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Are there small work gloves that fit well? How many truly good options are out there? Are there any that are budget-friendly? I ordered a bunch of pairs to find out, and compared them head to head!
It probably isn’t a surprise to anyone, but when you do a lot of DIY, demo, renovation, or yard work, you eventually need a pair of safety gloves (or a bunch to last through several seasons). Here’s the thing, though: I have SMALL HANDS. As in small palms, small fingers, and small thumbs. And, apparently, that’s a pretty huge challenge for the glove-making world!
The simple reality is that it is pretty difficult to find a pair of work gloves that fit and still offers us small-handed folk the dexterity we need to get the job done. So, I decided to go looking for the perfect pair… and to write about my personal experience with shopping for them.
The dilemma of poorly-fitting work gloves
Since the whole point of wearing a work glove is usefulness and safety, to have so few choices is frustrating. After all, loose PPE (“personal protective equipment”) can get caught. It reduces dexterity when you need it most, like when you need to pick up something sharp or rough (cough cough screws and nails). Plus, it’s a pain — sometimes literally, since it’s been shown that repeated straining from poorly-fitting workwear causes hand and arm fatigue.
So, the choices we’re left with aren’t so awesome, especially when trying to find gloves for a project immediately, without waiting on shipping. Because when do you think about grabbing a pair of work gloves — when you’re right about to use them, right? I find myself asking:
- do I risk injury from not wearing gloves? Or
- do I risk injury from wearing them? Or
- do I delay the project because I don’t have something that should (logically) be readily available?
Given that I take a lot of photos and video while using power tools on social media, I want to demonstrate wearing proper safety gear when necessary (like most humans, I don’t always practice what I preach, but I still wanted to put an honest effort!). There are a few other frustrations that motivated me, too:
- Most of the split-sized “S/M” sizes are still too big if they can be found in stores, so buying online is often the only option… and a gamble (since size charts only go so far)
- Finding smaller gloves that are made for women are often only for gardening or light work… and often pink or pastel-colored (eyeroll)
- A sponsor might require me to wear safety gear in my photos and videos when using their tools… and may even offer some… but it doesn’t always fit. That still means I need to find other PPE that fits — not to mention the mixed message of wanting me to endorse their brand, but not having safety gear for people my size ???
- Various nitpickery from know-it-all online commenters who tell me I need to wear gloves, without realizing just how difficult this whole scenario is when you’re small!
I searched online, naturally, for a solid list for small work gloves by someone out there in internet-land who may have found the answer for me already. Aside from reading individual reviews, glove by glove, I came up empty. So, I’ve made my own list! I’ve started by shopping in 3 places (I intend to expand this list in future updates to this post):
- in person: Home Depot
- in person: Lowe’s
- online: Amazon
I ordered around ten pairs in size “small” (I wanted to compare a single size where possible; very few brands actually make an “extra small”, but I’ve noted them in the list below). I also did two in-store try-ons at Lowe’s and Home Depot.
I also asked K (who wears a men’s size medium) try on some of the too-large pairs for the sake of additional feedback. He wound up keeping two of those for himself (they were basically mediums).
My work glove fit test criteria:
Granted, small hands aren’t created equal; we don’t all have the same finger lengths and palm widths, so fit is going to be tricky no matter what. So, my notes below will reflect a personal fit (small palms, small fingers, small thumbs). Still, I found most to be absurdly large, long, or wide. I don’t like wearing loose gloves, period. I also found that the same size and the same brand can have a completely different fit. Here were the main things I noted to myself during each try-on:
- Dexterity: Can I still move my hands around comfortably, without bagginess? Can I pick up small items?
- Features: knuckle protection, padding, reinforced stitching, Kevlar, etc. These are considered nice-to-have, but not exclusively deal breakers.
- Finger length: Do the palm & wrist fit, but the fingers leave absurdly extra length, making tasks difficult (especially picking up items or feeling for buttons and triggers on tools)? This is often the biggest issue for me! Some gloves were too long by as much as an inch!
- Weather type: I’ve separated my list into summer/all-season and winter gloves for better apples to apples comparison. I live in Georgia where heat is an issue for most of the year, but thermal features are great for winter months.
- Comfort: Issues like no ventilation when working up a sweat, scratchiness, rubbing in weird spots (such as velcro placement), quick off/on, etc.
- Wear & tear: I’ll add follow up notes after months of use from the ones I kept.
- Not pink: I don’t mind pink as an option, as long as it’s not the only color available in small sizes. This assumption that “all women’s stuff should be pink” drives me mad.
My In-Store Shopping Try-On Experience
- At Home Depot, they DID have small pairs of “heavy duty” work gloves and one women’s medium. It was clear that the smaller sizes are selling out FAST; most of the smaller boxes were empty. I grabbed the very last pair available of Firm Grip Pro for women.
- The majority of the brands I saw at Home Depot were unisex sizes; at Lowe’s, more were men’s vs women’s size labeling.
- At Lowe’s, I still tried on a few small-looking men’s mediums and one S/M, but they unfortunately didn’t fit. A pair of women’s medium Mechanix gardening gloves did fit. I didn’t buy them that day, but noted these might be a substitute for heavier work because they had leather fingers and leather palm.
