The Best Boxing Headgear (2017 Popular Review)
Headgear, (or head guards) are essential for sparring in boxing, MMA, kickboxing, wrestling and many other combat sports. You normally won’t be able to spar without with, and rightly so. It is ridiculously dangerous to spar without headgear, and getting decent headgear is paramount other you won’t last long in the ring.
Headgear will cover your forehead, chin, cheeks and back of the head, with the most important areas being the cheeks and forehead as punches typically land in these areas more and injuries here can affect your vision.
Headgear covering the back of your head is still important as a lot of damage can be done if you get hit there, however you won’t typically get hit there all too often, unless you have a lot of ducking and rolling as part of your boxing style.
Note: You must get the right size!
There will most likely be communal headgear in your gym for people who don’t own their own. However, I would recommend buying your own at some point, as communal ones are normally pretty horrible to wear (think of all that sweat and blood), uncomfortable and normally worn out.
With the serious stuff out the way, I’ve written a guide on the best headgear you can buy and reviewed each one. I’m sparring weekly, mostly in boxing, but you can use this guide for kickboxing and other martial arts.
9 Key Criteria To Look Out For
1) Overall Quality
How well built is the headgear? Is the padding and construction process (stitching etc.) good enough for the headgear to last years, or will it just fall apart after a few months. Are the different sections good enough, especially the areas that take a lot of strain and punches such as the chin strap, forehead and cheeks, and are the buckles and straps good enough to survive constant use.
It may seem a good idea to buy cheaper headgear, but believe me, you don’t want to be in the ring with inadequate gear, you’ll be heading back to the shops in no time with a busted face.
Typically, boxing manufacturers such as Cleto Reyes and Winning provide a much higher quality product than MMA manufacturers, for all products, not just in terms of headgear, so they're worth checking out even if you are not going to use it for western boxing.
It’s got to be comfortable right? Your going to be wearing it potentially a few times per week for years before it wears out. Some headgear can last up to ten years. My rules here are if anything on the headgear annoys you, or distracts you from fighting or keeping focused then don’t buy it. You should also feel confident wearing it.
The headgear should feel comfortable to you when wearing it, each person has their own opinion on what is comfortable, but sometimes headgear can be too tight and squeeze your head or too loose and move around a bit, the chin strap can also cause issues and feel too tight on the neck.
What’s the best way to reduce punch impact? Not get hit. Visibility is very important in headgear, being able to box your best is still your main goal, so don’t let any equipment ruin that for you, seeing punches coming clearly allows you to attempt a dodge, roll off the punch or anticipate follow up punches.
The cheek protectors, nosebar and padding across the forehead are the main areas when it comes to visibility. The more padding, the thicker the headgear and will therefore reduce visibility.
Getting the right size headgear will also allow for better vision as headgear that is too big for you will stick out from your face and cover some vision.
4) Outer Material
The outer layer is mostly for durability of the headgear; high-quality leather ensures it won’t tear through use and so have a longer life.
5) Inner Material
The inner layer is the most important part, as this is the part of the headgear that has direct impact with your face. This should be very high quality material, normally leather.
The padding inside the headgear will determine the level of protection it provides against punches. The more padding, the more protection. Sounds simple right?
Due to padding density, cushioning and padding quality, some headgear can provide different protection against light punches than hard punches, and others are great for hard punches and not so much for light punches. High quality products typically have the best of both as the padding quality is a lot higher.
However, if you spar more often, other aspects become important than padding, such as better vision and headgear weight, and so there is a trade-off between getting a well-padded headgear which provides less vision and can be heavy, with a lighter, less restrictive headgear that provides less padding. Lighter headgear will allow you to move your head more freely when ducking punches.
7) Face Bar (Nose Protection)
Some headgear will have a face bar across the nose, which is of course to protect the nose. This sounds like a good thing, and is for beginners, however not having it allows for greater vision and a lot better breathing.
You can normally adjust a headgear in three places; the chin, back of the head and top of the head. This is quite important because most headgear comes in set sizes, such as small, medium and large and so you need to be able to make small tweaks to the headgear to fit your head properly. If it’s too loose it will move around too much and if it’s too tight it won’t be comfortable.
