Boxing Classes: Boxing Gloves
A guide to choosing and maintaining your boxing gloves
“What boxing gloves should I get?” is a frequent question I get asked at my boxing classes. There’s a world of choice, with big differences in cost and quality, so here’s a handy guide to choosing a pair of boxing gloves and how to look after them.
What type of boxing gloves should I get?
Manufacturers use many different terms to describe their products, which can be confusing when you start shopping around for a pair of boxing gloves. ‘Boxing fitness gloves’, ‘sparring gloves’, ‘boxing training gloves’ or ‘bag gloves’ and their variants are all out there.
It’s more important to identify what to look for in a boxing glove, so that you can dispense with the manufacturer’s blurb and judge for yourself, but I will at least attempt to explain the common types of boxing glove:
This is often a catch-all term used for all types of boxing gloves, which can vary massively in terms of quality and intended use. The better models are intended for boxing training and even sparring, so these can make an ideal choice. At the other end of the scale (beware the label “fitness”) are the glorified children’s toys deceptively marketed as sports gear that should carry a health and wallet advisory: “This product will in no way protect you or your fellow boxer and has a two-month life expectancy”.
The price point of the product will usually be a dead giveaway: £18? Certain junk. £70? Should be decent, but equally may still be junk with some flashy graphics. It’s worth shopping around a bit and researching before you choose.
As the name implies, these are intended only for hitting punch bags of all types. Broadly, there are a couple of different models available:
- An old school, lightweight mitt that has minimal padding. These look very different to regular boxing gloves – more like a snow mitten but in leather. As a teenager, I regularly opened my knuckles up hitting bags with these in boxing gyms. For some reason you can still buy them today, if you feel the overwhelming urge to destroy your hands completely… Not advised.
- Or a ‘regular’ looking boxing glove intended for punch bags, not sparring. If they are what they say on the tin, the foam padding should be of higher density than sparring gloves, making them more durable for heavy bag use.
If you train several times a week and perform heavy bag sessions, having a dedicated pair of bag gloves is a good way of prolonging the life of your training/sparring gloves.
This means that the glove is designed for sparring and it has been constructed to minimise the risk of injury. By that, I mean the materials and finish are not abrasive in contact areas, such as the knuckle and fastenings and all the glove seams should be well finished with no protrusions that may cause grazing and cuts. Good sparring gloves have minimal seams in the striking area and back of the glove to further mitigate this.
The foam padding in the glove is of a more forgiving quality to absorb the force of impact and minimise the damage to your hands and your opponent.
If you plan to engage in sparring activities, then it makes sense to equip yourself with a pair of sparring gloves from the off, as they will cover all your bases in training, barring regular heavy bag work.
Equally, a decent quality ‘training glove’ that fulfils the criteria described here is almost certainly good enough to spar with, at the discretion of the coach.
“Pro” or “Competition” Gloves
Ruthless product branding tends to blast words like “Pro” everywhere to flatter you into a purchase, including transfers on the glove itself, but don’t let that fool you.
Genuine professional competition gloves are easy to spot. They weigh less (8-10oz) and therefore contain much less padding than training or sparring gloves. They sometimes contain horse hair padding, not the usual foam found in training gloves. This will compact and become less forgiving fairly quickly, often within the duration of a single boxing match. That increases the potential for inflicting more damage to your opponent and also to your own hands. While that is arguably OK for a prize fight, it doesn’t bode well for a training and sparring glove.
These gloves also feature a lace up fastening, making them doubly unsuitable for general training as they are slow to put on or take off and will require somebody to help you every time. A quick way to become unpopular!
Thai Style Boxing Gloves
If you intend to use your gloves across multiple disciplines such as Muay Thai, then Thai boxing style gloves are a popular choice, with the top brands offering high quality at relatively low prices.
One thing to consider is that the sleeve on Thai gloves is generally much shorter than a traditional boxing glove and offers more flexibility at the wrist for clinching techniques.
For this reason, I would discount Muay Thai gloves if you are a beginner and not confident about how much wrist support you need – and especially if you have a history of wrist injuries.
Some popular Thai brands include Fairtex, Twins and Sandee.
What to look for in a pair of boxing gloves
Materials: Leather or Plastic?
I would choose leather every time. Let’s face it, there is enough plastic in the world already. But if you are a strict vegan, there is obviously no decision to be made!
Leather boxing gloves breathe better and last longer, provided you look after them. That said, they will normally be pricier than PVU options, so you may have to factor your budget into the equation too.
