In my time as a soccer player, coach, and referee, I have seen many changes take place in the game. As the game has sped up on the field, it has increased in popularity. It is a strange chicken or the egg type conundrum, but there is no doubt that the two are closely intertwined. As a result of this speeding up of the game and the emphasis on passing and build-up play, safety has become an even more important issue. With players being able to run across the field much more quickly than they used to because of sports science, the shin guard has seen massive changes in just the last twenty years alone.
As a necessary requirement for organized soccer, the shin guard is very important for safety. The shin guard does exactly what it sounds like– it guards the shin. The number of bone-breaking tackles and hits are greatly reduced due to the simplicity of a padded guard on the front of the shin. As time has gone on, however, we have seen the shin guard become much more than just a guard for the shin. Some now wrap all the way around the ankle, meaning that both the front and back are covered. Some have guards on the sides now. In the end, this is all a matter of preference for the individual.
While speed is very important, safety and comfort must also be highly considered when choosing which shin guard you should purchase. Remember, this could be a career-saving decision! There are a few factors that must be considered when you are looking to purchase a pair of shin guards. The type of material it is made from, the type of protection that it provides (or type of shin guard), the size and weight of the shin guard, the position that a player plays, and whether or not it is NOCSAE approved or not. Having proper shin guards is essential and one of the most necessary pieces of equipment to play soccer today.
Top 10 Soccer Shin Guard Chart
Shin Guard Materials
Shin guards can be made out of primarily three different types of material in today’s game, but I’ll quickly go over the other types as well. Each has their own benefits and potential detriments. Fiberglass shin guards are very popular because they are lightweight and very sturdy. Foam/rubber shin guards are very lightweight, but they are not nearly as solid as fiberglass. Polyurethane is heavy and sturdy, but it offers the most complete protection from impact. Plastic shin guards are also around, but they do not do nearly as well as most of their counterparts. Metal is also an option, but they are downright uncomfortable despite the high level of protection that they provide.
Shin Guard Types
The type of shin guard you select is very important as well. The first type is known as “slip-ins.” This type does exactly what it sounds like. They simply slip into your socks. These are sometimes very pesky to hold down, so some players do end up using tape to keep them in place. Some slip-ins come with a “sleeve” in which you put under your socks. You then slide the shin guards into the sleeve and you have two layers of protection to keep them in place. It is very important that you make sure that the shin guard does not move when you run or jump because it can seriously jeopardize safety and health. Another type is known as “ankle guards.” Ankle guards have protection on the sides of the ankles as well. These types typically have a stirrup or some sort of strap-like system to help secure them, so a sleeve is not necessary. These can be uncomfortable, so I encourage you to try them on at a store before buying them!
Size and Weight
This is a very subjective factor, but it is a massive factor nonetheless. It’s important to buy the correct size to ensure the shin guards are worn correctly. The size of the shin guard that a player wears is ultimately up to him or her. Some people prefer to wear as small a guard as possible simply because they want to be quicker. You will see many, many professionals doing this. However, others like to wear a much larger shin guard than they need to wear. I like to do this simply because it will give me a little extra protection. I’d rather have a little less speed than deal with a broken bone. Weight is also something to consider, but with today’s options, not very many are going to hold you back. But if you are conscious of it, then you are probably going to want a slip-in.
Shin Guards for Defenders, Midfielders, Strikers. Goalkeepers
The position that a player takes up on the field can also be a factor in picking out shin guards. Many people believe that goalkeepers need as little protection as possible. While this is true in theory, I disagree wholeheartedly with it. As someone that is called upon to jump on top of the ball at a moment’s notice, I feel it is important to have as much protection as humanly possible! But that is simply my opinion. Defenders certainly need to have as much protection as possible, especially center backs. I would encourage a full-on ankle guard for them. Midfielders need protection, but they also need to move quickly, so this should be considered very heavily. A speedy player may want to be even speedier, but he or she may also want added protection. A striker should have as little protection as possible because you really shouldn’t be getting kicked quite as much!
The National Operating Committee on Standards for Athletic Equipment (or NOCSAE) set standards for equipment in the United States. Most leagues have made this a requirement, so please look and make sure that your shin guards meet the specifications of your league. Referees do check for them, so please don’t make a very costly error and then not be allowed to play!
