If you ever wish to enter the field of play for an official game, at an amateur or professional level, soccer shin guards are mandatory. All players must wear guards that provide reasonable protection for their shins.
Throughout this piece, we’ll discuss shin guards, their uses, and their relevance in today’s game. The main areas of focus are:
- How shin guards protect players’ legs
- Mandatory soccer equipment
- How shin guards are worn
- Best shin guards on the market
- Taking care of your shin guards
Do you think shin guards should still be mandatory in soccer? Let’s take a look at this protective equipment in some more detail.
What Do Shin Guards Do In Soccer?
Shin guards are designed to protect the shins and lower legs from impacts and injuries during soccer training and games. Although soccer began as a much more rudimentary game, shin guards have been around since its inception.
The idea of shin guards in sports comes from old combat armor used in the middle ages. A greave was a piece of shin armor that formed part of a complete suit.
As fighting transitioned to a sport or competitive endeavor over the years, lightweight greaves were frequently used. Sports like soccer, rugby, cricket, and various forms of fighting adopted the widespread use of shin guards and protective equipment.
Injuries are extremely common in soccer, with over 62% of professionals picking up knocks over the course of a season. Of all these injuries, the vast majority occur to the low extremities, including the legs, ankles, and feet. Since soccer is played predominantly on the floor with the feet, this comes as no surprise.
Players are constantly competing for loose balls, tackling, sliding, blocking, and shooting, putting their feet and legs at risk.
While many players wear tiny shin pads, studies have shown that shin pads from a variety of materials are effective. They can absorb a significant amount of impact during collisions, protecting the tibia from potential injury.
Shin Guards FAQs
Wearing Cleats and Shin Guards
According to the International Football Association Board (IFAB), the independent guardians of the football rules of association soccer, certain equipment is mandatory for all players to participate in a game.
There are a total of five compulsory pieces of equipment any participating player must wear, including:
- A team shirt with sleeves
- Team shorts
- Team socks (tape and elastics of the same color may be worn over them)
- Shin guards (must be fabricated from a durable material that provides reasonable protection to the legs)
IFAB also states that if a player loses a shin guard during a game, it must be replaced as quickly as possible. A player can continue after losing a shin guard until the play is paused for a foul, goal kick, throw-in, corner, or another stoppage. The same rule applies to cleats.
What Shin Guards Are Best For Soccer?
There are several different styles of shin guards to choose from. Depending on the size of your legs, any existing injuries, and personal preferences, players typically choose one of three styles.
While many modern professionals use small shin guards that provide little to no protection, a lot of players prefer more comprehensive protective equipment.
Slip-In Shin Guards
Slip-in shin guards are small, lightweight, and portable. They can be slipped in underneath the sock in a matter of seconds. This type of guard can be held in place with a compression-style sock, sports tape, or velcro straps. The inside of the shin guard is usually made from rubber or fibrous material to add extra grip.
A key advantage of slip-in shin guards is that they allow exceptional movement and flexibility. They don’t restrict movement in any facet, making them a popular option for speedy wingers or strikers.
Jack Grealish is a good example of a player who wears slip-in shin guards. The Manchester City man is famous for wearing low socks with small shin guards. Grealish claims that this approach facilitates ease of movement but it is also due to superstition:
“Obviously your socks are supposed to go above your calves. But one year when I was here, the socks once shrunk in the wash. So they wouldn’t go higher. That season, I ended up playing really well. So it became a superstitious thing for me. I thought ‘I’m going to keep doing this because I’ve done well.”Jack Grealish, 2021
Perhaps you’ll consider low socks and tiny shin guards after watching this highlight reel.
Ankle-Protection Shin Guards
Some shin guards are made with attached ankle protection. The ankle protection is essentially a slip-on ankle brace with pads on either side, similar to stirrups.
They typically feature elastic straps that secure the brace to the leg. The front of the ankle protector is attached to the actual shin guard.
Some ankle-protectors have detachable shin guards, giving players the choice to use extra protection when they need it. Ankle-protection shin guards are often recommended for youth players, providing them with extra padding against kicks, tackles, and impacts with other players.
Shin Guard Socks
Some soccer socks have shin guards built into them. They are convenient and easy to put on, making them a popular option for kids or youth players.
Since the guards are part of the sock, children are unlikely to lose them. However, these shin guards are usually designed for children’s soccer and are usually unsuitable for youth and adult players.
What Shin Guards Do Most Pros Use?
