Originally, leather was the go-to material for boxing gloves. With the leaps and bounds made by textile technology, gloves don’t have to be leather today, which is good news if you’re not a fan of the material for ethical reasons. Leather remains the material of choice for many high end brands, but the price point is often out of reach for many fighters. In any case, a good synthetic leather boxing glove can be equal to, or better than, a leather boxing glove. Let’s look at boxing glove materials on the market and their pros and cons in order to figure out which is right for you.
Common Synthetic Boxing Glove Materials
Vinyl, also known as PVC, is a synthetic polymer known for its resilience. It’s often used by companies to keep costs low for the consumer, and so it a great cheaper alternative to leather gloves. In fact, this Is one of the earliest types of leather alternatives used in the boxing and MMA industry and has stayed strong since.
- If you do not want to invest in high-priced leather gloves, or you only want to do boxing workouts occasionally, vinyl gloves can be the answer because of their lower price point.
- Vinyl can be cleaned more easily than leather, and does not need specialized supplies: simply drying in the sun can help disinfect them.
- Vinyl gloves tend to be on the lighter side as compared to traditional leather gloves, making wear much easier for beginners or hobby boxers.
- An issue with vinyl is that it tends to have an odour build-up, an issue that most plastic polymers face. However, if dried out properly or fitted with the requisite dry-fit technology, they fare quite well.
- PVC is particularly prone to cracking: with time and use, they are more likely to split.
Polyurethane: Polyurethane or PU is a material which has become popular with boxing glove manufacturers for its sleek look and superficial similarities to leather. Gloves made from PU tend to be for beginners so that they see less wear and tear.
- Vegan friendly as no animal products are used in the making of this textile.
- PU tends to handle bag workouts with more resilience than vinyl does, as it’s longer lasting and more flexible. Better quality PU gloves can last as long as leather.
- Depending on quality, PU gloves can be good for sparring as well.
- As with PVC, PU gloves need less specialized attention in terms of cleaning than leather does.
- If you train frequently, odour build up can be an issue as is the case with vinyl.
- PU gloves can also split over time if they are of lower quality.
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Leather boxing gloves: Pros and Cons
All leather is not the same: there are different grades and qualities of leather and each company’s leathers vary due to it being a naturally occurring textile. However, all grades have some properties in common: with leather, one can expect flexibility, a high degree of durability and resilience, and comfortable wear. Luxury boxing gloves tend to be made exclusively of leather, due to its properties as well as the fact that this is where boxing gloves started out.
Leather is generally grouped into full-grain, top-grain, and genuine leather. Full-grain leather is considered top of the line but is also priced accordingly. Top-grain leather, while not considered as pure, is more flexible and smooth and so is generally preferred in boxing glove manufacturing.
Benefits of Leather Boxing Gloves
- Gloves made of leather are very comfortable to wear due to their natural stretch and the way they mould to fit your hand.
- Leather tends to be soft, flexible, and long lasting.
- Training doesn’t build up odors in leather.
Cons of Leather Boxing Gloves
- The thickness of the leather determines its durability, so some knowledge of grading is necessary to determine if the gloves in question are worth the price.
- Cleaning and maintenance of leather is more difficult as it needs particular products and techniques.
- Leather is also much more expensive than the other materials mentioned, making it inaccessible for some people.
- Thinner cowhide leathers can easily be damaged if a lot of heavy-bag work is involved.
Real Leather vs Synthetic Leather Boxing Gloves: Which should you pick?
Now that we’ve gone through the details, the rest is entirely up to your level of use as well as your price range. If you use your gloves for heavy training regularly, it makes sense to invest more money in leather gloves to get the best possible experience and use of them. If you’re using gloves for a class, or tend to do so less regularly, a cheaper pair of leather alternative gloves is perfectly adequate. Alternatively, if you don’t use leather for ethical reasons, try a better-quality PVC glove for durability and performance. For the best range of gloves in each of these materials, go here.