Football shin guards guide : types, how to choose, wear and care for shin protector

This guide comprehensively details all you need to know about football shin guards including the different types as well as how to choose, wear and care for them.

A model of G-form football shin guard

What are soccer shin guards?

Soccer shin guards, also known as shin pads or shin protectors , are very important elements of sports equipment, which are used ubiquitously in soccer and many other sports to protect the shin.

They are usually attached to the leg via elastic velcro straps and their use is mandatory for the vast majority of schools, clubs and professional teams. Thanks to the use of soccer shin guards, players will be able to prevent shin injuries.

Impacts on the shin can cause injuries or even fractures since a large part of the tibia is exposed in this area of the body directly under the skin and lacks anterior muscles

Bumps on the shin are very painful due to a tissue full of pain receptors called the periosteum, which is found on the surface of all bones. Hence the importance of wearing football shin guards during training or a football game.

Function of football shin guards

The main function of the football shin guards is to absorb shocks within thanks to a very spongy rubber material. On the outside it has a material covered with polyurethane, which cushions the impacts of kicks from rivals or teammates.

Are football shin guards mandatory? 

According to the current regulations, footballers have to wear football shin guards on the pitch.

Under the Laws of the Game, anyone who participates in official matches is required to wear a football shin guard. To prevent injuries, it’s a good idea to get in the habit of keeping it during training as well as during matches.

This type of protection must adapt correctly to the player’s shins, so you have to choose them depending on the size you need. This varies depending on the length of your leg and your age. 

If the choice of football shin guards has not been adequately made, it can cause a decrease in the performance of the player.

In addition to choosing the correct ones, the footballer must also know how to put them on, in such a way that he can achieve the maximum possible protection, thus avoiding injuries.

History of football shin guards

After cricket, soccer was the next sport to introduce the use of shin guards. Sam Weller Widdowson was the first footballer to wear shin guards in a match, imitating cricketers of the time.

This athlete used a pair of pads, cut them off, and tied them to the back of his socks using leather straps. 

Although at first he was a source of mockery, his colleagues did not take long to follow suit when they saw the huge benefits of these protections, which managed to avoid many of the injuries caused to the shins by even innocuous blow or friction.

Over the years, shin guards have evolved. These protections have always been considered as very annoying elements that prevent footballers from playing comfortably. 

Soccer players had to be constantly aware of them so that they do not slip off or move. In addition the extra weight involved in carrying them generated very unpleasant sensations for the player.

The most used shin guards in children’s competitions have wooden sticks within, being very economical. However, professional players wear carbon fiber shin guards. 

Thanks to this type of material, the annoying sensations described above are non-existent, since they have little thickness and are really light. In addition, they are capable of absorbing high impact blows.

The interior of the carbon fiber shin guards are made of neoprene, a very flexible material, so the protections adapt perfectly to the irregularities of the player’s tibia. 

Another benefit that neoprene provides is its non-slip property, which will prevent the shin guards from moving during the game or training.

Types of shin guards

Many of the shin guards that were manufactured in the past had straps on the upper part, which had to be well fixed so that they were attached to the leg.

Currently there are different types of football shin pads, and each have unique levels of flexibility and protection. 

The two most important types of shin guards that can be found are

  1. Shin guards with stockings 
  2. Shin guards with anklets.

1. Shin guards with stockings

The shin guard with stockings, also called sock shin guard, is a kind of protective plate that is inserted under the compression sleeves. For proper placement, they should be slipped over the shins as if they were large stockings. 

Their use is recommended for more advanced players, as they offer more mobility. However, it should also be taken into account that this type of shin guards do not have as much protection, their design is usually basic and they do not have straps. 

So sometimes they come with an insulating tape to get them to fit better and thus prevent slipping. Currently, the regulations oblige players to use insulating tapes, only if they are the same color as their kit socks. 

This tape may need to be replaced during a match, so it is recommended to bring an extra replacement tape.

These kind of shin guards can be sun-divided into two:

  1. Hard shin guard 
  2. Soft shin guard

1.1 Hard shin guard

The hard shin guard is made of hard materials such as synthetic resin, plastic, glass fiber, and carbon fiber. Also, cushioning materials such as sponge and polyurethane are used on the side facing the shin.

The hard type has excellent durability, strength, and protection, and has the advantage that the shape does not change, but many users have expressed discomfort while wearing this variety. 

1.2 Soft shin guard

The soft type shin guard is flexible, fits easily on the shins of the legs, and is light, and has the advantage that its shape modifies according to the feet of the wearer. 

Soft type shin guard is made of soft materials such as EVA, polyester, polyurethane, mesh and sponge rubber.

In addition, it can be washed in a washing machine, which points to easy maintenance. 

However, it should be noted that the protection performance is inferior to that of the hard type because the material is soft.

2. Shin guards with anklets

The shin guards with anklets are protective shields that are secured to the shin. In addition, these protections additionally have pads that surround the ankles. They are recommended for younger players or for those who still do not have much experience. 

This is because football shin guards with anklets have a soft padding on both sides of each foot, which will provide them with more protection against kicks in the ankles. You can even help them avoid possible sprains.

How to choose the perfect football shin guard

The most important factor when choosing a soccer shin guard is whether it fits your leg. You must choose not only the material but also the size so as to prevent shifting at the ankles. 

