Do You Need Shin Guards For Soccer?

If you have ever played in a soccer game, you will understand that the ball is not the only thing that gets kicked.

After the ball, the most commonly kicked object on a soccer field is a player’s shins. This is why shin guards are so important. However, do you actually need to wear shin guards for soccer?

If you play soccer in a registered organization, then you need to wear shin guards. The heads of these organizations have made shin guards mandatory for all players to protect the players, the team, and the organization.

Whether you are playing soccer for your school, college, Sunday league team, or in a professional league, you must wear shin guards.

If you are a parent who wants their kid to play soccer or an aspiring soccer player that has some experience, this article will explain not only why shin guards are mandatory at most levels but also why you really should wear shin guards every time you play soccer.

post title beside image of shin guards

Why You Need Shin Guards For Soccer

The most foundational reason soccer players need to wear shin guards is to help prevent injuries. 

Soccer players’ shins are one of the most vulnerable parts of their bodies. They are so close to other players’ feet and are at risk of being kicked at any time during a game or training session.

If you have ever been kicked on an unprotected shin or received an impact there at any time, you will understand just how painful it can be. Even the memory of it happening to me makes me wince!

To reduce the risk of injury to a player’s shin, shin guards were introduced into soccer as long ago as 1874

The introduction of shin guards into soccer originated from cricket, where cricket players already wore shin guards at that time. And interestingly, this wasn’t the only influence cricket has had on soccer, as you can find out in this article I recently wrote. 

Throughout the history of soccer, players have always felt that they needed to wear shin guards. 

Shin guards protect a player’s legs and give them the confidence to compete for the ball, knowing they are less likely to get hurt or injured.

If you are in any doubt at all over whether to wear shin guards for soccer, I highly recommend you do.

And if you’re in doubt about how to wear them, check out my article – How to Wear Soccer Shin Guards: Your Questions Answered.

Protecting yourself or your child from injury is well worth the cost or effort. Check out my recommended soccer gear page here to find my recommendations for shin guards.

But despite their obvious benefits, you might be wondering whether or not soccer players can avoid wearing them if they wanted to.

The reality is that they cannot. 

All soccer organizations from the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) to the International Federation of Association Football (FIFA) and even Sunday league organizations all state that shin guards are mandatory. Soccer players must wear them.

And this is for a good reason. Soccer players must wear shin guards for their own protection.

You might be thinking that it is a good thing for these organizations, including high School soccer organizations, to implement the mandatory wearing of shin guards because they are just looking out for your best interest, right? Well, they are also looking out for their best interest. 

The last thing they want is a handful of injuries to deal with that could have otherwise been prevented.

Find out why shin guards go under a player’s socks in my article – Do Shin Guards go Over or Under a Player’s Socks?

do pro soccer players wear shin guards?

Do Pro Soccer Players Also Use Shin Guards?

But what about the professionals. Do they also need to wear shin guards?

It is no secret that soccer players get paid a lot of money, and they are treated like rock stars by their fans. So, you might be thinking that they can pretty much get away with not wearing shin guards if they didn’t want to. 

But it’s not actually that simple.

Despite a pro soccer player’s status, they are subject to the same mandatory regulations as everybody else. These mandatory regulations also require professional soccer players to wear shin guards. 

Even if they tried to get on the field without them, their club/team might stop them before they get out into the field.

A club would step in if they see a player trying to get on the field without shin guards because they can get fined by their respective organizations such as the Premier League, Bundesliga, MLS, or even La Liga. 

They also have a responsibility to protect their player because, remember, a soccer player is an asset to a club.

Why Do Pro Soccer Players Use Small Shin Guards?

Having established that soccer players need to wear shin guards, you may be interested in the types of shin guards they wear.

When watching a soccer match, especially on the TV, spotting a player’s shin guards can be really difficult. 

This often leads people to believe that pro soccer players do not always wear their shin guards, but this isn’t the case. 

