I’ll be honest, I’m pretty happy with the shin pads that I use. I’ve found something that works for me and they’ve been my leg protection of choice for around fifteen years now. My relationship with my shin pads has lasted far longer than any wife or girlfriend I’ve had. A scary thought.
But I’m in a minority. I come into contact with a lot of people who detest wearing shin guards. I see people trying to get away without wearing them, although referees soon seem to spot this. The other alternative seems to be to use shin pads that are so small that you hardly notice they’re there. But that doesn’t exactly provide a great deal of protection.
It seems that when it comes to shin pads that are comfortable to wear, there aren’t many good choices available. So when I started hearing positive things about a particular brand of shin pads, the S1 Sport shin pads, I was keen to get my hands on a pair. Fortunately S1 Sport obliged, and sent me a pair to try out*.
If you’d rather watch a video review of these, here it is. Otherwise, keep reading:
The S1 Sport Shin pad Concept
You might not have heard about the S1 shin pads before. They haven’t exactly hit the mainstream and your’e unlikely to find them on the shelves of your sports store (yet). In fact, the main outlet for buying them appears to be the company’s own website. But don’t let this make you think that they don’t have a decent product.
The S1 Sport Shin pads are designed to address the common problems of regular shin pads. That means that they’ve made to be:
- lightweight and easy to wear
- breathable and free from sweatiness
- fixed in place without sliding about in your sock – no need for tape
- washable so they don’t smell
It all sounds good in principle, but how do they stand up to testing?
S1 Sport Shin Pad product test
The way the pads work, they have a unique ‘sleeve’ that fastens securely around your lower leg using Velcro straps. When that is comfortably in place (and only at that point), you fix the pad over the top using a simple Velcro fastening. It’s a neat idea and something that I haven’t seen before. The act of velcroing the pad onto the sleeve allows you to get it positioned perfectly where you want it on your leg. And it won’t move from that point.
So as far as the fit goes, there’s no complaints from me. It allows for a lot of adjustment and holds much more securely in place than a regular pad, which you’ll often find moving about slightly. The caveat, however, is that you need to make sure that you buy the right size shin pad, in the first place. That should be easy using the following chart (tip: go by leg circumference around the widest part of your calf, and if you’re close to being between two sizes, select the one that closest matches your height):
With my pads fastened in place, I tested them them in a real game situation and found them very comfortable throughout the 40-minute game. There was no discomfort from the sleeve, which is the part that comes into contact against your skin.
As far as protection goes, the pad its self is constructed from sturdy plastic, but is still lightweight. It’s not the largest pad available on the market – but it compares well with most regular-sized alternatives. It’s big enough to give you protection down the majority of your shin bone, which is the main aim. Fortunately I didn’t take many major kicks when I tested them, but I felt confident that the pad was going to protect me against most situations. Another tick in the box.
At the end of the game, I took the pad off and didn’t have the usual sweaty sensation that you’ll usually get with the cheap pads pressed up against your leg. I’m not saying you won’t sweat at all in these, but the sleeve does seem to minimize the effects. A pleasant surprise.
The S1 Sport Ankle (and Achilles) Guard
So, the shin pad stands up well to scrutiny, but my usual pads also have an ankle guard attached to them. I know not everybody likes to wear these, but I wouldn’t be without mine – they’ve saved me against many kicks over the years. Not to mention the pain of having studs raked down your ankles from clumsy challenges.
The S1 Sport pads don’t come with ankle guards as standard. But luckily, I was sent a pair of the ankle guards as a little extra bonus. Nice touch.
The pair I was sent came with AS Roma branding. I’m not exactly sure why, but it added a little extra interest to the product.
Here’s me having tried on the shin guard and ankle protector. They come separately, but together they look like an integrated unit.
Now, the thing is about the ankle guards is that they’re not fixed to the shin pads. They’re separate, for two reasons:
- The foot and the leg move independently of each other, so it makes sense to have separate protection for each.
- It allows you to separately size the ankle protector and shin pad, allowing the best fit for each part. You might need a shin pad in ‘L’ and an ankle protector in ‘M’.
To be honest, I’d never thought of it like that. Both reasons make absolute sense.
The protector its self is made from a thin neoprene material (think of the sort of material a wet suit is made of). It’s both soft and stretchy and can be worn under or over a sock. I wore it under a sock. The stitching on the inside is tidy and there’s no chunky hem to rub against your foot.
The fit is comfortable but fairly tight, which provides compression support for the joint. Hard discs are sewn in on each side of the ankle to protect against knocks and bumps. Because of the fit and design, these shouldn’t move around on your foot.
But the smartest feature of this protector, and one that is badly missing on my usual pad is the achilles protector. As somebody who has struggled a lot over the past year with an achilles injury, I really value this extra feature. It’s as simple as having two lines of thickened neoprene running down the achilles but it’s such a smart idea.
The (minor) downsides
The shin pad and ankle protector system is really good. But does it reach shinguard perfection?
Well, there are a couple of small downsides to it. First, the system will take you longer to put on than a normal pad. It’s not just a case of slipping it inside your sock and away you go; you need to fit and fasten the sleeve using the Velcro. Then there’s the ankle guard – this is deliberately tight fitting but that does make it tricky to put on.
However, the extra time you invest in putting these on has to be weighed up against the much better fit that you get once it’s in place. They really do fit a lot better than regular pads, and that’s a huge selling point.
Now, this is a little picky, but I’ve got a second gripe with these shin pads. It’s to do with the velcro fasteners on the shin pad sleeve. They’re large, so that they will securely hold the sleeve in place, but the velcro won’t exactly overlap for most people. The scratchy side of the velcro faces outwards from the calf, so that it won’t rub uncomfortably against your skin. The problem is that it comes into contact with your sock, and sticks to it. When I was trying to put my sock on over the pad, I was snagging it on the velcro a lot. It’s not a major objection, but still a nuisance. Hardly a deal-breaker, though.
Update on this last point: S1 Sport got in touch with me and let me know that actually they’d thought this feature through when they were designing it and intentionally made it this way. The thinking is that the velcro will stick to your sock and keep your sock in place. So, for some of you, that might be a positive – especially if you find your sock slipping all the time.
Having never heard of these pads before, I’m impressed. I’d heard feedback that they were worth a try and they didn’t disappoint. They rate well for protection, comfort and fit, which are the main things we look for in a pad.
Price-wise, the pads are more expensive than your standard slip-in basics. But given that there’s more to these pads, they’re not priced at an unrealistic level and won’t break the bank.
So the question is, will I be swapping my much loved pads that have been with me for 15 years for the S1 Sport system? Well actually, I’m going to give them a try and that, for me, is huge. My existing pads have been brilliant over the years and I never thought I’d be thinking of replacing them – that alone tells you I rate them.
Perhaps I’m not going to chuck out my existing pair just yet. I need some more time to test the S1 Sport, and I’ll update this post if I discover any flaws, but this could be the start of a new era.
To buy your pair of S1 Sport shin pads and ankle protectors, the best place to look is direct from the manufacturers website: https://www.s1shinpad.com/