Track Prep: Choosing the Perfect Sparco Gloves for the Racing Season Ahead

Photography: Mike Maravilla

  • Sparco was founded in 1977 and remains one of the leading manufacturers of racing equipment at the highest levels of motorsport, including Formula 1, and continues to push the envelope to improve driver safety.
  • Its experience within professional motorsport series has passed down safety technological innovations to consumer products, including racing suits, gloves, underwear, frontal head restraints, and helmets.
  • Its full lineup of FIA and SFI-approved racing gloves are amongst the most popular options for grassroots enthusiasts, pro-am racers, and full-fledged professionals alike.

A spirited drive is a sensory experience: downshifting into second gear to a satisfying click, hearing the revs fall from redline as you dab the brakes, and feeling your organs shift inside your body as you rotate the car through the corner at speed. It’s rewarding when every driver’s input translates directly from aspiration and ideation to pure pace. Most of that input depends on how well you communicate your desire through the steering wheel. Because of that, one piece of equipment is crucial to get right: the perfect racing gloves.


Sparco is one of the world’s leaders in this realm. The company was founded in 1977 by three young rally drivers who were inspired by the racing world. The trio was quick to pinpoint the danger of the sport and vowed to create equipment that would make the pursuit safer and, true to the Italian spirit, stylish, too. Shortly after, Sparco produced its first flame-retardant racing suit—one that was able to withstand 20 seconds of fire—and a complementary racing seat a year after that. Its reputation and commitment to safety grew quickly, and today, Sparco remains a worldwide reference point for fireproof suits, shoes, gloves, and helmets. In many ways, Sparco was responsible for allowing drivers to strictly focus on the task at hand—winning races—instead of wondering whether they’d be coming home that evening.

As a grassroots racing enthusiast, there’s great comfort in knowing that Sparco racing equipment is trusted by the biggest series in the game, including Formula 1. That involvement also allows Sparco to directly translate its technological innovations from motorsport into products for all of us. The equipment that McLaren, Red Bull, and others on the grid trust to protect its drivers is identical to the gear we can buy right off the shelves. That’s pretty incredible.


Although hobbyists may never have a reason to buy a full-blown race suit for their bi-yearly track day, gloves are another story. They provide benefits to drivers at any skill level and, similar to helmets, slipping on a pair of gloves helps tighten your focus before a session. Still, that psychological effect is secondary to its gloves’ main purposes: to improve grip on the steering wheel and shifter and protect your hands from heat and flames should things go terribly wrong.

All of the Sparco gloves we’ve amassed here are FIA-approved—the strictest guidelines currently available in the motorsport industry. The latest FIA clothing rating (8856- 2018) will protect you from 2nd-degree burns for up to 9.5 seconds on the palm and 13 seconds on the rest of the gloves. It may not sound exceedingly lengthy, but that window, against a 1500°F flame, means the difference between a survival story and dire fate. For that reason, the FIA stamping is worn with pride. Every FIA-certified Sparco glove is adorned with an FIA label on the exterior of the cuff and an FIA hologram on the interior of the cuff (beneath the homologation label).


As I alluded to before, Sparco’s FIA-approved gloves are more than just a safety device. Despite being an additional layer between your skin and the steering wheel, the Sparco gloves allow plenty of direct communication through the material and ample grip that your sweaty hands wouldn’t otherwise have at the limit. According to the FIA Standard Guidelines for protective clothing, “The FIA Standards for gloves must be a compromise between heat protection, comfort, and dexterity to allow enough sensitivity and comfort whilst driving.” The five-strong lineup that we’re diving into offers something for everyone, regardless of where you land on the track day experience scale.

External stitching—a through line for all the Sparco gloves here—is a contributor to that glove comfort. The unadulterated interior also helps preserve the dexterity and sensitivity that drivers on the limit so desperately demand. An elastic wrist across the entire line improves fit and comfort, too.

Tide: At the top of the pile is Sparco’s latest and greatest racing glove. Although where Tide excels is similar to the rest of the lineup—increasing grip, absorbing vibrations, and increasing dexterity—it achieves these aims in a revolutionary way. As technology has moved on, Sparco has been able to create an anatomically correct palm shape that contours to your hand like a second skin. The palm of the Tide glove is constructed from advanced 3D HTX. As the main contact point between you and the steering wheel, the hollow “volcano” shape of the HTX material was specially arranged to increase durability (higher peaks in areas subject to more wear and tear).

Sparco is an industry leader in another area too: fire-resistant touch sensitivity. Sparco calls it “Touch-S Technology” and it incorporates touch-sensitive index and thumb areas to interact with touch screen data acquisition electronics, physical button timers like the AiM Solo 2, or phone lap timer apps without taking your gloves off. The white/black colorway here is the most timeless of the bunch, but the Tide glove is available in four others to coordinate with your gear: black/red, black/orange, red/black, and blue/white.

