The 10 Best Youth Shoulder Pads

video play icon

This wiki has been updated 31 times since it was first published in July of 2015. If your kids are actively involved in physically challenging contact sports, like football, lacrosse, or hockey, you already know the importance of making sure they are well protected. Check out our carefully selected youth shoulder pads that can help minimize the risk of serious injury to your children. We've ranked them here by protectiveness, comfort, and durability. When users buy our independently chosen editorial recommendations, we may earn commissions to help fund the Wiki.

1. Xenith Fly

2. Bauer Prodigy Protective Top

3. Gear Pro-Tec Z-Cool 2.0

Editor's Notes

April 06, 2020:

Ensuring a child in a dangerous sport is safe comes before just about any other consideration, so when there were issues in the strap design of the Gear 2000 Intimidator, we decided to remove it in favor of the Xenith Fly, which are much better regarded, and whose reinforced belt and buckle system is as durable as it is precise in its adjustments.

To the question of fit, it might be tempting to get a set that your kids can really grow into, like you might do with their shoes or other clothing. This would be a bad idea. Any protective gear should fit as accurately as possible, and if you want room for growth, find it within the range of that piece's adjustment mechanisms. Go with something that's too loose, and the padding won't be in the right place during a critical hit, exposing bone, cartlidge, and muscle tissue to undue damage. If you wait and your kid is complaining that their pads are too tight, that might mean their floating ribs are exposed, or that the piece could constrict their movement enough that they can't avoid contact.

Fit is one of the things that really drew us to the Bauer Prodigy Protective Top, as it doesn't suffer from a lot of the twisting and misplacement that you see in most hockey shoulders, and that's because they've integrated the padding into a kind of form-fitting mesh shirt. The biggest downside to this might be the lack of adjustability along the torso, though most young kids don't suddenly put on a lot of belly fat if they're active.

Special Honors

Youth Sports Safety Alliance If you want to make sure that the leagues in which your kids play are writing their equipment rules to the safest possible standards — or, at least, that you're adhering to them — you'll want to read up from this website. It offers resources and data concerning the safety of kids in just about any sport you can imagine, and the organization even hosts an annual summit to discuss new science and technology geared toward safety.

4. Riddell Pursuit

5. Adams USA

6. STX Lacrosse Cell 100

7. Warrior Rabil NXT

8. Schutt Sports Y-Flex 4.0

9. Rawlings Momentum

10. Maverik Lacrosse Charger

Safety And Performance: The Parent's Dillema

As the parent of a child playing a contact sport like football, you are likely pretty torn.

As the parent of a child playing a contact sport like football, you are likely pretty torn. On the one hand, you want them to have fun and be a great player, but on the other hand, you would like to avoid trips to the hospital if at all possible. While it isn’t the best practice to send your child out onto the field wearing scant safety equipment, wrapping every piece of their body up in foam padding isn’t conducive to a good game either.

Luckily, the modern era in shoulder pad technology strikes a balance between safety and performance. It all starts with knowing what is best for your child. Taking a few things into consideration when choosing shoulder pads goes a long way to ensuring your child is having a blast on the field - while staying safe.

For instance, the position your child is playing has a big influence on what types of pads are good for them. If your child is playing a heavily physical position, such as a lineman or linebacker, it would make sense to offer them the most protection possible. In this instance, cantilever shoulder pads would be great for them, dispersing the impact from hit after hit.

If your child plays a position which requires agility and dexterity, such as running back, quarterback, wide receiver, or safety, the bulky design of a cantilever shoulder pad can hinder their performance. These positions don’t take as many hits as others, and need full mobility of their arms and shoulders to either throw or catch the ball. Professional players actually prefer smaller shoulder pads such as these. Then again, they are professionals. For a youth player, look to find an option which is both protective and allows them to perform at their highest potential.

Things To Consider When Choosing Shoulder Pads

After finding the type of shoulder pads you want to want to buy, it’s time to compare features. There are many features we can enjoy in shoulder pads today that early players only dreamed of. For instance, lightweight, breathable open cell foam is now used in some models which actually allows air to circulate through the pads themselves. This means more comfort, and less dehydration.

Also, consider how adjustable the shoulder pads are. If the player is young, will the pads grow with them? Many models offer adjustable shoulder plates, which allow for range of motion and factor in a small degree of growth. Another thing to consider is just how much protection you want. Some shoulder pads cover just the shoulders and sternum, while others go so far as to include built in back supports and kidney pads.

One consideration which may save you a lot of stinky car rides home is whether or not the inner pads are removable? Having a removable padding system makes for an easy wash. You will also always want to make sure you have got the right size shoulder pads on your player; too big and they can slip out of place, too little and they restrict your player and don’t absorb as much shock.

A Short History Of Shoulder Pads

American football has come a long way since the rather humble first game between New Jersey and Rutgers in 1869. Safety equipment didn't even make its appearance until nearly a decade later. Seeing a need to protect the shoulder blades on impact, L.P. Smock designed the first shoulder pads. They offered little protection, and were not much more than an extra layer of padding sewn into the players’ jersey. The lack of protection in American football players led to 20 deaths in one year, prompting President Theodore Roosevelt to threaten a ban on the sport unless changes were made.

Today’s shoulder pads are far superior, both in safety and performance.

Some changes were made immediately. The rather dangerous flying wedge formation was banned, and a set of rules was established for the burgeoning game. But safety equipment? Well, it took over twenty years to really come around. The first real shoulder pads didn’t make their debut until the 1930s. These shoulder pads roughly resembled the shoulder pads still in use today. They covered the shoulders and chest, had a pull-over design, and were tightened in the front by large laces. At first, players rejected these heavy pads. Glen Scobey “Pop” Warner was the first coach to make his teams wear protective equipment, ushering in a new era of safety awareness in American Football.

Shoulder pads were constantly improved upon, but the modern harness style was not introduced until the 1980s. This is when manufacturers started to use lightweight foam and plastics to create the shoulder pads. The 1980s also saw the introduction of the cantilever pads, which dispersed the impact of a hit into the pads rather than into the body.

Today’s shoulder pads are far superior, both in safety and performance. Players can now enjoy materials that keep them cool, while also providing the necessary armor to protect their body for every minute of gameplay.

Daniel Imperiale
Last updated by Daniel Imperiale

Daniel Imperiale holds a bachelor’s degree in writing, and proudly fled his graduate program in poetry to pursue a quiet life at a remote Alaskan fishery. After returning to the contiguous states, he took up a position as an editor and photographer of the prestigious geek culture magazine “Unwinnable” before turning his attention to the field of health and wellness. In recent years, he has worked extensively in film and music production, making him something of a know-it-all when it comes to camera equipment, musical instruments, recording devices, and other audio-visual hardware. Daniel’s recent obsessions include horology (making him a pro when it comes to all things timekeeping) and Uranium mining and enrichment (which hasn’t proven useful just yet).

Thanks for reading the fine print. About the Wiki: We don't accept sponsorships, free goods, samples, promotional products, or other benefits from any of the product brands featured on this page, except in cases where those brands are manufactured by the retailer to which we are linking. For more information on our rankings, please read about us, linked below. The Wiki is a participant in associate programs from Amazon, Walmart, Ebay, Target, and others, and may earn advertising fees when you use our links to these websites. These fees will not increase your purchase price, which will be the same as any direct visitor to the merchant’s website. If you believe that your product should be included in this review, you may contact us, but we cannot guarantee a response, even if you send us flowers.