Created specifically for professionals like UFC Champion Michael Bispling. Lightweight and maneuverable. Throwback design.
Not for full-throttle kicks.
For martial artists and comfortable to hold for a sparring partner. Heaviness helps absorb blows.
Bag is stiff and takes a long time to break in.
The handle placement is perfect, allowing the holder to have comfort and ease. Made from high-quality synthetic leather.
Protective padding on holder's side is too thin for hard impacts.
Skintex leather feels like soft skin. Arm padding for holder's protection. Multi-density foam shock absorption stays soft. Reinforced laces.
Leather may crack upon extended use.
We recommend these products based on an intensive research process that's designed to cut through the noise and find the top products in this space. Guided by experts, we spend hours looking into the factors that matter, to bring you these selections.
The human body is capable of generating an incredible amount of force if utilized properly, and there are few better examples than a martial arts kick. A kick might seem like a simple motion, but a seasoned fighter uses nearly every part of their body to execute the perfect strike, moving hips, legs, core, and arms in unison for maximum efficiency. A blow like this can cause serious damage to a training partner, which is why protective equipment like kicking shields exist.
These large, padded blocks allow martial artists of all skill levels to practice high-impact strikes with low risk of injury. They are a great way to improve accuracy and power on a realistic target. Unlike smaller kicking pads, which come in pairs and are held at various angles, a kicking shield is a single, large pad that you brace against your body and hold for stability. Made from synthetic or real leather and thick foam padding, kicking shields usually have handles at various locations.
There are myriad kicking shields on the market, and choosing the right ones for you can be confusing. We’ve compiled this buying guide, complete with some of our favorites, to make your shopping easier.
Kicking shields are relatively straightforward, but before we go over the high-level considerations, keep an eye out for some general indicators of quality. These include triple-stitched seams, multiple layers of gel-integrated polyurethane foam, and rugged handles with ergonomic grips. If you see these features while shopping, you’re off to a solid start.
A standard kicking or striking shield measures about 25 inches high and 16 inches wide, but there is some variance here. Forearm kicking pads can technically fit under the striking shield category, as can fully padded, wearable torso shields. No matter the subcategory, though, these products all serve a similar purpose: to provide a safe target for a kick. Size yours in relation to the amount of versatility you want in training. The more maneuverable kicking pads are better at training high kicks and also for boxing, while the bigger shields are fantastic for heavy low and mid kicks.
When training with an adept fighter, you will be thankful for every molecule of padding your shield offers you. Powerful strikers can make a thick pad feel like it’s not even there, so it’s always safer to go for more padding if you can afford it. Keep in mind that thicker shields are heavier, and that will make longer training sessions more tiring.
As always, gauge your purchase based on the type of training you’ll be doing and the caliber of your training partners. You needn’t spend a fortune on a top-flight custom shield if you’ll only use it once a month, but if you’re training alongside a Muay Thai world champion, your body will thank you for upgrading.
A kicking shield should simulate a realistic target in training, and that generally means aiming for the thighs and midsection. The shield is simply propped up against that part of the body, but most products offer straps, grips, and sleeves for more stability. Some products are more versatile than others in this regard, facilitating different holding styles for different strikes. For instance, a more expensive kicking shield has a handle on the top, making it easier to rest the pad over the calves and thighs. It also has straps on the back to accommodate midsection attacks like knees and push kicks.
Last but not least, consider choosing training tools with a particular color scheme if you want to represent your gym, home country, or personal style. Always prioritize function over form, but adding a dash of flair to your training is never a bad idea.
Kicking shields are significantly larger, heavier, and more robust than small kicking pads, so the price is a bit higher.
Inexpensive: At the $45 mark, expect to find shields that are relatively flat and thin, with a few basic straps to facilitate proper holding. These aren’t as versatile or durable as spendier options, but for beginners or casual kickers, they may be all you need.
Mid-range: Budget $75 and you’ll be impressed by the uptick in quality. The padding is considerably thicker at this price point, and ergonomically curved designs are far more common. These examples are far easier to hold as well, with several straps on the back to offer different grips.
Expensive: If you spend $125 or more, you’re getting the best of the best. Clever mixtures of impact-absorbing gel and foam take the sting off powerful kicks, and the comfortable handles are built to reduce fatigue. Triple-stitching and tough coatings are common in this bracket.
Remove the funk. Synthetic leather can have a lingering, chemical-like smell from the manufacturing process. Thankfully, it’s easy to get rid of. Spritz a blend of water and vinegar in equal parts on the exterior, let it sit for a few minutes, wipe it clean with a soft cloth, and let it air-dry.
Keep your eyes on the target. If you’re the one holding the kicking shield during practice, resist the temptation to close your eyes when the leg impacts. If you can’t see what’s coming, you could accidentally move the shield and cause the kick to miss, which could injure you, the kicker, or both. In addition, hold the shield tight and close to your body and contract your core as the strike lands.
Kick with your shin, not your foot. On the whole, whether you’re kicking a shield, a heavy bag, or a martial arts opponent, you want to land with the shin or inside of your leg as opposed to the foot. This is because your foot contains 26 small, fragile bones, and the shin is very sturdy. There are exceptions with certain styles of kicking, however.
Simulate the fight. If you have professional fighting aspirations or want to get serious about self-defense, consider integrating safe, supervised sparring sessions into your workouts. Kicking pads and shields are fantastic for developing technique, but sparring is the best way to prepare yourself for the real thing.
Q. What’s the best way to maintain my kicking shield?
A. Kicking shields are crafted from molded polyurethane foam, which makes up the product’s general shape. Some iterations use impact-absorbing gel between the layers of foam. The shields are then wrapped in either real or synthetic leather for outstanding longevity. These tools are not hard to maintain, but remember to dry out your equipment after every use. If you put it away wet, mold and odors can form and seams can weaken. For additional peace of mind, use an antibacterial product to wipe down your shield before storing it.
Q. How long do kicking shields last?
A. On average, a kicking shield should last you several years, but the reality is much more nuanced than that. Several factors come into play when determining the lifespan of a kicking shield. For instance, your area’s climate, the frequency of use, the skill of the kickers, and general cleaning and maintenance all contribute to your product’s durability. If you care for yours properly, it could easily last ten years or longer, but the same product won’t survive a month if it’s abused and neglected. As you train with your kicking shield, keep an eye out for signs of excessive wear, such as compressions in the padding, tears in the leather or seams, and an increasingly concave shape.
Q. I’m new to martial arts. What strikes should I practice with my kicking shield?
A. Kicking shields offer a large, well-padded target for training, which opens up the possibilities for what strikes you can use. When starting out, get a handle on single strikes, such as low kicks to the thighs and body kicks to the floating ribs. After you get comfortable there, mix your strikes together in combinations and practice both sides. One of the classic kickboxing combos is a left jab to the head followed by a right kick to the thigh.