Confidence does play a huge role on the football field and especially as you grow older and the games become tougher, your confidence can be shaken much easier after a few hard hits.
The fact of the matter is that you are going to take hard hits on the football field, but they can be reduced with the right equipment.
The best football shoulder pads will help protect your neck and shoulders from those strenuous hits and many types also feature backplates to help withstand those blindside shots.
When you know you are protected, you will be able to take more hits and even play with more confidence and thus you will stand out from the crowd.
We have set out to find the best football shoulder pads and evaluate them to show you how tough they really are and what are the benefits you will receive from wearing them.
We also tried looking for value deals that are affordable and will give you the best possible playing experience, while also ensuring that you are protected.
But, before we look at the top football shoulder pads, it is worth looking at the makeup of these pads and giving you the knowledge to understand exactly what to look for in the best shoulder pads.
Once you know what to look for, you will be able to find the best shoulder pads much faster and not waste as much money on the wrong ones.
Football Shoulder Pad Buying Guide
Key features to look for in the best shoulder pads:
While we understand that price will be a factor, we also need to mention that it is cheaper to protect the body than to repair it.
Having more durable shoulder pads are expensive, but you will be able to play with them for longer periods of time before they need to be replaced and therefore, we have looked for the perfect balance between price and features to give you the best value.
The size might sound like an obvious reason, but adults and youth players will not wear the same shoulder pads. It is also important to know which size fits you to ensure that they fit comfortably and that you have enough space for optimal mobility.
As you improve and move higher into the top leagues, the hits become so much harder and you will need to have durable shoulder pads.
Durable shoulder pads will not break or crack on harder hits and they will protect your body from serious harm. They will also last you longer to help you save money.
Anything around your body needs to be perfect when playing football and this is the same for your shoulder pads.
The shoulder pads should also allow optimal space for you to have mobility and to freely use your arms to make that last minute game-winning tackles.
There are multiple types of shoulder pads on the market and each of them has been designed for a specific position, but we recommend looking for all-purpose shoulder pads to help improve the protection and you will know that you are protected from all sides
While the exterior shell is important, the interior cushioning should also be looked at. The best shoulder pads all have impact-resistant technology incorporated to allow the body to take those tougher shots.
The inner cushioning should also be comfortable to wear.
What’s the Average Cost of a Shoulder Pad set?
We found that the average cost of a decent should pad set for this season is just around $191.00 USD.
Added Front and Back Plates
Blindside hits are awful and painful and they can really cause bad injuries. The back and front plates are equally important to the shoulder pads and they also need to be durable and impact resistant to ensure that you are protected.
By using these features as your guideline, you should be able to easily choose the perfect shoulder pads for your needs and you will also be able to save a few bucks on some of the unnecessary features.
The moisture management can also be looked at as this will allow the pads to shed water faster and also allow the body to cool down and a good wash after every game will help remove the messy stains and odors.
With that being said, let’s look at the top football shoulder pads for youth and adult players:
Best Shoulder Pad Reviews
1. Schutt Sports Varsity FLEX 4.0 All-Purpose Football Shoulder Pads
The Varsity Flex 4.0 features a cut that’s a lot deeper in the arch design than most pads on the market. The idea is to give you a more complete or fuller range of motion and ultimately, freedom and versatility.
A perforated body cushion is combined with a very breathable mesh and arch vents, and that serves to make this set of pads more breathable than any we’ve seen!
The air-flow will keep you cooler and that’s a good thing …. sometimes!
Though it’s considered “all-purpose” there is a suggestion Schutt offers for positions that it would be better geared for. It’s tailored to Quarterback, Wide Receiver, Running Back and Defensive Back.
A small size is for 16-17″ shoulders, a medium is for 17-18″ shoulders, a large is for 18-19″ shoulders and an extra-large is for 19-20″ shoulders. If you’re bigger than that, just opt for the 2X large size!
- Unrivaled ventilation
- Double padded foam cushioning
- Durable plastic outer shell
- Big vent holds
- The backplate needs to be bought separately
2. Schutt Sports Varsity XV HD All Purpose Shoulder Pad
Designed to be lightweight, the Shutt Sports Varsity XV HD shoulder pads have also been created for all positions and will be great for younger players experimenting.
The shoulder pads are extremely light, thus limiting the amount of strain on the shoulders and also providing maximum support in collisions.
The raised corrugations are great for adding strength to the already durable outer shell and this will help with resisting impacts on the field and the added body strap will be great for ensuring a more comfortable and tighter fit.
Furthermore, the shoulder pads feature high-quality TPU cushioning to help absorb the hits and protect the vital body parts from injuries during collisions.
The spacious design also allows for more mobility, thus ensuring that you will be able to move freely on the field and have optimal arm movement to make tackles and handoffs much easier.
These pads can be used by intermediate and varsity level players to improve body protection on the field.
