Best Football Shoulder Pads 2021 | Reviews & Buyers Guide

Looking for the best football shoulder pads in 2022?

Take a look at our guide and suggestions below. Whether you need pads for youths or adults, we’ve got you covered.

Best Youth Football Shoulder Pads

1. Schutt Sports Y-Flex 4.0 All-Purpose Youth Football Shoulder Pads

Schutt Sports Y-Flex 4.0 All-Purpose Youth Football Shoulder Pads, Medium
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Schutt Sports makes excellent sports equipment. If you’ve got a child playing football, they’re the first company at which you should look when you’re trying to find a good set of  shoulder pads. These shoulder pads, which work well for all positions, have a great combination of safety features and comfort that will help any young player to excel on the field.

As you might expect, the best parts of this design all have to do with protection. It’s definitely marketed as something that provides high-level protection for youth players and it largely delivers on all fronts. Not only is it made in much the same way that varsity-level pads are made, but it also has an extra-long torso that helps to provide younger players with a little bit of extra protection. All things considered, this set of pads really has it where it counts.

The good news is that the pads are also fairly comfortable. Most of that comfort comes from the light-weight engineering, which is great for kids who are smaller or who are not yet used to wearing shoulder pads. While there’s only so much that you can do to deal with the bulky nature of football pads, it’s nice to see a company put in some effort for the younger players. The pads are about as breathable as you’re going to find as well, so they’re really perfect for helping players get used to pads without requiring them to do too much at once.

2. Gear Pro-Tec Z-COOL Youth/JV Shoulder Pads 

Gear Pro-Tec Z-Cool Youth/JV Shoulder Pads, Medium
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JV shoulder pads are fairly interesting. While they’re definitely not going to be as high-end as varsity or professional-level pads, they do a good job of preparing players for the real thing. These pads also need to be very impact resistant, because players who wear them are going to start taking bigger hits. That’s perhaps why Gear Pro-Tec seems to have put so much work into making the Z-Cool JV Shoulder Pads.

The first thing you’re going to notice with these pads is the comfort. While a lot of sporting goods companies shoot for comfort by adding extra padding, Gear Pro-Tec’s focus seems to be on getting rid of moisture. This is actually very beneficial for players because it keeps pads from getting too heavy and from feeling even more uncomfortable than pads usually feel. With a fairly quick drying time, these pads are also great for those who need to pack up their gear in a hurry.

The pads are also great on the safety side. They feature an enhanced impact design, which helps to spread the force of an impact and allows players to get back on their feet faster after being hit. This makes the pads particularly good for kids who aren’t used to getting hit, especially as they make their transition out of smaller leagues. Consider this a good set of pads for any JV player who’s starting to deal with bigger games.

3. Sports Unlimited Prospect Youth Football Shoulder Pads

Sports Unlimited Prospect Youth Football Shoulder Pads
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The Sports Unlimited Prospect Youth Shoulder Pads are an interesting set of pads. At first glance, they look very high tech. Once you look closer, what you really get is a set of pads that have safety in mind above all else. The design is clearly a testament to the desire of the designers to make a great set of pads for younger players.

The safety features on these pads are very impressive. Like many of the leading youth pad sets, these pads have an extended design which provides a little bit of extra protection for growing players. What’s really impressive, though, is the double-foam padding. This helps to absorb the force of getting hit much better than a standard design, which in turn keeps players safer. This design can also go a long way towards showing players that getting tackled isn’t so scary, which can be an incredible benefit of in and of itself.

There are some great comfort features here, too. The design helps players to stay cool and dry, which are both great function. The design is also very light and easy to move in, which makes it perfect for multiple positions. Though you’re not quite looking at the same quality as you’d get from the higher-end varsity pads here, these pads are ideal for younger players who are starting to move up to the bigger leagues. Consider these pads if you are looking for a great mix of comfort and protection for your player.

4. Xenith Youth XFlexion Fly Football Shoulder Pads

Xenith Youth XFlexion Fly Football Shoulder Pads
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The XFlexion Fly Shoulder Pads from Xenith are a unique set of pads that really stand out. Their design certainly looks different, and that’s because it embraces a very different design philosophy than you might expect from other pads. Below the flashy looks, though, are a good set of pads that any young player would benefit from wearing.

