Fighter in red headgear with trainer holding hand up to his face

Best Headgear for Sparring

Our Top 5 Recommended Headgear for Sparring

Whether you are a beginner about to start sparring for the first time, a professional fighter, or somewhere in between you will know that protective headgear is an essential training equipment to own and use.  Because of what it is protecting you will want to know that you can rely on it while being comfortable at the same time.

What Are the Benefits of Using a Headgear for Sparring?

Even though your sparring headgear will not eliminate the risk of getting head trauma, there are some benefits to wearing one. These include:

Preventing Minor Injuries

Headgear can prevent most superficial injuries. It protects you from cuts, black eyes, and bruises. Some have padding to protect you from ear injuries. Contrary to what you might think the headgear will not prevent internal head trauma from well-placed strikes.

However, it is much easier to regularly spar if your face is not covered in cuts and bruises.  Also, you probably do not want to go to school or work looking like you lasted a three rounds (being generous here) with Mike Tyson.

To Avoid Colliding Heads

Head clashing is a concern when sparring.  Whether a head-butt is intentional or otherwise it can be painful and possibly cause more serious injury. The extra padding around your head reduces the impact.

It Can Be a Security Blanket

Your headgear can provide you with extra peace of mind.  By helping to absorb impact and avoiding cuts and bruises it can give you confidence to spar.  Sparring is always a great way to learn.

How to Choose the Best Headgear for Sparring

Even though choosing the right headgear may not seem complicated, there are a few things to consider.

The Basic Design

Generally, the design of headgear is to provide padding around your face head.  It protects your ears, forehead, and the back of your head.  There are typically a few adjustment points to get a good fit.

Even though the general design is the same from one model of headgear to the next, there are usually some variations.   The aim is to choose headgear  that provides adequate protection while being comfortable.

Fit

The right headgear should be snug but comfortable. It should not feel too tight.  Neither should it flop around when you are sparring.  Use the fasteners that most headgear comes with to help you get a good fit.

The Fasteners

Usually, your headgear is adjustable in three places; at the top of your head, at the back of your head, and under your chin. The chin strap may be buckle style, hook & loop, or a plastic clip.

Think about the mechanism that works well for you.  If, for example, convenience is important to you then the hook & loop mechanism is ideal.  If having a secure system is important then we recommend a belt-buckle style.

Intended Use

You will either be using headgear for training or competition.  Competitions will have their own rules regarding headgear and most likely to provide the headgear to be used.  Therefore this information and our recommendations are for sparring headgear only.

Protective Features

Even though all sparring headgear is protective, some models have more safety features than others.  Although it would ordinarily make sense to protect yourself to the fullest extent possible there are other reasonable considerations.

Visibility and Coverage

Sparring headgear comes in a range of designs.  The coverage and visibility vary from model to model.  For example, some have padding to protect your chin while others do not. Some are open across the face while others having padding that covers the cheeks.  Some provide full face protection but may inhibit your visibility.

Padding

With the right padding, your headgear will protect you from cuts and bruises. Usually, the amount of padding a headgear has depends on its use.

For competitions, your headgear will have thinner padding.  This makes it easier to move your head to dodge punches or kicks.

Sparring headgear will have more padding to better protect you.  The more padding your headgear has the heavier it will be and can limit visibility.

What are the challenges of Sparring with Headgear?

Even though headgear is great for sparring, it does have a few limitations. Some challenges of using it include:

Reduced Vision

One of the biggest limitations of wearing sparring headgear is that it can limit your vision. You may find that angled punches coming your way are not seen as quickly.  Avoiding a blow to the head because you saw it coming will always be safer than taking a blow to the head regardless of the amount of padding.

Sense of Security

While creating a sense of security is great, it is important not to become overconfident.  If you are a beginner the sense of security may help you to relax. Relaxing in sparring is important as any coach will tell you.  Just not to the point that you do not adequately defend yourself.

It is an Extra Cost

Buying protective equipment is an additional cost.  Purchasing protective gear can quickly add up.  It adds up even faster if you decide to go for high-quality options.

It doesn’t offer sufficient protection

If you think wearing headgear will help make you invincible to kicks and punches guess again.  Headgear does not prevent concussions.

Getting a good fit

Headgear is mass produced to a few standard sizes.  Yet everyone’s head shape is unique.  This means that a particular size of a particular brand might fit just right for one person but may not fit as well for another, even when they both have similar head sizes.

Bear this in mind when reading product reviews.  Headgear that does not fit someone well does not necessarily mean there is a quality issue.

Our Top 5 Recommended Headgear for Sparring

Product Review

Venum Elite Headgear

Venum is always a popular go-to brand and this headgear offers good face protection.  It has a 180-degree vision and a decent no-slip fit.   Its triple density contoured foam helps with shock absorption.  We think this is a reasonably priced headgear that does not compromise your safety or vision.

The headgear offers complete cranial protection. It has a reinforced ear cover for extra protection.

Its general design is simple, fun, and traditional.  It is lighter than other models.  This helps with fast head movement. The Skintex leather construction is (vegan friendly) artificial leather that is decent quality.