The shorter design is great for tight ends and fullbacks to maximize your movement with the perfect protection for hits from all sides.
We highly recommend these pads for college-level students and they are really affordable for the quality protection that they offer.
- Reasonably priced
- Great for high impact positions
- Spacious fit for more mobility
- High-quality TPU cushioning with shock-absorbing properties
- Runs in very small sizes
3. Schutt Sports T-Flex Youth Shoulder Pad
In the T-Flex Youth Shoulder Pad, Schutt gives us an all-around, all-position pad that is suitable for all positions.
This is especially good to know given the amount of change that a young player will experience with lots of potential position changes.
These Schutt youth shoulder pads have been designed for youth players and one of the first things that come to mind when looking at them is the amount of protection offered.
This pad offers dual-density padding for heavier hits just to keep their bases covered for every position!
Like other models, the body cushion is perforated with little teeny air holes (well, it’s perforated and THEN there are the 7mm air holes for ultimate breathability and ventilation).
There’s a three-point belt system that adds a greater level of snug-ness to the pad, and one of the best features (other than the obvious safety features) of this pad is the antimicrobial treatment that keeps the pad in use longer without bad smells and dark spots due to mold and bacteria growth.
- A durable high-quality outer shell
- Comfortable inner cushioning
- Great for blindsided hits
- Designed for youth and for extra hard hits (both taking and giving)
- It has a slightly longer cut in the front to accommodate all players, so if you don’t need that, you may be carrying extra weight for nothing.
4. Douglas Sp Series Football Shoulder Pads
The Douglas Sp Series Mr. D football shoulder pads are some of the more expensive pads on the list. They have been designed for the more experienced college football players.
The pads are made from 100% polyurethane and covered with lightweight nylon to help increase durability of the pads.
The pads feature open-cell foam cushioning for more protection against hits and the air will quickly fill up after every collision.
All over the pads are multiple vents to allow optimal ventilation to get through and to give you more confidence after taking hits.
These pads have been created for high-impact positions like linebackers and fullbacks and you will still have the added spacious fit to allow more mobility as well.
Furthermore, the shoulder pads also feature a low-cut V-neck for more neck movement, thus allowing for more on-field awareness and allowing more neck movement for you to see the entire football field
We highly recommend these for tough impact positions in college-level football. The durability will offer you multiple years of use and the easy-to-wash pads will allow you to clean the pads and remove sweat stains from every game.
- Great for high-impact positions
- Easy to wash after every game
- Large air vents for better ventilation
- Low-cut V-neck for better neck movement
- Extremely expensive
5. CHAMPRO AMT1000 Varsity Shoulder Pads
Sometimes there’s just not a lot of information available on a particular product, but it’s still a favorite amongst some players.
The Champro AMT1000 Varsity Shoulder Pads would be just such a product. They do have a presence online but they’re not a known National or Worldwide brand name.
However, there are a few things we can tell you about this pad that’ll help in your research.
Firstly, it’s a low-profile cantilever construction/design. It has built-in clavicle pads for added protection and a padded epaulet. In case you’re one of the 99.9% of the people in the world who don’t know what an “epaulet” is, let me tell you!
It’s an ornamental (or functional) covering or padding around or over one’s shoulder. It’s often used to describe those weird frilly things over the shoulders of some Captains and Admirals of a by-gone military era.
It makes them look tougher and more muscular though, that’s for sure!
Featured in the Champros is a set of integrated deltoid pads, and there’s a swivel system that allows the shoulder pad to move with the player for added mobility and comfort.
There’s an accessory attachment point (a couple actually) for a backplate and neck collars (not included) and the pads are removable for easy care!
So, if it’s an unknown brand, you might think “why is it included on a best-of list?” Well, because it’s sold worldwide and has decent ratings, and ….. it’s a good price! Those are all things that I would appreciate!
- Great for all positions
- Integrated deltoid pads
- Low-profile cantilever construction
- Removable pads
- It’s a “no-name” brand
6. Schutt Sports Varsity AiR Maxx Flex 2.0 Football Shoulder Pads
As with any products on the market, there are the “okay” ones that most people don’t buy. Then there are the “good” products which most people do buy.
Then there are the high-end, potentially jaw-dropping products that most people can’t afford so they don’t buy them. Well, guess which category the Varsity Air Maxx Flex 2.0 fits into nicely! You guessed it – the last one!
Let’s start to unpack the features in this pricey pad. Oh, and by the way, it didn’t make the top of our list because as nice as it is, we don’t think it’s totally necessary in order to play the game, and it’s way above many budgets.
Nevertheless, it’s a top-quality pad.
The Air Maxx TPU cushioning that is used in Schutt’s high-end helmets, is used right here in the Varsity AiR Maxx Flex 2.0 pads.
Specifically, the TPU (otherwise known as Thermoplastic Polyurethane) is positioned over the shoulders for maximum impact absorption qualities.
