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We’ve all been there (well most of us!).
Sprawling on the ground from the aftermath of a crunching tackle and wishing that those dusty old shin pads that we left in the closet were resting securely on top of the front of our legs.
Shin pads will always be a part of the beautiful game that we know and love, whether we like it or not.
For those of you reading this who are looking to save some time, I’ll cut right to the chase…
And for those of you who only have the faintest idea of what I’m talking about right now because you are new to the sport, then just read along 😊
Why are shin guards used in football?
As the name suggests, shin guards are worn by those playing the sport to prevent unwanted injuries.
According to this study on the effectiveness of shin guards used by football players, they function to protect the soft tissues and bones in the lower extremities from external impact.
They do this by way of shock absorption and energy dissipation, which ultimately decreases the chances of an injury occurring.
Here’s a video that tries to explain why you should wear shin pads all whilst providing a bit of comedic relief:
Hopefully you see the importance of these pieces of rubber/ plastic!
Now I’m going to briefly talk about how you put them on…
How do you wear shin guards?
Putting shin pads on is relatively straightforward, but the procedure varies depending on the type of shin guard that you intend to wear.
Wearing shin pads without ankle protection
For Velcro strap shin pads that don’t come equipped with added ankle protection, you simply place the shin guards on the front side of your lower legs and secure them in place with the velcro strappings provided for each pad.
After that, wear your socks over the shin pads and you can then wrap athletic tape around your legs, just above and below where the shin guards are positioned.
The tape serves to minimise movement of the shin pad whilst one is playing.
With non-velcro strap shin pads, the process is even easier.
Simply put both your socks on and once done, slide the shin pads under the socks, all the way towards the middle areas of your lower legs.
You can then use athletic tape to secure them further, just like you would with velcro strap-type guards.
On the other hand, the shin pads with ankle guards have an extra step.
Wearing shin pads equipped with ankle protection
With these, you would put the shin guards on first, securing them into place with Velcro strapping and then sliding the half-socks that come with the shin pads over your ankles.
Finally, wear your socks over the secured shin pads and you’re good to go!
For an easier visualisation of the overall process, check out the brief clip below:
Now that you know what why footballers wear shin pads and how they are worn, I’m going to recommend the best options that can be purchased.
So, let’s get ourselves started…
Here’s my list of the top football shin pads to buy in 2021, in no particular order…
Mitre Aircell Carbon Unisex Ankle Protect Football Shin Guards
- Aircell technology is fully breathable, keeping you cooler and dryer
- Lightweight foam backing allows air to circulate, so the heat of the battle can stay on the pitch
- The fixed sock keeps the guard in place and protects your ankle
Mitre were well known back in the day for producing some of the hardest footballs known to man!
Unlike their footballs however, their shin guards are a softer touch and what’s most impressive is that their product is the #1 best seller for football shin guards on Amazon.
What caught my eye the most with these shin pads is that they are CE and SATRA tested, which means that they’re actually approved for use at the highest levels of association football.
Adidas Ghost Pro Shin Guards
- Flexible 3D shield with very durable material
- Light weight and perfect fit
- Optimum protection and cushioning
Adidas are widely regarded as one of the biggest sports brands in the world.
You can usually rest easy as a buyer knowing that they make quality products, and these shin guards are no different.
They come with a separated front plate, a compression sleeve, as well as EVA backing, which all combine to provide an almost perfect fit with supreme levels of comfort.
The aqua blue and solar yellow colour of these shin pads makes them pleasing on the eye too.
Franklin Sports Superlight Soccer Shin Guards
- Peewee sizing:Small: up to 4' 7", Ages 7 and under
- Lightweight construction with distinctive chrome accented design
- High density abrasion resistant shield, Symmetrical design provides anatomical fit
Going against the grain are the Franklin Sports shin guards.
The lesser known brands are also capable of producing fine products and these shin guards are a great example of excellent craftsmanship.
These feature a distinctive chrome accented and symmetrical design that provides an anatomical fit.
The double adjustable self-stick straps allow the user to firmly secure the shin guards against their legs and the high-density foam material present within the guard enhances energy absorption which is good when taking heavy impact tackles.
These shin pads also come in 3 different sizes of small, medium and large.
VIZARI Malaga Shin Guards
- Foam padded backing for comfort
- Front strap closing
- Excellent players shin guard
These shin guards come with added ankle protection, which caters to those who prioritise their own safety above comfort and style.
