Whether you are an experienced karateka or a novice youngster just starting out, at some point you will have to decide on a pair of karate gloves if you have any intention of getting involved in any kind of contact sparring.
However, the differences in brand/quality/price etc. of the many different products currently on the market will actually have more of an effect on performance and style of techniques than may be realised by many practitioners. This is largely down to the level and quality of protection provided.
And obviously it can be difficult to know where to start with any kind of martial arts equipment without first having tested it. So here we aim to provide various insights into some of the best kids karate gloves around today, regardless of level of interest and participation.
Table of Contents
Choosing karate gloves
For many people, and especially kids, karate may just be a once-or-twice-per week affair, so they may not put too much thought into the purchase of a pair of karate mitts. They may even just buy the first set they see, or commonly opt for the cheapest.
But with the internet, it is possible to get a more well-rounded idea of the price and quality of some of the now vast numbers of brands involved in the market. It is a good idea to check out products online, including goods from other countries, focusing first on brands and equipment that are well-known and tried-and-tested within the sport.
Cheap v Expensive
But how much of a difference in quality is to be expected when considering different brands of martial arts sparring equipment?
At the end of the day, the purpose of this equipment is protection, so going too cheap won’t always provide the level of required protection when getting involved in contact sparring, nor is it likely to last that long.
Having said that, some of the more professional-quality brands of karate gloves often seem a bit on the expensive side to some karate kids (or maybe their parents) who may only see this as a hobby, but are essential to anyone competing or training in the sport at higher levels.
The benefits of cheaper products
Erm…well, as with cheaper anything, the quality is likely to be lower comparatively. There could well be exceptions to this but our own experience has taught us that cheap products are dispensable. So they are not likely to last that long. Which is fine if your kids are experiencing a 3-month karate fad – in fact, just the ticket even – but don’t go expecting any kind of real shin, hand or head protection from something made from cheap foam.
It should probably also be noted, especially where kids are involved, that caution should be taken when hitting things hard while wearing limited or cheap protection. The many fine bones in the hand can easily be damaged or even broken when punching solid-seeming objects like pads, bags, and people!
The benefits of more expensive products
There again may be exceptions to this – but usually quality means longevity when it comes to karate gloves and other equipment. It is well worth any serious practitioner of karate checking out the higher-priced, more professional-quality brands, which will definitely last longer and endure more use. Hey they may even make you look cool!
Things to look out for
The padding of the gloves or mitts is an essential component of any protection offered. Cheap brands will often be made from some kind of ‘protective’ material that is too soft for any real contact. This can be felt as a ‘squidgy’, sponge-like karate glove, that is also likely to be covered with some kind of cheap, plastic-type finish which will easily crack or split with continued use. Karate gloves that are padded with Polyurethane foam (PU) are somewhat better quality and offer more protection.
The stitching is another tell-tale sign, as it may be badly finished on cheaper equipment meaning there is more of a chance of the glove splitting. Comparatively, on most of the more professional-quality karate and martial arts equipment around, the stitching is solid and tight, often being double stitched as the products are likely to be made from durable leather which could last for decades if the stitching is good.
Certification is also given for brands of quality product according to guidelines and recommendations. Many karate gloves on the market do not actually have the essential certifications such as ISO to qualify them as safe for use. It is quite possible that they offer little protection against impact or have actually undergone any rigorous testing.
- Pro Force Lightning Punches karate sparring mitt
I personally wouldn’t go for anything less than at least $20.00 when considering hand and knuckle protection – especially where kids are concerned.
These mitts have 1/2″ thick vinyl covered foam as the main protection for sparring, with the bonus being the double layered padding at the knuckles for increased protection. The palm section of the mitt also has a reinforced vinyl strap to keep gloves secure during use. In fact, the elastic strap is secured with a hook and loop closure, which is an unlikely feature on much cheaper brands. A reasonable place to start as far as price and quality go.
- Pro force Thunder double layered punches karate sparring gloves
Again with this Pro Force favourite we have the double-layered padding in palm and knuckle areas, and the snug and secure fit is ensured with the hook and loop fastener. As this mitt is designed for speedy, rapid punches, the mitt is lighter than the first model on the list which means that is unlikely to last as long with any real use.
- Wesing WKF Sparring Karate Glove (no thumb) WKF approved
This is a higher-quality affair with a PU foam inner which is apparently made in a one-time moulding process which provides more protection in the important spots. These mitts are approved for competition by the WKF, which can’t really be argued with in terms of guarantees. An elastic velcro strap secures the fit of this professional-looking mitt which gives a bit more peace of mind when considering better protection.
- Adidas WKF Sparring Glove
Adidas has been in the contact sport market for a while now, and like most Adidas stuff that is tried & tested, these karate mitts look the ticket and provide a slightly-better made glove than the wesling option but there isn’t much in it considering the price difference. These gloves are made from IMF injection mould foam padding which provides decent protection and stays secure with the finger loops and wrap around elastic bands.
- Hayabusa T3
Now we are in the realm of the professional athlete with these solid, well-crafted, leather karate mitts from Hayabusa. We’ve included these here by way of contrast to the cheapest option, just so that you can see how wide the range of kids’ karate mitts available really is.
These are the deluxe model, and might suit someone who’s already quite serious about their karate game. This is a 7 oz glove with a pre-formed curve to reduce hand fatigue, and comes with fully-adjustable velcro wrist wraps for secure fastening. The padding and protection in a pair of gloves like this comes from high-density padded foam for maximum impact absorption.
Unlike many of the cheaper brands, this particular mitt is much less likely to crack or tear, which gives some indication of the quality – which obviously comes at a price.
So which pair of kids’ karate mitts gives the best ‘bang for buck’?
This would obviously have to depend largely on what level of practice the child is at and what level of commitment they are currently demonstrating towards their training.
Personally though, if I had to pick a clear winner and decide on a pair of karate mitts for my own child from the options above…I think it’s fair to say that I would most likely opt for the Wesling gloves. This is partly because in terms of quality they are very close to Adidas (both being WKF approved) and I think the difference in price between these two indicates the Weslings as the better option but still with enough quality to provide lasting protection for a good few months’/years’ training.
The Pro Force gloves are okay for light or limited contact but to my mind they won’t stand up to any real wear & tear for too long, which is why simply buying the first or cheapest pair of karate mitts that you lay eyes on is not always going to be the best option for your kids long-term.