How To Wear Soccer Shin Guards

With a heavy emphasis on player and participant safety in modern sport, it will be of no surprise to learn that shin guards and socks are required for legal play in nearly all soccer leagues across the globe. This should be the case at all levels from grassroots all the way through semi-professional up to the full professional level in both the men’s and women’s games.

There are two typical basic types of shin guards that are commonly worn either at a junior or senior level depending on your personal preference and of course body size. These include but are not strictly limited to, shin guards with accompanying ankle guards and those without.

For each type of guard, it is imperative to know the best way to wear your socks for the benefit of legal play and your arguably, more importantly, your safety on the pitch.

Why Do Soccer Players Choose To Wear Shin Pads During A Game?

To play competitive soccer, the rules state you have to cover your shins with some layer of protection. The level of that protection is up to the individual. Some choose to go for full protection whilst others prefer less and prioritize comfort as they don’t see the protective value or because they are less aesthetic. Whichever you choose, the simple fact is that the rules of the game require you to wear shinguards.

Ultimately, soccer players choose to wear them to prevent injury to their shinbones and ankles during tackling and other game-orientated contacts. 

Are Shin Guards Really Necessary Or Just A Tick-Box Exercise?

This is largely down to personal interpretation and individual preferences but if you don’t wear them you run the risk of an injury. That could be minimal or significant and there is also the chance that you may never get hurt.

When the facts are broken down, you are more likely to pick up an injury when not wearing shin guards than if you were to have some sort of protective layer over your shin and/or ankle for extra support.

For simple cuts and bruises, they also add extra deterrents to these types of niggly injuries as opposed to fractures and breaks which will cause significantly more pain. 

What Are The Consequences If You Don’t Wear Shin Guards?

It is not just the physical nature of the actual protection you benefit from when wearing them, they represent a powerful psychological shift that can affect your performance too. Wearing protection when going into a tackle gives you full confidence that you can give it your all and not get hurt (even though you still might!)

By not wearing shin protection you automatically create an element of doubt in your mind. You may not even realize that you are not going as hard into a tackle and the fact that you are subconsciously worried about injuring yourself actually enhances the chances of you getting hurt.

All competitors know that if you go in half-hearted or less than 100% into a physical battle then you will likely come off second best. This inevitably leaves both you and your immediate opponent more vulnerable than if you were both protected by shin guards before going into a contact situation.

Do The Most Famous Players Wear Shin Pads?

Top international superstars such as Memphis Depay, Paulo Dybala, Thomas Müller all choose to play with small shin guards during matches. There are multiple examples of world-class players from all over the globe that wear all kinds of various types of shinpads and shin guards.

You will find real-life role models wearing shin guards of all descriptions from pub-teams where your dad plays to 5-a-side leagues where you can play with your mates right the way through to the Premier League and the World Cup.

Does FIFA Require Shin Guards To Be Worn?

Yes, as the world governing body FIFA has a major responsibility for player safety. It recognizes the impact that not wearing adequate protection can have on players and has a strict ruling that even though the level of protection is ultimately down to the individual, shin coverings are compulsory. 

What Is The Purpose Of Shin Guards?

The primary objective of shin guards is to preserve the health of the lower leg and protect against injuries from collisions and impacts associated with contact sports such as soccer. 

Shin guards provide shock absorption and facilitate energy dissipation and are one of the suggested preventive methods because of their capacity of decreasing the risk of serious injuries. Their main function is to protect the soft tissues and bones in the lower extremities from external impact.

How To Wear Them

Now that you are clued up on everything shin guard-related, hopefully, you have a better understanding of the need to wear them and appreciate the value they represent to a soccer player’s health. Being in a more educated position, it is now time to learn how to wear each specific type of shin guard and the impact this can have on your socks and overall presentation. 

Shin Guards With Ankle Guards

Shin guards with ankle guards provide double protection as they have two parts. The tough plastic component lays over the shin and a half-sock that fits over your ankle positions two protective plastic cups on each side of your ankle bone.

These types of Shin guards with ankle guards are commonly worn by junior players or adolescents who need extra protection as they grow and develop. This may not sound particularly comfortable but when wearing socks over the top, you can barely notice the difference, especially when you start running.

You simply put the shin guard on first, most come with a velcro strap that needs to be done up around your calf. This straightens the ankle guard and pushes the whole support into the optimum position. Once this is in place, simply pull the sock up over the guard covering the entire mechanism in the process. 

Shin Guards Without Ankle Guards

Adult soccer players that are fully grown and don’t have any previous injury in this particular area of their body tend to choose shin guards that do not contain ankle guards. Designs will fluctuate depending on the brand or the make but some come with a fabric sleeve or sheath for the plastic pad to slide into and they may or may not include a velcro strap.

Using the velcro strap is the same as above in terms of strapping it around your calf, in the absence of velcro then you may wish to secure the shin guard to your leg with some physio taping or bandaging to your taste.

Once the guard is in place, follow suit by pulling the sock up over the top of the shin guard. You can also use athletic tape to secure the guard in position on the outside of your sock as well as the strapping on the inside if you deem it necessary. 

How should soccer shin guards fit?

Ideally the shin guard will cover the area just above the ankle to a couple of inches below the knee. The ankle needs to be able to flex fully and allow for motion. Generally, the size of shin guard you’ll need will be determined by your height. The shin guard should fit closely to your leg.

There may be additional considerations when choosing the fit: comfort levels, previous injury history, or pure aesthetics. If your appearance is worth more to you than your health and looking the part means more than preventing injury then you will probably go minimalistic with your choice of guard.

Remember that the rules and regulations state that a player’s sock must cover the entire body of any shin guard. Consider this if your team has particularly tight-fitted socks or you have especially big calves and therefore bulky shinguards may not be covered in their entirety by the sock chosen. This would render you unable to play if a referee is hot on discipline and awareness of the rulings. Nobody wants that!

Customizing And Accessorizing 

We can joke about the way you prioritize your looks over your consistent match fitness but there is no reason why you cannot take care of both. Why choose one or the other when you can compromise and have strong elements of both?

Many players choose to cut their socks for comfort as shinpads can be irritating when pressed directly onto the skin. To counter this, simply cut the foot area off the soccer sock and just use the calf-covering area of the material.

To complete the look and the transition into a legal piece of kit, slide this remaining piece onto your leg first then put the guard over the top before completing the kit with a separate pair of socks over the top again. 


Do you have to wear shin pads in the Premier League?

Yes, the FA (Football Association) states in its rules that shin pads are required, and should be covered by socks. Some players, like Jack Grealish, famously wear tiny shin guards with their socks low.

Do soccer shin guards go under or over socks?

Shin guards go under your socks. They may have a velcro strap which helps attach them to your shin. After putting on the shin guard, you pull your sock up and over it.