Pad work is a core part of Muay Thai training, so a good pair of pads are essential.
Whether you are looking for pads to train at home with a partner, or want your own pair to use at the gym, you need to find pads that suit your needs.
This guide will walk you through the types of pads used in Muay Thai, how they are used, and how to select the best Muay Thai pads for your training – along with some recommended brands and pads.
Here are some of my preferred brands and recommendations…
RDX are a British brand who have been producing martial arts gear since the 90’s and are widely used in MMA and other combat sports.
Whilst RDX are not strictly a Muay Thai brand, their gear is certainly tough and durable enough for the casual to semi-serious Muay Thai trainer, and their prices are reasonable.
Note: RDX normally sell single pads, so you will usually need to buy two if you need a pair (always check the product description).
Rdx T range **My recommendation for the average Muay Thai trainer**
If you are looking for pads that sit somewhere in the middle of both quality and price, then any pair from the RDX T range (RDX T1, T2 or T3) are the perfect choice in my opinion.
They are very high quality well-made pads and probably the closest thing a western brand has produced to a Thai brand pair.
The T3s are the thickest in the range and have an extra layer of padding, so are ideal if you are looking to step your training up a bit.
- Average price range so they won’t break the bank
- Well made with great size, shape and thickness
- Sturdy inner foam and gel
- Tough maya hide leather exterior (note this is not real leather but the closest artificial thing you will find in terms of toughness and durability )
- Not as tough and durable as the Thai brand leather options
- If you are very serious about training (5 times per week +) these may not last more than a year.
Fairtex is one of the best (if not the best) brands in Muay Thai.
They are a hugely established Thai brand with gyms all over the world, where they have trained and produced some of the world’s best fighters.
If you train at a Muay Thai or kickboxing gym, you’ve almost definitely seen or used their gear.
They provide extremely high quality purpose-made Muay Thai gear, but they do charge a bit more for the privilege.
Fairtex curved pads
If you’ve got the budget to spend and you want a really high quality pair of Thai pads that will last years of punishment – Opt for Fairtex curved pads.
- Made from real leather – very tough and durable
- Hand made in Thailand by a brand who live and breathe Muay Thai
- Top of the pads are softer for throwing jabs and hooks at trainee
- Lighter than most other pads on the market
- Top of price range for pads
- Some may find them a little tough to start with – a few sessions will break them in though
The above options all sit within the middle to top price range.
I’ve included some lower cost options below if you’re looking to get some pads without making too big of an investment.
My budget recommendations are…
Valour Strike pads
Although you won’t see many people in Muay Thai gyms using gear from either brand, they are both well established brands in other combat sports.
They are not the thickest or best made pads by a long shot, but they will do the job.
The pad holder may take more bumps and bruises, especially when working with a big kicker – but these pads will be fine if you are doing a bit of light pad work with a friend at home.
- Types of Muay Thai pads
- Kick pads/long pads/Thai pads
- Hook and jab pads
- Low kick pads/shields
- How much to pay
- Popular brands and recommendations
- Budget options
- How to hold pads properly
Types of Muay Thai pads
Muay Thai involves lots of pad work to hone striking technique and mimic real fight situations.
The following pads are the most commonly used in training.
1) Kick pads / long pads **Most popular in Muay Thai**
Known as kick pads, long pads, or even just Thai pads – these are the staple pad of Muay Thai training. It’s rare to go through a training session without picking up a pair.
Essentially, they are long, thick rectangular pads which strap onto your arms via two straps, with a handle to grip at the top.
They can be used to train all Muay Thai strikes including punches, elbows, kicks, knees, teeps (push kicks) and even knees in the clinch.
Their versatility and ability to train just about every aspect of Muay Thai makes them by far the number one choice in pads.
If you only own one pair of Muay Thai pads, make it these ones.
2) Hook and jab pads
Hook and jab pads (sometimes called focus mitts) are more commonly used in western boxing, but can be used in Muay Thai to specifically hone punching skills.
They are small circular pads with glove-like attachments on the back for the trainer to hold them securely.
They are very lightweight which allows fighters to train quick punch combos, and weaving manoeuvres.
They are strictly limited to punches and are not big or tough enough to absorb kicks, elbows and knees – so they aren’t ideal for most Muay Thai training.
3) Low kick pads / shields
As the name suggests, low kick pads are designed solely for practising low kicks.
They are a big square pad which the trainer holds across their thigh, and the person training strikes them with low kicks.
These pads are great for absorbing the power of low kicks, but you are obviously very restricted with what you can do with them.