If you decide to opt for leather then double check that it’s actually leather you are buying. Many manufacturers describe their glove materials as things like ‘Acme Hide Leather™’, when they are in fact just composites containing plastics! Naughty.
Choose Velcro fastening
For the exact reasons I gave regarding pro/competition gloves above, opt for Velcro as opposed to lace-up for the ease of getting gloves on and off quickly.
That said: not all Velcro is equal. The worst gloves feature flimsy stitching to secure it to the main shell of the glove. Some Velcro is even just glued on! This will not stand up to repeated use and is a sure sign that the glove is a waste of your money.
Look for double stitching
Look for double row stitching on the exterior of the glove around major seams. This is much stronger than single stitching as it offers less movement when stressed. It also provides a second line of defence – prolonging the life of the glove if one row of the stitching is compromised.
Beware unwieldy seams
Glove designs with lots of small panels around the main part of the shell usually indicate a cheap glove and a pattern that suggests “using up offcuts of material” is the main objective of the manufacturer. Seams are weak spots and badly finished seams can cause cuts in sparring. The contact area of a boxing glove should be smooth:
The obligatory ‘attached thumb‘
Almost all boxing gloves have an attached thumb these days – even junk gloves – but you should check the thumb is attached to the knuckle part of the glove with a sturdy tab.
This is a safety feature that will help minimise the risk of breaking or dislocating your thumb on a bag, pad, head or elbow. It also helps to prevent eye damage to your opponent during sparring.
Choose a tough, smooth lining
Look for gloves with a tough synthetic lining that’s smooth but not loose and silky. It should be a decent thickness to prevent sweat from getting into the padding and be firmly attached to the inside of the glove. Insubstantial glove linings move around inside the glove and will tear easily, allowing sweat and fingernails to break down the glove padding fairly quickly.
Leather beats plastic, but look for some ventilation holes up near the fingers under the internal crease of the glove or around the palm area. Some manufacturers use a synthetic mesh in the palm area of the glove which may offer breathability too.
Opt for wrist protection
As I mentioned in the section on Muay Thai gloves above, wrist protection is an important consideration when choosing gloves. Most classic boxing gloves feature a substantial sleeve that extends a good way up the forearm to protect against incoming punches. This provides support for your wrist too.
Wraparound straps with Velcro fastenings secure the glove and should be made of the same material as the main shell of the glove (whether that’s leather or synthetic) and solidly stitched.
A few brands use double strap systems but be aware that these take extra effort to fasten and unfasten. Avoid purely elastic wraparound wrist straps – look for a reinforced construction like in the example shown.
What are the best boxing glove brands?
This is intended as a brief guide to some brands that produce good entry level and intermediate boxing gloves, rather than a de facto: ‘here are the best brands out there’. High-end boxing glove brands cost hundreds of pounds and I’m not suggesting that’s where you start your search.
Boxing glove models and price points change over time, so without picking out specific products, here are my personal opinions on some manufacturers who produce decent gloves priced between £30 and £100+ based on my experience.
Rival, RDX, Title, Top Ten and Ringside all produce good quality gloves at entry level and upwards. RDX have grown in popularity and sell decent PVU beginner’s gloves from about £30 as well as higher end leather models.
Lonsdale, Adidas and Everlast have become crossover fashion brands over the years and their entry level boxing gloves now reflect this. At the lower end of their product ranges, you will be buying a logo and some cheap materials, not a durable piece of sports gear.
What size boxing gloves should I get?
The short answer for most people is…
Men: 16oz | Women: 14oz
Boxing gloves are sized in 2oz increments and you will see recommended size charts while you’re shopping around: “if you weigh this much, use this glove size”. It’s not uncommon for smaller men to use 14oz and women 12oz and while this is theoretically fine, in practice many boxing clubs will like you to use the glove weights I have given above if you wish to spar. It’s not uncommon for boxers weighing above 80 kg to spar with 18-20oz gloves.
In addition to buying the right weight, try the glove on for size, preferably with some hand wraps on too. The glove should feel snug when fastened but not a struggle to get on and off when you undo it.
Pay attention to where the end of your thumb and the tips of your fingers are inside the glove. If they are pressing right up against the end of the internal lining, the gloves are too small and will get uncomfortable very quickly while boxing.
How do I clean my boxing gloves?
There’s no two ways about it, boxing gloves get sweaty and stinky, but there’s a few things you can do to keep them as sweet as possible and prolong their life:
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