What protection does a soccer player wear (a complete guide)

Because soccer is a contact sport, soccer players must wear certain protection. Some protective equipment is mandatory others are optional. In this blog, we explain what protective equipment a soccer player can or must wear.  

This protection is worn by a soccer player

  • Shin guards (mandatory)
  • Soccer shoes (mandatory)
  • Ankle pads
  • Sliding pants
  • Thermal clothing
  • Goalkeeper gloves
  • Mouth guard
  • Protection mask
  • Helmet
  • Toque (cups)
  • Kineseotape
  • Tape
  • Knee pads
  • Protective glasses

Be sure to read on if you want more information on all of the above protective equipment for soccer players.

Explanation of all the different protective equipment for a soccer player

Shin guards (mandatory)

A soccer player is required to wear shin guards during a soccer game. As the name suggests, shin guards protect the shin.

Especially when an opponent makes a tackle on the ball but also hits the front of your lower leg in the process, the shin guard comes in handy. In this case, your shins are safe from the impact of the opponent's studs, for example. 

Shin guards come in different shapes and sizes. There are shin guards that can be slid into your soccer socks, but also shin guards that can be attached to your ankle or foot with velcro. 

Shin guards are usually made of hard plastic. Since people's lower leg length can vary, they come in different sizes. 

Learn more about shin guards in our blog 14 frequently asked questions about shin guards answered

Soccer shoes (mandatory)

Soccer shoes are mainly there to help you practice the game properly. However, they also serve as protection for your feet and are therefore mandatory during a soccer match. 

Soccer shoes protect your feet when you shoot the ball. Also when an opponent steps on your foot, for example, they reduce its impact. In this case, soccer shoes are like an extra layer of protection around your feet. 

Without studs under the shoes, the chance of slipping would be much greater. When this happens during a sprint, for example, you can end up with an ugly landing and suffer one or more injuries in various parts of your body. 


Ankle protectors can be worn during a soccer game to protect your ankles, so they are not mandatory.

Ankle protectors are usually made of stretchable fabric with a filling of felt or foam or a thin layer of foam.

Ankle guards protect your ankles when a sliding tackle is made. When the opponent hits your ankles with his cleats, you can suffer various injuries.

Because the protection is made of a stretchable fabric, ankle protectors fit perfectly around your ankles. This reduces the chances of you going through your ankles during a soccer match.

Did you know…
Did you know that there are also shin guards that have ankle pads attached to them? This way you can protect your shins and ankles at the same time.


Sliding pants are tight shorts worn under soccer pants that are made of elastic material. 

Because of the elastic material and because it is tight around the upper legs, sliding pants ensure that the muscles in the upper legs stay warmer. 

This reduces the risk of (minor) injuries in, for example, the hamstrings, groin and quads. Sliding pants also work well against abrasions. These are especially likely to occur when sliding on dry grass. By wearing sliding pants, your skin does not directly touch the grass, preventing abrasions. 

In other words, sliding pants protect the upper legs from getting muscle injuries and abrasions.  

Did you know…
Sliding pants are available in a variety of colors. As a result, you can always find a match that matches the color of your soccer pants.

Thermal clothing

Thermal clothing comes in different forms. For example, you can wear a thermal shirt without sleeves, thermal t-shirt with small sleeves, thermal shirt with long sleeves, thermal shorts or thermal pants. 

Thermal clothing is made of synthetic fabric that has the ability to keep your muscles warm. It also allows for better wicking of sweat. 

Especially when it is very cold, soccer players like to wear thermal clothing. It ensures that they cool down less quickly when they don't move a lot.

Because the muscles cool down less quickly and stay warmer, a soccer player is also less likely to suffer muscle injuries. 

Wearing thermo shorts or thermal pants, like sliding pants, also helps against scrapes when making slidings on a dry field. 

Goalkeeper Gloves

These days, you won't see a goalkeeper enter the field without gloves. Gloves protect the hands and wrists of the goalkeeper. 

Because the ball can be shot very hard, stopping it could be very painful. Especially if a goalkeeper has to save several balls during a game. Goalkeeper gloves have a cushioning effect and make the force of the ball less sensitive on the hands. 

Gloves are worn up to your wrists. Velcro allows you to fasten the gloves tightly. Because this sits securely around your wrists this also protects it. 

By wearing gloves you protect your hands and wrists. Chances of bruises, for example, are thus reduced. 

However, gloves also serve for more grip. The goalkeeper can clasp the ball more easily in his hands. Throwing the ball also becomes easier. 

Did you know…
The hardest shot during a professional match ever measured was during Sporting Lisbon against Naval. The Brazilian player Ronny shot a free kick at a speed of a staggering 131,7 miles (212 kilometers) per hour. If you had to stop this one with your bare hands it would be very painful.

Mouth guard

In sports such as field hockey and boxing, wearing mouthguards is mandatory. Although this is not the case in soccer, it is being worn more and more often. 