Starting out the list is a company that many will have never heard. But this product is state of the art! It is 67% fiberglass, which makes it very light and 33% carbon, which gives you added protection. The inside that touches your shins are padded with EVA as well. These are slip-ins that come with a compression sleeve that will keep your shin guard in place. These shin guards would be perfect for a midfielder who gets tackled constantly throughout a match because they are lightweight while still being very protective. For a very fair price, these shin guards will do everything you ask of them and more!
Nike’s first inclusion on the list comes with a very sleek-looking shin guard that promises to keep away the sweat in order to keep you more comfortable. These are also very lightweight, as they are slip-ins made from 69% K-Resin and 31% EVA. They are engineered to be very lightweight, so keep that in mind when considering them. These start at the low end of the price range, which makes them perfect for beginners. Overall, it is definitely worth considering!
Another company that is out to keep you safe is Storelli. Just to be clear right away, these do not include a shin guard. You will have to purchase a slip in to fit inside of this. Whether this product is something you are still interested in is up to you. But because of the technological innovation, these had to be included on the list. This product truly fits their description of “leg guard.” They are made to protect the shin as well as the leg and ankle. Made from polyurethane, this guard is also renowned for its ability to allow you to move and make you forget you’re even wearing an ankle guard. A brilliant part of the design is that these do not have to be taped or constantly adjusted, which is something I always have issues with. These would be perfect for a defender or anyone that wants added protection a great price.
Landing next on our list is a very basic look that will do wonders for the player that is just beginning or the recreational player that might not have as many tussles as others. This shin guard is the first of the conventional ankle guard variety on the list. It has a stirrup at the bottom to keep it in place in your shoe or cleat. It is made from plastic, which means it is a little cheaper and should only be used by either younger players or beginners. One thing I will point is that it has a Velcro strap up toward the top. Velcro can be very annoying and painful as it is very itchy if you do not situate it properly when putting them on. For a very fair price, you get a good, basic shin guard.
Adidas’ very popular F50 cleat and shoe line also makes a splash in the shin guard market with this slip-in. These are highly comfort because they have a combination of synthetic and EVA padding between your shin and the guard itself. They are made from 100% polyurethane making it lightweight and a good fit to your leg. These do not appear to come with a sleeve, however, so you may have to bust out the annoying tape to keep them in place. This would be a very good set for someone that needs as much protection possible on a lower budget.
Nike makes it back into the list with another small, lightweight option for the consumer. The “J” in the name stands for Japan, where these were developed. This is specifically made for the type of player that would prefer not to even wear shin guards at all. So, I suspect that many professionals love this product. It is very comfortable to wear because of its anatomical shape and its EVA foam. It is a slip-in that does not come with sleeves, so be prepared.
Nike makes a quick return back to the list with a much more substantial addition to the list this time. Just one look at these makes you realize that this is next-level type material. These shin guards are for elite players and leagues as they provide maximum protection while also being very lightweight. They are made out of polyurethane, which allows you to have the best of both worlds. They are slip-ins that do not require a strap and they come with sleeves to place your guards in. It also has mesh lining that keeps them from slipping and helps bring air in and moisture out.
One very unique aspect about Vizari’s offering is the detachable ankle guard that comes along with the shin guard. Decide that you are just going to horse around with some friends? No problem. Just take it off! Playing against people you don’t know? Probably a good idea to put the ankle guard on. The ankle guard is held in place by a stirrup, but it is still a lightweight option! These are made from EVA foam to give you comfort as well. If you like versatility, and are on a budget, these may be a great option.
Puma’s appearance on the list is not much of a surprise. Long a force in the soccer market, they bring a very lightweight option similar to the “J” Guard from Nike that we talked about earlier. These shinguards offer minimal protection while allowing you to move about freely. They are also very comfortable with the EVA foam. These come with a sleeve, so no worries about them falling! At a very low price, these are a great alternative to the “J” Guard if you love Puma or just want something different!
For anyone new to the game, Uhlsport may not be known. However, they have a great reputation for making high-quality protective gear. These come with a compression sock that makes the whole package look absolutely wonderful. It also has a removable protection plate that you can take off if you like! Like many of their products, these shin guards are very durable.