If you’re new to the sport of soccer, then you may have questions about how a player should wear their shin guards. In this article, I want to take you through every step of the process to make sure you are comfortable knowing how to wear shin guards.
To wear shin guards for soccer, you must first identify the correct type of shin guard for your needs. Then place one shin guard on each of your shins and cover them with the long socks that are part of your team’s uniform.
This is the basics for wearing shin guards. But as I’m sure you know, there is a lot more detail to the process than this, especially if you want them to be comfortable and stay in place for the duration of a game.
Let me take you through each step of the process to make sure you are set up and ready to go for your next game!
1. Identify the Correct Shin Guards for Your Needs
The first step in wearing shin guards is to decide what type of shin guards you need.
All soccer players wear shin guards. The rules of soccer require every player to wear shin guards for every competitive game. If a player is not wearing shin guards, then the referee will prevent that player from playing.
Find out much more about this in my article – Do you need shin guards for soccer?
Shin guards are a necessary piece of equipment for any soccer player. In fact, there is really only one scenario where you don’t need to wear shin guards.
If you are playing a recreational game of soccer with friends in your backyard or at a park then you can play soccer without shin guards. But if you are playing a competitive game of soccer then you must wear shin guards.
And even when you don’t “need” to wear them, I would highly recommend that you do, as I’ve seen too many people end up in serious pain because they choose not to wear their shin guards that day.
There are essentially two types of shin guards – ones with ankle support and protection, and ones without.
Shin guards with ankle protection are usually worn more by youth soccer players than adults. This is because youth soccer players are still physically growing and developing and the added protection and support is a benefit.
I know when I was playing youth soccer I often wore shin guards such as these ones on Amazon that offer ankle protection.
However, once I was playing at an adult level I switched to wearing shin guards without ankle support (ones such as these ones) as I no longer felt I needed them and I preferred the extra freedom that the shin guards without ankle protection offered.
(Although I do have to say that I did sometimes miss the ankle protection whenever I received a hard kick in the ankle from another player!)
Shin guards with ankle protection are not always better. Although they offer more protection to the wearer, they also inhibit the player’s range of movement and may cause irritation of the skin around the ankle.
Ultimately this will come down to personal preference.
There is rarely a requirement to use ankle support in youth soccer, and there is nothing to stop you from wearing shin guards with ankle protection at an adult level.
2. Ensure You Have the Right Fit
Once you’ve decided if you are going to put on shin guards with or without ankle support, you need to ensure you have the correct size shin guard for your leg and that it’s fitted correctly.
As you can see here on soccer.com, shin guards come in a range of sizes from small youth size all the way up to large adult.
It’s really important that you wear the correct size shin guard to optimize your performance on the soccer field.
Shin guards that are too big will restrict your movement during the game and ones that are too small won’t give your legs the protection they need.
Obviously, the size you choose will depend on the size of your shin!
Soccer.com provides a useful size guide for shin guards. Have a look at it in the table below and figure out what size would be best for you.
|Player’s Height (in feet/inches)||Suggested Shin Guard Size|
|4’7″ to 4’11”||XS|
|4’11” to 5’3″||S|
|5’3″ to 5’7″||M|
Once you have the correct size shin guard focus on making sure it fits correctly.
Soccer shin guards should fit securely and comfortably. They should wrap around the front of your lower leg with the top of the shin guard positioned at least 2 inches (5.08cm) from your knee and the bottom of the shin guard at least an inch (2.54cm) above your ankle.
Don’t worry too much if the fit isn’t completely perfect.
As long as they are comfortable, not hindering your movement, and protecting your shin, then they will be fine.
And if you don’t get on well with the shin guards you have, try a different pair to see if they are better.
3. Figure Out Which Shin Guard Goes on Which Leg
The next step in putting on your shin guards is to make sure you have them on the correct legs.
How this works will be dependent on the specific shin guards you are using.
For example, many pairs of shin guards are exactly the same as each other. With these, it doesn’t matter which leg you put them on. They will be effective either way round.
However, my favorite shin guards, these ones on Amazon, are slightly different from each other, as the protective part of one shin guard is higher on the left side and the other is higher on the right.
When shin guards are higher on one side than the other you should always place the higher side on the outside of your leg. This will provide extra protection from tackles coming in from the side of you.
The best way to remember which shin guard goes on which leg is this:
If the two shin guards are identical then it doesn’t matter which leg they go on.