Schutt also has a “D3O” technology (we think that’s similar to C3P0 and perhaps R2D2, but we’re not sure!) that is also positioned over the shoulder.
The pad has a clavicle channel system and a tactical arch design to minimize weight without sacrificing hitting zone protection.
The body, deltoid and scapular pads are removable to custom fitting and easy washing.
The main protective cushion on the pad is designed with open-cell foam and it has teensy-weensy air chambers.
The fabric on the exterior of the foam padding is sealed to the foam and that effectively traps the air inside the cushion for enhanced absorption ability.
Well, let’s just say you really can’t outdo this pad, and if you have the cash, I’d say go ahead and grab it because you’ll maximize your comfort, safety and confidence with a set of shoulder pads like these!
- TPU injected padding
- Lots of tech that’s not included in most other shoulder pads
- Removable pads for easy washing and custom fitting
- Very high price
7. Riddell JPK Plus Shoulder Pads
Here’s the junior varsity version of the Power SPK+. These pads are another higher-end offering from an iconic football gear company so if cash flow is not your problem, these may be something to look at.
Or, even if you’re not filthy rich, you can indulge in ultimate protection and ultimate comfort. What the heck, you only live once!
This pad is recommended for skilled positions (I think that term is offensive to anyone who thinks they may be in an “unskilled” football position).
This pad features Riddell RipKord technology (which allows for quick access to the athlete in case of injury), the STAC shoulder system, PCV epaulet (the thing that covers your shoulder) straps and belts and it has a flat pad design.
Included in the whole package is the air management liner system, swivel fronts and a riveted backplate. Normally backplates don’t come with the pads.
A very breathable body comes courtesy of shell vents throughout.
- A LOT of technology included in all aspects of construction for pro performance
- Very breathable
- Air Management Liner System disperses impact energy on contact for maximum protection
- Integrated RipKord technology allows fast access to the athlete in the instance of injury
- 1 year warranty
- Stainless steel hardware
- A restrictive price point for some
8. Gear Pro-Tec Z-COOL Youth/JV Shoulder Pads
The Gear Pro-Tec Z-cool shoulder pads are great for youth players to play with.
These pads have been designed for longer drives and the moisture absorbent fabric will not only allow for optimal ventilation, but it will also dry up the moisture in no time at all. This should give you a cooler playing experience.
The pads are a little heavy and thus, they will be great for the big men up front and the durable outer shell will reduce the impact taken on hits.
The reinforced shoulder protection is great for defensive players and will keep your shoulder optimally protected when you go in for those hard hits.
Furthermore, the pads feature thousands of tiny beads that have been incorporated in the cushioning and they will act as air pockets.
This will help absorb the impact and reduce the strain on your body from taking side hits and also making hard hits.
We highly recommend these shoulder pads to bigger and more physical players to help protect the body from tough hits.
These pads are also really cheap, but they will not be suitable for speed positions and the weight might cause fatigue.
- Great for offensive and defensive linemen
- Really affordable
- Reinforced shoulder protection
- Advanced moisture-absorbing properties
- These pads are a little heavy
9. Schutt Sports Y-Flex 4.0 All-Purpose Youth Football Shoulder Pads
High school and junior parents should love the value offered by the Shutt Sports Y-Flex 4.0 all-purpose shoulder pads.
These pads are great for every position on the field and they are also really affordable with some strong protective features to keep your child safe.
The pads are extremely lightweight and this will be great for not distracting the younger football players from the game, while the soft inner cushioning will give the perfect fit to the body of your child.
The inner cushioning also uses air to absorb the punch from harder hits, thus making the pads more reliable in harder high school hits.
Even quarterbacks will have their back and sides protected from blindside hits and this pad is great for developing confidence on the playing field.
Furthermore, the pads have been treated with antimicrobial materials to help remove the foul odors caused by sweat and to reduce the risk of bacterial infections after prolonged use.
We highly recommend these pads for younger players. Because they are really affordable, your child will be able to experiment with different positions before you need to invest in a position-specific shoulder pad.
The back plates and rib protectors are unfortunately not durable enough for college football
- Really affordable
- Great for all positions on the field
- Treated with antimicrobial materials to reduce bacteria
- Add 7mm vent holes for adequate ventilation
- Smaller sizing needs to be taken into account when you purchase them
Final Thoughts & Recommendations
We would like to thank you for reading this article and we hope that you now have a better understanding of football shoulder pads.
With all of these pads, it is hard to recommend one as the best, but we do know how reliable the Shutt brand is with football clothing and accessories.
Also be on the lookout for advances in football equipment technology as injuries and concussion in football is a very hot subject right now.
As a parting thought, remember that you’ll probably pay an average of just under $200 for a good shoulder pad but you could get away with a reasonable youth pad for about a quarter of the average – around $50 – $60.