Football Thigh Pads
Finding the right leg padding is essential for being able to move fast while staying protected in a contact sport like football. One of the most important pieces of protective equipment are thigh pads, which cover the thighs to protect against bruising and other injuries.
Benefits of Football Thigh Pads
Thigh pads guard the front of the thigh to protect football players from the various impacts their upper legs might endure during a game. Thigh bruising, in particular, can hamper an athlete’s ability to run. The pads are most commonly slipped into the pockets of football pants or pre-sewn into girdles (aka compression shorts). Most football pants come with built-in pockets for thigh and knee pads, but many players also store their thigh pads in their girdle, which is worn underneath the pants for extra padding.
Thigh pads are a required piece of football gear across every league, with the NFL having made them mandatory in 2013. Although pads from the 90s and earlier were bulky, today’s thigh pads are much more streamlined and lightweight. Most high-performance pads use a combination of low-density foam with an outer layer of higher-density foam or plastic to make the pads protective yet breathable.
Things To Consider
When looking for football thigh pads, you'll want to consider the following:
- How often do you play football?
- How much are you willing to spend on football thigh pads?
- What size football pads do you wear?
What are you looking for in thigh pads?
- Maximum protection
- Easily attachable and removable
- Compatible with your football pants
Thigh pads in football can be found in slip-in and snap-on varieties.
Slip-in thigh pads slip into the pockets of girdles or football pants for an extra secure fit. They are the most popular form of thigh pad and can be readily found in both youth and adult sizes. Slip-in pads come in a wide variety of options for both lightweight foam and denser, more protective materials.
- Commonly compatible with girdles and football pants
- Easy to find in both adults and youth sizes
- Variety of lightweight and heavier options
- Slip-in pockets are extra secure
- Fewer plastic or vinyl-coated options than snap-ons
- Have to be fastened, unlike integrated thigh pads
Snap-on thigh pads come in sets that attach to the girdle via snap attachments. They’re popular with younger players, especially because of their quick application and accessibility, although they can be harder to find in adult sizes. They’re more likely to have a harder plastic or vinyl coating, making them more protective.
- Cater to young players
- Commonly plastic or vinyl-dipped for added protection
- Heavier plastic coating can hinder speed
- Less options for adult snap-on pads
- Not compatible with all girdles or football pants
As a standard piece of football gear, thigh pads are widely available across many different sports brands.
Adams football gear is widely available at a low cost, providing great value. Their thigh pads come in both adult-sized slip-ins and convenient snap-on sets for youth players. They can be purchased on their own or in 7-piece pad sets for the lower body.
EvoShield thigh pads are slightly pricier but extremely high performance, with a combination of foam and plastic to ensure they’re breathable yet protective. They come in slip-in forms for both youth players and adults, with a few color options to pick from.
Schutt offers affordable yet high quality thigh guards for both youth and adult players. Their pads come vinyl-dipped or in lightweight foam forms, providing an array of options for those who prioritize speed and mobility or heavier protection. They also offer harder shell thigh pads with ventilation, giving players a breathable option for heavier protection.
How much do thigh pads cost?
The most inexpensive thigh pads, typically made of simpler foam or plastic, will cost around $10 or less. Higher-grade thigh pads with layered foam and plastic might cost around $15 to $25. The most expensive thigh guards with a streamlined design will cost around $30 to $40. Pricier thigh guards tend to balance protection and flexibility with layers of soft and dense foam or harder plastic.
Do NFL players wear thigh pads?
Though some pieces of leg padding are not mandated, NFL players are required to wear thigh pads. NFL players tend to prefer lightweight and thinner pads over thicker pads, prioritizing speed over heavy protection. The philosophy in pro leagues is that the best way to avoid injury is to be too quick to be tackled, meaning they want to avoid cumbersome bulk at all costs.
What sizes do football thigh pads come in?
Thigh pads in football come in general youth and adult sizes, with youth fitting roughly ages 13 and under. Adult sizes are generally worn by players 14+ and tend to be more specialized than youth sizes. The thickness and density of the pads can be further chosen to suit a player’s needs and position. Defensive players like linebackers often wear larger, bulkier protection, where positions requiring agility like the running back wear smaller, lightweight pads that don’t hinder speed.