Umpire Shin Guards Buying Guide

Dec 28th, 2015

Warning. Below could be the most comprehensive buying guide on umpire shin guards ever written or the driest. Most likely, it's both. Regardless, reading it should help you choose which shin guard is right for you. This is why you are reading it, right?

Umpire shin guards today do offer greater protection than ever before. The correct name should actually be "leg guards" instead of "shin guards" as all styles provide more than protection to the shins but also to knees, ankles and in some cases to the thigh and foot as well.

Keep reading and we'll look at the specifics.

if you want Thigh Protection

We're at the top, so let's start there.

If you decided not to wear any leg protection, although not recommended at any level, the best place to get hit is on the thigh. The reason is that you have more meat there to cushion the blow (compared to say your knee or shin).  Also, depending on your stance, you're least likely to take a direct blow in that location. Instead, the blow there will more likely be more of glancing one.

Having said that, you may still want lower thigh protection. That's more than ok. Some reasons to wear umpire shin guards with thigh protection:

  • Amateur levels where the pitchers and catchers aren't as good (in other words, you are prone to get hit more often)
  • Professional levels where the ball travels with greater velocity
  • You like the extra confidence
  • You bruise easily (hear this most often in older umpires)
  • Doggone it, you just prefer it

Where you'll find lower thigh protection is in the topmost "knee" of extended or triple-knee umpire shin guards. In other words, if your shin guard has 3 knees, your knee goes in the middle knee and the knee above is for your lower thigh. (Note: if you count 4 or more knees, see your doctor right away.)

Here are the 4 triple-knee umpire shin guards, in order of most lower thigh protection:

  1. Wilson West Vest Professional Umpire Shin Guards
    Offers the most surface area coverage with hard ABS shell over a layer of thick foam padding.
  2. Douglas Umpire Shin Guards
    Same hard ABS shell over foam padding as the Wilson West Vest Pro Model.
  3. Diamond iX3 Umpire Shin Guards (photo above)
    Lower thigh protection at a value price, which is why it is most popular at youth to high school levels.
  4. Wilson Guardian Umpire Shin Guards
    A lower profile (aka the padding is not as thick as other umpire shin guards) with thigh protection. The advantage is less weight at a trade-off in protection.

So let's say you do want lower thigh protection but still can't decide which one, this might help.

If you are at upper levels, you'll choose between the Wilson model, endorsed by MLB umpires, that comes in black shell on black padding and is lower priced; and between the Douglas model which comes in a different match-your-pants grey shell on navy padding that is priced more because it's Made in the US (the only umpire shin guards made in the USA by-the-way).

If you are at lower levels and/or looking to save a few additional dollars, your decision is going to depend on whether you want a little more protection (Diamond iX3) or a little less weight (Wilson Guardian).

Best Ankle Protection

The same logic regarding lower thigh protection applies to the ankles. For instance, you'll take a more glancing blow at your ankles if your toes are pointed forward. Your toes are pointed forward, aren't they?

The difference is that while not all umpire shin guards have lower thigh protection, all do have some degree of ankle protection.

The three types of ankle protection are:

  • Full hard ABS shell on foam padding
  • Soft-shell only
  • The happy-medium soft shell with hard inserts

Obviously, the hard ABS shell on foam padding is the setup that provides the most ankle protection. Umpire shin guards who follow this are the top two mentioned above and Wilson Platinum Umpire Shin Guards (photo below). For this reason, the logic is simple. If you want both lower thigh protection and hard shell ankle protection, see #1 and #2 above.

If you don't want the extra thigh protection but do want the most ankle protection otherwise, only the Wilson Platinum will do. See how easy this is!

In the soft-shell with hard inserts category, the Force3 Ultimate Umpire Shin Guards are more substanial in the ankle area and offer more protection there than lower profile Diamond DLG-LITE and Wilson Guardian models.

WIth that knowledge in mind, ankle protection in 1-4 order:

  1. Wilson West Vest Pro
  2. Douglas
  3. Wilson Platinum
  4. Force3 Ultimate

Measuring for Shin Guards

Before we talk about which umpire shin guards are better for shorter (or taller umpires), let's get out the measuring tape.

It seems reasonable that umpire shin guards would be measured by their full length from the tip of its top to the tip of its bottom. This is a common misconception.

