Make an informed buying decision. Our guide will help you identify the right pads for your size and position.
How To Buy Football Pads
Today’s football padding helps protect you nearly from head to toe. Most of the gear is specifically designed to help maximize your performance while still helping to reduce the risk of injury.
WARNING: Football is a dangerous sport that may result in serious injury or even death. Although equipment is designed to help reduce the risk of such injuries, there is no guarantee that any injury will be prevented by the use of equipment.
- Shoulder pads are designed to help you accomplish your job based on your position
- Manufacturers do a good job of identifying which pad works best for what positions
- Pads also come in youth and adult sizes so please review the sizing instructions and chart below to help in your selection
- Look for lightweight pads that won’t ride up high to limit your head movement or field of vision
- If your team uses the option and you are part of the running game, you should consider a shoulder pad made for running backs or defensive backs. These pads offer more protection for quarterbacks that are part of the team’s running offense.
- Skill positions
- If you play defensive back, tailback, wide receiver or option quarterback, you want a pad that’s lightweight and won’t slow you down, while still absorbing the hits that you will take
- These pads also are designed to provide flexibility and unrestricted movement
- Bigger skill positions
- Fullbacks, linebackers and tight-ends should consider pads that use a plated front rather than laces
- Plated fronts do not require as much adjustment after each hit
- Some pads also come with vinyl buckles instead of elasticized straps to more securely fasten the pad under the arm
- If you play in the trenches, you need a streamlined pad that uses fewer flaps and epaulets (the flaps that extend over the shoulder area) to prevent other players from grabbing and pulling on your pads
- Linemen pads often use vinyl buckles to keep them more securely fastened
- As for elastic straps vs. vinyl buckles, consider that elastic needs to be adjusted and replaced after heavy usage. However, elastic may be preferred since it expands and contracts more easily than vinyl buckles when you breathe.
- Kicking game
- Most punters and place kickers use quarterback pads since these are lighter and offer better movement
Determining the Proper Size Shoulder Pads
- To determine the size pad that best suits you, stand up straight with your arms at your side
- Measure across your back from where you feel the shoulder bone on one side to where the bone extends on the opposite side
- Round up to the next half-inch and refer to the chart below
- For youth pads you will also need to factor in chest size and weight
Other Football Pads
You can further protect yourself with a variety of padding, some designed more for specific positions and some to help injured players to protect sensitive areas.
Collar Pads/Neck Rolls
- These attach to the back of shoulder pads to further protect the collarbone
- Most manufacturers make specific models to fit their pads and offer both youth and adult sizes
- You can also purchase a back plate for added protection to the back area and a sternum plate to further protect this area
- Several styles of rib protection are offered, a good option for players with sore ribs or who take constant pounding from tackles
- Many shoulder pad manufacturers sell a rib protector that extends from the bottom of their pads. For these you buy the size that corresponds to your shoulder pad size as specified by the manufacturer.
- Also available are vests that use hook-and-loop closures to secure the vest, which has padding built-in to the vest to protect your ribs
- Vests are fitted by chest size, according to each maker’s specifications
- Some models come with suspenders that then have rib protection padding at the bottom
- Rib pads can be attached to shoulder pads or worn separately with suspenders, the latter typically for light practices when pads aren’t worn but you still want to protect sensitive ribs
- A variety of pads are offered to protect the hands and arms of players, usually offensive and defensive linemen who use their arms to block and tackle
- These pads can provide crucial protection from your fingertips to just past your elbows
- Different positions require different types of gloves
- Lineman should look for gloves that are heavily padded on the top of the hand and wrist
- Receivers and running backs, as well as defensive backs, should purchase flexible, soft gloves that have some tackiness (stickiness) to them
Hip and Tailbone Pads
- Hip pads are a must for nearly every player, but certainly those who take punishment from tackles such as running backs, receivers and quarterbacks
- Tailbone pads help protect the sensitive tailbone area of running backs and receivers, who often get hit here
- Since these often extend outside the pant, you can buy them in colors to closely match your team’s uniform colors
- Hip and tail pads are usually sold as three-piece sets
- Football pants do not have pockets for hip and tail pads, so you will have to purchase a ” girdle” as well
- Thigh pads give better protection to players who are often tackled
- These slide into pockets in the football pants
- Thigh pads can be made of either foam, which is lightweight and molds to the body well, or vinyl dipped, which is thick and offers better protection
- All players benefit from kneepads, generally foam-encased, soft pads that slide into the pockets on most football pants
- Knee pads can be made of either foam, which is lightweight and molds to the body well, or vinyl dipped, which is thick and offers better protection
- Many manufacturers offer protection systems, complete with hip, tail, thigh, and kneepads. These sets generally will save you money vs. buying the pads individually.
- 7-piece sets generally include two hip pads, one tail pad, two thigh pads, and two knee pads
- 3-piece sets generally include two hip pads and one tail pad combination