Choosing the right sports protection for you
In the past, sports protection was a bit of a guessing game. Designers used whatever they could think of – including horsehair, cane, and canvas – to create gear that they hoped would offer some protection against the blows and strikes of participating in sport. The problem was, this gear was often uncomfortable, heavy, ill-fitting and rigid, so it slowed competitors down and hampered their movement. These days, there are so many types of sports-protection equipment, made from lightweight, flexible, moisture-wicking materials, that the only problem is choosing the type that suits you.
Here’s our guide to choosing comfortable, high-quality equipment tough enough for your chosen sport.
Rules and standards
Many codes – including WKF karate and fencing – have made it compulsory for competitors to wear protective gear. Each code has a distinct set of standards specifying the zones of the body that must be protected, the forces the equipment must be able to withstand, and the quality of the materials used.
If your sport has set requirements for protective equipment, you’ll need to make sure that any gear you buy meets the standard. Good manufacturers will have their products certified to meet the standards, making it easy to choose the right equipment for your code.
Comfort during competition
To compete in sports, you need to be able to throw yourself into the competition and give it your all. Equipment that constrains your movement or slows you down just isn’t an option.
That’s why comfort and flexibility are so important when it comes to choosing protective gear. If possible, try on the gear and move around in it before you buy. Does it feel lightweight and flexible, or bulky and uncomfortable? Does it sit properly and stay in place when you move? Does it fit under or over your clothing? Does it allow the full range of motion in your arms and legs?
If you’re not sure, keep looking, because good brands get this right.
Made to fit
Fit and comfort go hand in hand. Usually, if an item doesn’t fit properly it will feel uncomfortable as well – the edges might press into your skin, or the straps might slip down as you move.
If you’re buying instore, always try the gear on before you buy. Try a few sizes and look at how they sit, how tightly the straps fit, and whether any parts jab or rub against your skin.
If you’re buying online, look at the fit instructions from the manufacturer carefully before you make a purchase. Check your measurements and read through the information – some products may need a tighter or looser fit. Check the returns policy too – most manufacturers will let you exchange products if the fit is wrong. If you’re confused by the guidelines or not sure how to find your size, get in touch with the manufacturer or brand. They should offer prompt, expert help to make sure you get it right.
Think about how many strikes are involved in a fencing match or a karate bout – protective equipment must be tough enough to stand up to a huge amount of force over time. That’s why it’s so important to choose high quality gear – other options just won’t be able to cope with the stresses of competition for very long.
To find good quality gear, look at the details: do the seams sit flat and look well finished? Are there any raw edges or rough spots? Does the equipment feel strong? It’s a good idea to check out what they’re made of too. Good gear will be made of high-performance materials designed for sports – look for things like lightweight polyethylene, PUR foam, and moisture-wicking fabrics.
Reputation and care
Another way to assess quality is by looking into the manufacturer of the equipment before you buy. You want to find a business that cares about customers and wants to do its best for them.
One indicator is the language on their website – are they focused on discounts and specials, or passionate about your sport, your performance, and how their products can help?
Reputable manufacturers will also provide thorough information about their products, the materials they use, and whether they’re certified for certain sports. They’ll generally be happy to answer questions from customers, and should be prepared to exchange products if you have any problems.
The more caring and thoughtful the business, the more you’ll be able to trust its product when you need it most. And when it comes to sports protection, that trust is essential.