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Soccer Shin Guard Buying Guide

Soccer Shin Guard Buying Guide
Types of Shin GuardsComponents & TechnologyDetermining the Proper Size
MaterialsPlayer & Position SpecificCare & Maintenance

Whether you've been playing soccer for years or are just getting started, every player needs shin protection on the field in order to prevent injury. Wearing shin guards is not only required by all organized leagues for competition, but is a critical safety component for all age groups and skill levels as well. Finding a shin guard that fits properly, offers the right amount of protection and delivers the perfect mixture of comfort and performance can help take your game to the next level. DICK's Sporting Goods offers a wide variety of soccer shin guards to suit every player's needs.

Types of Shin Guards

Before making your purchase, it is important to determine the type of shin guard that will best suit your skill sets and the level at which you play. Your shin guard should be constructed of quality materials and provide a comfortable, shift-resistant fit during play. Younger players should look for a soft, non-restrictive shin guard while more advanced players should use a high-performing guard that is lightweight, yet fully-protective.

Slip-In Shin Guards

  • Provide a lightweight, basic shield without any closures or stirrups
  • Most come with a set of compression sleeves that hold the shield firmly in place to prevent shifting during play
  • Select styles include ventilated foam backing for increased comfort
  • Give your foot the widest range of motion providing better mobility on the field
  • Do not have ankle protection

Ankle Shin Guards

  • Added ankle protectors on these shin guards provide extensive coverage
  • Highly recommended for younger players
  • Enhanced with soft padding on both sides of the foot to help prevent ankle sprains and shield against kicks
  • Choose between a full shin guard with ankle protectors built in, or a shin guard with detachable protectors that you can change at will

Shin Socks

  • Combination of a soccer sock and a protective foam shin guard built into a single, slip-on design
  • Ideal for young players who don't yet need heavy-duty gear, as they provide just the right amount of protection without restriction
  • Easy to slip on and clean

NOCSAE Approved

The National Operating Committee on Standards for Athletic Equipment (NOCSAE) tests and sets performance standards for protective sports equipment. High school soccer athletes and other various organizations in the United States are required to wear NOCSAE-approved shin guards, so be sure to check with your coach or league rules before making your purchase.

Components & Technology


Closures are the straps that secure the shin guard onto your leg. Most shin guards use thick, adjustable Velcro® straps that wrap around your calf to keep the shield in place. Other shin guards do not contain any straps at all and simply slip into your socks. Strap-free shin guards are only recommended if you have tight-fitting socks or utilize a sleeve to keep the guard locked in.


Stirrups are stretchy straps that wrap under your foot and near your heel. The main function of stirrups is to provide a secure, comfortable fit that helps prevent your shin guard from riding up during play.

Determining the Proper Size

A shin guard is only as good as it fits, so it is important to determine which size you will need before making your purchase. A shin guard that is too big or too long will not fit properly and may interfere with your play. A shin guard that is too small will not provide you with the necessary amount of protection. A good rule of thumb is that the guard should cover about 75% of your shin, although all players have different preferences.

* Chart should be used as a general guideline; specific shin guard styles may fit differently*


Soccer shin guards are designed with a hard outer casing and a soft interior to help absorb contact while providing you with a comfortable fit. While different manufacturers construct their shin guards using different types of materials, they should all do the same thing - deliver solid protection that won't interfere with your game.

Foam Rubber

  • Very lightweight, flexible and moldable to provide you with a personalized fit
  • Do not offer as much protection and durability as other options

Polyurethane (PU)

  • Heavier, more durable and stronger than other materials
  • Not as lightweight and flexible, but offers solid protection and a sturdy design
  • Best suited for defenders and rougher playing conditions


  • Incredibly lightweight and typically cost less than other materials
  • Hard, stiff construction offers great protection
  • Not as flexible or as easy to conform to the shape of your leg as other shin guards

Ethylene Vinyl Acetate (EVA)

  • Soft foam material on the back of a shin guard that makes contact with your skin
  • Provides incredible comfort and shock-absorption
  • Allows the shin guard to be more lightweight without sacrificing protection
  • Select styles may be anti-microbial, sweat-resistant and/or ventilated for lasting durability and comfort

Player & Position Specific

While age and skill level are important considerations in determining which style and material you will use, it is also recommended that you factor in what position you play. Some players may demand a more durable and sturdy shield, while others need a shin guard that is lightweight and unrestrictive.

Defensive Line

Players on the defensive line need a shin guard that is highly protective. Defenders, including fullbacks and sweepers, typically prefer a shin guard that is heavier, more durable and offers extra ankle protection to defend against offensive attacks. A shin guard made of polyurethane material is a good choice.


Midfielders should seek a rounded shin guard that delivers a happy medium between solid protection and a lightweight design. Their flexible role on the field demands a guard that is strong and durable for playing defense, but also allows them to move without restriction while on the offensive attack.


Forwards and strikers should consider a lightweight shin guard that provides full protection in a minimalist design. This will help them stay light on their feet and hit maximum speed. Ankle protection is also important, as opposing defenders may slide tackle to win the ball back.


Goalkeepers should also consider a shin guard that is lightweight and non-interfering since they do not engage in as much physical contact as other positions. A lightweight, yet protective shin guard allows goalies to be highly reactive and quick on their feet.

Care & Maintenance

Cleaning and caring for your shin guards after use is critical to prolonging their performance and durability. There are certain steps you can take to ensure that you get the most out of your shin guards:

  • Should be hand-washed regularly with detergent, water and baking soda to enhance odor control
  • Many guards, including shin socks, can be thrown in the washer and air dried
  • Avoid using any harsh chemicals that could deteriorate the soft foam backing
  • Consider purchasing anti-microbial spray to suppress odors and prevent bacteria build-up over time
  • Be sure to check the label on your shin guards for specific cleaning instructions

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