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Why Does My Motorcycle Helmet Hurt My Head?

Motorcycle helmets can be a tricky subject—especially when it comes to choosing the right motorcycle helmet.

A motorcycle helmet needs to fit just right. It shouldn’t create any discomfort or hurt your head. Unfortunately, many riders may experience discomfort, and in certain cases, motorcycle helmets can hurt your head.

Why does my motorcycle helmet hurt my head? A motorcycle helmet that is not the right size or shape would hurt your head. Cheap motorcycle helmets are also known to be less comfortable, which can cause discomfort. A motorcycle helmet should feel snug and a little tight but not enough to hurt your head or cause headaches.

Understanding the reason why a motorcycle helmet hurts your head is vital. After all, a helmet that causes you discomfort and headaches (and in certain cases even migraines) is nothing short of a health and safety hazard.

Below I go more in-depth about this topic.

A close up of a motorcyclist wearing a helmet.

Is it normal for a motorcycle helmet to hurt your head?

It is not normal for a motorcycle helmet to hurt your head. A motorcycle helmet should fit just right and not cause any discomfort.

However, people are all very different. Everybody will have a uniquely shaped head, which is the prime reason why some motorcycle helmets will not fit while others will be a perfect fit.

Because of that, motorcycle helmets are also very different and will vary in size, shape, and amount of padding in the different areas of the helmet.

This is why when buying a new motorcycle helmet, there are a few things you need to be looking for, the most important of which is fit. 

First, you need to find the circumference or the size of your head. Second, you need to consider the shape of your head. And lastly, you need to measure the width of your head from side to side and the length of your head from front to back.

Ideally, the helmet should press against your face just enough to feel very snuggly around the crown of the head without creating any pressure points. Even if the cheek pads do not fit well, that is not a problem as they can be replaced. You can always get different-sized cheek pads.

What causes a motorcycle helmet to hurt your head

If a motorcycle helmet hurts your head, it is almost guaranteed that the reason behind that will have something to do with your head shape.

Using a helmet designed for a different head size

When it comes to motorcycle helmets, fit is king.

You want to have the right size helmet. You do not want it to be so tight that it hurts your head, and there is nothing worse than an undersized helmet that will not fit you, in certain cases, you may be able to put it on your head, but it will be so tight that it will give you a headache after a while.

A helmet may feel like it fits you well, but try wearing it for a while (about 15 minutes or so) and see how you feel. After wearing it for a while, you will be able to tell if it is a good fit or if it will hurt your head.

Wearing a motorcycle helmet that is not the right size will result in a very poor experience. The helmet will either feel very loose, thus providing little to no protection to your head, or very tight, which is again a safety hazard. A helmet that feels very tight because it is a smaller size will hurt your head and can quickly cause intense headaches and even migraines.

Using a helmet designed for a different head shape

An easy way to determine if the motorcycle helmet is not the proper shape for your head is by trying to move it side to side and front to back. If it is moving, then this is a good sign that it is not the right shape for your head. There should also be a little room between the cheek guard and your chin.

If you feel pressure points on your forehead or at the back of your head, but there is plenty of wiggle room around your temples, you need a longer oval-shaped helmet. Your head may be more oval-shaped, and the helmet may be designed for rounder heads.

Alternatively, if you feel pressure on your temples, but there is a lot of empty space between the helmet and your forehead, you may need a rounder motorcycle helmet.

Some helmets will be just not fit too well on certain heads, especially if you have an arch that is too high. You want your eyes to be just in the middle of the opening. However, if you have a shorter or longer top of the head, your eyes may end up being in the bottom or top third of the opening. 

In order to adapt to that, you will try to push your helmet down or up, which can cause pressure points in different areas of your head.

Choosing a motorcycle helmet with the right size, but the wrong shape will usually result in localized pressure spots. In other words, you will feel pressure in certain spots on your head but not others.

An overtightened chin strap

If a helmet does not fit right, one of the common ways riders will compensate is by overtightening the chin strap.

This is a common way to try and force the helmet to stay tighter around the head. However, it will also cause more discomfort and pressure points, hurting the head, and leading to headaches.

In other cases, some riders are left with the impression that the chin strap should be very tight. There should be a little wiggle room, usually enough to slip a finger. Usually, it will feel like the motorcycle helmet fits the shape of your head just right except for the top portion of the head where it will hurt.

Overtightening the chin strap by mistake, even on a motorcycle helmet that is a perfect fit, will again cause it to hurt your head.

A cheap helmet

When it comes to motorcycle helmets, you get what you pay for. The prices of motorcycle helmets can vary a lot and sometimes be very steep.

There are plenty of examples where spending more money usually does not get you anything better, but this is not the case with motorcycle helmets.

See article: How much should you spend on a motorcycle helmet?

Cheaper motorcycle helmets are usually less comfortable and can hurt your head more. In comparison, mid-range and higher-end motorcycle helmets are a lot more comfortable. More expensive motorcycle helmets will usually have a different shell size that is appropriate for the size of the liner, which can reduce hot spots.

