Shoulder pads are a vital piece of football safety equipment. They protect the player’s shoulders, back, and upper chest for impact during collisions.
While all pads are designed to offer protection, they don’t all perform to the same standards.
So how do you know which are the right shoulder pads to invest in?
Well, read on, and you’ll find out.
Table of Contents
Best Football Shoulder Pads For Adults
Best Football Shoulder Pads For Youth Players
Why Do Players Wear Shoulder Pads? Are They Necessary?
The primary purpose of a shoulder pad is to absorb shock during impact, thereby protecting the player in case of a collision.
Shoulder pads consist of a hard, outer shell lined with shock-absorbing foam padding underneath.
The padding is designed to fit over the player’s chest, rib area, and shoulders then secured by snaps and buckles to keep the shoulder pad in place.
Should a collision occur, the padding, which is strung on tight webbing, deforms on impact.
This way, they absorb the shock before it reaches the player’s body.
The other reason why footballers wear shoulder pads is to allow for the distribution of shock over a larger surface.
Point pressure applied at a very high force could easily break the player’s bones and cause severe harm and injury.
While wearing a shoulder pad, however, the shock generated during a collision gets to be distributed through the ample padding in the shoulder pad.
This design thereby reduces pressure at the point of impact, resultantly decreasing the severity of any damage incurred.
Football shoulder pads provide the ultimate protection for a player’s shoulder, clavicle, scapula, and sternum.
Additional attachments may be added to protect the cervical spine, ribs, abdomen, upper extremity, flank, and back.
Besides, did you know that wearing a shoulder pad could keep the player cool throughout the game?
Well, some shoulder pads come with a cooling mechanism.
So should collisions occur, the shoulder pad deforms, redistributes the resultant pressure and cools the player to lessen the severity of any injuries.
Styles of Football Shoulder Pads
Cantilevered Shoulder Pads
Cantilevered shoulder pads are bulkier and, therefore, quite restricting on the motion of the shoulders.
The name comes from the hard, plastic bridge which the pads make over the shoulder to protect the chest and back.
They work by dispensing force into the pads rather than on the shoulders. These pads are best suited for players who block and tackle.
This shoulder pad design is great for defensive ends who often need the added protection of larger cups and flaps for making tackles.
Non-Cantilevered / Flat Shoulder Pads
Non-Cantilevered Shoulder Pads are less restricting on the motion of the shoulders.
In addition to being less restricting, non-cantilevered shoulder pads are more lightweight, as well.
For this reason, they are better suited for offensive backs, receivers, and quarterbacks because they provide more freedom of movement.
This way, the player gets to enjoy greater mobility when catching and making passes.
Non-cantilevered shoulder pads are gaining popularity with offensive linemen as well, who primarily use their hands to block.
Flat pads work by absorbing the maximum amount of impact, using the smallest amount of space.
The low-bulk padding uses open-cell foam to spread the force of a hot over the widest area possible.
Types of Football Shoulder Pads
Quarterback & Wide Receiver Shoulder Pads
These are designed for agility and mobility. The shoulder pad allows for a wide range of motion suitable for quarterbacks and wide receivers.
They are the lightest pads you will find, and also offer the greatest range of motion.
Quarterback shoulder pads feature:
- Low profile design that doesn’t restrict the player’s vision
- Lightweight strategically placed padding
- Small shoulder flaps
- Flexible shell and cushioning
- Minimal epaulets
Running Back & Defensive Back Shoulder Pads
Similar to quarterback shoulder pads, the running back, and defensive back pads are also designed for mobility and agility.
The difference is whereby the latter offers more protection to allow the player to comfortably and safely run through traffic.
Running back shoulder pads feature:
- Low profile design that doesn’t restrict the player’s vision
- Stronger padding and cushioning
- Lightweight construction
- Flexible shell
- Untied hitting flaps for the full range of arm motion
- Minimal epaulets
Fullback & Linebacker Shoulder Pads
Fullback pads are also known as multipurpose shoulder pads.
They have bigger shoulder flaps, and they also go further down the body to offer more protection.
The design has less of a swim, which means that the player gets to have lesser movement as compared to other pads.
Fullback shoulder pads feature:
- Extremely secure fit using vinyl buckles
- High impact padding
- Plated front connections to reduce mid-play re-adjustments
- Heavier construction when compared to quarterback and running back pads
Linemen Shoulder Pads
These are the heaviest and most durable shoulder pads in the market.
The pads are designed to offer ultimate protection against the hardest of hits which makes the perfect for the trenches
The pads are wider, and they also go further down the player’s body.