Arrow: Like Tide, the Arrow glove is another offering from Sparco that leverages its Touch-S technology and patented high-grip HTX material. The palm is printed with HTX in strategic areas to maximize grip and performance; the pattern and splash of color (on select colorways) distinguish it immediately from its Tide counterpart. The other major difference between the Tide and Arrow gloves is where they prioritize comfort. While Tide adds a padded knuckle for additional support and protection, the Arrow glove boasts a unique thumb seam for unparalleled comfort. The slimmer knuckle padding means that the Arrow glove is ultra-lightweight and feels like a natural extension of your hands. Six color combinations are available here: white, black/white, black/red, navy/red, yellow, and red.

Lap: The Sparco Lap racing glove packs high-end features—seen on the Tide and Arrow variants—into a reasonably priced package. The Lap glove was aptly named for its unique ability to work well with the Sparco Competition suit. It achieves this harmony via a unique elastic cuff system that helps it pair with the suit. The special cuff is highlighted by an eye-catching wrist design that really pops on the red/black colorway you see here. The Lap’s racing spirit is also evident in its “hybrid” finger stitching. External stitching is used for any contact points between you and the steering wheel, whereas internal stitching is utilized elsewhere to provide maximum durability in high-wear areas. Although it doesn’t have Sparco’s coveted HTX, Lap’s high-grip silicon palm material is no slouch. If the red/black colorway is a little too loud for you, I really like the white/black variant, too. It preserves the contrast wrist section that’s unique to the glove.

Futura: The Sparco Futura glove is aimed at the future; it’s the first glove in the world constructed from the company’s Full Efficiency technology—an innovative technique for fiber spinning and weaving that has allowed Sparco to tout that at least 51% of its total production comes from regenerated materials. The breakthrough allows the manufacturer to repurpose discarded material sections to achieve an ambitious “zero waste” goal ahead of anyone else in the industry. Like the Lap glove, Futura features “hybrid” finger stitching—a combination of internal and external weave work to net comfort and durability equally. The Futura glove gives nothing up on the safety side, despite the new construction method. This glove is FIA 8856-2018 and SFI 3.3/5 approved and comes in four colorways: black/white, black/yellow, black/green, and white/black. From all the options, I really like the black/yellow combo that we have here; it gives off some subtle Tron vibes and echoes its green initiative without being too shouty about it.

Land+: The standard Land glove has been Sparco’s entry-level competition choice for a long time and has been remixed in both classic interpretations and signature livery designs. As you might be able to infer, the Land+ glove is an upgraded version of that tried-and-true model. The basic palm and finger padding has been redesigned with new high-grip silicon that provides exceptional feedback and confidence in control. The modern tech integration is well worth the small price premium. The four Land colorways which we’ve all grown to love—Blue, Yellow, Black, and Red—are all available on the Land+.


The last pair of racing gloves I bought in 2014 has grown tired after ten years of use, so getting to try out such a generous spread from Sparco was timely. In full disclosure, I’d never driven with Sparco gloves before or experienced its HTX material first-hand, so I was excited to try them on and put a couple of pairs through their paces—on both leather and Alcantara wheels—to see if the juice was worth the squeeze. I thought it best to start with the Land+ glove to acclimate with the brand. Almost immediately, I was impressed. The elastic wrist and ergonomic palm made it fit, well, like a glove. But the experience made me realize just how bulky my previous pair felt; even trying on Sparco’s entry-level offering made my previous gloves feel like something you’d use to walk the dogs in the winter with, not necessarily ones you’d trust to inspire confidence on the track. For track enthusiasts on a budget, the Land+ is a great choice.

I moved up to Sparco’s Lap glove next. The red/black colorway with the unique contrast wrist section attracted me, and putting the glove on only accentuated that impression further. The pre-curved hybrid fingers were an immediate improvement. It felt like the glove was hugging the natural shape of my hand rather than fighting against it. Back to back, the Lap glove has more grip all-around versus the Land+, making you feel more intimately connected to the wheel. This is the glove I’d pick for a great all-rounder.

The last glove I tried in the real world was the Tide variant. Although I didn’t get a chance to sample the Arrow’s printed HTX material, the 3D HTX was far and away the grippiest glove I’ve ever used. I was curious whether or not the material—in the name of absorbing vibrations—would dull the communication through the steering wheel. I’m happy to report that Sparco has achieved the best of both worlds: Tide provides an unreal amount of grip and steering confidence unadulterated by road vibrations. Between sessions, I turned my palm upward to marvel at how far glove technology has come in a decade. The Sparco Tide glove is the real deal and, in my humble opinion, wholeheartedly worth the price premium. If compromise isn’t a part of your vocabulary, buy these Tide gloves and never look back.