- I looked online at the brands carried at both stores and there are even more options I can try to order. It looks like there are also extra-small options. But, of course, I was definitely interested in what I could find in the store itself (since gloves are so often something one buys while running an errand for something else!).
Since I live in Atlanta, it is really important to me to find a pair of gloves that provides adequate protection without smothering my hands in the heat and humidity. As you can see in the collage below, quite a few pairs were really loose!
Ironclad EXO Project Impact — Palm too wide. Finger length was ok (a smidge too long, but in places that I could live with). Fingers were very wide. Despite that, they felt like I might get a good grip if I were to use them. Both the palm and all knuckles had padding/guards. Thumbs have a terrycloth material for a sweat wipe. All in all, decent number of features, but ultimately made for much wider (and just slightly longer) hands. Too small for K so definitely a small, but not a good enough fit to earn it a spot on the keep pile. Returned.
Ironclad Ranchworx — Out of the Ironclad brand gloves, these are arguably the best fit of my small hands and I could probably justify keeping them as a backup pair of gloves (I thought these were going to be my overall “winner” until I tried on Carhartt’s and Firm Grip Pro). I like that the wrist comes down a little further compared to the rest on this list, but there’s less overall velcro surface and it’s on the side of the wrist rather than across the back. Over time, that placement/smaller patch may not attach as well or will have wear & tear from repeatedly pulling them on (we’ll see). Has finger & palm padding/protection and looks like it’s got some good reinforced stitching on the fingers. Fingers are short enough to feel like I still had some dexterity, but not enough for detailed work. However, much like the other Ironclad gloves, the fingers are still wide (especially the thumb), even if they are a more comfortable length.
Ironclad Framer Work Gloves — Why, oh why, did these have to not fit??? I had such high hopes when I found out these existed. A lot of the features on these are similar to the other Ironclad gloves, except the index, middle, and thumb are all tip-less. That means they only had to get the length right on FOUR fingers, and it failed miserably (womp womp). That, plus the palm and fingers were all far too wide, making these some of the worst of the bunch. Returned.
CLC Handyman Flexgrip — Palm felt nice. Had extra padding and only slightly too wide. 3 out of 5 fingers were too long. I tried these on after trying on the Ironclad ones, which as a group, were a lot thicker. Given the thin fabric, I think these might perform well in heat/humidity, so I decided to keep these and do a follow-up review in the summer.
Carhartt Ladies Dex II ★ — LOVED THESE GLOVES from the second I put them on. In full disclosure, my friend Kit, who now works at Carhartt, sent me these and another pair when I told her I was looking to do this comparison (I went online and purchased a third type to review once I knew these fit so well). These are truly made for small hands. The leather is soft and flexible, but still has a little padding/knuckle protection (though not as much as the rubber impact protection along the back of the fingers as some of the Ironclad gloves).
Carhartt Women’s C-Grip Pro Palm Glove ★ — These were the ones I ordered online after the two Kit sent. I am already using these in this video for my DIY Firewood Rack. They fit well and offered great protection from scraping up my hands on the bark/splinters of the firewood, and they added some nice insulation with how cold it was the day I was stacking all the wood and filming. I couldn’t really call these “winter” gloves because I still felt the cold, but they were much better than bare hands. I got them in purple, which were the only available size at the time of ordering on Amazon, but it looks like they come in gray as well. (Update: I use these a ton for demo work or other tasks where I need good palm protection!)
Grease Monkey Gorilla Grip ★ — found at Home Depot’s in-store display and fit very well; if I didn’t already have the Carhartt ones, I would have purchased these as well. These will probably be very useful in situations where it could get very messy and might need to discard. They’re cheaper than the Carhartt ones and can be bought in multi-packs. I would be more inclined to use them in a situation where I couldn’t use them again, such as tiling work where thinset would ruin a “good” pair. (Update: I use these whenever I plan to do mucky work.)
Firm Grip General Purpose (Unisex, yellow) — found in Home Depot’s in-store availability, but they didn’t fit very well (size small). Length was ok, but fingers and palms all too wide.
Firm Grip General Purpose (Women’s, blue) ★ — found in Home Depot’s in-store availability, fit very well. Also, the size is WOMEN’S MEDIUM where most of the other pairs offered by this brand are not specified as women’s or men’s. Purchased. (Update: I LOVE these and have used multiple pairs.)
Update: Since the original date of this post, Firm Grip has since expanded the number of size “small” gloves in various different styles and sent them to me to try on… it’s so appreciated that they listened! None fit quite as snug as the General Purpose Women’s Medium, but they are proportional, so I imagine they’ll still fit lots of other folks who don’t have “tiny baby hands” as I do!
Pretty much any pigskin/deerskin (those pale tan leather work gloves) of any brand that I tried on didn’t fit.
I separated out cold-weather gloves because I figured I might have to sacrifice a little dexterity for warmth. Finger length was still the top problem, though:
Superior Winter Work Gloves (Red) — Has some nice stretch and seems to be cozy enough to keep my hands warm, but all fingers were far too long… some up to an inch of extra length. Now when I click on the same link as the product I purchased, the size description has been changed to medium, so perhaps this was a complaint they addressed! When I search for the same description, a completely different item pops up, which also has extra-small sizing. So I’ll try those in a future order. Returned.
