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Hockey Shin Guard Guide
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Level of play

When considering which type of hockey shin guards to purchase, the most important factor is where you will be using them. Different levels of play create a wide range of hazards for your shins and knowing what to expect on the ice can save you a few bucks or a few bruises.

If you are competing at a high level or planning to dive in front of slap shots on a regular basis, then buy some nice hockey shin guards that will stay where you want them are provide as much protection as possible. When playing at a high level, if there is any part of your lower leg that is not protected, the puck or someone's stick will find it. If playing in a recreational league where slap shots are not ringing the crossbar on a regular basis and no one bothers to do anything but watch or get out of the way when the wind up begins, then buy whatever you want. Odds are you won't use them much. If buying for a youth hockey player, buy whatever you think the activity on the ice necessitates. If the player is really young, odds are none of the players have the ability to put enough force behind the puck to do much damage anyway.

Complaints

One of the most annoying things about bad hockey shin guards is that you can't quite get them to stay where you want them to. You use tape everyday to try to get the guards to stay put. Either the straps on the guard are simply ineffective or the design of the internal padding forces your leg to slide around when you hit the ice. Sometimes the functional knee joint in the pad doesn't bend the way it should or the shape of the lower part of the guard doesn't sit well with your ankle. Maybe the calf protection doesn't work well with the back of your skates. It's ironic that shin guards are seemingly the most simple and basic pads a hockey player needs to buy, and yet there are so many ways they can irritate you. Consequently, if you are looking for a good pair of shin guards, here are the fitting details.

• The number one rule is: don't buy a shin guard that is too short. Most skates have some protection on the tongue so it's not as though you need to get the length exactly right - you should have a few inches of play to work with. But if you leave any part of your shin exposed, you will limp for a while.

• Shin guards that are too long will not stay where you want them because as you skate, the movement of your ankle will repeatedly push the guard up and down.

• Also, if you're guards are too long you will likely have issues with the calf protection creating conflicts with the back of your skates because of how low the calf padding is. Consider how the calf protection works with your skates and what kind of protection you think your calves will need. Even if playing for fun in a recreational league, padding causing problems with your skates will drive you crazy.

• As for protection, look to see how the pad is designed. Some pads are narrower than others and some simply have more padding. In general, shin guards protect your leg using a sling type design. The internal padding is attached to the outer edges of the hard plastic shell in such a way that the padding is suspended away from the shell. When impacted directly on the front of the guard, the plastic shell can compress with the impact without contacting the internal padding. The skater feels nothing. What to look for - if the plastic is not durable enough, the degree of compression upon impact will be too high and allow the impact to reach your shin. If the padding is suspended too close to the shell, it is more likely that the shell will contact the padding upon impact causing you to feel the impact. If the padding is only suspended on the front of the shin, the sides of your leg may not be adequately protected. This is a danger with narrow shin guards.

I recommend evaluating the internal structure of a shin guard to look for any obvious design flaws and then strapping on the guard to identify any difficulties associated with functionality and compatibility. Try dropping to your knee a few times to see how well your leg stays where it’s supposed to. Try putting on your skate to test how the calf protection feels with the back of your skate. If you know what to look for in a hockey shin guard, it shouldn't take long to make a wise choice that will last a while.

For more information and discussion, visit HockeyConsumer.com


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