Shopping for your very first pair of boxing gloves you’re probably at a loss as to what to look for and what factors determine the best choice for you. You need a starting point and, ideally, a way to do some testing.
Buying boxing gear at a sporting goods store is usually not ideal because these stores typically have an overpriced and limited selection. You may be able to try on a couple pair and form a basic idea of what you’re looking for, but read on before committing to purchase gloves from a generic store.
If you’re boxing or kickboxing at a gym you can always ask around for recommendations. These terrific folks are often more than happy to share with you their suggestions on gear. Many women will let you try out their gloves, but please let them offer rather than asking - remember proper etiquette! Or maybe your gym offers “loaner” gloves that you can use. This can be a serviceable way to test out some brands and styles. On the downside, you’ll likely be using well broken in gloves that may be lousy with bacteria and smell like old gym socks!
As it is with car buying, the last thing you want to do is buy a pair of gloves based solely on their color so save that for last. In this article we will discuss four main concerns when it comes to buying boxing gloves:
1. What style of glove to get
2. What size of glove to get
3. What materials and other details to look for
4. What price to pay
You could also add ‘what brands’ to this list, but the brand is largely unimportant compared to finding a quality glove that works for you. Some brands specialize in low cost gear - just say no. Some brands have been historically high end, but even these guys nowadays have a broader array of offerings. In short, most boxing brands have a range of good and not so good gear. There’s actually only one brand we recommend for women (full disclosure: this article is written by the co-Founders of Machina Boxing - yes! the one and only boxing brand dedicated exclusively to women). We can’t claim to be completely unbiased, but our goal here is to help you make an informed purchase so we’ll move on and try our best to be objective.
1. What Style of Gloves to Get
Okay, so what is the right style of glove for what you want to do and the level of protection you’ll need? You don’t need substantial gloves for just speed bag or light work, but if you’re hitting heavy bags you better make sure your hands are fully protected. If you’ve spent any time browsing online you may find yourself more perplexed than when you started due to all of the options.
“Bag Gloves” are the type that usually have relatively light padding on the knuckles and little other protection. Many bag gloves will leave the thumb open and offer minimal wrist support. Bag gloves are an okay choice for working speed and agility bags, but keep off the heavy bags unless you want busted up knuckles and banged up thumbs.
“Aerobic” or “Fitness” Boxing Gloves are intended for those who just want a nice cardio workout without doing anything resembling real boxing training. If your gloves cost less than $30 and have zebra stripes, you may have bought fitness gloves.
Ladies or Women’s Gloves are typically nothing more than unisex gloves that have been dyed pink. There’s not necessarily anything wrong with these, although many times they are a cheap fitness glove posing as a training glove. The reason why we mention them here is that many online stores will have “Women’s Gloves” as a separate category and we want to be clear that you are in no way limited to this gear nor should you feel obligated to use pink gloves just because you happen to be female.
Training Gloves are kind of like the all-purpose boxing glove. These are usually what you want for heavy bag work and they’re versatile enough for most everything else. You could get away with using your training gloves for sparring, but check with your trainer first (as well as your sparring partner). Also, we do not recommend using the same gloves for sparring and bag work. Your opponent will appreciate it if your sparring gloves are not worn down by months of heavy bag abuse!
Professional or Amateur Fight Gloves are for those who know what they are. If you don’t know if you need them, you don’t need them... yet.
Sparring Gloves are pretty self-explanatory. They’re meant for sparring practice with an opponent. These gloves are usually heavier weight and many trainers will demand a minimum of padding, most often 16 ounces. With sparring gloves it’s of equal importance to get gloves that you like and your partner does not hate!! Not planning on sparring? You don’t know what you’re missing!
MMA Style Gloves are intended to offer just enough protection while allowing the wearer to grip an apple, also known as as grappling*. These are okay for speed work. Definitely not for heavy bags! No.
*Just kidding! Grappling is actually another name for wrestling. But you knew that.
2. What Size of Glove to Get
Boxing gloves, rather than being classified by conventional sizes, mainly come in different weights, and this fact can be confounding for newbies. The weight refers to the actual weight of one glove.
