of Thailand, so they’ve really nailed the equipment for their sport, especially considering how often their fighters train.
That’s not to say all other pads are terrible. Generally pads made in countries such as Pakistan tend to be a little cheaper and often poorer in quality, however there are a lot of brands who offer slightly more specific designs, which have a few benefits over the Thai-built pads. Just be aware that you need to be a little more vigilant about the quality and construction when looking around at non-Thai brands.
Any other questions? Let us know in the comments.