One of the most unique things about this particular set of pads is how mobile they allow players to remain while still remaining protected. The type of design used here allows players to move and flex, which helps them to feel less restricted while also providing a greater range of movement. The lightweight design also allows players to be a bit faster on their feet, which allows them to really excel when moving especially when compared to those who are using bulkier pads.

It’d be normal to expect pads like these to provide less protection, but the truth is that they’re still very safe. Part of this comes from the molded design, which ensures better coverage for players while they’re on the field. The plates are also a good addition, as they help to reduce impact and generally allow players to feel much safer on the field. This is a great set of pads for smaller or faster players, and especially for those who want something lighter that will still allow them to be safe while playing in a big game.

Best Adult Football Shoulder Pads

5. Schutt Sports Varsity FLEX 4.0 All Purpose Football Shoulder Pads 

Schutt Sports Varsity Flex 4.0 Skill Football Shoulder Pads, Football Gear and Accessories, Black, Medium
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Schutt Sports makes great football gear, and the Varsity FLEX 4.0 All Purpose Football Shoulder Pads are a great example of exactly what the company can do when it puts its mind to it. There are really few pads that offer the same kind of advantages that you’ll get with this set.

The design of the pads is actually fairly unique. It very much seems like mobility was the name of the game when designing the pads and these pads definitely offer players a range of motion that they’re not going to find in most other gear. Your player will be able to throw and catch with a little more ease, though thankfully not because he is sacrificing protection. These are outstanding pads that really do serve a very specific purpose, exactly what most players are looking for when they move up to varsity-level gear. This is a great example of what you should be looking at when shopping for a player at the varsity level.

These are also specialized pads, something that might feel new for parents who are just getting up to the varsity level. This means that they’re designed for players who are playing specific positions (Quarterback, Wide Receiver, Running Back, and Defensive Back), so always make sure you look at your player’s position before you make the purchase. If your child plays one of these positions, though, they will get the protection and mobility they need from these pads.

6. Schutt Sports XV HD Varsity Football Shoulder Pads

Schutt Sports Varsity XV HD Shoulder Pad, Football Gear and Accessories, Quarterback/Wide Receiver, Medium
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Schutt Sports’ varsity-level gear offers a fantastic amount of specialization for varsity players. While there are plenty of companies out there that offer great generic pads, it seems like Schutt Sports is really pushing to help players ease into more defined roles. If you’re looking for pads for a wide receiver or a quarterback, you simply won’t beat what you find here.

Like some of Schutt Sports’ other pads, you’re going to see a design that really prioritizes a range of movement over almost everything else. What’s unique, though, is how much work that has gone into these shoulder pads to reduce their overall weight. These are pads for players who move quickly and for whom every extra ounce on their body plays a huge role. If you’re looking to make sure that a player will have a chance to go as fast as possible, you’ve got to look at specialized pads.

The good news is that these light pads still provide the level of protection that you’d want from any other varsity pads. At this level, the hits are starting to get bigger and the potential for injury is larger, so having a solid set of pads is a must. While these are light pads, they are also pads that help to distribute force fairly evenly and help players to get back up even after big hits. If your athlete plays quarterback or wide receiver, you’re not going to do much better than these pads.

7. Sports Unlimited Prospect Pro Adult Football Shoulder Pads

Sports Unlimited Prospect Pro Adult Football Shoulder Pads
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Adult-sized pads only need to do a few things very well. More than anything else, they need to provide players with protection from big hits. Alongside protection, they need to be comfortable enough to wear properly. These pads from Sports Unlimited fulfill both roles very well, with a few additional technological advantages throw in alongside the basics.

The great news is that these are all-around pads. That means you can wear them in virtually any role and not feel like you’re giving something up. They have the level of impact protection that you’d expect to need when you’re taking the big hits, while still providing you with the range of motion you’d want for throwing and catching. This is all tied up inside some fairly advanced impact protection, which helps to make sure that a single hit isn’t going to take you out of the game.