9) Overall Size & Weight
Now, if you’ve not worn headgear before, you might not have considered this, but some headgear can be quite heavy, and as a result, affects your head mobility, as your head feels very heavy. Lighter headgear allows you to move your head a lot easier, and so slip and dodge punches better.
It’s a trade-off between bigger headgear providing better padding and lighter headgear allowing for greater mobility. However if you are a bigger person in general, such as heavy weight size, you probably won’t notice a big difference between the two.
Yes, there is a difference between competition headgear and sparring headgear
In competitions, you are not normally permitted full face protection headgear, so that means no face bar to protect your nose and no chin protection. You can only wear headgear that protects the cheeks, forehead and sides, and must be approved by the boxing federation regulating your fight, normally set by AIBA.
The Top Picks
So lets’ get down to the good stuff, here are my top 5 headgear picks:
1. Winning (FG2900)
Hands down, the best headgear you will ever buy. I don’t say that lightly, Winning headgear is simply the best. When wearing it, punches turn into light slaps, if even that. The super high protection and the super comfort, whilst still being super lightweight (9.5oz) just puts Winning headgear in a different class of its own.
It is manufactured in Japan, as with all Winning gear. Japan has very high production standards.
Note: This is not competition headgear, although you can sometimes get away with wearing it in amateur fights.
It also takes kicks very well, so you can wear this for muay thai & kick boxing.
It’s suitable for beginners all the way to professional (if you’re a serious beginner) and I would recommend investing in Winning gear if you are a beginner who is starting to spar regularly.
It moulds very well to the face and so provides great eye protection and keeps your visibility when wearing, normally these two things don’t combine well in headgear.
It also protects the nose very well, you will still get hit on bridge of the nose as you will with all headgear, so still try to avoid punches!
Due to it’s simple design and the quality leather, you can clean it very easily, just wipe it down. You will probably need to do this a lot however, as it can get quite warm when wearing, so you may sweat a lot.
It’s completely adjustable via straps on the top and bottom of the headgear.
Lifespan wise, as they say, buy cheap buy twice. This is not cheap, and you will not need to buy a new one for many, many years.
You can get these colors: (the silver is quite special)
- Super high quality.
- Very comfortable.
- Different class of product.
- Easy to clean.
- Moulds well to face.
- Last a very long time.
- It can get quite hot, but it’s not super distracting.
- The most expensive on the market.
I really can’t stop raving about this headgear, apologies! It is the best headgear on the market down to its comfort, protection, lightness and durability. It has everything you need from headgear. Check it out if you can, it’s an investment that returns huge dividends.
2. Cleto Reyes
Cleto Reyes produce very high quality gloves, some of the best on the market, (FYI I’ve reviewed the best boxing gloves here), but do they produce great quality headgear?
There are three Cleto Reyes variations on the market, these are:
The headgear with the facebar was redesigned to increase visibility, however there are some serious issues with it, and most boxers will still purchase the traditional style.
On the redesigned version, the facebar sticks out too much and doesn’t align correctly with some people’s noses, if it sits just under the nose, it can ride up and crush your nose with a strong punch and if you are very short you will keep getting hit on the facebar when you should be able to avoid the punch.
If slipping punches is a big part of your style, you won’t like this as it will be too big to avoid most punches.
Note: If you have a small nose, you don’t need either facebar version, as it will stick out too far and most likely probably won’t align to your nose.
However, the traditional and redesigned versions, if you’re not too short, do provide excellent side and nose protection.
It’s pretty lightweight, and manufactured to a very high quality, it’s produced with cowhide leather and latex foam padding inside. As it’s leather, it’s very easy to clean your blood and sweat out of (sometimes even tears).
As it gets quite hot wearing it, as most head guards do to be fair, it makes your head sweat quite a bit and so can slide around a bit when you’re getting into the spar, and therefore might affect your vision.
It comes in these colors: (Black is always good for Cleto Reyes products)
Cheek Protection Version
This is the one. This version is fantastic. The cheek protectors mould to your face after a few times wearing it and become super comfortable.
The cheek protectors do also provide some degree of nose protection, and so if your nose isn’t too big you should be fine with this style instead of getting a version with a nose protector.
The vision on this version is very good and you can see the side angles a bit clearer than other types of headgear.
