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Updated June 2022
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BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and all opinions about the products are our own. Read more  
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.Read more 
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Buying guide for best shin guards

One of the most appealing aspects of soccer is the limited amount of equipment players need to buy to play the game. However, one piece of equipment that you must include in your soccer uniform is soccer shin guards.

As players are running full speed to kick the ball, they may not be able to stop their cleats from striking the legs of other players. If another player makes contact with your shins, this can lead to an extremely painful injury.

Shin guards provide a thin protective layer for the shin that fits underneath the long socks that players wear. Even though you can’t see the shin guards that other players are wearing, the mixture of hard plastic and padding is extremely important to protect their legs.

Although it may seem like shin guards can really only have one design, there are subtle differences among the various designs. We can help you figure out how to find just the right pair of shin guards to fit your body, your style of play, and your budget. For additional help, our recommended products may be of benefit to you.

kid wearing shin guard
Nearly all soccer leagues, ranging from youth to professional leagues, require players to wear shin guards as part of the official uniform for games.

How to buy the best shin guards

Player position

Selecting shin guards for soccer with the proper amount of padding and protective material depends in part on the position you’re playing on the pitch.

Forwards: Because forwards do most of the attacking on offense, they need to be able to sprint at top speed to chase down passes and loose balls. Forwards often need to start and stop suddenly to try to shake loose from a defensive player. They also need the greatest freedom of movement in the legs to put the proper spin and accuracy on shots.

Look for shin guards that weigh as little as possible and that stay in place when you’re playing forward. These players may need to sacrifice extra padding in the guard’s design to achieve this.

Midfielders: Midfielders find themselves making key plays on both offense and defense. These players want to find a shin guard that has an average weight and level of protection.

If you’re a midfielder who often has problems with bruises and injuries from contact to the shins, you may want a little extra protection versus a typical midfielder.

Defenders: Players who focus on defense in soccer end up taking the brunt of contact with other players. Offensive forwards may inadvertently kick defenders in the shins several times per game.

Defensive players should look for the greatest level of protection in their shin guards, potentially including around the ankles. Protection is more important than freedom of movement for most defenders.

Goalkeepers: Goalkeepers must wear shin guards just like any other player on the soccer field. However, because the rules of the game generally protect goalkeepers from contact, they don’t need extensive padding or protection in their guards.

Look for guards that allow maximum freedom of movement, as goalkeepers often must jump and lunge suddenly to block shots.

Nearly all soccer leagues, ranging from youth to professional leagues, require players to wear shin guards as part of the official uniform for games.

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Features for soccer shin guards

Shin guard designs

Multiple designs of shin guards exist. Players should match the features of a particular style of guard to their needs for playing soccer.

Slip-in: Slip-in guards have a very basic design that has been in use for decades. These guards have a shape that mimics the curve of the shin, and they simply fit inside the sock against the shin.

Most long soccer socks fit tightly enough to hold the slip-in shin guard in place, although some players use a compression sleeve or athletic tape to keep it tight to the leg.

These guards minimally restrict the movement of the player, which is why some players prefer this design.

Ankle: The ankle-fit guard makes use of a larger guard that protects the ankle area. It may have a strap that wraps around the leg, going behind the calf.

Some of these guards attach to a sock that includes a stirrup on the bottom, much like baseball socks. The stirrup goes underneath the foot and helps to keep the sock and guard tight.

The portion of this guard that wraps around the ankle sometimes is removable, so players can gain a greater level of movement in this area, if desired.

Sock: With a sock shin guard, also called a shin sock, the protective padding is sewn inside the sock so it fits over the shin. This is one of the most comfortable designs, as it only requires one piece.

However, many leagues require that shin socks meet the NOCSAE standards for protection and have the NOCSAE stamp. (NOCSAE is the National Operating Committee on Standards for Athletic Equipment.)

shin guard
DID YOU KNOW?
The majority of shin guards require replacement every one to two years, depending on how often you play.
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Best accessories for soccer shin guards

Kids’ soccer cleats

While soccer shin guards focus on protecting youth players, kids’ soccer cleats help them play the game with the greatest level of success. Cleats give youth players the ability to make quick movements and sharp cuts while on the field. Soccer cleats have studs or cleats on the bottom of the shoes that allow the player to maintain a grip on the field without slipping. Soccer cleats should not have a stud underneath the middle of the toe area, so players can kick the ball without catching the foot on the ground.

