Common Questions About Shin Pads – Laws, Regulation & What Professional Players Wear

Questions About Shin Pads: Laws, Regulation & What Professional Do Wear


Shin pads are an essential piece of football equipment, protecting players from the impact of kicks, tackles, and other challenges. But with so many different shin pads on the market, it can be difficult to know which ones are the best.
In this post, we will take a look at some of the best shin pads types for football. Best how? Well, based on factors such as protection, comfort, fit, and durability. We will also answer some common questions about shin pads, such as:

What do footballers wear on their shins?

Footballers (should) wear shin pads / shin guards (they’re the same thing) on their shins to protect them from the impact of kicks, tackles, and other challenges. Shin pads are made from a variety of materials, such as plastic, foam, carbon-fiber, bamboo and composites of different materials combined.

How to Choose the Best Shin Pads for You

When choosing shin pads, there are a few things you should keep in mind:

Shin pads should provide good protection against kicks, tackles, and other challenges. Look for shin pads with a hard shell that covers the entire front of your shin. There are some sophisticated modern materials that provide excellent protection but are flexible. Check they have been impact-tested and awarded a CE Mark or are NOCSAE-approved.

Shin pads should be comfortable to wear, even for extended periods of time. Look for shin pads that are made from lightweight and breathable materials

Shin pads should fit snugly but not too tightly. You should be able to move freely without your shin pads slipping down or getting in the way.

Shin pads should be durable and able to withstand the rigors of football. Look for shin pads that are made from high-quality materials and construction.

Why Do Professional Footballers Wear Small Shin Pads?

Dominic Calvert-Lewin Everton Footballer with close up on his small shin pad

Dominic Calvert-Lewin Playing For Everton F.C.

Some professional footballers wear small shin pads because they feel they are more lightweight and comfortable to wear. Small shin pads do not provide improved range of motion or performance advantages compared to good quality, ergonomic shin pads. Doctors involved in looking after professional players occasionally see very significant injuries due to inadequate shin pads such as bruises, cuts and sometimes very deep lacerations even down to muscle. No matter how well a player THINKS they will perform, it’s arguable months of training and hard work can be wiped out in an instant with injury leading to weeks or months out of action.

Arsenal footballer starlet Myles Lewis-Skelly playing for England made to change tiny shin pads by referee

You have to wear proper shin pads

Small shin pads do not provide as much protection as larger shin pads. If you are concerned about protection, a long playing career, avoiding emergency hospital visits AND avoiding the disapproving frown of your medical team then choose larger shin pads.

Football Association Rules on Shin Pads

The Football Association (FA) has strict rules on shin pads. According to the FA, shin pads must:

  • Be covered entirely by the socks
  • Be made of a suitable material (such as rubber, plastic, or similar substances)
  • Provide a reasonable degree of protection

FA referees are responsible for ensuring that players are wearing safe and appropriately sized shin pads. Players who are not wearing shin pads or who are wearing shin pads that do not meet the FA’s requirements may be refused entry to the pitch or may be sent off to change their shin pads.

Why Are Shin Pads Important?

Modern day stud patterns increasingly have sharper-edged shapes. Whilst not as dangerous as traditional ‘blades’ there is increasing concern they have the ability to cause significant lacerations on legs and to feet (especially through modern lightweight ultra-thin boots). Resistance to shear impact from these types of stud scraping along a shin is best provided by good fitting and sensibly sized shin pads.

Moulded Football Boots Compared To a Modern Polyhedral football boot stud illustrating sharper vertices and increased risk to players from impact

A Polyhedral Stud Pattern With Sharper Edges Can Increase Injury Risk To Other Players

Shin pads can help to protect the legs from cuts and lacerations caused by modern stud patterns. Shin pads that are made from durable materials and that fit snugly around the leg are most effective at protecting against such cuts and lacerations.

Many professional players seem to wear tiny (or no) shin pads. This is because elite football is refereed and dangerous challenges readily punished. Also, elite football involves rapid, accurate and frequent passing to players in space reducing the frequency of direct tackling. As a result of this and the agile nature of elite players, at the highest level injuries due to lack of proper shin pads is not as common. However, they do occur and in much higher frequency at less competitive levels especially with poorly trained and officiated amateur matches.

While it is not ‘illegal’ to wear mini shin pads, it is arguably a breach of the laws of the game. It is also a breach of U.K. consumer regulations to sell a protective piece of equipment that is not CE Marked where a CE Mark standard exists…as it does for Football Shin Pads.

Mini shin pads do not provide much protection. They are also woefully inadequate in terms of size and therefore dangerous in use. As a result, players who wear mini shin pads are more likely to suffer injuries in the event of a kick, tackle, or other challenge.

What are the best shin pads for football?