Linemen shoulder pads feature:
- Heavy, tough construction
- A sleek profile without extra epaulets that opponents can grab onto
- Secure fit using plated front instead of laces
- Streamlined pad
- Ample mobility
- Vinyl buckles or elastic straps for a secure fit
Things to Consider When Choosing Shoulder Pads
Some player positions prioritize speed over protection while others prioritize protection over agility.
You, therefore, need to understand the demands of a specific position before deciding on which shoulder pad type and style will best suit your needs.
Lightweight pads with minimal padding best suite quarterbacks and wider receivers, while lightweight pads with stronger padding best suite running backs and defensive backs.
Fullbacks and line-backers require a serious amount of protection, but at the same time, the pad should allow for speed and ease of movement.
Lastly, linemen need as much protection as they can get as they block for and protect the ball carriers.
The ideal shoulder pad is that which allows the players to execute all their plays and roles without weighing them down or restricting their range of motion.
The weight of the shoulder pad determines the effect it will have on the player’s body and their performance.
A heavy pad, even by a small degree, will slow the player down, thereby giving the opponents an upper hand.
In addition to that, a heavier pad will limit the player’s endurance, making them feel tired faster.
This is because, with a heavier shoulder pad, the player would be spending a lot of energy supporting the extra weight of the pad rather than spending that energy on the field.
A football player is nothing without his speed and endurance. So, a heavier shoulder pad is simply out of the question.
The matter of weight is quite crucial and a big challenge for many manufacturers. They are tasked with having to enhance the rigidity of the shoulder pad, but without increasing its weight.
Football pads often have a hard, plastic outer shell. This plastic should be rigid, to offer maximum protection.
At the same time, however, it should not be so stiff that it prevents the player from bending and making quick movements.
The pad should be rigid enough to offer ample protection, yet flexible enough to allow the player to player to move their arms and twist their torso as they wiggle out of a tackle.
Underneath the hard, plastic shell, the shoulder pad foam padding underneath for shock absorption.
In this case, Thermoplastic polyurethane (TPU) cushioning is often preferred because it has superior properties, unlike other types of traditional padding used in shoulder pads.
TPU doesn’t break down or compress, and neither does it develop mold and mildew.
In addition to that, TPU doesn’t hold heat, so the player never feels uncomfortably warm, especially after a collision.
The padding is usually inserted into the shoulder, chest, and back areas, and it helps to dissipate the force of an impact.
The rigid exterior and the cushioned interior of the shoulder pad is what helps protect the player from impact by offering shock absorption and dissipation of force upon impact.
Does the shoulder pad you are looking to buy allow for an extensive range of motion?
The range of motion here isn’t just regarding the arms, but it also refers to the allowance given for moving the head and neck.
At the same time, you want a shoulder pad that stays put and doesn’t ride up during a game, thereby getting in the way and obstructing your view.
To effectively tackle and make catches, a player needs to be able to comfortably move their neck, arms, and head throughout the game.
If one of these is restricted, then it will not only hurt your performance but can also result in serious injury.
You wouldn’t want to be the player than lets their teammates down during a big game’s final seconds, now would you?
That’s just what the wrong shoulder pad can do to you.
Despite the rigidity of the shoulder pad, make sure you can move your arms and twist your torso with minimal effort.
So, when trying out shoulder pads trying to settle on which one to buy, try and simulate different stances and plays just like you would during a match.
Thermoplastic polyurethane (TPU) is known to last longer, absorb more impact and protect better than any other padding system you will find in the market.
This is a good thing because the best shoulder pads should offer ample protection without deteriorating.
Regardless of whether the pads are new or whether they are a year old, shoulder pads ought to hold up well to wear and tear.
The amount of protection offered also depends on the rigidity of the hard, outer plastic shell.
The best shell should be extremely rigid to disperse impact, yet flexible enough to allow for a range of movement.
Some brands have ventilation holes drilled directly onto the shell of the shoulder pad.
These ventilation holes allow for the escape of hot air, thereby keeping the footballer cool and ventilated, and they run up and down the field.
Other brands come with a cooling technology integrated within the foam padding.
Upon impact, these cooling beads not only absorb the force of the hit by they also force cool air around the body.
Improved ventilation in the shoulder pad’s shell allows hot air to escape and lets cool air in so that there is less build-up of sweat.
How Do You Know What Size Shoulder Pads to Get?
Step 1: Grab a cloth tape measure.
Step 2: Get a guardian or friend to take your measurements. Never try to measure yourself.
Step 3: Stand up straight and place your arms at your sides.