Opt for Thai pads
If you are looking to train all aspects of Muay Thai at home with a partner, or even at the gym – then realistically you will need a pair of Thai/long/kick pads like the ones below.
For this reason, I will focus the rest of this guide on long pads.
Pad shapes (Curved or straight)
In terms of shape, all Thai pads are long, thick and rectangular – but there are two main variations; straight and curved.
Straight Thai pads
Straight pads are completely rectangular with a flat striking surface.
Some people find straight pads a little uncomfortable to kick (especially when new) but they often develop a natural curve after taking a few hundred heavy kicks.
I would also argue that Thai boxing isn’t really a sport of comfort, so taking a few bruises on the shin during training will aid towards your shin conditioning and prepare you for the knocks that come with sparring or fighting.
Curved Thai pads
Curved Thai pads come with a slightly curved striking surface.
This makes them more comfortable to kick as the pad curves around the shin bone on impact.
Some people find them a little more difficult when it comes to hitting the pads with teeps, elbows, knees and hooks – because you have to be very accurate, striking the pad dead in the centre of the curve.
Again, some may argue that this helps develop better striking accuracy though.
I personally don’t think there is a huge difference between the two, as the curve is normally fairly slight anyway – but it’s worth knowing the difference before making a purchase.
Material and quality
Thai pads are likely to be one of the most abused items you ever own.
They will bear the brunt of thousands of punches, kicks, knees and elbows over hundreds of hours of training.
So, good materials and quality craftmanship are paramount to a solid durable pair of Thai pads.
The exterior of the pads should be leather, or a high quality synthetic leather.
Leather is the superior choice and will ensure your pads last longer, but obviously comes with a higher price tag.
Synthetic/PU leather will do the job, but the pads will not last as long as real leather pads.
Warning: “Maya hide leather” is not real leather – you will see lots of western brands using Maya hide. It’s a decent artificial leather, but do not be fooled into paying real leather prices for it.
The interior of the pads should always be high quality foam and should be very thick (at least 8cm thick).
Anything too thin is going to cause some serious damage to the pad holder’s arms when taking kicks.
Good quality materials are useless if the pads are poorly stitched.
It’s quite difficult to tell how well pads are stitched when buying online, but I would recommend only buying from reputable brands to guarantee you buy well-made pads – I will run through who these brands are later in the guide.
How much should you pay for Thai pads?
The price you pay for your pads will vary depending on the materials, quality and brand you choose.
Generally you can expect to pay between £50 – £150 for a pair of Thai pads – which may seem like a big range but that’s because the pad quality varies a lot within it.
Be aware of One Pad Sellers
Most online vendors price and their sell Thai pads in pairs, but some sell single pads – meaning you will have to buy two of the item if you want a pair.
There is nothing wrong with stores selling single pads, but make sure you read the ads properly before you make a purchase and know how many pads you are getting.
There’s nothing worse than thinking you’ve gotten a really great deal, only to be delivered a single pad – believe me, I’ve done it!
Popular brands and recommendations
Choosing a well-known brand gives you some guarantee of quality, and also ensures that you are dealing with a reputable firm should you encounter any issues.
The Thai brands are the best in my opinion because they’ve been making Muay Thai gear for years and they know the sport inside-out. However, you will pay a premium price for their products.
In recent years some good western brands have emerged offering some decent gear which although might not be quite as good as the Thai brands, it comes at a much more wallet friendly price, and gets the job done.
How to hold you pads properly
When holding pads for a partner to strike, you need to hold them properly to ensure:
- You provide a good service as a pad man to your partner
- You protect yourself and your partner from unnecessary injury
- You don’t cause any unnecessary damage to your pads
Fitting the pads to your arm
When putting your pads on, ensure that you have both arm straps tightened so that the pads do not slip about, but not so tight that they are restricting blood flow.
This will reduce stress on stitching of the handle fastening – vital for the longevity of your pads.
Holding pads during pad work
Holding pads for a training partner is an important job, and one that can affect their training experience massively.
Hold the pads very firm and tight to the body to reduce recoil and avoid the pads hitting you in the face or body.
You should be able to read the shots coming in and put some resistant force into them to absorb the impact.
As a pad holder you should always be looking to test your partner by throwing controlled shots to test their guard, keeping the combos mixed up, and encouraging them to keep up speed and power – this is the key difference between pad work and heavy bag work.
Which are the best Muay Thai pads for you?
Hopefully this guide has given you some insight into the different types of Muay Thai pads available and which ones are right for your training.
Overall Thai pads (or long pads or kick pads) are best for all round training, but the brand, quality and style you choose will depend on your level of experience and frequency you train at.