Especially in head duels, mouth guards provide extra safety for your teeth. When jumping, soccer players often tend to use their arms to reach higher. An arm (often an elbow) from an opponent (or sometimes even a fellow player) trying to go for the ball can lead to serious injuries. For example, this can lead to a tooth breaking off (partially). 

A mouth guard can be purchased for as little as $10 and can save you an expensive bill from the dentist. 

Protection mask

Protection masks are often worn after a soccer player suffers an injury to the face. Think, for example, of a broken nose or a broken cheekbone. 

Whereas in amateur soccer it is often advised to rest, in professional soccer a mask is worn so that players can get back on the pitch quickly. Some professional players are simply too important to a team and do not have the time to wait for the fracture to fully heal.

However, a player is never sent back on the field too soon. The medical staff always discusses first with a doctor whether it is responsible to let a soccer player play again.  

The protection mask comes in different forms. Which type of mask is worn depends on the injury. The mask is usually made of carbon. This is super light and strong material. The mask is customized for a player so that it fits like a glove. This allows a player to head the ball well during a match despite wearing such a mask. 

Learn more about the masks worn during soccer in our blog Why do soccer players wear masks? Are you curious about what types of masks there are? Then read our blog What types of protection masks are available for soccer players?


Like the protection mask, a protection helmet is often worn only after an injury is sustained. It is mainly goalkeepers who wear helmets. 

Most people probably know the helmet from Czech goalkeeper Petr Čech. He wore it for the rest of his soccer career after he suffered a serious skull fracture. This happened in the game against Reading in 2006. See below how he sustained this injury:

The helmet is made of carbon which makes it light and fits perfectly around the shape of your head. The helmet is also equipped with small soft pads that can absorb any impact from a ball or body part of an opponent or teammate.  

Learn more about why a goalkeeper wears a helmet in our blog Why does a soccer goalkeeper wear a helmet? 

Learn more about the helmet and what options there are in our blog

What types of helmets are there for soccer players?

Cup (or Toque)

In America this is called a cub in Europe a Toque (which actually means headgear in French). It is worn to protect a soccer player's crotch. 

A cup looks like a pair of underpants. However, in the front is a plastic or carbon tub. This sits in front of the player's crotch. If a ball, foot, knee or other body part enters your crotch, the cup protects against an injury to your noble parts

Wearing a toque is mandatory in sports such as American football and boxing. It actually varies by country if and how much they are worn by soccer players. In America, for example, a cup is worn much more by young people than in Europe.

We also see that mainly goalkeepers wear a cup. The duels they engage in in their sixteen-meter area increase the risk of injuries in or around the crotch. 

Suffering an injury in this area can result in not being able to continue a game or even being out of action for several games. 


Kinesio tape allows a soccer player to move more easily and enhances muscle function. The tape also activates the pain-relieving system. 

Thus, this tape contributes to the reduction or prevention of injuries in various parts of the body. 

Kinesio tape can be attached to different parts of the body. With soccer players, you often see this on the lower and upper legs, back or shoulders but also on the chest or arms. This is usually applied by a physical therapist. 

Want more information about kinesio tape? Then click here for more information.


You've probably seen players during professional games walking around with tape around their wrists or ankles. In many cases this is sports tape but some players prefer painter's tape. 

Tape around the wrists is worn to protect the wrist and hand in the event of a fall. By wrapping the tape tightly around the wrist, the wrist has more strength and a soccer player is less likely to suffer an injury.

Tape around the ankles is worn to reduce the risk of a sprained ankle. Some soccer players have weaker ankles than others. Tape here provides extra strength. 

Want more information about kinesio tape? Then click here for more information.

Knee protectors

Knee protectors are particularly worn by goalkeepers. Because they often have to dive to the ground, knee protectors provide extra protection for the knees. 

Knee pads are soft cushions often incorporated into the lining of long goalkeeper pants. These cushions are often made of felt or foam and provide cushioning when a goalkeeper's knees land on the ground. 

Protective glasses

Finally, there is also the protective eyewear. Although you won't encounter these much on a soccer field, they can come in handy. 

This is because by wearing protective glasses you prevent your eyes from getting an injury. Although not a common occurrence in soccer, it can happen that fingers from an opposing player or even a fellow player can get into your eye. 

A famous example of this is when Belgian defender Jan Vertonghen got his finger in the eye of Brazilian striker Roberto Firmino in a duel. 

Perhaps you also remember the soccer player Edgar Davids from the Netherlands. For him, wearing protective glasses was a necessity as he suffers from glaucoma. Wearing the glasses while playing soccer protected his cornea and was therefore an absolute must. 

Why do soccer players wear protection?

The main reason why soccer players wear protection is to prevent injuries. Since we like to explain more about this, we have written an extensive blog on this subject. If you want more on this topic read our blog Why do soccer players wear protection? 


By now you know all the different protective gear a soccer player must or may wear. Did you already know all these protective equipment? Or after reading this blog, are you convinced to start wearing multiple protective equipment? 

Would you like more information about protective equipment concerning soccer? Then click here for an overview of all blogs on this topic.  

January 24, 2023
Published: January 24, 2023