When you’re in the market for racing gear, you might notice that some gloves are specified for karting, and others for racing. Although they might not be clear at first, there are some key differences between karting and racing gloves.
The 3 key differences between karting and racing gloves are:
- Karting gloves are cheaper than racing gloves
- Karting gloves are not fire retardant
- Karting gloves do not need to be homologated
Finding the right pair of gloves can save you some discomfort and they will last you a long time too. Below, I’ll take a closer look at each of these differences to ensure you pick the right set of gloves!
The 3 Key Differences Between Karting & Racing Gloves
1. Karting Gloves Are Cheaper Than Racing Gloves
While browsing through different websites that sell karting and racing gear, the first thing you will most likely notice is that karting gloves (and other bits of karting gear in general) are a bit cheaper than their racing equivalents.
There are various reasons for this, but it’s mainly because karting is (meant to be) a much cheaper way to get into motorsport, and therefore the racewear has to be cheaper than the racewear used for cars. More specifically focused on gloves, most karting leagues do not require high-quality fire-retardant gloves, which also keeps their price down (more on that in a moment).
Being cheaper than racewear for cars makes it easier and more affordable to get into karting and the world of racing. Karting gloves are also available in smaller sizes to accommodate kids, which is vital as a large part of the karting market is younger kids looking to get their first taste of motorsport.
2. Karting Gloves Are Not Fire Retardant
Unlike racing gloves, karting gloves do not need to be fire retardant. This is because karts are much smaller, and they are open. This means that there is less risk of a fire related incident in a small space, unlike in a race car.
Racing gloves are made from Nomex, which is a fire-retardant material. The higher risks of fires in cars (primarily during crashes) makes this a requirement. Karting gloves will also often be a little bit thinner than racing gloves. This allows the driver to get a better feeling of their steering feedback through the gloves.
Some karting gloves are designed specifically for wet weather racing, which is not something you find in racing gloves. Due to the nature of karts, driving in rainy weather means that everything gets soaking wet. Having wet-weather gloves keeps the moisture out a little bit, but it also allows you to grip the steering wheel better in the wet.
Despite not being fire resistant like their racing counterparts, karting gloves often feature extra padding on potential contact points such as the palms and the knuckles. Karting drivers are very much exposed to physical contact when it comes to their body and especially their hands, so adding this extra bit of padding is a good safety measure too.
3. Karting Gloves Do Not Need To Be Homologated
Another big difference between karting gloves and racing gloves is that there are no set specifications for karting gloves. As I mentioned earlier, fire resistance is not as important of a factor when it comes to karting as it is with car racing.
As a result, various different types of gloves can be used in karting, giving drivers the freedom to find gloves that work for them and keep them comfortable while driving. Having a lack of specific requirements also keeps the cost of karting gloves as low as possible, tying in with the first point about karting gloves being generally cheaper than racing gloves.
Choosing The Right Karting Gloves
Choosing the right gloves is crucial in karting. Karts do not have power steering, and this can cause a lot of strain on your hands. If you do not have good gloves, your hands can become sore after some time in the kart, and this could easily happen halfway through a race. Without proper gloves, you may also start to notice some calluses on your palms as well.
Comfort is the most important factor you need to consider when it comes to choosing your karting gloves. Having a good grip on the steering wheel will of course be more comfortable on your hands for longer periods of time, but it will also give you a better feeling of what the kart is doing on track. This is helpful when it comes to finding the right setup for your kart.
Getting the right size of gloves can be tricky, especially if you are buying them online and you won’t be able to test them out first. The correct way to measure your glove size is to measure the width of your hand when facing palm up. Or you can close your hand into a fist and measure across the knuckles of your four fingers (thumb excluded).
Many places will either have their sizes measured in inches or centimetres, but this is easy to convert online. Each brand will have different sizes though. For example, an Alpinestars medium might be the same as a Sparco small, so always make sure you check the measurements before buying gloves.
The important part is that your fingertips fit nicely into the gloves’ fingertips. Make sure there is no excess fabric there, as this means the gloves are too big, and they will likely become uncomfortable and affect your grip on the steering wheel.
4 Motorsport Glove Brands To Consider For Karting
Alpinestars have always been a firm favourite for my race gear. They have top-quality products and are well known in the world of motorsport. Their racewear is popular in karting all the way up to Formula 1 and IndyCar. Alpinestars have some really good designs for gloves, and their gloves have an extremely comfortable fit.
I always use their wet-weather gloves even in the dry weather because of the comfort and grip that they provide.
Sparco are a close second. Sparco have been a reliable and popular choice in the motorsport world for many years and their glove designs are also really interesting and more colorful than Alpinestars (which may or may not be important to you).
They also have a larger selection of gloves than Alpinestars, which could be important if you want a range of designs to choose from. They tend to be slightly cheaper than Alpinestars gloves, but their top-of-the-range gloves are at roughly the same price point as Alpinestars.
OMP may be a slightly less well known brand than the previous two, but they’re just as good, and they have about as much variety in their glove designs and colors as Sparco. Their prices are also similar to Sparco, so here it is more a case of personal preference or brand loyalty.
Adidas motorsport gear is still relatively new in the karting market. They have a much smaller variety of gloves and are designed as you would expect from Adidas (with a certain number of stripes featuring prominently in the design!). They are also more expensive than the rest of the brands, but they may be worth considering if you like the brand.
At the end of the day, you can race in karts with either karting gloves or racing gloves, but you typically can’t race cars with karting gloves! This is because karting gloves do not have the correct safety requirements that are needed in cars, primarily as they are not made with fire-resistant Nomex material.
Choosing the right gloves is important, but you don’t always have to spend a fortune! There are some great cheap karting gloves out there too.
I created and have been writing on this site since 2019, collaborating with drivers, coaches, engineers and manufacturers to provide you with the most reliable information about motorsport. Find out more about me here.