Most players wear very small shin guards. Sometimes small enough that they are barely noticeable.

Many pro soccer players, especially attacking players, wear shin guards that are small because while the shin guards are mandatory, they still want to maintain as much movement as possible

So, instead of wearing bulky shin guards that might make it harder for them to control the ball and move freely, they just wear really small ones.

small vs large shin guards
Small or large shin guards?

Should You Use Big Or Small Shin Guards For Soccer?

If you are starting to play soccer, let me just start off by saying, awesome! It is going to be one of the best sports that you have ever played. 

But before I get sidetracked, whether you have been playing soccer for a while or are just getting started, the question is, should you be wearing big shin guards or small ones?

The answer to this question depends entirely upon you and a few other factors. 

These factors include the position you play, your club or your team’s rules and regulations, and finally, what you value more, between having the freedom to control the ball or protecting yourself against incoming defenders or attackers.

Let’s take a look at each of these factors in a little bit more detail.

Consider the Position You Play

You will notice that a lot of defensive players, even defensive midfielders, tend to wear bigger shin guards.

This is because they often put their bodies on the line to defend against attackers.

If you are playing as an attacker or even an attacking midfielder, you might notice that those players wear smaller guards for better control of the ball.

Understand the Club, Team, or Association Rules

This one is pretty obvious, and your club, team, or association could have regulations as to what size your shin guards need to be. However, this is very rare.

Typically, the only requirement is that you actually have them on regardless of their size.

Decide on Your Personal Preference

This is probably the most important thing to consider.

Your personal choice boils down to what you value more. Is it the safety of your shins and legs or performing to your best abilities?

This is something that only you can answer for yourself.

For myself, when I was younger, I wore more bulky shin guards that offered more protection.

But in recent years, I have worn smaller ones that were less noticeable as I moved around the soccer field.

Some of my favorites are these ones on Amazon that feel and look like a sock but offer all the protection of bigger shin guards.

With these, you get the best of both worlds!

What Shin Guards Does Cristiano Ronaldo Use?

You will be surprised at how many people want to know what their favorite soccer player uses in terms of equipment. A lot of amateur and pro-amateur soccer players like to use the same gear as their heroes.

So let me just describe to you what shin guards Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi use.

Cristiano Ronaldo wears Nike Mercurial lite shin guards. One of Ronaldo’s main sponsors is Nike. So, it should be no surprise that one of his favorite pairs of shin guards is the Nike Mercurial lite.

Ronaldo is known for his explosive bursts of power and speed, and this could be a contributing factor as to why he likes these light shin guards so much.

If you’re interested in finding out all the languages Ronaldo speaks, you’ll want to have a look at this article I wrote here.

What Shin Guards Does Lionel Messi Use?

Many people consider Messi to be one of the greatest footballers in the world. Some of his fans refer to him as “a god amongst men.”

Lionel Messi wears shin guards that are provided by his main sponsor, Adidas.

He uses the camouflage version that was released in 2016.

These are not as light as Ronaldo’s shin guards, but they are small enough so that Messi can control the ball without the guards getting in his way.

For more information about Lionel Messi, find out how many red cards he’s received throughout his career in this article here. And find out if he speaks any English at all in this article here.


When playing soccer, you need to figure out what part of you is most vulnerable in terms of your health when playing.

You then want to do everything you can to protect yourself. But at the same time, it is nice to have a good balance so that you don’t affect your talent too much. 

Shin guards can require this kind of balancing act.

On the one hand, it is a requirement that all soccer players wear shin guards, but there is a range of different options that can be used to allow the player the freedom on the soccer field that they require.

For more information about soccer equipment, check out one of my related articles.

Ben Clayfield

Hi! My name's Ben. I've played, watched, read about, and enjoyed soccer throughout my life. I really enjoy finding out more about the game I love and sharing it with you all. Find out more about me here - Ben Clayfield

Recent Posts