You’ve just got yourself a brand new pair of gloves, they smell like new leather, the inner lining is soft against your skin. You put them on, and they’re a bit tight even without hand wraps. You take them to your next training session, you’re buzzing to use them and you start hammering the heavy bag and slamming into the pads. And before too long your knuckles hurt, your fingers are numb and you’re regretting the enthusiasm. It’s not a problem with the gloves, it’s because they’re new.
With most synthetic gloves you can normally start using them right away, they might be a little stiff but you can normally get past that after the first session. Leather gloves are different though, they normally start stiffer and are sometimes constructed with higher quality padding, so often need more time before they’re completely comfortable. Googling how to break in your gloves you’re going to find good advice, great myths and weird suggestions, so we’ve sorted through and found the best tips for breaking in gloves (and a couple of things you shouldn’t be doing!)
Gently move and squeeze the glove
This is probably step one in breaking down the gloves, though it’s important not to do it too much. Put one glove on, make a fist and extend your fingers a few times, use the other hand to squeeze the padding round your fist, against your knuckles. This will start easing out the stiffness of the gloves, but avoid doing it too much because you can affect the durability of the glove if you start damaging the foam padding.
Hit the pads (lightly!)
You’re going to use the gloves to hit stuff, so it’s pretty logical that the best way to get them broken in is… to hit things. The issue is going to come if you go all in and throw punches the same way you did with an older, well used glove. Go at 50%, let the leather and padding move and adjust within the glove. It may take a few sessions before you can up the power but protecting your hands is worth the wait.
Hit a punch bag
This is the main areas where you start to find disagreement between people. Forums are full of people saying that hitting heavy bags makes the padding more dense on a set of gloves and hardens them up. If you’ve got a set of gloves that you’re going to use for sparring then I’d avoid doing round after round of work on really heavy bags. But using lighter punch bags, double end bags or other bags for a few rounds is a great way to break in gloves. The bags also going to be useful if you want to go hard during your session, which you’ll want well broken in gloves for, but you can throw your new gloves of for a few rounds on the bag at the end of your session until they’re comfortable for everyday use. At the end of the day, if you’ve brought gloves and the padding compresses and becomes hard after a couple sessions on the bag you’ve brought a terrible pair of gloves.
- Moisturise your gloves – there are various pieces of advice about using oils and moisturisers to soften the leather. I guess this is up to you, but I’d be concerned about the oils damaging the seams or getting into the foam and limiting the durability of your gloves.
- Hit brick walls – do we really have to explain this? Years of design has gone into padded bags and focus mitts to make them safe to hit without messing up your hands, don’t disappoint everyone by hitting walls in your new gloves. The bricks are going to mess up the leather too.
- Put them in the tumble dryer – I’ve heard of this done with shoes, but the reality is this is going to destroy your new gloves. The same goes for putting them in the washing machine to keep them fresh.
All you need to do is gently stretch the glove, do some light pad and bag work for a few sessions (how often you train is going to alter how long this actually takes) and your gloves should be nice and comfortable, ready to use them for regular training. Just make sure you take care of them and they’ll last you for ages!