The answer depends on:

  • Your budget – don’t waste money on expensive shin pads just to play once a year
  • How often you play – this influences the point above and below
  • Washable – some are wipe clean and some have fabrics or porous spongy foams that can absorb sweat and if not washed can smell terrible. Never leave sweaty shin pads an unventilated and / or warm place! Clean them as soon as you can, it may even be easier to take them into the shower with you to clean after playing.
  • Size – your height determines how big a shin pad you need. It’s pointless risking injury with a Skittle-sized shin pad. Ideally an area from above the ankle to a hand’s width below where the kneecap (patella) ends should be covered. The width of the shin pad should protect the ridge of your shin bone (tibia), a few centimetres to the outside and all of the hard bony parts on the inside if the tibia. This along with the ridge are the most vulnerable parts to injury as there’s little other soft tissue to take any impact.
  • Appearance – this shouldn’t matter but of course it does. If players feel embarrassed wearing a shin pad, they’re likely to give up wearing it. Part of enjoying football is the pleasure of nice kit: a good pair of boots that makes you feel like Jude Bellingham, some white tape on your wrist (why do players do that?!) and a cool-looking kit bag. So  a pair of shin pads that look good, feel good will undoubtedly help you play better.

Anything Else?

Oh yes 🙂

  • Comfort – this is a function of weight, fit, breathability and materials used. A shin pad that is uncomfortable, keeps moving in the sock and leaves you horribly sweaty is not ideal. Always buy a pair on recommendation or after you have tried them. If you know professionals are using a pair and it’s made by a reputable company, this adds to buyer confidence.
  • Protection – shin pads are a protective item. Hence in the U.K. and E.U. they are regarded as Class II Personal Protective Equipment (PPE). There are regulations governing shin pads and the U.K. and E.U. require CE Mark standard EN 13061 to be awarded by a Government appointed independent organisation (Notified Body). Look for the CE Mark on your shin pads. With this you know they have been impact-tested in a laboratory to make sure they’re safe and effective. The U.S.A. requires a similar standard called NOCSAE.
  • Durability – any material with a foam rubber or spongy material will slowly degrade over time. Hard plastics can also deteriorate but generally retain their impact-absorbing qualities more consistently.

How Often Should Shin Pads Be Replaced?

As a word of warning, caution should be exercised over carbon-fibre and other rigid plastics. Occasionally repeated impacts can cause weakening and then the material can break without warning under impact. Hence, inspect your shin pads regularly and discard if damaged or worn. We would recommend replacing them every 1-3 seasons depending on use.
Of course if yours are made from an advanced smart-material that’s been tested for over 10,000 life-changing impacts then you are lucky enough to have something that could last your whole footballing career!

The Best Football Shin Pads

Below is not intended to be a comprehensive list but we do like the following:

Nike Mercurial Lite Shin Pads

Nike Mercurial Lite Shinguard : Fashion

These shin pads are lightweight and comfortable, with a hard outer shell and foamy inner part for comfort. Mercurial Lite’s have been around for a number of years and are commonly worn by amateurs and professionals alike. The provide excellent protection with comfort, are lightweight and come in lots of different colour schemes. The often come with some Nike shin pad sleeves, an excellent environmentally responsible alternative to disposable sock tapes or underwrap.

Mitre Aircell Shin Pads

Mitre Aircell Carbon Slip Guard | Mitre ShinguardsA budget option but don’t let that put you off. Mitre’s Aircell has been around a very long time. These shin guards are lightweight and comfortable, with a perforated shell that allows for excellent airflow without compromising on protection. There are a few variations including one with an ankle stocking and stirrup to prevent the shin pad riding up the leg. Some without this have velcro straps to aid placement and others have just the shin pad. In our opinion this is an understated design classic.

Adidas Predator League Shin Pads

adidas Predator League Shin Guards - Game Data - SoccerPro
These shin pads offer excellent protection, with a hard shell and a padded backing. They are also a good option for players who are looking for a shin pad that is durable and long-lasting. Often provided with a pair of sleeves, there have been some negative reviews as to the durability of these. However, the shin pads are a strong offering and available to buy in a variety of sizes and colours. There are cheaper shin pads you can buy but the Adidas Predator brand is strong and sought after.

Puma Ultra Flex Shin Pads

ULTRA Flex Sleeve Football Shin Guards, Ultra Blue-Pro Green, extralarge-GBR

These shin pads are lightweight and flexible, with a hard yet giving shell that provides good protection. They are a good option for players who are looking for a shin pad that does not restrict their movement given the softer foam backing. The appear to be quite breathable and come with sleeves.

Do Pros Wear Shin Pads Like G Form?

Some professional footballers do wear G form shin pads. These are made from a soft and flexible material called SmartFLex. This is a flat plastic foam like material that hardens instantly upon impact. This makes the G Form shin pads lightweight and comfortable to wear whilst still providing good protection.
However, not all professional footballers wear G form shin pads. Some prefer to wear shin pads with a hard shell, as they feel that these shin pads provide better protection. We know of professionals that dislike a tight sleeve that features on many G Form shin pads and so they choose to cut it off before wearing.