Every now and then you’ll notice someone at the gym with boxing gloves that look to have little pimples on the skin. Or maybe this describes your gloves. It may appear that the leather is indeed having a breakout, but just like zits, don’t go popping them! In reality what is happening is that little pieces of the foam are crumbling off the surface of the glove padding and then settling under the leather, causing the tiny bumps you see.
The padding in your boxing gloves is a form of polyurethane foam, not unlike what is used for seat cushions and mattresses. During manufacturing, carbon dioxide (or other gas) is blown into the liquified foam and this is what creates the bazillions of tiny air bubbles that give the foam both density and the ability to compress and re-expand. The compression of the foam is what keeps you comfortable when sitting in a chair or lying in bed and what protects your hand in a boxing glove. Similar to how an airbag absorbs and cushions the impact from a car crash, the foam in your glove blunts the trauma of hitting a firm object like a heavy bag or, say, a jawbone.
Keeping them dry is keeping them beautiful!
As you use your gloves over an extended period of time, the effectiveness of the padding starts to diminish due to the foam losing its resiliency. This may take a matter of months or several years depending upon a number of factors, especially how often you train. The easiest way to test the foam’s effectiveness is to compress the padding over the knuckle area of your gloves and then watch how well it returns. Unlike so-called “memory foam”, which re-expands slowly, the foam in your glove should bounce back immediately and fully. Good padding should feel both firm and spongy and there should definitely not be any noticeable cracks or depressions.
Okay, but what about the pimples? The foam is designed to allow air to pass through, but it also allows moisture in, and as the foam begins to wear down from use it becomes much more vulnerable to moisture becoming trapped within its cells. Water and air cause oxidation of the foam, which in turn can cause the crumbling. The little crumbles of foam, while unsightly, are no reason for great concern however. True, for every crumbled piece there’s a pit on the padding, but just as one or two potholes don’t make a road un-driveable, these small pockmarks don’t mean your gloves are necessarily done.
Minor instances of foam crumbling after extended usage is not unusual for boxing gloves. Glove padding is vulnerable to breakdown due to the heat and moisture and the stress it is exposed to during training. So the best way to preserve the quality of your gloves, besides punching softer, is to always keep them aired out while not in use. There are many solutions out there, such as drying rings or cedar glove dogs. You can even try stuffing the gloves with dryer sheets, which also makes them smell nice, but do not put your gloves in a clothes dryer or use any other heated means to dry them! Mostly though, don’t just toss your gloves in your gym bag. Perhaps you’d be interested in a sweet duffle that features a mesh pocket for holding your sweaty gear!
Always use protective gear that is in good shape. Replace your gloves when the padding begins to feel limp. If we’re talking about sparring gloves - gloves you use to punch people with - definitely replace these fairly often (and DO NOT use gloves you spar with on a heavy bag). Happy punching!