Soccer headgear

Protection for the shins is extremely important, but some players may also want protection for the head. Padded soccer headgear protects players when they bump heads with other players while jumping for a ball. Padding also protects players who are trying to make a header shot.

Soccer balls

Whether you’re a youth or adult player, having a cool-looking soccer ball can enhance your enjoyment of the game. Soccer balls, even official-sized balls, are available in a wide range of colors and patterns, allowing you to select one that matches your personality. Some youth leagues allow smaller-sized balls, giving kids a better opportunity to control the ball while learning the game.

How much do shin guards cost?

Inexpensive

Guards that slip inside the socks are the least expensive options; they cost $8 to $15 for the pair. They may not have any elastic to hold them in place against the leg, so they may slide around a little bit if the sock isn’t tight enough.

Mid-range

The majority of players can successfully use shin guards in the $15 to $25 range for the pair. Some of these have elastic to hold them in place or may attach directly to the sock for a tighter fit. You may find some that include minimal ankle protection in this price range.

Expensive

The priciest guards cost $25 to $50 for the pair, although some cost even more. If you need maximum protection for the ankle, you may need to purchase guards that have extra plastic in the ankle area and that fit in this price range. Some of these expensive guards include extra padding or thicker plastic, which can give additional protection to a player with an injury.

Some soccer players susceptible to leg injuries may choose to wear shin guards made primarily for martial arts athletes to receive a greater level of protection for the shins and ankles.

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Tips

Finding the perfect size for your shin guards for soccer depends on the height of the player. Additionally, with children, the player’s age can help you find the right size.

  • Youth small: Ages four to six and height up to 4 feet, 3 inches
  • Youth medium: Ages seven to nine and height of 4 feet, 3 inches to 4 feet, 7 inches
  • Youth large (and adult extra-small): Ages 10 to 12 and height of 4 feet, 7 inches to 4 feet, 11 inches
  • Adult small: Height of 4 feet, 11 inches to 5 feet, 3 inches
  • Adult medium: Height of 5 feet, 3 inches to 5 feet, 7 inches
  • Adult large: Height of 5 feet, 7 inches to 5 feet, 11 inches
  • Adult extra-large: Height of 5 feet, 11 inches and taller

To find the correct size, the top of the guard should reach a spot just a couple of inches below the knee. The bottom of the guard should sit just above the ankle, although some guards cover and protect the ankle.

shin guard
Players should wear shin guards for practice to receive protection and to become used to wearing them so they’re familiar with the way the guards feel when it’s time to play a game.

FAQ

Q. Beyond soccer, what other sports use shin guards?

A. Although soccer is by far the most common sport where all players wear protective guards for the shins, other sports also use them. Guards are common in both ice hockey and field hockey. Baseball and softball players may wear guards while batting. Some lacrosse and cricket players wear guards. Martial arts athletes may also wear a type of shin guard. However, the guards in these sports are often bulkier with harder plastic and more padding than soccer shin guards.

Q. Will guards restrict my freedom of movement as I’m playing?

A. As long as the guard doesn’t cover or restrict your knee or ankle joints, you should have complete freedom of movement. However, if the guard is sliding around on the leg as you’re running, it may be uncomfortable, leaving you unable to play your best. A guard that slides out of place could also suddenly cover the knee or ankle, restricting your movement.

Q. Can I make shin guards out of cardboard?

A. Some people who only play soccer occasionally or recreationally with friends may choose to create their own guards for their shins out of cardboard. However, this could irritate your skin or cause abrasions without providing padding. For someone who plays regularly, investing in a quality pair of guards is easily the best option.

Q. How do I wear guards if I wear leggings under my soccer shorts?

A. Your shin guards should go underneath your socks. If you’re wearing leggings without long socks, the guards should go underneath any leggings you’re wearing. If you’re wearing leggings and socks, you may be able to wear the guards under the socks and over the leggings, as long as the socks cover the entire guard.

 

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