Shin guards are an essential piece of soccer equipment. They protect a player’s lower legs and shins from errant kicks, and are often required in soccer leagues by rule. There are several types of shin guards, and the best shin guards are usually a matter of personal preference. This article will describe the different types of shin guards along with the positives and negatives of each
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Slip In Shin Guards
Probably the most popular and widely used shin guards are the slip in variety of shin guards. These shin guards usually have a hard plastic or carbon fiber shell on the outside with some sort of padding on the inside against the skin of the shin. Some slip in shin guards have a strap that wraps around the leg or a sleeve designed to hold the shin guard in place. As the name suggests, they are intended to be slipped in the sock.
There are several advantages to slip in shin guards which make them a very popular option. The most important advantage is the unmatched protection of the hard shell. Even fairly hard kicks are muted by slip in shin guards.
Another advantage is ease of use. Slipping shin guards in the socks is very simple. They are extremely easy to put on before a game and take off after a game. As you will see, some shin guards require removing the socks to put on and take off. These do not.
On the other hand, there are several disadvantages to slip in shin guards as well. Perhaps the biggest disadvantage is comfort. While there is padding on the back side of slip in shin guards, the hard shell can still cut into the skin a bit. This can be irritating and distracting during a soccer game.
Another disadvantage is coverage. Slip in shin guards cover the shin very well, but do not protect the ankle at all. Some types of shin guards will provide ankle protection.
Finally, it is difficult to keep slip in shin guards in place. Even with tight sleeves intended to keep the slip in shin guard stationary, they can move around in the sock and get out of place fairly easily. Constantly having to reposition shin guards during a game can be annoying. This can be somewhat offset by wrapping pre-wrap around the leg and shin guard and then pulling the sock over, but that eliminates much of the convenience of slip in shin guards.
As the name suggests, these shin guards provide extra protection and padding for the ankles. Ankle guards are usually made primarily of fabric, elastic and thin foam padding. They are much softer than the hard plastic or carbon fiber slip ins. To provide adequate shin protection strips of firm plastic are often sewn into the fabric and padding. Ankle guards typically have stirrups that slip under the foot and a strap at the top of the guard to hold the guards in place.
The biggest advantage of ankle guards is the ankle padding. Especially at younger ages, errant kicks can often hit a player’s ankles. These guards help keep those ankles safe.
Another advantage is comfort. The fabric and padding of ankle guards make them very comfortable to wear. Usually there are no hard edges that cut into the skin, as may happen with slip ins.
The last advantage is that ankle guards tend to stay in place very well. Unlike slip ins which can move around during play and become a distraction, ankle guards won’t move.
Because of all of these advantages, ankle guards are an excellent option for younger players. They provide adequate protection and don’t require much “maintenance” once they’re put in place.
There are some disadvantages, however. The first disadvantage is their bulkiness. While they do provide great ankle security, they are bulky on the ankle and may impact performance.
The second disadvantage is their inconvenience. Ankle guards have to be put on before soccer socks and can’t be taken off without removing both shoes and socks. As mentioned above, slip ins can be slipped in and out without removing shoes or socks.
Sleeve Shin Guards
Sleeve type shin guards have padding built into a sleeve that slides over the lower leg. Typically, the sleeve is very tight and holds the padding in place over the desired area of protection. The padding is soft and flexible.
The number one advantage for sleeve shin guards is comfort. The soft layer of protection bends easily with the shape of the leg without sharp, uncomfortable corners and edges. The fabric of the sleeve is breathable and supportive.
The second advantage for sleeve shin guards is that they stay in place. The sleeve will usually be made of woven elastic that keeps the padding from sliding around during aggressive play. This eliminates a lot of the distraction of having to return other types of shin guards to their proper place after a particularly physical or dynamic play.
The biggest disadvantage of sleeve shin guards is the hassle of putting them on. Similar to the ankle guards, sleeve shin guards must be put on before soccer socks. To take them off, you have to remove both shoes and socks first. They’re also somewhat difficult to put on and take off. The elastic in the sleeve portion that holds them in place is necessarily tight, so pulling them up and down can take quite a bit of effort.
Another disadvantage is coverage. While they cover the shins welll, the ankles remain vulnerable.
Finally, the level of protection for sleeve shin guards is questionable. While the soft padding is extremely comfortable, it doesn’t provide the confidence of a hard shell slip in shin guard. A hard kick may still be be painful even if it hits the padded, protective portion of the sleeve shin guard.
So, Which Type of Shin Guard is the Best?
I’ve used all types of shin guards and have settled on the sleeve shin guard. In my opinion, shin guards should offer protection without distraction; and sleeve shin guards are the best combination of both.
Slip in shin guards were difficult to keep in place and, in my opinion, very uncomfortable to wear. I spent way too much time on the pitch thinking about my shin guards rather than the game I was playing.
Ankle guards were just too bulky. The ankle protection was nice, but not worth the way they felt around my ankle. I prefer to feel totally unimpeded; and the ankle guards made my ankles feel a little stiff and restricted.
I currently use the G-Form Pro-S Vento shin guards and absolutely love them. They are a perfect example of sleeve shin guards done right – very comfortable and designed with a padding that remains flexible during play, but hardens on impact. They are machine washable and have held up very well over several seasons of use (and washing).
I don’t think about my shin guards when I use the G-Form Pro-S Vento shin guards. That’s the best compliment I can give them because they provide the protection I need with the comfort I desire.
Ultimately, the best shin guards are a matter of personal preference, but I highly recommend the G-Form Pro-S Vento shin guards.