Boxing Mitts vs. Thai Pads – The reasons why you need both

Boxing Mitts VS. Thai Pads for Muay Thai Training

Why You Need Boxing Mitts and Muay Thai Pads for Muay Thai Training

Many people wonder about the differences between Muay Thai pads and boxing focus mitts.
If you own one type, do you really need any other?

The answer isn’t as simple as it may seem. It depends on the fighter, the coach or indeed, the culture.

A gym in Thailand is likely to swear by traditional Muay Thai pads. They are most likely to treat boxing focus mitts as an afterthought. Nevertheless a Thai gym will always have some mitts floating around and they will get used.

You may occasionally find the opposite situation in your local MMA or kickboxing gym in the West.
The focus pads might be the trainer’s bread and butter and the Thai pads used less often, depending on the situation. Nevertheless, Thai pads will always come in handy, even by a trainer who prefers mitts.

Why the difference and does it make sense to favour one type over the other?

Let’s find out!

The short and incomplete answer is that it’s sport specific! Whilst true, that answer doesn’t come near to capturing all of the nuances.

Let’s break each piece of equipment down in our handy guide.

Muay Thai Pads

Two solid padded leather bricks with strong straps and a grip bar. These are designed as much to sharpen a Nak Muay’s strikes as toughen up the fighter for battle.

Thai pads are probably the oldest form of such equipment in the world. They are not for the faint-hearted, whether to strike or be struck by!

These are a staple in any gym where kicks, knees, elbows and punches will be thrown. Despite their versatility, they are often referred to as Muay Thai kick pads for one very specific reason – the sport of Muay Thai holds a kick is held in higher esteem than a punch. Therefore a Nak Muay with great punching skill and power, must hone his kicking ability to be competitive.

Owing to the size, thickness and design of Muay Thai kick pads, they are quite frankly the best bit of kit for practicing kicks.
They also afford the pad holder differing holding positions. This means the Nak Muay can practice push kicks and spinning elbows, in addition to knees.

Due to the sheer power of such strikes, the design of a Muay Thai pad, cannot be underestimated. They toughen shins and protect the pad holder. While this level of protection is absolutely necessary for stronger blows, it can be a bit over the top for training hands alone.

If you have a fighter with lightning fast hands, the weight and size of a Muay Thai pad makes them cumbersome and difficult to keep up.
Good for training heavy hands, not so good at sharpening punch speed and accuracy.
They also have a higher risk of wrist or hand injury due to their unforgiving firmness and blunt shape. Other than Fairtex pads, most Thai pads lack a curve, therefore feel rougher on the shins.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Kick Pads:

Pros: Cons:
Best pads for kicks, elbows and knees
Punishing to hit and get hit by
Toughen up the fighter
Not good for honing punch speed and accuracy
Versatility of holding positions
Possible risk of wrist and hand injury
Protect the pad holder

Boxing Focus Mitts

Two usually hand sized, lightweight pads, often with a curved surface designed to catch precision punches.

A focus mitt is thought to have made its way to the West and been adapted in the 1700s via early encounters with Muay Thai training methods and equipment. They became an integral part of boxing owing to Bruce Lee popularizing them in the 1960s.

So they truly are an Asian innovation, with possible Thai influence. However, they are a highly intelligent adaptation of the aforementioned Muay Thai pad. Boxing focus mitts allow the coach and fighter to develop fast, complex, precision punch combinations and corresponding slick footwork.

Owing to the lightweight nature of a boxing focus pad, the trainer can use timing more effectively. He can also reduce or increase the resistance behind the mitt, so that the fighter can fluctuate the power of punches. This allows for far more versatility and complexity for punching, than is possible with Thai pads.

Focus mitts create a more forgiving and satisfying experience for a puncher than punching a Muay Thai kick pad. They also allow for better training of slips, bobbing, weaving and all round head movement. Punch mitts reduce the chance of hand and wrist injury. This is paramount for a fighter who relies on their hands as their primary money maker.

What should be obvious, is they are not designed for catching kicks.

Therefore they cannot be the sole type of pad used in a Muay Thai, kickboxing or MMA context.
Despite that, a Nak Muay with high level punching ability will benefit highly from doing rounds on the focus mitts.

Boxing focus mitts come in many shapes and sizes, such as Fairtex’s FMV15 micro mitts and their contoured FMV9 focus mitt.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Punch Mitts:

Pros: Cons:
Best for punching
Not designed for kicks and knees
Best for hand speed
Best for fluctuation in punch power
Best for head movement
Best for boxing footwork


Alternatively, there is a halfway house between the two.
This is the Top King’s Extreme Focus Mitt which is a hybrid between a Western boxing focus mitt and Muay Thai kick pad. These are also available from our store – click here to find them!


Muay Thai Kick Pads and Boxing Focus Mitts are both required pieces of equipment in Muay Thai, Kickboxing and MMA. The choice of which piece of equipment to use, is both sport specific and depends on the strengths of the fighter. Both are essential, except in the Western boxing context where the focus mitt is king.

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