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Review of Sparring Equipment for Contact Karate P4 - Foot and Shin Pads

Updated on December 5, 2012
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Lower Body Pads

In this section we will cover the required pads used by CMAF students as well as a few optional pads available from our suppliers and others. You can view most of these pads and the multitude of variations on line. Most reputable suppliers will have a website for viewing products.

We begin with the "Foot Pads."

Foot or Foot/Shin Pad

The first piece of equipment is the "foot pad" or "foot/shin pad." It can be the simplest or most complex piece of padding. Note in the insets, three different types of foot padding. These are but a few of the configurations available.

The ankle high foot pads, similar to that pictured, are recommended by CMAF. Issues of size are more than just a consideration of "size." The boot has to be long enough to cover the foot but not so long as to leave a large excess. Its major function is to protect the instep and ankle bone. The pad must afford protection to the toes and heel, as well as softening the strikes on the opponent.

Sparring in the class setting is not a "battle to the death." It is a learning experience for both participants. Contact need not be full power in order to be a successful technique. When accidental full power contact occurs, the padding helps defray and dissipate the effects.

The pads should fit properly. Overly large boots will fold over on the toes when contacting the target and bend the toes down with the possibility of injury or the toes will gouge the inside of the pad. They will also move back and forth, due to sweat, and slide off the foot in any direction causing the wearer to stumble and possibly fracture the smaller bones of the foot. If the elastic straps are tightened to eliminate sliding, the plastic under-straps will bunch up and blister or cut the sole of the foot. And most times, this tightening does not stop the sliding.

A boot too small may not adequately cover the foot and will not have the life expectancy of a properly fitting boot. When putting the pads on, the added stretching of the "hinge points" on the outside of the ankle and instep area will cause the vinyl to break down and tear apart.

The foot pad with attached shin pad will do as it is designed. However, they do have certain draw backs. (The AWMA pad shown is an advanced level used by many MMA fighters.) The full elastic with exposed toes, for instance, must fit exact or else may result in sliding off or causing irritation on the bottom of the heel. The is also true of several other one piece configurations. These type of pads have a variety of variations, including a detachable style, with the ability to make the one piece into a two piece. But you will find they are more expensive than to the simple boot and cloth shin combination.

The CMAF recommended shin pad is the cloth covered white one as shown here. It is inexpensive and washable, a sanitary item. Though there may be a certain amount of sweat developed by the vinyl of the foot pad, this is not true with the cloth pad. The cloth pad acts as a sponge on the leg and the higher portion of the boot to cut down on the spray issued by certain kicking actions.

Several other foot/shin pads are make of a cloth like material but would not be recommended for washing. Durability is a strong point of the leather type but added cost, excessive build up of sweat, unless worn outside the pant leg, make all a personal but secondary choice.

CMAF recommends separate pieces, vinyl foot pads and cloth shin pads. For upkeep and sanitation reasons, the foot pads should be wiped dry after use and the shin pads washed as needed.

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