The comfort level of these shoulder pads really is off the chart. From reducing overheating to wicking away moisture, the pads have everything a player could want and then some. While most people think of comfort as an extra, it’s important to remember that comfortable pads are also pads that are worn correctly. This means that you’ll get more out of the protective aspects of the pads and become much safer on the field. These are really some of the best adult pads on the market.

8. Adams VS500 Varsity Shoulder Pads

Adams VS500 Varsity All Purpose Football Shoulder Pads, Large
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What’s important in varsity-level pads? On one hand, you always want your players to be comfortable. Comfortable shoulder pads are pads that get worn correctly and that don’t lead to players who are tired and distracted. On the other hand, you want to make sure that younger players have all the protection that they need on the field. While it usually seems like you have to give up one for the other, Adams has made a great compromise with its VS500 Varsity Football Shoulder Pads.

These varsity-level shoulder pads have the best of both worlds. On one hand, they’ve got great protection features like integrated scapula pads, which keep players safer on the field and help to reduce the possibility of certain injuries. The body cushion is also ventilated, which means that the pads feel more comfortable and allow for more air flow. There’s something to be said for finding pads that have such a great convergence of form and function, especially when they are also comfortable enough to be worn on the field correctly.

There are also a few convenience features that make this set of pads stand out. One of the best is the removable padding. It’s not only anti-microbial but easy to wash. This means that you’re going to get less of an odor on and off the field, something that any parent or player will come to appreciate. While this might not be the most important feature in the world, it’s something that shows exactly how much work was put into making these pads work for players in the real world.

Best Football Shoulder Pads Buying Guide

While a lot of players (understandably) focus the bulk of their time shopping for football equipment on their helmet, a decent amount of time should also be focused on maybe the second most important part or gear and safety equipment any football player will be wearing – shoulder pads.

The right shoulder pads are going to fit well, allowing for athletic movement while still providing plenty of security and protection. They are going to help keep you safe while tackling and getting tackled – but they’re not going to inhibit your ability to make plays, either.

Here’s a couple of tips and tricks to help you find the best football shoulder pads going forward!

Choose the right pads for the right position

The position you play on the field is going to have a huge impact on the kinds of football shoulder pads you should be purchasing, more so than may be anything else (outside your sizing needs, for course).

For example, quarterbacks and wide receivers are going to want to wear incredibly lightweight pads that offer the highest levels of mobility, agility, and extra range of motion. These “skilled positions” usually aren’t going to be hit quite as hard as those running between the numbers or in the trenches – on either side of the ball – and need to be able to maximize their athletic ability.

Running backs and defensive backs are going to want football shoulder pads that hand mobility and agility features baked right in, but also need a little bit of extra protection because they are going to be running through – and into – plenty of traffic.

Linebackers and linemen need may be the heaviest and bulky us football shoulder pads available as they are the ones that are going to be digging into the trenches and smashing into one another on a very single play.

Consider your position before you try on any football shoulder pads.

How to find the correct shoulder pad size

A couple of different measurements are going to play a role in finding the right size football shoulder pads.

For starters, you are going to want to measure your chest using a flexible measuring tape while you are standing up straight. You want a total circumference of your upper torso (right across your nipples) for this measurement.

Secondly, you’re going to want to measure your width at your shoulders. You want to measure rate between your AC joints across the tops of your shoulders, as this is going to tell you how wide or open you need your pads to be.

Finally, you’ll want to weigh yourself as certain youth shoulder pads are going to be sized according to weight class.

Features to look for in modern football shoulder pads

Shoulder pads are always designed to absorb as much “impact shock” as possible to your shoulders and your chest, but a lot of the top options on the market today include other special features that not only improve their performance but also improve the safety and security they provide.

TPU cushioning made of thermoplastic urethane is the exact same kind of cushioning material found in today’s most advanced football helmets, providing better protection, better impact resistance, and better shock absorption than any other material out there.

Flat pads are “extra pads” added to the traditional shell that offer extra low-profile and high-efficiency protection without taking up a lot of extra space or adding any real extra weight to the traditional pad set up.

Specifically designed ventilation holes are going to allow hot air to escape, keeping athletes cool and allowing them to maintain a high level of performance that they might not have been able to otherwise.