That’s not to say that these shin guards don’t fit snugly when worn, as if they did then they wouldn’t be featuring in this buying guide in the first place!
The rear of the shin guard is foam padded for extra comfort, and a front strap closing is available to secure the pad against one’s leg.
Nike Mercurial Lite Football Shin Guards
- Flat construction for protection with low weight
- Durable shell with thick foam padding for impact absorption
- Flexible coating around the tibia for a natural fit
A football product buying guide is rarely if ever complete without a Nike recommendation!
These shin pads look great and their build quality makes them feel great as well.
Unlike other shin pads, these feature a flexible coating around the tibia which covers your shin whilst at the same time making for a more natural fit.
The pad shell is durable and comes with a thick foam padding which is utilised for impact absorption.
G-Form Men’s Pro-S Elite Shin Guard
- G-Form’s proprietary and patented molded composite constructions and designs with a unique integration of (RPT) to provide a superior combination of impact protection, comfort and performance.
- These pads which are sold in pairs are very low profile, giving you an edge over the competition.
- CE certified for Outdoor/Association Soccer (CE EN 13061:2009)
Quite frankly, these are the most unique looking shin guards that I have ever come across.
The proprietary and patented moulded composite construction of this shin pad is said to provide the perfect trio of impact protection, comfort and performance when it comes to shin pads.
And just in case you weren’t sure whether you’d be allowed to wear these in a professional game, you have no need to worry, as they are CE certified for association soccer (CE EN 13061:2009).
It also features a moisture-wicking, UPF 50+ compression fabric that is supposed to keep the wearer’s legs cool and dry throughout the game.
And that covers all the top picks!
Now I’m going to wrap up by answering some of the most commonly asked questions surrounding the football shin pad topic.
Frequently asked questions
Why do football players wear small shin pads?
Some footballers – like Aston Villa’s Jack Grealish, Bayern Munich’s Thomas Muller and Sheffield United’s Oliver McBurnie – are well known for sporting mini shin pads that cover a smaller area of a footballer’s leg than a regular shin pad would.
There are two possible reasons for a footballer’s use of smaller shin pads:
Football is a sport that is watched by millions of avid fans across the globe.
Some footballers jump at the chance to showcase their stylistic choices when it comes to what they wear on the pitch.
Think of it this way…
…As a footballer you are being watched by huge and culturally vast audiences, what better time is there to display their fashion sense?
In an interview with The Guardian in 2018, Oliver McBurnie stated that he wears toddlers shin pads simply for comfort and minimum compliance:
“They’re the smallest I can find. We never wear shin pads in training, and then you go into a game and wear them, so that feels alien to me.”
And I personally resonate with his choice.
As a Sunday league level footballer, I never wear shin pads as I feel that they interfere with my movement and affect my general level of play.
Interestingly enough however, FIFA’s regulatory requirements on wearing shin pads stipulate that shin pads should provide a reasonable degree of protection, which is a problem as it can definitely be argued that the professional players wearing these smaller shin pads are not adequately safeguarded from leg injuries and are therefore in breach of the rules.
Although the referees are partly to blame for their failure to enforce these rules.
Are slip in shin guards better?
From my own past experience of wearing shin pads, I tend to favour wearing slip in shin guards over the more clunky strap-on Velcro type shin guards.
This is because I prioritise my comfort when I’m playing.
And because I’m of the belief that my physical comfort on the pitch can have an effect on my overall sporting performance, I feel that the slip in shin pads are better suited.
Of course, this question is entirely subjective as others may prefer maximum protection instead of comfort.
Are shin guards with ankle protection better?
Similar to the previous question, I side with comfort over protection.
Although ankle protective shin pads are quite good at withstanding impact and so if you are worried about injuring either of your ankles I would highly recommend purchasing a pair of shin pads that come with ankle protection built in.
This organisation suggests that shin guards with ankle protection are a good choice for younger players getting into the sport, as a few kicks to the ankle from young opponents who may lack the skill of timing their tackles properly could discourage these youngsters from playing.
How often should you replace shin guards?
This study provided a thorough evaluation of the duration of effectiveness of shin guards and came to the conclusion that there isn’t a quantification of how long shin guards will last or when to buy a new pair.
It also suggested that the athlete should use their own judgement based on the products state of wear and tear to determine when to replace their shin guards.
I hope all the casual football players – particularly those just getting into the sport for the first time – found this article useful.
If you have any thoughts, insights or suggestions on this topic, feel free to leave a comment below.