The one area of gear we have never really covered is the ever necessary and hopefully trusty shinguards. Pair don’t change too much from season to season and there is never an exciting new release that needs to be promoted, but that doesn’t mean we can’t offer some stealthy advice on which pairs need to be considered when the time to splash out on a fresh pair comes about.
Having had the opportunity to test many different styles and pairs from various price points, there is one specific piece of advice I can share – higher price doesn’t represent improved performance. Where you notice huge differences in the performance of a $30 boot compared to a $120 pair, you won’t have the same experience with shinguards. For many players, the $25 mark is the way to go and being realistic, it is the area where you should be looking with the knowledge that your shins will be well protected for a reasonable price.
With that in mind, I have focused this post on the more readily available “standard” issue guards available on the market that meet NOCSAE standards* to highlight and compare. Even though they are not created using super lightweight carbon fiber, they are incredibly well tested and trusted by the industry. Each pair tested is a size Large, I have added the recommended height for each pair – bear this in mind when selecting a pair for yourself.
*NOCSAE = National Operating Committee on Standards for Athletic Equipment
adidas F50 Pro Lite
If you are in the mood to look like Messi, this is the way to go, although they are not the guards he actually wears. They have a very lightweight feel, are flexible and as you would expect, provide good protection. The back features a memory foam type feel that offers the softest feel against the leg of the 4 guards we tested. My only issue with these is the Nylon stitching that runs around the outside of the guard. It is an unusual addition that adds an unwanted textured feel to the outside. Performance wise, it doesn’t cause any negatives but in a world where the majority of guards are seemingly one-piece, it makes them seem like an older generation.
NOCSAE Stardard: 5’10” to 6’1″ as a size large
SC101 Rating: 3/5 – Nice feel, good protection, not a fan of the design + stitching.
Puma evoSPEED 1.2 Slip
Puma’s offering is a bullish guard that offers a definite high level of protection thanks to a thick layer of EVA. Of all the guards, front the front they have the most visually stealthy appearance, but turn them sideways and you will immediately notice how thick they are. As per the image above, when you slip them into the sleeve, they sit pretty far from your leg. If you value protection and need something that sits wider across your shin compliments of a “wing” style design, they are a definite winner. But definitely note the fact they have a protruding look underneath your socks as a result.
NOCSAE Stardard: Up to 5’9″ as a size large.
SC101 Rating: 3/5 – High level protection, but that results in a thick guard.
Nike Mercurial Lite USA
In terms of actual fit, these are hands down the best of the 4 we tested, as seen above. With the sleeve in place, they fit extremely well across your leg. Nike does a great job with the Mercurial lite series, in creating a comfortable fitting guard with solid protection. The foam backing is not very soft, but it does have some give on your leg to soak in impact. Added to all that, you have to love the great visual designs that Nike place on the entire Mercurial Lite series, they are definitely the most attractive guards out there even if not many people outside the locker-room will ever see them! The only thing that could improve these would be a slightly more grainy feel to the underside, which would make them sit in place on your leg. They almost feel a little too smooth.
NOCSAE Stardard: 5’7″ to 5’11” as a size large
SC101 Rating: 4/5 – A lot of positives with this one, definitely the best of the 4 we tested.
Warrior Superheat Chrome
Warrior actually made a very wise move with these guards by modelling the design off the Nike Mercurial Lite, or so it seems. The shape of both designs is slightly different, but the materials used in the face and backing seems like it is very, very similar. So, performance wise you can expect pretty much the same type of experience. Where these fall short is in the sleeve included, it is not as effective as the Nike sleeve and leaves the guard falling down your leg.
NOCSAE Stardard: 5’3″ to 5’11″” as a size large
SC101 Rating: 3.5/5 – Overall solid performance, sleeve leaves a negative taste.
Out of the four guards, the Mercurial Lite is the pair most worth their weight in gold. Each pair has its own positives and for many players it will come down to personal preference and expectations. Given the fact guards sit under your socks and nobody really sees them, it is more about finding a comfortable pair that suits the shape of your shins and keeps them well intact if you are smashed with a mistimed tackle!
Have you worn one of these pairs or do you have another pair you would like to recommend? Share your thoughts in the comment section below to help other players make their decision.
Find a full, extensive wide ranging list of soccer shinguards at WeGotSoccer.