Look for these special features (and others) and you will be able to practically guarantee you get your hands on the best football shoulder pads available.

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Best Youth Football Helmet 2021 – Buyers Guide & Top Picks

Protection is very important in football, and the helmet is the most important piece of protection of all.

Not only should it provide protection from collisions, it needs to fit comfortably and not obstruct vision or get in the way of play.

That’s why I’ve created this list to help you choose the best youth football helmet.

8 Best Youth Football Helmets 2022 Reviewed

1. Schutt Sports Vengeance A3+ Youth Football Helmet

Schutt Sports Vengeance A3+ Youth Football Helmet (Facemask NOT Included), Black, Large
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Finding a good youth helmet can be hard. There are plenty of good helmets, of course, but you have to find one that’s right for a younger player. This means finding something that’s not just good for protection, but that’s relatively comfortable. Fortunately, one such helmet exists in the Schutt Sports Vengeance.

The helmet itself is definitely very comfortable. It’s got a great liner inside, one that does feel as soft as the company claims. The real benefit you get here, though, is in the weigh. This is a very light helmet, albeit one that’s still sturdy enough to protect you on the field. Player won’t forget that they’re wearing a helmet with this one, but they will get the next best thing. If you’ve got a player who doesn’t like heavy helmets, this might be the best fit for him or her.

What most parents are concerned with, of course, is protection. The good news is that this is a football helmet that will keep a child safe on the field. It doesn’t have any particularly special safety features, though, and it’s not going to be as good at preventing CTE as some of the helmets that older players are starting to wear. Fortunately, it’s more than enough to stand up to the kind of impact that is taken during a youth game and most players will be thankful for the protection that this helmet gives to them.

2. SpeedFlex Youth Helmet

Riddell SpeedFlex Youth Helmet, White, Large
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A good helmet is among the most important tools a young football player can have. While there’s a lot of fancy marketing that can go into the world of helmets, the truth is that what most kids need is something that fits and that will protect them on the field. That’s what the SpeedFlex Youth Helmet brings to the table, substituting flash for substance.

Most of what you get when looking at this helmet is protection. It’s not because there’s anything high-tech here, of course. It’s the same kind of helmet players have been using for years, but that’s actually a great deal of protection at a youth level. You’re not going to have to worry much about injuries here, mostly because of how the helmet fits. Though there are a few helmets that do a better job of protecting young players, they certainly don’t do so without sacrificing the other major benefit of this helmet.

The other great feature of this helmet is the level of comfort. A lot of that comes from fitting well, but the helmet itself is really good for those players who aren’t quite used to wearing a helmet in their games. They’ll eventually move on to more complex helmets that have to deal with higher levels of impact, but for now, it’s good to start them off with something that will get them used to wearing the right gear on the field. This is a great starter helmet, especially if you have a younger player who you have to force to wear protective gear.

3. Schutt Sports Youth Recruit Hybrid Football Helmet

Schutt Sports Youth Recruit Hybrid Football Helmet Without Faceguard, XX-Small, Royal Blue
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Schutt Sports has a reputation for making solid youth helmets. They might not always be the fanciest out there, but they always do a great job of keeping younger players protected. This hybrid helmet is a step above what you see from the company most of the time, though, embracing a few new features to create a much better helmet. If you’re looking for something that’s a little more high-tech, you’ll like what you find here.

The hybrid nature of the helmet refers to the higher-tech cushioning used in the gear. This cushioning helps to absorb impact better than traditional padding, which in turn makes it much safer for kids to be on the field. This is the type of helmet that’s perfect for those parents who are worried about the possibility of CTE but who still want to give their kids a chance to play football. It doesn’t hurt that the design also embraces some traditional concepts that have always gone a long way towards making football a bit safer for younger players.

The good news is that this helmet is also fairly comfortable. It does eschew a few comfort features in favor of safety, but it’s still easy to wear. This means fewer children trying to adjust their helmets on the fly and even fewer injuries on the field. This is absolutely one of the best helmets you’re going to find if you’re worried about your child being safe on the field.

