Combat Sports Equipment Lifespan
Unfortunately, wear and tear is a common issue when it comes to combat sports equipment. The constant contact with other people and equipment will inevitably chip away at the durability, no matter what kind of gear you’re using (gloves, shin guards, rash guards, etc).
The same principle applies to most of the material possessions we may own. Running shoes will break down when training for a marathon (after a lot of mileage); your shoes will become worn out after walking in them for months; the tread of your car’s tires will run thin, and so on.
So when should you get new gear? What are some signs that you should replace your equipment?
Of the five senses (sight, sound, smell, taste, and touch), we can use three to see if we need new gear: sight, smell, and touch.
Visible signs (Sight)
If you can see that your gear is damaged in any way, it’s only a matter of time before it will need to be replaced. Damage to your gear most commonly results from the way you train. Training hard on a consistent basis takes a toll on you, mentally and physically. Same goes for your gear.
Repeatedly punching the heavy bag with power or constantly having the jacket of your gi pulled in different directions is going to wear on their durability.
Some of the visible signs that reflect the deterioration of equipment include, but are not limited to: rips in the outer material, interior material (padding) falling out, stitches coming undone, broken straps, and tears in the interior lining.
This type of sign is usually one of the easiest ways to tell if you need new gear. You can likely train for some time with gear (before replacing it), if it has some stitches coming undone or a small tear.
However, if your equipment has a noticeable bad odor - it’s time to replace it. With apparel like gis, rash guards, and shorts, a replacement is not necessarily needed. A simple wash on laundry day is.
You can wipe down the exterior surfaces of striking equipment, but you cannot (or should not) throw them in the wash with clothes. This will damage it beyond repair. If gloves and shin guards start to smell, that means the padding inside is starting to smell. It’s not the exterior shell covering that smells or even the interior lining of the glove, it’s the padding secured on inside. This padding is encased within and held together by the stitches that connect the outer material. You cannot replace this padding and will likely need to order new gear, if you have cleaned both the inside and outside of the striking gear and it still smells bad.
Physical Signs (you can tell by the feeling of training in it)
The more you use and wear your equipment, the more familiar you will be with it. You probably remember how firm the padding of your boxing gloves were when you first started using them. You also know how comfortable the inside of your gis and rashguards were when they came out of the bag.
As a result, you’ll know when the conditions of these same gloves, gis, and rashguards worsen. The gloves no longer protect your hands as much and it hurts when you punch. The inside of your gi is no longer silky smooth, but instead scratches you or irritates your skin. While there may be no visible damage like tears or rips, you just feel that something is off about your gear. You would be right. Physical damage may not always be visible to you, which is why being familiar with your equipment and paying attention to the feedback it gives is so important.
Equipment will give feedback to your body based on the way it is used. If you have proper technique and it hurts your knuckles when you punch the heavy bag, the padding of your boxing gloves may be wearing very thin - too thin for you to be training safely. If your rash guards scratch your skin or make you itch every time you wear them, then the material may be falling apart and causing this irritation.
Some of the physical signs that reflect the deterioration of your gear include, but are not limited to: thin padding, velcro that no longer sticks, irritation when rubbing against your skin, looser fits (no longer snug), and discomfort or pain when training.
You can test your gear by wearing and training it in. If something feels off or is irritating your body, it’s worth a closer look.
How often should you change gear?
This answer varies. Everyone trains, sweats, and takes care of their equipment differently. If you train hard five times a week, but clean your gear after every training session, your equipment can very well last longer than someone who trains twice a week and never cleans their equipment.
There isn’t a set amount of time that you have to replace your gear, so you should pay attention to the feedback you receive from using your equipment. Is there any visible damage? Does it smell, even after you’ve cleaned it (excluding apparel)? Does the material itself irritate or hurt you, when using it? If you answered yes to one or more of these questions, examine your gear and consider getting new equipment.
While your equipment won’t last forever, you can prolong the lifespan of your equipment by taking good care of it. We wrote an article on general hygiene and it includes taking care of your equipment - consider checking it out here!
Thank you for reading - we hope this article gave helpful information on the lifespan of equipment!