Umpire Shin Guards Buying GuideApr 28th, 2021
The best umpire shin guards today offer greater protection than ever before. The correct name should actually be "leg guards" instead of "shin guards" as all styles provide protection not only to the shins, but also to knees, ankles and in some cases, to the thigh and foot as well.
Keep reading and we'll help you find the best umpire shin guard for you.
if you want Thigh Protection
Let's work our way from the top to the bottom.
If you decided not to wear any leg protection, although not recommended at any level, the place where you might prefer getting 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 reliable (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)
You'll find lower thigh protection 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.
Here are the 3 triple-knee umpire shin guards, in order of most lower thigh protection:
- Wilson MLB West Vest Pro Umpire Shin Guards
Offers the most surface area coverage with hard ABS shell over a layer of thick foam padding.
- Diamond iX3 (photo below left) and Champro Pro-Plus Umpire Shin Guards (photo below right)
Lower thigh protection at a value price, which is why it is most popular at youth to high school levels.
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 the Wilson West Vest Pro model, endorsed by MLB umpires, that comes in black shell on black padding and is higher priced.
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 (Champro Pro-Plus).
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 where they should be.
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 in umpire shin guards 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 Wilson West Vest Pro 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, the Wilson Gold is your best options.
If you don't want the extra thigh protection, but do want the most ankle protection otherwise, the Wilson Platinum is your best choice.
In the soft-shell with hard inserts category, the Force3 Ultimate Umpire Shin Guards and Champro Pro-Plus are more substanial in the ankle area and offer more protection there than the lower profile Diamond Featherweights.
WIth that knowledge in mind, ankle protection in 1-5 order:
All other umpire shin guards are soft-shell ankle protection only.
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. Visit our Fitting Room for a Crew How-To: Measure and Size Your Umpire Shin Guards.
White 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", you 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!
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).
- All-Star Cobalt: From 15" to 19", providing a 4 inch range and 1 of the 2 longest options
- Wilson MLB West Vest Pro: From 16" to 19"
Providing the "tallest" option of along with the Cobalt
- Force3 Ultimate: From 14.5" to 18.5"
Providing the "shortest" shin guard option of all umpire shin guards
- Diamond Featherweight: 15" to 18.5"
- Diamond iX3, Champro Pro-Plus and Wilson MLB Platinum provide the typical range: From 15.5" to 18.5"
- All-Star Single Knee: 17" only (least range)
Note that if your shin guard size 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 (Wilson MLB West Vest Pro, Diamond iX3 of Champro Pro-Plus) to gain some height with the topmost "knee" (see "If You Want Thigh Protection" above).
Most Comfortable anD LIGHTEST WEIGHT
In general, the fewer the "knees", the more comfortable and less cumbersome umpire shin guards 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.
Most 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.
Added to your consideration of comfort is weight. Here are the lightest umpire shin guards (in order looking at the 17" sizes)
- Diamond Featherweight: 1.6 lbs
- Diamond iX3: 2.2 lbs
- All-Star Cobalt: 2.3 lbs
- All-Star Single Knee: 2.5 lbs
- Diamond UXS: 2.8 lbs
- Force3 Ultimate: 3.0 lbs
- Champro Pro-Plus: 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 is:
- Diamond Featherweight Umpire Shin Guards
No strap around the knee
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 Velcro. There is one exception. The Wilson West Vest Pro Gold version has to be cut off with a sharp instrument, such as a pair of scissors. Do be careful and no running with scissors.
Paying for Protection, Comfort and more
As you may know by now, you'll pay more for more protection and comfort. The Wilson MLB West Vest Pro shin guards are great for that 90+ MPH fastball or foul ball, but probably overkill for youth leagues. The Force3 Ultimate Shin Guards are designed with comfort in mind with multiple features.
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 knees, the greater the protection. The fewer the knees and/or lighter the weight, the greater the comfort.
What's a person to do who wants both protection and comfort. These are our top 2 recommendations for best middle-ground on protection and comfort if you are ok with not having thigh protection.
- Wilson Platinum Umpire Shin Guards
Double knees + superior ankle protection + value + MLB endorsed
- 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
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
Another nice feature is to "Sort By: Reviews: Highest-to-Lowest". As of writing, we have 250+ 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.
|Umpire Shin Guards||Knees||Weight (both)||Ankle Protection||Toe Plate||Other Features||Sizes
|Wilson MLB West Vest Pro||3||5.2 - 5.6 lbs||Hard Shell||Yes||Nylon Shell Padding, MLB Logo||16-17"
|Diamond iX3||3||2.1 - 2.2 lbs||Soft Shell||Yes
|Moisture Management||15 1/2"
|Wilson MLB Platinum||2||4.0 lbs||Hard Shell||Yes
|Nylon Shell Padding, MLB Logo||15 1/2"
|Force3 Ultimate||2||3.0 lbs||Inserted Plate||No||Kevlar layer, Slim Profile||14.5"
|Diamond DLG||2||2.4 - 2.8 lbs||Soft Shell||No||Wrap-around padding extension||15"
|Diamond Featherweight||1||1.6 lbs||Soft Shell||Yes
|Lower Profile, Strapless Knee Design, Tifco Buckles||
|All-Star Cobalt||2||2 - 2.5 lbs||Soft Shell||No||Lower Profile, Memory Shell, Perforated Foam and Metal Buckle Straps||15"
|All-Star Single Knee||1||2.5 lbs||Soft Shell||No
|Lower Profile and Metal Buckle Straps||17"||Black|
|Champro Pro-Plus Triple Knee||3||2.8 - 3.2 lbs||Soft Shell||Yes
|Lower Profile, Moisture Management||15 1/2"
About the Author
President Jim Kirk
Jim is a leading expert, educator and author on umpire gear, safety & appearance. After playing baseball at Centre College, he worked as a high school umpire. He became involved in E-Commerce while working on an MBA in the early 2000s and bought Ump-Attire.com in 2006, He eventually led it to the leading umpire gear & attire retailer worldwide and a “Best Places to Work in Louisville” honor in 2020 & 2021. He maintains long-standing relationships with Minor League Baseball Umpire Development & Training Academy and the National Association of Sports Officials (NASO). He serves as an adviser to UMPS CARE Charities, the charity of MLB umpires, served as a 2-term board of director from 2012-2018, and was named their 2015 Ambassador Award recipient. A supporter since the inception of the Wounded Warrior Umpire Academy, he was named to their Board of Directors in 2020.