Step 4: Measure your shoulder width by stretching the tape measure across your back.
Measure between your AC joints, from outside one shoulder tip to the other shoulder tip. Add ½ inch to this measurement.
Step 5: Measure your chest size by wrapping the tape measure around your chest. Wrap the tape around your upper torso, under the armpits, and take this circumference.
Step 6: Weigh yourself. Typically, youth size shoulder pads are classified by weight, so you will need to know your exact weight for a proper fit.
Note down all the measurements, i.e., shoulder width, chest width, and weight, and now you are all set to start shopping for your new shoulder pads.
This video might help give you a better idea when it comes to finding the right shoulder pad size.
When fitting shoulder pads, there are certain rules of fit you should pay attention to, which guarantee optimum support and protection.
- The pads should completely cover the Collarbones, Shoulder joints, and Shoulder blades.
- Deltoid padding should extend to the outer shoulder edge.
- The neck opening should not restrict movement.
- Should have adequate space on either side of the neck roll when the player raises his arms over his head.
- Once worn and tightened, the shoulder pad should fit securely without slipping back and forth.
How Do You Wear Football Pads?
Step 1: Loosen the laces at the front of the shoulder pad and undo the straps at the side, that go under the arms.
Step 2: Pull the pads apart so that they can easily go over your head.
Step 3: Bring the shoulder pads down over your head, taking care not to scratch your nose or eyes in the process.
Step 4: Make sure the pads are aligned correctly.
Step 5: Tighten and secure all straps and laces and buckle all belts and straps. Make sure you have correctly connected the front and back of your shoulder pads.
Step 6: Check the fit. How does the shoulder pad feel? Does it sit comfortably on your shoulders? Use the rules of coverage mentioned above to make sure everything is as it should be.
Step 7: Move around, and while doing this, double-check the fit. Perform some on-field actions to confirm the fit, comfort, and coverage offered by the shoulder pads.
You may use this video to guide your steps and provide further clarification.
FAQ For Football Shoulder Pads Guide
What Are the Best Shoulder Pads for Wide Receivers?
The position of a wide receiver demands that the player eludes defenders with high speed and agility as they attempt to catch the ball.
As a result, these players require extremely lightweight pads which will help then run with speed, while still allowing the pads to absorb hits.
Low-Profile design is also preferred seeing as it won’t ride up as the wide receiver runs and obstruct their view.
In addition to being lightweight, the plastic shell should allow for flexibility, so the player stays agile and enjoys a greater range of motion.
What Are the Best Shoulder Pads for Quarterbacks?
The quarter is essentially the leader of a football team. This position requires one to call the plays, yell signals while at the line of scrimmage or receiver balls from the center.
As a result, shoulder pads for quarterbacks need to be extremely lightweight and non-burdening.
A quarterback may not receive many hits so they can get away with a shoulder pad having minimal cushioning.
Similar to the wide receiver shoulder pads, low-profile design is preferred, and the shell should offer ample flexibility as well.
What Are Shoulder Pads Made Of?
Shoulder pads have two main components: a hard, outer shell for rigidity and shock-absorbing foam for cushioning.
The hard, outer shell is made from plastics. It should be very rigid for ultimate protection, yet remain flexible at the same time to allow for mobility.
On the other hand, the cushioning underneath the hard, outer shell often consists of TPU padding.
This material is preferred because it doesn’t compress, and neither does it degenerate over time.
Additionally, TPU cushioning is resistant to mold and mildew and doesn’t hold heat, as is the case with traditional shoulder pad padding systems.
How Much Do Football Shoulder Pads Weigh?
Linemen shoulder pads are the heaviest, and they weight about 6 pounds on average.
Wide receiver and Quarterback shoulder pads are lighter and more flexible. These pads weigh anywhere between 3-5 pounds.
How to Clean Football Shoulder Pads?
To minimize dirt, sweat, and accumulation of bacteria, football shoulder pads ought to be cleaned at least once a week during football season.
After the season, you may have them professionally cleaned for deep cleaning and to ensure shape retention.
To clean the pads at home, start by separating the plastic shell from the cushioning. Then wipe the shell down with a cloth dipped in warm soapy water.
To clean the cushioning, spray disinfectant all over the pads and air to dry.
Ensure everything is completely dry before assembling them back together.
How Long Will New Shoulder Pads Last?
When buying the pads for a young athlete, then keep in mind that the kid might outgrow the shoulder pads before it’s time to replace them.
Other than that, good shoulder pads should last you several football seasons as long as you adhere to the correct care and maintenance instructions.