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 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
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
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
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 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-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
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
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.