4. Rawlings Youth Quantum Football Helmet

Rawlings Youth Quantum Football Helmet, White, Large
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There’s something to be said for an old-school football helmet design. While we know now that it’s not necessarily the best protection, it does look great. Rawlings has managed to take that old-school design and marry to some fantastic new technology, which lets players look great on the field without having to worry about the after-effects of a strong impact. This is one helmet that really can do it all.

Most of what you’re going to like from this helmet come from how it handles impacts. It uses new technology to soften blows to the head, which can, in turn, prevent concussions and lessen the chance of traumatic brain injuries. Rawlings has managed to pull this off without really changing the way that the helmet looks, though, so you’ll still be left with something that looks and feels much like helmets did over a decade ago. Rawlings is one of the few companies that has managed to blend form and function particularly well without sacrificing either.

The helmet is also quite comfortable, which is a big plus when looking for the best youth football helmet. While older players might understand the importance of wearing any helmet the right way, younger players are more apt to play around with a helmet that isn’t comfortable. Fortunately, this is one helmet that not only fits well, but that won’t both even the most sensitive players. Consider this a great fit for anyone on the field.

5. Schutt Sports 798004 Youth Recruit Hybrid Football Helmet

Schutt Sports 798004 Youth Recruit Hybrid Football Helmet (Faceguard Not Included), Black Matte Clear, XX-Small
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Schutt’s Hybrid Helmets are really something special. It’s not just that they provide better impact protection, but that they do so without making any sacrifices to either aesthetics or to comfort. That means that players not only get a great helmet that will look cool on the field, but they’ll be much safer than they would otherwise. This is a win-win for most players and parents.

The Hybrid design is really the standout here, of course. By using an advanced form of cushioning, the helmet becomes more impact resistant and players are given a little extra protection. While one shouldn’t expect huge hits in youth play, the fact that this helmet goes above and beyond should be enough to excite most parents. Coupled with the good exterior design, the Hybrid solution allows players to feel safer and to walk off the field with few after-effects even if they suffer what could be a much more problematic hit.

The helmet is also fairly comfortable, which matters quite a bit in youth play. It’s not something that gives players more of an advantage on the field, of course, but it teaches players to get used to wearing a helmet when they play. This will help most players to wear their helmets correctly and will thus help them to avoid the problems that come from bad helmet adjustments. If you care about player safety, you have to pay attention to the comfort of the helmets that the younger players wear.

6. Schutt Sports Recruit Football Helmet

At this point, Schutt Sports is one of the bigger names in football helmets. The reason why should be obvious – not only does it make a fairly significant number of the helmets that are used by youth players, but it does so in a way that really puts player safety first. Schutt’s Recruit line isn’t necessarily their most advanced, but it does a great job of showing exactly how the company has made its reputation as one of the best brands out there.

A good deal of what makes these helmets work comes down to the basic design. Between a strong exterior and good padding, you get the kind of helmet that will keep a younger player safe. It reduces not only the amount of force that comes from an impact but helps to cushion the blow so that what force does get through is more evenly distributed. This means fewer injuries and fewer long-term consequences for younger players.

It doesn’t hurt that the helmet also looks good. It’s a classic design that makes sense at every level of play. It’s also very close to what players will wear when they get older, so they’ll quickly get used to the kind of gear that they’ll need to wear in the future. This is a good all-around helmet for any youth player who is serious about playing the game for years to come.

7. Schutt Sports Youth AiR Standard V Football Helmet

Schutt Sports Youth AiR Standard V Football Helmet (Faceguard Not Included), X-Small, Navy Blue/White
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Schutt Sports is a great brand that usually delivers high-end products. Though it’s got the same problem with attaching fancy names to baseline helmets that infects the rest of the market, the truth is that you can usually depend upon whatever you buy from the company. The Youth AiR Standard V might have a marketing-friendly name, but the reality is that it’s a very player-friendly football helmet.

You’ll probably start with looks on this one, which is normal. This is a good-looking helmet, though looks will only take you so far. What you’ve really got is the same kind of helmet that players have been wearing for years, with a few new little touches that are meant to make it more competitive. Though it’s hard to say that this helmet really will give you an edge, it certainly does make many players feel like they’re wearing something special.