The open top design makes it comfortable and cooler when sparring.   The Velcro closure system is adequate for getting a snug fit.

The construction is durable enough and there are plenty of color choices to allow you to make a personal statement.   More importantly, a different color to everyone else reduces the chance of someone picking yours up by mistake and putting it on.

Venum Elite Headgear is only available in one-size-fits-all.  Inevitably this will not be a good fit for everyone.  However, this is a good piece of protective equipment and well worth trying it on.

Pros Cons
  • 180-degree vision
  • Full cranial protection
  • Open-top design for dryness
  • Lightweight
  • No-slip fit
  • Reinforced ear cover
  • One-size-fits-all

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RDX Headguard

We think this headgear has a lot to offer.  The first thing to point out is a durable lightweight plastic face grill.  It gives optimal face protection and it will stop a jab from reaching your face.  But contrary to the advertising blurb some peripheral vision is sacrificed.  The face grill will not be everyone’s cup of tea, so good to know that it is detachable.

The headgear itself (without the face grill) has good gel foam padding for protection.  It has a quick and convenient hook-and-loop strap for extra protection and an adjustable fit.

A nice feature of this headgear is its high-quality Maya-Hide leather.  It is (animal free) artificial leather but it looks good and it is durable.

Pros Cons
  • Good head protection
  • Face protection
  • Quality material
  • Removable face grill for security
  • Quick hook-and-loop strap system for a snug fit
  • The face shield will reduce your peripheral vision

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Elite Sports Headgear

This headgear is curved to achieve a really snug and comfortable fit.    It is surprising light which makes it easier to move around.  This is a good versatile piece of equipment that is suitable for general to light sparring.

The 180-degree view provides a good field of vision.  This is important for being able to see those angle shots in time.  The padding provides adequate protection.  We like that there is good cheek protection that does not interfere with visibility.

The adjustable closure system is good enough to provide a snug fit for almost anyone.  The head gear can be adjusted for head height and head cap as well as the usual chin strap.

Mad of durable polyurethane (PU) leather it breaths surprisingly well.  This is appreciated when sparring.  The design is simple but stylish and the multiple color choices are a nice bonus.

We think this headgear is particularly good value for money.

Pros Cons
  • Lightweight
  • Padding protection
  • Visibility
  • Secure fit
  • Breathable material
  • It doesn’t offer full-face protection.
  • More suitable for general to light sparring

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Cleto Reyes Traditional Headgear

Cleto Reyes is a well-known name.  This headgear does not disappoint us with its expected quality and durable leather.

It is simply designed for comfort and good range of visibility.  Cleto Reyes has taken the approach that a strike avoided is better than one received even with the best padding in the world.   By placing padding only where it is really needed the weight is reduced.

However, there is still protection to withstand more aggressive sparring.  The thick latex foam padding provides the expected protection.  There is nose protection from a pointed light nylon front bar across the front of the face.  It is worth noting that there is no chin protection.

For some reason Cleto Reyes has produced a one-size-fits-all model.  Inevitably this will not be a good fit for everyone.  However, this is a good piece of protective equipment that is well worth trying on.

Pros Cons
  • Genuine durable leather
  • Quality
  • Vision angle
  • Face bar
  • Thick latex padding
  • Light
  • Price
  • One-size-fits-all
  • Exposed chin

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Fairtex Headgear

Fairtex is a well-known brand, particularly in the world of Thai Boxing.  As you might expect this headgear offers comprehensive coverage for your chin, cheek, and ears.

The foam padding is adequate to offer protection without sacrificing comfort and vision.  The curvy design on the chin provides a little extra comfort

This is a quality headgear made with good craftsmanship and stitching. We know that most Fairtex products are handmade.

The inside is soft, while the outer part is harder for shock absorption. The headgear comes with a strap over the protective ear-hole for extra protection.

Not sweat absorbent so you may benefit from wearing a cap underneath.

Like other products made in Thailand, the sizes tend to run smaller than items made in the USA.

Pros Cons
  • Genuine leather
  • Quality craftsmanship & stitching
  • Full cranial protection
  • Thick padding
  • Vision angle
  • A soft, comfortable inside
  • Leather inside can build up sweat quickly
  • Sizes tend to run small

<< Check Price on Amazon >>


Conclusion

Good headgear will provide extra protection that is comfortable, not too heavy, and does not limit your visibility.  Even the best headgear will not eliminate the risk of injury or prevent concussions. However, they are good from protecting you from cuts and bruises and the odd unintentional (of course) head-butt.  This means you can continue to spar on a regular basis, which we think is the best way to learn.

Based on the above criteria these are our top five recommended protective headgears.  There is enough variation with the models to meet a range of needs depending on what is most important to you.

As for our recommendations we think that hands down the Venum Elite Headgear is the best value for money for light sparring.  However our overall favorite for light to medium sparring is the Venum Elite Headgear.  However, if you are looking for a premium upgrade then it is the Venum Elite Headgear.

two white men in ring ready to spar one with black headgear one with red blackgear both with black gloves

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