If one side of the shin guard is taller than the other, then place the tall side on the outside of your leg. And if the shin guards are marked with an “L” and “R” then place the shin guard with the “L” on your left leg and the one with an “R” on your right.
Most shin guards are designed to fit comfortably around the shin of a player. If you put them on and they don’t feel comfortable then try them on the opposite leg to see if that fits better.
4. Cover the Shin Guards With Long Socks
Once your shin guards are in place the next step is to cover them with your socks.
If this is one of the first times you have put shin guards on then it can be confusing knowing how exactly to wear them. But there is one thing to remember:
Soccer shin guards always go under your socks. At both youth and adult competitive levels, soccer players put their shin guards on before their socks as being able to see a player’s socks is a vital part of the game.
Every player on a team, with the exception of the goalie, wears the same colors as the rest of their team.
Check out my article – The reason soccer goalies wear different colors – for more information about that.
This includes the socks a player wears.
The referee must be able to quickly and easily identify which team a player is from and the unique color of the team’s uniform, or kit, helps them do this.
If the socks were covered by a player’s shin guards then this would make a referee’s job that much harder. Especially as shin guards come in a wide range of colors.
If every player was wearing different color shin guards the referee could quickly become confused!
This is why it’s important to place your socks over your shin guards.
Pull the socks up your leg as far as they will go until the shin guard is completely covered.
You can then either leave the top of your sock covering your knee or alternatively fold the sock at the top so the fold sits between your knee and the top of the shin guard.
5. Fix the Shin Guards to Stop Them From Slipping
Once the shin guards and socks are in place you are ready to head out onto the field.
Occasionally, while playing you may notice your shin guards slipping while you are wearing them. This is not uncommon and happens when the socks you are wearing are not tight enough to hold them up.
Don’t worry about it too much as there are a few ways to prevent this from happening.
The best way to stop your shin guards from slipping is to tape them in place. To tape your shin guards, wrap the tape around your lower leg just below the bottom of the shin guard and on top of the sock. Also, place tape around your leg just above the top of the shin guard, but below the top of your sock.
Placing tape both above and below your shin guards will anchor them in place for the duration of the game. Just make sure the tape is tight enough to secure the shin guards in place but not too tight that it’s uncomfortable!
This also ensures your socks stay up, and you’re not spending the game pulling them both up!
Although tape is effective for stopping your shin guards from slipping while you are wearing them, it is possible you want a more long-term, reusable solution.
If that is the case then I would recommend getting hold of a soccer sleeve.
Soccer sleeves are used to hold a player’s shin guards in place. They prevent the shin guards from slipping as well as preventing the shin guards from irritating the wearer’s skin as they play the game.
To wear shin guards with sleeves place the shin guard on your leg first and then slide the soccer sleeve up your leg and over the shin guard. The sleeve should completely cover the shin guard and hold it securely in place.
There are a wide variety of soccer sleeves available but I really like these Nike ones on Amazon.
And if you are looking for soccer sleeves with the added benefit of ankle and side of the leg protection then check out the Storelli Bodyshield shin guard holders. They have a pocket to slot shin guards in and also, protect the side of the leg and ankle.
6. Decide if You Will Wear Anything Under the Shin Guards
The final thing to consider when you are putting on shin guards is if you want to wear anything under the shin guards between them and your skin.
Some players dislike the feeling of the shin guard against their skin and choose to wear either another long sock or a calf sleeve directly over their leg before putting on shin guards. This can help to reduce irritation of the skin if that is an issue as well.
Personally, I don’t mind having the shin guard in contact with my skin. I’ve never had any problems and it works for me.
This is another area that will ultimately come down to personal preference as they are no specific advantages to wearing something under your shin guards apart from potential increased comfort.
But I would recommend trying it both ways.
If you find the feeling of shin guards uncomfortable against your skin then you should wear socks under shin guards. This extra layer between your leg and the shin guards could provide more comfort and allow you to focus on the soccer game you’re playing.
Just remember that whatever you choose to wear under your shin guards you will still be required to wear long socks over the top of them.
So if you don’t like having multiple layers on your legs then you may want to avoid wearing anything between your leg and the shin guards.
As you can see wearing shin guards is fairly straight forward.
As long as they are comfortable, protecting the shin, and covered with a long sock, then you should be good to go!
For more helpful information about soccer equipment have a look at one of these previous articles I’ve written.