Shin guards are one of the most important pieces of soccer gear you need for the season
| 3 min read
Ever been kicked in the shins? It hurts — like a lot. Soccer players know this fact well — so well, in fact, that one of the few pieces of required equipment in soccer is the shin guard. Because a shin is a shin, whether you’re U5 or on the US national team.
Mike Singleton, a long-time youth soccer coach and friend of MOJO, answers our top questions about choosing quality, affordable shin guards for kids.
Don’t be overwhelmed by choice: Shin guards all do a similar job. You’ll find slip-in shin guards, ankle-strap shin guards and shin socks, which are soccer socks and shin guards together in one.
Singleton says some families might prefer ankle-strap shin guards for younger players, because they slide on easily and stay in place. The ankle strap tends to support further down towards the ankle bone, but that area isn’t a place with a high risk for injury in soccer, so parents shouldn’t worry too much about it.
As kids get older, some prefer more traditional shin guards that just slide into the sock, which, Singleton says, can feel less bulky.
Most kids shin guards, regardless of style, will run around $20 — and often less. And hand-me-downs are always the the magical price of free. (Just make sure they fit.)
Find that bump just below your knee. The top of a shin guard should rest just below that, about an inch down. The bottom should end an inch or two above the ankle. It’s essential that the shin guard isn’t blocking free movement of the knee or ankle.
Shin guards aren’t like shoes, says Singleton — they come sized small, medium or large, based on a child’s height. But they don’t have to fit perfectly from point X to Y to be effective. If you have a very young athlete, just watch that the shin guard isn’t too big, which can make it hard to run or change directions. And make sure you’re looking at youth sizes — not adult.
Not really. Everyone needs to protect themselves, Singleton says. While certain players may be more involved than others in attacking or tackling, everyone should assume they will be in a position of conflict at some point. Singleton compares it to driving safety: “Safe drivers don’t need airbags? If someone hits you, you do.” He encourages all athletes to be protected if the “fray comes to you.”
If your athlete finds themselves constantly adjusting their shin guards, first ensure they have the right size for their body. There are accessories whose main job is keeping shifty shin guards in place — including stays, sleeves and straps. You can even use athletic tape to keep them in place.
Soccer is a contact sport, says Singleton — and shins can get seriously injured. “Shin guards are highly important because the damage to a child’s shin can be severe,” he says. A lack of proper protection can cause anything from a bruise to a broken bone — even when kicked by accident.