Why do soccer players wear shin guards? (fully explained)

At every soccer game you play yourself or watch on television you will see soccer players wearing shin guards. In this blog we explain to you why they do this.

This is why soccer players wear shin guards:
Soccer players wear shin guards to protect their shins. Soccer is a contact sport and therefore there is a chance of injury. Because the shins are very vulnerable, it is mandatory to wear them. A soccer player is required to wear them. 

If you want more explanation on why soccer players wear shin guards, we suggest that you will read futher. However, this blog covers even more. We will explain whether wearing shinguards is mandatory, which body parts they protect and what injuries you can get if you don't wear them. So plenty of reasons to read on!

Why do soccer players wear shin guards?

There are several reasons why a soccer player wears shin guards. The main reason they are worn is to protect the shins from injuries. When an opposing player makes a tackle and hits the shin in the process, it can lead to a variety of injuries. 

In addition, a soccer player (both field players and the goalkeeper) is not allowed to enter the field without them. This is stated in the official regulations of the IFAB (International Football Association Board). 

Further on in this blog, we explain more about the different reasons why a soccer player wears shin guards.

Is wearing shin guards mandatory?

In both professional and amateur soccer, wearing shin guards is mandatory. Without them, you are not allowed to participate in the match. This is officially stated under point 4.2 on the IFAB* website. 

This states the following about shin guards:

"These must be made of a suitable material to provide reasonable protection and covered by the socks"

So the reason for wearing the shin guards is to provide players with protection. 

Because many soccer players use loose shinguards, it sometimes happens that they lose them during a match. For example, during a tackle or sprint. It is therefore mandatory to put the shin guard back into the sock.

Or so says the IFAB:

"A player whose footwear or shinguard is lost accidentally must replace it as soon as possible and no later than when the ball next goes out of play; if before doing so the player plays the ball and/or scores a goal, the goal is awarded."

* IFAB stands for International Football Association Board. They protect and guard the official rules of soccer. 

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All your questions answered about shin guards

What body parts do shin guards protect?

Shin guards protect the shinbone (Latin: Tibula). The shinbone is located at the lower leg and runs from below the knee all the way to the ankle. 

There is very little fat and muscle tissue in front of the shin bone. Because of this, it is quite close to the skin compared to other muscles. Without shin guards, the shins are far too vulnerable when a tackle is made, for example. 

What injuries can you get if you don't wear shin guards?

When players would not wear shin guards they are at risk of many injuries. They can suffer the following injuries:

Abrasions in particular are prevented by wearing shin guards. For example, when the opponent's studs hit the shin guard, the skin and tissue underneath is protected. 

The impact of a tackle, for example, can be very significant. Wearing shin guards reduces the impact on the shins. This makes a player less vulnerable to shin bruises. 

Do shin guards prevent leg fractures?

Both low and high impact velocities can result in a shin bone fracture. A shin guard can never prevent this 100%. 

Do shin guards work?

As you have been able to read, shin guards should protect the shins but do they do this? 

The answer is both yes and no. This has to do with two factors:

The size of shin guards
Especially in professional soccer, players wear small shin guards. These by no means cover the player's entire shin. Thus, it may happen that an opposing player accidentally comes into contact with a part of the shin that is not covered by the shin guard. 

You can read why soccer players wear small shin guards later in this blog.  

The situations that occur during the game
During 90 minutes of soccer, a lot of different situations arise. For example, when an opponent tries to tackle on the ball and accidentally hits the shin pad, the shin is protected. It can also just happen that the foot gets too low or too high. In this case the shin guard is of no use at all and the shin will be hit.  

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Why do soccer players wear small shin guards?

Earlier you have read that professional soccer players in particular wear small shin guards. The reason for this is because they want to carry as little ballast as possible with them during a match. 

The smaller the shin guards are, the less it will bother them. If they wear larger variants, they are more likely to be bothered by this. 

Because soccer is a sport in which speed and agility are extremely important, shin guards should not limit this. 

Manufacturers obviously play smartly into this. They know that this is important for the players and therefore they continue to develop shin guards. In recent years, the shin guards have become smaller, lighter and more flexible without compromising the protective quality. 

What are the best shin guards to buy?

By now you have gathered quite a bit of information about why soccer players wear shin guards. You may now be wondering which shin guards are best to wear yourself? To help you out, you can read our blog What shin guards should I buy (comprehensive buying guide. It explains in detail what to look for when buying shinguards.

Is there any other protective equipment besides shin guards

In addition to wearing shin guards, a soccer player can wear numerous other protection gear. Read our blog What protection does a soccer player wear (a complete overview to find out what protection gear is available.


Now you know why soccer players wear shin guards during a game. Although (many) professional soccer players in particular prefer not to wear them because they are a nuisance, it is compulsory to wear them. Fortunately, shin guards have prevented many injuries. 

Curious about more blogs on soccer safety? Click here for an overview of all blogs on this topic. 

January 19, 2023
Published: January 19, 2023