What’s more important about this helmet is the level of protection that players get. Schutt Sports has clearly invested some time in making their helmets safer and this helmet, in particular, is a good example of how hard work pays off. It does offer more protection than you’d think you’d get in a classic design, all without requiring players to be uncomfortable or adding excess weight. This is honestly one of the best youth football helmet you’re going to get from the company as well as one of the best that you’re going to find in youth sizes.

8. Rawlings Momentum Plus Youth Football Helmet

Rawlings Momentum Plus Football Helmet, X-Small, Silver Metallic
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Customization is key for football helmets. Young players don’t always fit into the usual sizes, and those who don’t are definitely at more risk of suffering head injuries than their peers. While there have been many attempts to solve this issue, it feels like Rawlings took the most logical route. Instead of making one size fit all, the company has made it so that any player can customize his or her fit.

The customization options are done here not through special fittings, but rather through the use of a rear inflation port. By using this new feature, players can make sure that the helmet fits their head exactly as it should. This, in turn, means that players are going to have fewer problems with their helmets and that they will generally be safer on the field. As a bonus, this also helps the player to see more clearly on the field and can lead to a slight performance boost.

It’s nice to see that the new tech doesn’t really make the helmet look different than the other models on the field. This is very close to what you see at higher levels of play, so kids can feel like they’re wearing the same equipment as their heroes. There’s really something to be said for aspirational design when it comes to football gear, something that Rawlings must see as important when the company has put as much effort as it has into making such a great design.

Youth Football Helmet Buying Guide

It’s absolutely critical that you find the best youth football helmet for young players, especially in today’s climate where we understand so much about how dangerous the game can be.

Today’s modern helmets are designed to protect athletes as much as possible, especially at the youth level. With everything we now know about concussions and the damage they can cause both in the short and long-term it’s essential that the youth football helmets you’re investing in are as well-made as possible – but that they are also perfect fits for the young athletes that will be using them.

Here’s how to make sure now that you are investing in are a smart choice.

Safety is Everything

It should go without saying that the number one priority and certainly the number one focus you should have when shopping for youth football helmets is to find options that are as safe and as protective as possible.

Top-quality options are going to include a certification seal from the National Operating Committee on Standards for Athletic Equipment. These helmets have been certified to be well-made, safe, use construction materials that can be trusted, and aren’t going to fall apart or become compromised during normal play.

Different designs can also help minimize the risk of injury and concussion. These options are well worth looking into as well.

Sizing is Key

The second most important thing you can do when shopping for youth football helmets is to guarantee that they are perfectly sized for the individual athlete that is going to be wearing them.

Traditionally, an athletic trainer is going to go around and measure each football player for their helmets. The circumference of the head is going to be measured (just above the eyebrows) and from there the trainer will work with the athlete to fine-tune the padding and the overall fit of the helmet further.

If you’re going to be purchasing the youth football helmet for your athlete you want to do the exact same thing. There are a couple of YouTube videos online that will show you exactly how to perfectly measure a young athlete’s head for a football helmet, and you’ll want to start there.

Consider the Facemask Configuration

Another key consideration when purchasing youth football helmets has to be the facemask configuration you’re going to move forward with.

In the youth levels, protection is of the utmost importance but you also want to make sure that visibility is high as well. Different cage styles will allow you to hit this perfect balance, and as long as you are providing plenty of extra protection your young athletes can probably choose a cage that suits their preference.

DO NOT Buy Used Helmets Unless They are Certified Reconditioned

Finally, and maybe most importantly – especially with how pricey some youth football helmets can get – it’s important for you understand just how dangerous it is to purchase ANY used football helmets that haven’t been fully certified as reconditioned by the National Operating Committee on Standards for Athletic Equipment.

Helmets that have been sent out to a licensed reconditioner and going through from top to bottom are going to include a recertification seal inside of the helmet. These helmets can be trusted to be just as good as brand-new (with a less expensive price tag) – but it’s vitally important that they carry this certification.

Any helmet that hasn’t been recertified may not be safe for play and you run the risk of your young athlete getting hurt or injured with a helmet that isn’t up to par.

Take advantage of the tips and tricks we included above and you’ll have no trouble purchasing the best youth football helmet for young athletes from here on out!

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