Instead, they are measured by their fit or, more specifically, where they should fit.  Where they should fit is from the area where the middle of your knee would go on the shin guard to the bottom of the shin guard without a toe plate.

For you, find your shin guard size by measuring from the center of your kneecap to the bottom of your shin (where the leg meets the top of the foot). This is best done in a seated position.

Normally, 17" shin guards will fit individuals in the 5' 10" to 6' 1" range. Above 6' 1", would go up a size. Below 5' 10", go down. However, this is just a general rule. Simply measuring yourself knee-to-foot before ordering will alleviate most potential problems. If in doubt, always go with the larger size as it's better to have more coverage than to be short in this department.

Out of all umpire protective gear, shin guards are returned more often than masks and chest protectors due to sizing issues. So, know your shin guard size already!

Ok. We're at the half-way mark, and you're still here. Nice job.

BEST FOR TALLER (OR SHORTER) UMPIRES

The standard umpire shin guards size is 17". All umpire shin guards at least have this size. Some have this size and a smaller 15" or 15.5" size. Some have a 17" size and a taller 18" or 18.5" size.

However, these umpire shin guard sizes below have the largest range (in no particular order).

  • Wilson West Vest Pro: From 16" to 19"
    Providing the "tallest" option of all
  • Force3 Ultimates: From 14.5" to 18.5"
    Providing the "shortest" shin guard option of all umpire shin guards
  • Diamond DLG-ix3 and Wilson Platinum: From 15.5" to 18.5"

Note that if your shin guard sizes measures greater than say 18.5" to 19", you're not completely out of luck. Your best option to ensure that at least your knee is covered, is to purchase a triple-knee shin guard to gain some height with the topmost "knee" (see "Most Thigh Protection" above).

Most Comfortable anD LIGHTEST WEIGHT

In general, the fewer the knees, the more comfortable and less cumbersome they are than, say, the triple knee varieties. Therefore, there is often a trade-off in comfort and protection.

Know that the lower knee of a double or lowest of a triple-knee umpire shin guard allows for a natural flex as you bend or run by "floating" over the bottom of the knee above it and the shin area below it. As a result, the floating knees prevent gaps the baseball or softball might find otherwise.

Single knee shin guards go further in the area of comfort by going strapless around the back of the knee. More on that in the section below.

Further considering comfort is weight. Here are the lightest umpire shin guards (in order looking at the 17" sizes)

  1. Diamond Featherweight: 1.6 lbs
  2. Diamond iX3: 2.2 lbs
  3. Wilson Guardian: 2.4 lbs
  4. Diamond UXS: 2.8 lbs
  5. Force3 Ultimate: 3.0 lbs
  6. All-Star System Seven Single-Knee: 3.0 lbs

Least Strap Irritation

As many of you know, shin guards sometimes like to rub you the wrong way at the back of your knees or calves. The preferred method of top umpires to prevent rubbing by shin guard straps is to wear tights. 

If you want to go a different route, several umpire shin guards attempt to make things more comfortable in these areas through various features. The least strap irritation in order are:

  1. The Diamond DLG-LITE Featherweight Umpire Shin Guards
    No strap around the knee
  2. All-Star System Seven Umpire Shin Guards (below)
    A unique harness system to provide more support at the calf and less around it.

Varous Other Models including the Diamond iX3 Umpire Shin Guards (below) have padding that extends around the back of the leg to help prevent much of the rubbing that can occur.

Foot Protection: The Toe Plate and Plate Shoes

Umpire shin guards often come with a toe plate (photo below). It's quite a useless feature if you have plate shoes -which you most definitely should be wearing at any level to avoid a broken toe or foot - and useless still if you don't have plate shoes as the toe plate won't cover the entire foot. In that way, the toe plate is the appendix of the umpire shin guard.

You'll find umpire shin guards typically come with either no toe plate or an easily removable toe plate that is in place with Velro. There is one exception. The Wilson West Vest Pro version has to be cut off with a sharp instrument, such a a pair of scissors. Do be careful and no running with scissors in your hand.

Paying for Protection, Comfort and more

As you may know by know, you'll pay the most for the most protection and comfort. The West Vest professional shin guards are great for that 90+ MPH fastball or foul ball, but probably overkill for youth leagues. The All-Star System Seven is designed with comfort in mind with multiple features including the Patella Plus knee pad and the Delta Flex Strap System. Douglas is the priciest model given that it is Made in the US.