Ergodyne Proflex Gloves (with 3M Thinsulate) — Much more like a medium, because they were big everywhere. Did not pass what I call the “thumb test”, where I squish my hand into a palm to see how much extra room I have on each finger; if I can bend the finger tip over itself, it doesn’t come close to fitting (there was a lot of extra length in each fingertip, especially the thumb). They fit K perfectly though, so he’s keeping them instead (and used them on our camping trip!). They felt nice and warm, at least!
Youngstown Waterproof Winter Plus — Funnily enough, I had the opposite problem with these gloves as I had with pretty much all other competitors. The fingers were a pretty good length. But, unfortunately, they were made for much wider hands, so all of the fingers still felt like they were falling off and reduced overall dexterity. The thumb was so wide that I probably could have fit both my thumb and a stick of string cheese in it for a mid-afternoon snack. Returned
Carhartt Iris Touchscreen-friendly Gloves ★ — Really good fit and warm. They seem to have some insulation and thicker fabric, but they also have some grip on the palms. I took these this past weekend on a camping trip with me where it was both cold and raining; they aren’t waterproof and my fingers still got cold, but I felt the chill far less than I would have otherwise!
Top Small-Glove Winners:
Other overall takeaways:
- Most size “small” pairs seem to be designed with men’s hands in mind, even if they aren’t labeled explicitly for men. Having unisex gloves is a great move, but that means an XS size is needed as an option, and many are missing this so far, especially in store. It might also have an influence on how long the fingers are and how wide the fingers are made, even if the palms fit.
- Finding winter work gloves that fit is an even bigger challenge across the board.
- There seems to be demand — enough to empty boxes in the store. But overall availability is still lacking compared to the larger sizes, so I hope that continues to change.
- When ordering online, such as on Amazon, expect to pay a little more for small gloves than the rest of the sizes. In many cases, the cost was as much as 32% more for the small size vs. larger sizes.
I know I’m not necessarily putting a positive light on many of the gloves I tried on, but I’m not trying to vilify these brands listed, either. My point is that safety gear is important. And with so few of choices despite the amount of competition there is, means there’s plenty of opportunity to improve.
There’s also opportunity for design improvement. If the feedback I got already on my Instagram stories were any indication, this a problem that many people face, not just the ladies. Simply shrinking down a large pair of gloves and calling it a day is probably how we wind up with gloves that have comically long fingers. These need to be tried on by real people who will go, “um, is there any reason why I could fit my hand and my lunch in this thing??”
The ones I kept: next steps
Of the above pairs, I wound up keeping the pairs listed below. I felt like the Ranchworx and CLC pairs are settling for a workable but not great fit, so they make the “almost” pile. These selected pairs should be enough to get through a few months of putting them to work and seeing which ones wear thin or become too uncomfortable to use in the heat.
- Carhartt Iris — for winter but not waterproof work
- Black Nitrile Gloves — I didn’t really include these on the list above, but for things like resin, finish applications, & glue, these fit nicely in small
- Carhartt C-Grip Palm Pro — possibly for winter but more wet/dirty work
- Carhartt Ladies Dex II — general purpose
- Ironclad Ranchworx — general purpose
- Firm Grip Pro Women’s (Medium) — general purpose
- CLC Handyman — general purpose
I hope this provided some answers for you small-handed DIY badasses on a few good options that are out there, and maybe inspire a few brands to offer a fuller range of sizes. I’d love to see comments if you’ve been looking for small gloves so I can show this to more brands as PROOF that we need more options!* The fact that those boxes in the stores were empty (or near-empty) says one message loud and clear to me:
*Update: THANK YOU for the outpouring on this post and for sharing! I’m so pleased so many of you have found this helpful.
Also, since this is a working list, I’ll regularly check back in until I feel like I have found the trifecta of small gloves: FIT, FUNCTION, and aFFORDABLE (I know, not an “f”, but close enough). ? If you have a favorite pair I need to try next**, let me know.
Don’t forget to pin:
P.S. **Yes, I’ve already been told about the Duluth Trading gloves… I didn’t have them yet at the time of this first posting (mainly because it’s an individual buy vs. Amazon where I can buy a bunch, or in-store where I can do a lot of try-ons at once), but they are on the next batch of orders I’ll make. I also know of a new brand coming out with their own gloves in January, but the price is like 3x more than these on average, so I may try them just to say that they fit, but I’m looking for affordable options.
P.P.S. I wasn’t paid to mention or post about any of the brands mentioned here. In fact, brands usually don’t like you mentioning other brands in a single review, even if it’s a comparison in their favor! Kinda weird but true. If a brand offered me a pair of gloves a this point to add to this post when it gets updated in a few months after testing this first group, I’m not opposed to doing so and I’ll include those disclosures if the brand sent it themselves (one brand generously offered me a pair after they found out I was doing this review, but I’d already purchased them). Just wanting to be 100% transparent on the behind-the-scenes part in case there are any questions.