This article provides guidance based on the assumption that you're either new to Muay Thai and aren't yet sure whether its the sport for you OR you enjoy training Muay Thai but only do so infrequently, with a focus on the fitness aspects without engaging too heavily in sparring (referred to as 'casuals' hereafter).
Most gyms will have some equipment for you to use, however, as it's communal, it typically comes with a particular scent and various signs of age. Furthermore, if its a busy gym, there's no guarantee of enough equipment to go around. As such, it's worth investing in gear of your own, whether you're a beginner or casual, so you don't miss out and can practice comfortably in your own equipment.
Given the beginner isn't too sure whether they'll continue the sport and the casual doesn't spend much time in the gym frequently, we'll presume they want to invest as little as possible to make training comfortable, until they decide to either quit or invest more time & money.
Therefore, let's focus on the basics which enable them to join in all types of training – pads, bag work and drill work. We could include light, flow sparring on the list but then it'd be necessary to add a groin guard. However, we'll leave that for the committed practitioners guide.
Proper, high-quality Muay Thai gloves aren't cheap, however, there are plenty of options for beginners and casuals. It's common for people to use boxing gloves in Muay Thai training and these are certainly suitable. They're also easier to buy at your standard sports shop and often have a lower average price point.
What's important is a strong hook-and-loop enclosure so that you protect your wrists, padding that doesn't deteriorate too quickly, a weight of no less than 10oz and an outside layer which doesn't cut and peel easily. It can be difficult to gauge this at first so any chance of trying them on before you buy would be useful. Otherwise, look for gloves that have a stiff wrist and a decent microfibre outside layer, without too much decoration. Unfortunately, gauging the padding quality is near impossible, especially due to the various marketing variations each company uses when describing its padding. Be mindful that cheap gloves with lots of decoration often peel and cut quickly as the colours and construction materials are low quality. Good examples include the Venum Challenger series, Raja's microfiber gloves and Yokkao's microfiber gloves.
If you choose to dedicate more time and money to Muay Thai, get a second set of gloves which are for sparring only. They should be 14oz or 16oz and for sparring only so that you don't hit your partner in the face with the same dirty gloves you've been doing press-ups and pad work with.
You could quite easily go without hand wraps when training but you run the risk of injury which would be more costly than the cheap price you'll pay for a pair. Therefore, you should wear them every training session and only remove them if you're focusing on clinch work (so the Velcro doesn't scratch your partner).
The vast majority of wraps are all very similar quality, although the higher end feature premium quality materials and premium quality dyes for colouring. There are two types of hand wraps (stretchy, sometimes referred to as Mexican, or non-stretchy) and various lengths. There's not much to say about type, just get whichever you prefer. However, size is important. Avoid anything under 4.5m. Unless you're a junior, you're unlikely to get a fully wrapped hand out of less than 4.5. It's better to be over-wrapped than under.
All major boxing and Muay Thai brands make hand-wraps of varied quality and price. Bottom end range is usually £4-£5, top end £12-15.
Whether you choose to spar or not, you'll need shin pads for drill work which is essential for learning range and practising techniques & combinations on an actual person – like sparring but without the tension and stress.
Premium quality shin pads are often as expensive as premium quality gloves and a good pair can last you a lifetime, unless you physically grow out of them. For beginners and casuals, it's not necessary to have shin pads featuring high-grade construction and leather materials. Instead, there are a wide range of cheaper options with microfiber or similar materials. They're not designed to last forever, but the cheaper construction materials enable you to get full foot, instep and shin coverage at a cheap price.
Alternatively, you can invest in slip-on, cotton shin pads which have foam protection for the top of the foot and shin. For beginners, it's good to start out with this type of shin pad because they help you condition your shins and also get a feel for the sensation of shin to shin contact -albeit padded. More so than the premium quality leather ones which provide substantial protection. This is important for your early learning as you'll come to feel some of the pain involved in Muay Thai and get used to it sooner.
Good examples of suitable shin guards include Venum's Kontact shin guards, Yokkao's microfiber collection and Raja's microfiber collection.
Drill work and sparring expose your body and face to potential injury. Do not run the risk of sparring or drilling without a gumshield. You only have one set of teeth and they are not worth losing over such a simple choice!
There are a huge variety of gumshields/mouth guards available on the market, not least because they are used in many other non-combat sports (e.g. hockey, rugby etc.). This means you can get a decent one at a cheap price, although it's advisable not to get anything too cheap. Shock Doctor are renowned for their quality gumshields and offer a boil and bite gumshield as cheap as £6.
Get one and use it!
If you decide to dedicate more time and money to Muay Thai, you can get a professionally made gumshield, designed specifically for your mouth, jaw and teeth at your dentist. They range in prices (although typically start at £100) but provide unparalleled comfort and protection.
Nice to haves
Here are some items which will make you even more comfortable in training and can help you maximise your efforts. However, these aren't necessary for beginners or casuals and often only those who regularly train make the investment.
Muay Thai shorts are like no other. They come in all shapes, sizes, colours and fabrics. They can be anything from short shorts with flamboyant designs to simple with bold colour designs, and everything in between. The beauty of Muay Thai shorts is that there are so many different designs there's always choice for everyone.
That said, they aren't essential to train but are the only necessary garment for fighting. Given their shape and materials, they can be very comfortable and enable you to get full range of motion without restriction, all while providing good air circulation for your upper legs and groin.
As mentioned they aren't essential for training but you should have a pair (or at least 2) if you're committed. Furthermore, the price range on shorts is wide - £15 to £65 – so you can find affordable shorts if need be. That said, the lower price, the lower quality materials used - which are more susceptible to decay and fading.
If you've ever wondered into a gym or its changing room and been greeted by a warm, pungent scent that heats the nostrils and widens your eyes, it'll be either Tiger Balm or liniment.
Liniment is the most popular ointment for warming up muscles and getting the blood flowing before and during training. It's a vivid yellow colour that comes in a glass bottle, made mainly from menthol, alcohol and eucalyptus.
It should be rubbed generously into your muscles, especially calves, thighs and shoulders, to help accelerate your warm up and loosen your muscles so you can maximise your striking motion & power.
This is a nice to have for any practitioner and you'll often find the more experienced people always have a bottle in their gym bag.
A dedicated gym bag
As you invest more into Muay Thai and buy more gear, you'll end up with quite a lot of stuff to carry to training – gloves, shorts, protection, liniment, tape for toes, water etc.. Carrying all this load can be awkward if you don't have the right bag.
There are plenty of gym bags available for all sorts of sports and you don't need one by a Muay Thai or MMA brand, however, they do understand the needs of their customers and build their bags with various compartments and pockets for all the different bits of gear. A good gym bag can range from £20 - £100 and should last you a while. Although, with the cheaper bags, the zips are often first to go, especially if you fit a lot of gear into the bag and it bulges.
As mentioned, this isn't a must have until you have enough gear that you need a dedicated bag. It's also good to have a dedicated bag as, say you're using one bag for Muay Thai and one for work, you'll end up taking a dirty, potentially smelly bag to work.
Be sure to clean your bag from time to time as it accumulates dirt, dust and sweat from your gear and the gym.