Boxing vs. Muay Thai Gloves: Subtle Differences

Padded gloves were first introduced to boxing in 1867 following the acceptance of a boxing code of rules. Ever since, boxing gloves have been used in almost all striking martial arts. In the 1920s, Muay Thai adopted boxing gloves into the art, adapting the gloves to fit their striking style. Previously, Muay Thai fighters used hemp ropes as gloves. Now that Muay Thai is more mainstream in the US, and has even been adopted in mixed martial arts training regimens, Muay Thai gloves are here to stay.  

Looking to get into Muay Thai, MMA, or cardio boxing? These are the minor differences between boxing gloves and Muay Thai gloves. 

The Padding

In boxing, fighters are only allowed to punch, which is why most of the padding in their gloves is present around the knuckles. While defending, boxers have to block punches from the padded knuckles of the opponent. This makes having heavy padding on the top and side of the gloves senseless, and hence padding in boxing gloves is focused on the knuckles. 

In Muay Thai, fighters face kicks, elbows, and knees, which puts their hands in more danger of being injured. Due to the mode of fighting in this sport, the padding on the gloves is slightly altered to minimize or cushion the impacts of the hits. 

The Palm 

In boxing, there is little reason to use your palms. As such, the palms of boxing gloves do not need to be adapted for other uses. In Muay Thai, fighters can catch kicks and clinch. This makes it essential to have flexible gloves to catch an opponent’s foot or control the back of their head. 

Boxing gloves are designed so that fighters can keep a closed fist at all times with minimal effort, leading to the rounded design notable in most gloves. Due to the flexibility needed in Thai boxing, Thai gloves are designed to have a bit more control of the palm and when clinching. This flexibility allows fighters to hold kicks and begin counterattacks. 

The Thumb

Just as with the palm, boxing gloves and Muay Thai gloves are optimized for their different functionalities. In boxing, the design is such that the thumb is kept out of the way in order to enhance the fighter’s ability to make a fist. Since the thumb plays a major role in gripping, Muay Thai gloves are designed so that the thumb has the range of motion to facilitate this. 

The Wrist Support

Wrist support is another major difference between the two gloves. In boxing, the wrist is vulnerable due to the impact of punching. This makes fighters more susceptible to wrist injuries when fighting. The gloves are structured to give space for additional wrist protection from hand wraps. However, this design minimizes wrist motion due to the longer fit of the glove. Muay Thai gloves are shorter to allow for more wrist movement. It is impossible to be completely flexible without moving the wrist, and ease of movement is essential in a Muay Thai fight.  

The Materials

There is no difference in the materials used in boxing gloves and Muay Thai gloves. High-quality gloves are made from real leather, which is mainly cowhide. Mid-range quality gloves are made from synthetic leather, or a combination of real and synthetic leather. Lower-quality gloves are made from completely synthetic materials. The cost difference may also vary according to the materials used in the gloves and the intricacy of the design. 


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