The NextGen series MMA shin guard is one of the newer lines of shin pads from Knockout Athletics. NextGen combines some common design elements from other shin guards with great results in overall functionality. The only thing separating the NextGen from perfect review marks is some awkward sizing in the foot region and a higher than average price point. While this may seem like nitpicking, “fit” and “price” are two of the most important attributes of a shin pad that would have otherwise been perfect.
Fit and comfort come into play in every aspect of shin guard use. The NextGen combines the neopreane slip on backing with conventional Velcro straps to sidestep most of the problems of both. Unlike most neopreane-backed shin pads, the NextGen does not slip down or turn to the side when sparring or drilling at high intensity. The straps negate the slipping caused by other neopreane models while the cloth backing prevents the straps from digging into the calf muscle when tightened. This kind of security is all most people in training want out of a shin guard.
The problem, as mentioned, is that the foot is unusually small. The foot is secured by a single elastic strap sewn in to the padding and the neopreane back fits down to the ankle. This combination makes the foot strap not only nonadjustable but nonnegotiable. My first few days using the NextGen were physically painful around the instep and caused some cramping. Eventually they just became uncomfortable as I broke the pads in.
A note on the reviewer: I am exceptionally tall and skinny with a 13 double wide foot. The XL size may have fit my foot better than the L I was using, but would had been far too wide to fit securely around my leg. Some consumers may experience less discomfort in the foot area than I did, given my unusual sizing. But, the foot pad is still smaller than on the average shin guard.
Fortunately, the foot size is the only major functional criticism of an otherwise fantastic product. The multilayer foam inside the pad performed as well as any I’ve seen. After a series of stress tests involving deliberately kicking into elbows and checks on multiple partners for hundreds of repetitions, my legs were barely scathed.
With most new shin pads, I can barely finish that kind of test. Kicking hard into an elbow or a precisely timed knee on a check will still get a feeling of impact through the pad. But those will get through anything softer than rebar. Compared to other, comparable shin guards, the NextGen meets and exceeds all reasonable expectations for protecting the leg.
One of the strengths of other shin guards with a neopreane backing that the NextGen lacks is an ease of taking off and putting back on. To its credit, the NextGen is more or less glued to where you put it on for the training session. This is sometimes a double-edged sword. It’s not exactly the Iron Man suit, but taking off and putting on the NextGen guards will take longer than putting on or taking off a pair of sneakers. Overall, this is a minor issue in the fitting, but still something to consider.
What is not a minor issue for these pads is the $87.99 price point. The NextGen isn’t the most expensive brand on the market. And the pad certainly provides more bang for the buck than the insanely overpriced Hayabusa and UFC shin guards. However, savvy customers will note that there are similar pads running between $10-$20 cheaper.
The protection on the NextGen is still superlative and I would recommend sinking the extra money in for someone training 10 hours a week or more with a lot of kicking. But, because mileage may vary on the foot fitting and how necessary the padding is, more casual players may want to look at a cheaper brand.