The weight differences of boxing gloves has to do primarily with the amount of padding that exists in the glove. The foam padding of the glove covers the entire outside of the hand, from the wrist to the fingertips. Thick padding goes over your knuckles and it’s thinner everywhere else (although some “puncher’s gloves” will have the padding more evenly dispersed). So you can expect maybe 20 - 30% of the overall glove weight to come from the area of padding that protects your knuckles.
Many trainers will suggest that the glove weight used by a fighter in training should correspond to their body size and weight, but this is pretty flawed logic. Meanwhile some folks propose that pros can use a lighter weight and rookies should use heavier weights, but in the end it has more to do with personal preference and protection needs rather than any prescribed methodology.
What you really want is the optimum protection for your hands and wrists that corresponds to the power of your punches. It makes sense to err on the side of safety, but at the same time you don’t want to be burdened with extra, unnecessary weight - a couple ounces doesn’t sound like much, and it isn’t, but it does make a difference and it could mean fatigue setting in quicker.
There’s no easy way to determine the best glove weight for you without trying some out. If you’re a smaller person it does make some sense to maybe go with a 12 ounce glove while a larger person might be happier with 14 ounces. Like finding the right bowling ball, you have to field test some gloves and see what feels right. Again, this is a case where being able to try out someone else’s gloves first is very helpful.
When using gloves to hit a target you should ALWAYS wear hand wraps - no exceptions. One of the benefits of hand wraps is that they can compensate a little for small wrists and hands. You want your boxing gloves to fit comfortably snug. Gloves that are loose are an injury just waiting to happen. Your gloves should feel… just right. Got that, Goldilocks? If your gloves fit awkward it’s simply a matter of time before you throw an awkward punch and suddenly you’re having a very bad day.
3. What Materials and Other Details to Look For
The best gloves are usually skinned in genuine leather and the price you'll pay corresponds to the superior material. Think of gloves kind of like shoes: if the material is cheaper and the price is lower there’s a good chance the construction is going to be subpar. There’s also good reason why sporting goods are historically made of cowhide. The natural skin is supple, yet durable and breaks in very nicely. Polyurethane Vinyl gloves are easier to clean and will get the job done, but there’s nothing as beautiful as a pair of well-distressed leather boxing gloves!
For most training, a velcro strap is a better choice over laces simply for the reason that you can get them on and adjusted pretty easily by yourself. One disadvantage is that there could be some limit to how snug you can get them secured (but that's why you have armpits and teeth!). A longer velcro strap will allow you some extra torque, but then the velcro can get snagged on things when they’re undone, including hand wraps, which can cause damage.
Laced gloves are old school cool, but you’ll likely need assistance getting them on and off (although that could be a benefit if there’s someone special at the gym you’d like to ask for help!) For sparring, laced gloves are preferred by many trainers because they can be secured a bit more snugly than velcro. Just make sure the laces are contained so as to not fly up and hit you or your partner.
Some pretty standard features that your gloves should have are thumb locks (tip of the thumb is attached to the body of the glove) to keep your thumb aligned and a fabric lining to limit the amount of moisture that comes into contact with the glove’s padding and leather.
Some other options that are available are open mesh palms and gel lined padding. We don’t have a strong opinion of these. We prefer our boxing gloves to be as classic as possible and these options, while not without merit, seem to be primarily marketing features. Additionally, some brands have incorporated some very silly sounding glove “technology.” You’d be smart to be somewhat wary of these premium extras. Just sayin'.
4. What Price to Pay
It’s important to not lose sight of the fact that we’re talking about protective equipment here. You needn’t go overboard, but you also shouldn’t skimp. If you’re literally just starting out then maybe it makes sense to pick up some inexpensive gloves to test the waters, but if you start getting serious about boxing don’t be surprised if you begin seeing why your cheap gloves were so cheap.
Leather training gloves that sell for under $40 are somewhat suspect and you may start getting into diminishing returns once you go beyond about $80. That is to say, a $150 pair of gloves probably isn’t $100 better than $50 gloves.
Hopefully this article was useful for you. We hope you will at least check out Machina in your search for boxing gloves. There is a good deal of info on our website including many unbiased customer reviews.