The best youth hockey shoulder pad
Ice hockey can be a fun sport for kids to play, but it can also be an expensive one. Kids need plenty of protective gear along with skates and a stick. Youth hockey shoulder pads are an essential piece of gear, as they deliver protection against collisions and stray pucks in the shoulders, chest, and back areas.
Keep your kids safe with help from our buying guide on youth hockey shoulder pads, which has all the information you need, plus a few recommendations at the end. Our favorite model is the STX Stallion 50 Shoulder Pads, which have a high level of protective covering for young players.
Considerations when choosing youth hockey shoulder pads
Parts of shoulder pads
Youth hockey shoulder pads fit underneath the sweater, so they're not visible, and consist of durable plastic and foam. The foam is firm while still delivering some padding. Straps and laces help you tighten the shoulder pads for the proper fit.
Several different pieces make up a set of hockey shoulder pads, although not every set contains every one of these pieces.
Back pads: Padding on the back of the shoulder pads protects the upper back. Some models have pads that extend downward to protect the lower spine and kidney areas.
Biceps pads: A bicep pad extends from the end of the shoulder cap and covers the upper arms. Not every set of hockey shoulder pads has biceps pads.
Chest pads: The padding in the front protects the chest and sternum. Some pads for older youth players have padding that extends downward from the chest pad over the ribs and abdomen.
Shoulder caps: The caps are pads that fit over the shoulder and collarbone areas. Smaller caps that fit tight to the body allow for better freedom of movement than bulky caps, but the bulky caps may offer more padding and protection.
Padding thickness is a key component of selecting the best youth hockey shoulder pads. Some players want the thinnest possible padding, which allows for the highest level of freedom of movement. However, when players want extra protection, a thicker style of padding works better. Thicker pads often have more plastic in them than thinner pads.
Although you can slightly adjust the fit of the youth hockey shoulder pads using buckles and straps, you should purchase a size that fits the player well. Shoulder pads that are too big or too small do not give the player the level of comfort they need.
To figure out which size of shoulder pads you need, measure the circumference of your child's chest. As a general rule, youth hockey shoulder pad manufacturers use three sizing categories, based on the chest circumference measurement.
Youth size: 20 to 28 inches chest circumference
Junior size: 28 to 34 inches chest circumference
Senior size: 34 to 38 inches chest circumference
The least expensive youth shoulder pads for hockey cost between $15 and $50 and work for really young players in no-check leagues. Older youth players who want higher-quality pads for checking may spend $50 to $200.
Q. Do all youth players need shoulder pads, even in a no-check league?
A. Nearly all youth hockey leagues require shoulder pads. Even if players cannot check each other, they still inadvertently collide with each other or occasionally go into the boards.
Q. Can I purchase the next size up of shoulder pads so they last longer before my child outgrows them?
A. You can, but ill-fitting shoulder pads do not adequately protect the player. They could slide out of place if they're too big.
Youth hockey shoulder pads we recommend
Best of the best: STX's Stallion 50 Shoulder Pads
Our take: When kids are a little skittish about being hit with a puck, these pads are popular because they provide plenty of protective covering.
What we like: More durable than you may expect at this price point. Allows for slight size adjustment to deliver maximum comfort.
What we dislike: Sizes tend to run a little small versus others.
Best bang for your buck: JAMM's 5001 Hockey Youth Shoulder Pads
Our take: Reasonably priced pads that have extra protection in two especially sensitive areas, the sternum and lower spine.
What we like: These shoulder pads have a low profile, which maximizes comfort. Kids appreciate the lightweight design.
What we dislike: You sacrifice thickness in the pads to achieve the lighter weight.
Our take: The price is a little higher than some, but these pads provide excellent comfort and protection.
What we like: Design allows for maximum freedom of movement. Uses multiple straps to ensure a secure fit.
What we dislike: Sizes are not available for shorter players.
Kyle Schurman is a writer for BestReviews. BestReviews is a product review company with a singular mission: to help simplify your purchasing decisions and save you time and money. BestReviews never accepts free products from manufacturers and purchases every product it reviews with its own funds.
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