Best of All Worlds

To recap, we mentioned that the most protective shin guards are the triple knee variety and the most comfortable ones are the lighter weight single knee variety. So, the more the knees, the greater the protection. But you give something up in comfort, mainly through heavier weight. The fewer the knees and/or lighter the weight, the greater the comfort. But you give something up in protection, especially in the the lower profile lightweight variety.

What's a person to do who wants both (and doesn't want lower thigh protection). These are our top 2 recommendations for best middle-ground on protection and comfort.

  1. Wilson Platinum Umpire Shin Guards
    Double knees + superior ankle protection + value + MLB endorsed
  2. Force3 Ultimate Umpire Shin Guards
    Double knees + better than average ankle protection + multiple features including Kevlar lamination inside the padding that inherently reduces the need for bulkier and/or heavier padding

BEST SELLERS

At Ump-Attire.com, while in any category, find "Sort By", then select "Most Popular". This will provide you with which umpire shin guards other umpires have purchased more (or less of) within the past 12 months.

We'll give you a shortcut here if you want to take a look: Most Popular Umpire Shin Guards

TOP REVIEWED

Another nice feature is to "Sort By: Reviews: Highest-to-Lowest". As of this writing, we have over 45 reviews from fellow umpires on their shin guards.

Another shortcut: Highest Reviewed Umpire Shin Guards

Want to Know More?

Each umpire shin guard product page provides detailed information, sizing options, related blog articles and additional images including shin guards worn front, back and side, something you'll only find here at Ump-Attire.com.

Comparison Chart

Umpire Shin Guards Knees Weight (both) Ankle Protection Toe Plate Other Features Sizes
(measuring)
Colors
Wilson Professional Shin Guards 3 5.2 - 5.6 lbs Hard Shell Yes Nylon Shell Padding, MLB Logo 16-17"
18-19"
Black
Douglas Shin Guards 3 4.2 lbs Hard Shell No Nylon Shell Padding, Made in USA 16"
17"
18"
Grey and Navy
Diamond iX3 Shin Guards 3 2.1 - 2.2 lbs Soft Shell Yes
(Removable)
Moisture Management 15 1/2"
17"
18.5"
Black/Grey
Wilson Platinum Shin Guards 2 4.0 lbs Hard Shell Yes
(Removable)
Nylon Shell Padding, MLB Logo 15 1/2"
17"
18.5"
Charcoal
Force3 Ultimate Shin Guards 2 3.0 lbs Inserted Plate No Kevlar layer, Slim Profile 14.5"
16.5"
18.5"
Charcoal
Diamond Shin Guards 2 2.4 - 2.8 lbs Soft Shell No Wrap-around padding extension 15"
17 1/2"
Black
Diamond Featherweight Ump-Lite Shin Guards 1 1.6 lbs Soft Shell Yes
(Removable)
Lower Profile, Strapless Knee Design, Tifco Buckles

15"
17"
18.5"

Black
All-Star System 7 Shin Guards 1 3 lbs Sewn-On Flexible Plate Yes
(Removable)
Lower Profile, Patella Plus Knee Pad and Delta Flex Harness 17"
18"
Black
Champro Basic Shin Guards 1 2.3 lbs Soft Shell No   17" Black

About the Author

Picture of Jim Kirk

President/CEO of Score 451 Sports, LLC and Ump-Attire.com Jim Kirk

Jim has had a passion for sports since he can remember. After playing baseball at Centre College, he worked as a high school umpire in Southeastern Kentucky - during the Elbeco shirt years - as a way to make ends meet. He became involved in E-Commerce while working on an MBA in the early 2000s and eventually bought Ump-Attire.com in 2006. Jim is proud of Ump-Attire.com's success, staff and sponsorship of various groups including Minor League Baseball Umpires, Minor League Baseball Umpire Training Academy and UMPS CARE, the charity of MLB umpires. He currently serves on their board of directors and was named their 2015 Ambassador Award recipient. Jim has also coached youth baseball many years and currently coaches middle school baseball at Christian Academy of Louisville. He lives in Louisville with his wife Lori, daughter Lydia and son Ben.