From here, let’s look at major points to consider when choosing a shin guard

1. Fit to the size of your foot

Make sure that the shin guard fits the curve of the shin of your leg before you buy it.

You can buy a lot of soccer equipment at online shops these days, but if you are worried about the size or if you are buying for the first time, actually check the size by hitting the shin of your leg at the store.

For growing children, the size of the legs can change easily, so it is a good idea to choose a soft type that can easily change shape according to your legs.

2. Choose by position

It is also important to select the shin guard in consideration of the position.

Depending on the position of the footballer on the pitch, the type of shin guards used may vary.

Those who have a greater risk of contact may even wear up to two small shin guards as long as they do not reduce mobility. The shin guards with ankle protection are ideal for those players who protect the ball a lot.

Shin guards can also be classified according to the position of the player within his team. Defenders usually wear heavier shin guards with extra protection on the ankles, since this way they will have a lower chance of injury. 

Midfielders need to move more freely on the pitch, so the shin guards they choose must fulfill this role. The shin guards on the front are lighter, thus providing greater protection at the ankles. 

And finally, goalkeepers usually use very light shin guards but with minimal protection.

3. Choose by hardness

Since the soft type shin guard is lightweight, it can maintain running speed and has the advantage of not inducing fatigue.

Therefore, it is rational to select the soft type for the advanced positions where speed such as forward is required. 

Similarly, considering the characteristics of the position, it is better to choose a shin guard that balances lightness and durability for a midfielder that moves flexibly, and a durable hard type shin guard for a defender who often stretches the body.

How to wear shin guards

  1. Once the appropriate shin guards have been chosen, they must be placed correctly so that they perform their function well. 
  2. The shin guard is easy to put on, just plug it into your socks.
  3. Most shin guards have ones specially for the right and left leg, so be sure to wear them without mistake.
  4. Many of the shin guards have different shapes on the left and right, and the shape is greatly bulged on the outside, so the appearance will also be a criterion.
  5. If the position where you can wear the shin guard is too low, it will hit your ankle and it will be difficult to move, so the trick is to put it in a position where it does not hit your ankle.
  6. Just keep in mind that as long as you attach it to the center of the shin, it will protect your legs.
  7. To prevent slippage and keep its protection power, it is effective to attach a special shin guard stopper to firmly keep it in place. 
  8. In addition, attach a band from the top of the socks to the bottom of the shin guard with wrap tape for example. 
  9. If stocking shin guards are used, first the player will have to put on the stockings without covering the part of the tibia, then the protections will be placed on this area and the stockings will be raised to cover it. 
  10. On the other hand, if shin guards with anklets are used, the first thing the player has to do is put the protections through the foot and ankle towards the knee before covering them with the stockings.
  11. Once the shin guards are correctly placed, the footballer must accommodate them appropriately. To achieve this, you will have to make sure that they are well centered on the shins and also that they protect the entire area that goes from the ankle to the knee. 
  12. The player must check that the protections are properly placed before starting to play, otherwise they will increase their chances of suffering an injury. In the case of shin guards with anklets, these must completely cover the entire bone area on both sides of the ankle.
  13. The next step is to fix the shin guards well. The ones in stockings usually incorporate a mesh to achieve this, without the need to use electrical tape or tape. 
  14. It can happen that the player tightens the shin guards too much, causing itching, inflammation, loss of color or numbness in the feet. If this happens you must immediately loosen the protections to avoid possible injury to the legs, adjust them again and check that they do not slide up or down easily.
  15. If the shin guards are held by straps, it is necessary to try to move them to check that they are correctly attached to the legs. In the event that they move, they should be fixed with electrical tape as if they were shin guards for stockings.
  16. The stockings, in addition to covering the protections, also help to keep them in place. They should never squeeze, otherwise they could cut off blood circulation. With the averages raised, the player must check that they do not interfere with normal use.
  17. Boots also affect the proper use of shin guards. An incorrect choice of football boots can cause them to come into contact with the protections, which will be extremely uncomfortable for the athlete.

How to care for shin guards

Shin guard protections should be washed by hand on a regular basis. 

Being in an area where sweat accumulates after playing sport, it can cause bad odors and even infections if not washed correctly. 

How to care for Hard type shin guards

The hard type has a surface made of a hard material such as plastic, so it cannot be washed in a washing machine. Therefore, clean the hard type shin guard by hand washing.

Clean it by washing it with water, and then tap it with a sponge with a body wash to remove the dirt. Rinse the foam and then dry it in the shade.

How to care for Soft type shin guards

The soft type soccer shin guard is made of a soft material, so you can wash it in a washing machine.

  • For heavily soiled areas, lightly wash your soccer shin guard with a sponge with body soap before putting them in the washing machine. 
  • Rinse thoroughly after washing in the washing machine and dry in the shade as with the hard type. 
  • However refrain from using the dryer as it may lose its shape if you put it in the dryer.

A cushioning material such as a sponge is attached to the inside of the soccer shin guard, and it will turn yellow when sweat soaks into it. If bacteria propagate and give off an odor, it is unsanitary to wash, so it is recommended to replace it with a new one.

Soccer shin guards are not sports equipment that require frequent replacement, but it is a good idea to think of them as consumable items.

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