Umpire Shin Guards Buying Guide
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?
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.
Most Thigh Protection
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 you have more meat there to cushion the blow and depending on your stance, you're least likely to take a direct blow in that location.
Having said that, you may still want lower thigh protection. That's more than ok. You'll find this additional protection in the topmost "knee" of extended or triple-knee umpire shin guards.
Vest professional shin guards used by Major League Baseball
umpires, the Diamond iX3 model, the Champro Pro-Plus and the All-Star System Seven (not shown here) provide this above-the-knee protection through their triple-knee
If you're interested in one of these but still undecided, you might prefer at upper levels Wilson's thicker padding and complete hard shell ankle protection. For lower levels, the padding and hard plastic ankle insert of the Diamond iX3 or Champro will usually do.
Best for Taller Umpires
While most umpire shin guards come in a range of 15-17" fitted sizes that fits most, the triple-knee shin guards above come in standard sizes plus a larger size in the 18-19" range that may fit taller umpires better than other shin guards.
How taller? There's no way to know for sure unless you measure. So get that measuring tape out and read further.
Measuring for Shin Guards
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. But that's not the case.
Instead, they are measured by their fit or where they should fit. And where they should fit is from the area where the middle of your knee would go to the bottom of the shin guard.
Out of all umpire protective gear, shin guards are returned more often than masks and chest protectors due to sizing issues.
Normally, 17" shin guards will fit individuals in the 5' 10" to 6' 1" range. However, this is just a general rule. Simply measuring yourself knee-to-foot before ordering will alleviate most potential problems. And if in doubt, always go with the larger size as it's better to have more coverage than to be short in this department.
Ok. We're at the half-way mark, and you're still here. Nice job.
In double-knee umpire shin guards like the ones seen below, your knee rests on the inside of the topmost "knee" of the shin guard (in a triple knee it rests in the middle).
The lower knee of a double or triple-knee umpire shin guard allows for a natural flex as you bend or run by "floating" over the bottom of the top knee and top of the shin area, thus providing natural no-gap protection. As a result, double-knee shin guards are often more comfortable than single-knee varieties and typically less cumbersome than triple-knee ones.
If you want less bulk of a triple knee shin guard, the All Star System Seven and Champro Low Profile are ones to consider.
In a single knee, Diamond's single knee featherweight design gets a nod here as one of the most comfortable shin guards due to its weight. At 1.6 lbs (both), they weigh almost half as much as most other shin guards on the market and almost one-third the weight of our heaviest shin guards, the Wilson Pro Shin Guards. Besides due to its strapless design at the knee, there is no worry over strap irritation.
If leaning in this direction but undecided between these styles, here's some additional info to help. The Wilson
charcoal shin guards (shown above) has the most protection at all levels in a double-knee style with thicker padding, ankle protection in a hard shell on both sides and foot protection (note: can be removed in 2012 with velcro).
However, the low profile shin guards from Diamond and Champro are so light it makes it feel as if you are wearing no shin guards at all. If low profile is what you want, your decision is made easier. Go with the All Star or Champro if you want thigh protection and even then the All Star if comfort is your ultimate goal is expense is not your concern. Go with Diamond if don't need the extra thigh protection.
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.
Several of our umpire shin guards attempt to make things more comfortable in these areas through various features. The Diamond Featherweight shin guards have no strap at all at the knee. The Diamond iX3 shin guards has additional padding around the back of the leg to help prevent such rubbing. The All-Star System Seven Guards don't use traditional straps at all and there is no behind-the-knee irritation.
Foot Protection and Plate Shoes
Although some umpire shin guards offer foot protection, they do so poorly. At best, they'll cover only the top half of your foot leaving your toes un-protected without umpire plate shoes. For that reason, we recommend plate shoes at all levels of umpiring including youth levels. Why risk a broken toe or foot?
Still don't plan to purchase plate shoes? Well you're entitled to be stubborn. In that case, can you get a pair with the "toe" guards to provide you with at least some protection? Good. My apologies for sounding parental.
Have or plan to buy plate shoes? That's better. Choose an umpire shin guard without the "toe" guard (Diamond DLG) or detach it. Some are simply attached with Velcro (Diamond DLGiX3) and others can only be cut off with a sharp instrument (Wilson Pro) or removed with screws (Champro low-profile).
Paying for Protection and Comfort
Typically, 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.
Want to Know More?
Look at the "customer choice" items that are the most popular, receive the best reviews and are returned less than other shin guards. To date, two shin guards rise to the top there and they are the Wilson Charcoal and the Diamond iX3. (Note: Newest products are not available for Customer Choice consideration).
Each umpire shin guard product page provides detailed information, sizing options, reviews and additional images including shin guards worn front, back and side, something you'll only find here at ump-attire.com.
Or try the quicker read Umpire Shin Guards Comparison Chart »
Or don't listen at all to me and look for items with the Customer Choice seal indicating those that are preferred by customers.
Lastly, if you have any strength left, read the following related posts from the Officially Un-Official Blog.
Written by Jim Kirk, owner of Ump-Attire.com (Updated 9.8.11)