Oftentimes motorcyclists who have tried and tested more expensive motorcycle helmets will never go back to wearing a cheaper helmet. And there is a good reason for that as you cannot put a price on comfort.

Up to about $250, you pay for safety, and after that, you pay for extra features and comfort. 

See article: Are expensive motorcycle helmets worth it?

The break-in period

If the helmet is the right size and the right shape but is still hurting your head, you may have to consider the break-in period. After a while, motorcycle helmets will loosen up slightly.

A new helmet should not feel too tight; nonetheless, it should feel a little tight or snug. In fact, it should be so snug that many riders may not really like how it feels until it breaks in.

However, you need to be sure the motorcycle helmet is the right size and shape, and that there are no other problems with it.

Some helmets may hurt your head in the beginning, but once they break in and loosen, they will feel snug like a glove and will not hurt your head.

It can be normal for a new motorcycle helmet to hurt your head after wearing it for 60 minutes. The break-in period can last at least 10 to 30 hours. People with more standard head shapes may not even have a helmet to break in as it will fit them right from the beginning.

That being said, wearing the helmet for 15 to 30 minutes should feel fairly comfortable.

Yet, it is still worth testing a few different helmets from different brands in order to make sure that all the measurements are correct. Usually, there should be at least a few helmets that will fit well, and you will be able to cross-check.

It should also be mentioned that used, second-hand motorcycle helmets can also hurt your head because they may have been broken in by a person with a differently shaped head than yours. This can cause discomfort and localized pressure points.

Noise triggered headaches

If you get headaches while riding your motorcycle, sometimes it may not be because of the helmet but because of the noise.

Some people may be more sensitive to louder noises. If the helmet seems like a good snug fit, but you still experience headaches after 30 to 60 minutes of riding, try wearing earplugs (if you don’t). The extra noise reduction of the earplugs will help some riders in dealing with noise-triggered headaches.

Wearing a balaclava with bad stitches

Not all motorcyclists will wear a balaclava under their motorcycle helmet. However, the ones that do need to pay extra attention to how it is stitched and where exactly the stitches are located.

Some balaclavas can have one big stitch that runs across the top of the head, which can cause discomfort and pain after wearing it with the helmet on. Ideally, you want the stitches to be located on the sides of the head as the helmet will not be pressing on them due to gravity.

What to do if a motorcycle helmet hurts your head

If a motorcycle helmet hurts your head, you need to find the reason why it hurts your head first. If the problem is with the size or the shape of the motorcycle helmet, you should immediately replace it with a new motorcycle helmet that fits you right and does not hurt your head.

Do not be afraid to try on as many different helmets as you can until you find the ones that feel just right. You do not want to choose the first one that fits right as well. Any good store should allow you to try and test as many different helmets as you need.

Some stores may even have a 7-day return policy (or more) on motorcycle helmets, which is a good thing to look for as deciding on a helmet takes time, and often 15 minutes of wearing it in the store is not enough.

Some motorcycle shops may even let you wear the helmet for longer. Do not be afraid to ask as choosing the right motorcycle helmet is really not that easy sometimes, and people know that.

What not to do if a motorcycle helmet hurts your head

It is not uncommon for a rider to try and work in the padding. Some riders may consider applying light pressure at the spot of the helmet that hurts their head. 

They will use a tennis ball or the curved back of a spoon to press gently on the padding in order to bend it a little and give more breathing space. Other riders may even try sanding it, digging it, or even cutting thin pieces away from the foam.

However, this can void warranties and protection promises by the manufacturer. Pressing down on the foam can compromise the foam’s structure, potentially affecting its ability to protect the rider.

The other thing that people may consider is adding more padding around the area that causes discomfort. In reality, the result of adding even a little padding in certain areas of a motorcycle helmet is usually more discomfort. Even small amounts of padding may possibly do more harm than good in the case of an accident.


  • Why does my motorcycle helmet hurt my head?
    • This question addresses the common issue of discomfort and pain caused by motorcycle helmets. It explains that incorrect sizing, wrong shape, and even the quality of the helmet can contribute to discomfort and headaches. It emphasizes the importance of a snug yet comfortable fit that doesn’t cause pain.

  • Is it normal for a motorcycle helmet to hurt your head?
    • This question delves into the normalcy of experiencing pain while wearing a motorcycle helmet. It clarifies that a well-fitting helmet should not cause discomfort or pain and discusses various reasons for helmets hurting the head, including incorrect size, shape, overtightened straps, and more.

  • What should you do if your motorcycle helmet hurts your head?
    • This question provides guidance on how to address the issue of a painful motorcycle helmet. It advises on actions to take if a helmet hurts, such as finding the right size and shape, considering the break-in period, avoiding helmet modifications, and seeking a helmet replacement that offers a comfortable fit. The answer underscores the importance of rider comfort and safety.

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