Most professional soccer players wear slip-in shin guards. At the highest level, every second and every touch has significant consequences.
Professionals can’t afford to compromise their first touch or ball control ability due to bulky equipment. What’s more, they need total freedom of movement when dribbling or changing direction.
If a player has ankle problems or is nursing an injury, he or she may decide to wear shin guards with some additional protection. Some goalkeepers elect to wear slightly larger guards to help prevent injuries.
In terms of the brand and model, most players must wear the equipment provided by their main sponsor, like Nike, Adidas, Puma, New Balance, or Under Armour. Many will have their shin guards custom-made for a comfortable fit.
Nike Soccer Shin Guards
Nike produces high-quality shin guards for both amateurs and professionals. Every year they release an array of options that typically align with their most current series of equipment.
For example, in 2022, the most popular shin guard from Nike is from the Nike Mercurial line. These guards come with compression sleeves that can be worn underneath a sock, holding them in place securely.
Some of the most notable players who wear Nike shin guards include:
- Sam Kerr
- Cristiano Ronaldo
- Kevin DeBruyne
- Kylian Mbappe
- Robert Lewandowski
- Jack Grealish
How To Wear Soccer Shin Guards
Shin guards should cover the thickest part of the tibia, the shin bone that stretches from the ankle to the bottom of the knee at the front of your leg. Depending on the style of shin guard you use, it can be placed underneath the sock or strapped on via the ankle support.
How Do You Size Shin Guards?
The best way to size shin guards, without having them custom molded, is to select them according to your height. This gives the best indication of your tibia length, helping you choose a pad that’s long enough to protect the entire bone.
An effective shin guard should have a two-inch gap above the ankle and below the knee. However, personal preference can also dictate what size you go for.
If you prefer a larger shin guard, it may feel a little loose around your leg and can move during a game, making it less effective. Consider wearing tape or a compression sleeve to ensure it doesn’t move too much.
Using the Nike size guide as a measure, here is a look at how to find the correct shin guards for you:
|Adult Sizes||Height Range|
|Extra Small||4’7” to 4’11”|
|Small||4’11” to 5’3”|
|Medium||5’3” to 5’7”|
|Large||5’7” to 5’11”|
|Extra Large||5’11” to 6’7”|
|Small||3’4” to 3’8”|
|Medium||3’8” to 4’3”|
|Large||4’3” to 4’8”|
How Much Do Shin Guards Cost?
You can find a good pair of shin guards from a leading brand for approximately $20. Kids’ guards tend to be a little cheaper since they are smaller and use less material.
Budget shin guards are also available in most sporting stores but they typically don’t provide as much protection as more expensive varieties.
Shin guard material is the most influential factor when it comes to price. Cheaper guards are made from lower grades of plastic but provide less protection.
Most standard shin guards are manufactured from thermoplastic polyurethane (TPU) with molded vinyl on the inside for a secure and comfortable fit. Carbon fiber is one of the stronger materials for shin guards but increases the price significantly.
G-Form is a relatively new brand on the scene, creating high-performance shin guards that offer maximum flexibility and protection. However, these pads are much more expensive than standard shin guards, costing as much as $50 per pair.
How Often Should You Replace Soccer Shin Guards?
Some players replace their shin guards every season while others hold the same pair for many years. Depending on how often you use them, the quality of the material, and the number of impacts they absorbed, the lifespan of shin guards can vary significantly.
The best approach to shin guard replacement is to monitor their condition after each training session and game. Look out for fraying along the inside and cracks on the outside material. Even a small crack could be jeopardizing the structural integrity of the guard, putting your health at risk.
If you’re taking care of your children’s gear, ensure their shin guards fit properly. If a kid experiences a growth sport, they may need a new pair. Consult the size guide in this article to gauge the appropriate size.
Soccer Shin Guards Youth
Soccer is an excellent sport to help with your child’s skill set and skill development. However, it’s important to note that younger kids are more vulnerable to certain injuries than adults.
Since their bones are still growing, youth players should always wear high-quality shin guards to minimize the risk of serious injury.
If you’re shopping for your kids, be sure to choose shin guards made from premium-grade plastic or carbon fiber. Ankle protection may also be a worthwhile investment.
Joel is a seasoned soccer journalist and analyst with many years of experience in the field. Joel specializes in game analysis, player profiles, transfer news, and has a keen eye for the tactical nuances of the game. He played at various levels in the game and coached teams - he is happy to share his insight with you.