Durability, as with all Cleto Reyes headgear, due to its high-quality build, it will definitely last a few years, if not more.
- Super comfortable.
- Good visibility on the cheek protector version (Not nosebar version).
- Easy to clean.
- High quality leather outing and inner padding.
- Will last a few years.
- Looks cool.
- Higher end of the price range.
- The redesigned nosebar version is not good for most people, go with cheek protector version.
I’ve merged three different headgear from Cleto Reyes into one as they are essentially the same except from a nosebar vs cheek protectors.
The cheek protector version is ahead of the nosebar version by a considerable distance, it’s a very good piece of equipment and ideal for most boxers, do check it out.
The nosebar version is good for people who are concerned with proper nose protection, and if you are one of those people, the traditional version is much better than the redesigned version as the nosebar sits more in-line with your nose.
3. Rival High Performance
The Rival headgear is a solid bit of a kit. What makes this headgear stand out, is, it stays exactly in place on your head when sparring.
Most other headgear will slip around a bit when your head begins to sweat, but the Rival headgear stays exactly where it should.
This is mostly because the inside is a ‘microfiber’ lining, which is essentially suade, and so it doesn’t slip around when sweat comes in-between the headgear and your face. The outer padding is made with real leather.
Note: there’s no nose or chin protection, so if you need protection in these areas, this is not for you.
It’s super adjustable with an excellent chin strap, which by the way is really comfortable. There’s a strap on the top of the head and two of the back of the head, which are Velcro (hook-and-loop) for easy release.
This is also great for muai thai and kickboxing as the visibility is excellent due to no chin padding or nose bar covering the eyes.
It’s very lightweight so great for quick head movements and slipping punches.
It comes in these colors:
- Great value for money – medium ranged price.
- Stability is excellent – does not move around on your head at all.
- Looks quite cool.
- Great adjustability.
- If you’ve got a larger nose, you might find it slightly exposed.
One of my favourite headgear, which is why it’s in this list! If you have real issues with your headgear slipping around on your head after you get a bit sweaty, then definitely try this one. It sits perfectly still on your head so you can concentrate throwing and blocking punches and forget about what’s on your head. It’s not too pricey either.
4. Title World Training
This title headgear training version has got a gel lining inside for better shock absorption which reduces impact when receiving punches. It actually works quite well; you don’t feel much when you get caught in areas of high padding such as the forehead.
There is also extra padded cheeks and ears, and the chin if you want the full-face headgear version.
The outer layer is leather and so it can get very hot when wearing it, it will also move around a bit when you get sweaty.
Adjustability wise it’s pretty good with a hook-and-loop (velco) strap on the back and elastic top.
There is two versions of this headgear, there is a full-face version and a regular version.
It comes in these colors:
- Best headgear for full-face protection (full-face version).
- Excellent shock-absorbing technology, punches don’t feel too hard.
- Good adjustability.
- Can move around when wearing.
If you are more keen for headgear that provides above-average protection, this is the one. The gel lining inside provides a very high degree of padding and protection due to the better shock absorption.
You can check it out in both a full-face version here and a regular version in the links below:
The classic Ringside, a staple of every gym. It’s your classic headgear that works well, is kind of comfortable, not super high quality but does the job, it’s still made from leather. The cheek protectors are pretty good, you can also get this without cheek protectors.
The cushioning and visibility are OK, however the chin strap is not the best, it is a little bit short so hard to secure.
It is USA Boxing approved headgear.
Good value for money, it’s one of the cheapest on the market.
It comes in a lot of colors:
- Mexican Flag(!)
- USA Colors(!)
- USA Flag(!)
- Good value for money.
- All-round good equipment, but nothing to brag about.
- Poor quality chin strap.
The Ringside is a solid piece of gear. If you’re looking for headgear that just does the job with no frills and at a good price, this is for you. If you are a beginner with a limited budget, this would be a good choice.
So there we are, a thorough review of the best headgear. Were you surprised that I chose the Winning headgear as the best? Probably not if you’ve ever worn one!
It’s my favourite as it tops all of the things I am looking for: comfort, padding and lightness in the same headgear. These are all decent headgear however, and one of these will definitely fit into your price-range, whatever that may be!