Best Shoulder Pads for Linemen

6 Best Shoulder Pads for Linemen for 2024

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Football linemen battle every single play, bashing against each other over and over again, yet few fans understand the true punishment they sustain in what are called “the trenches.’ After the helmet, linemen are especially particular about their shoulder pads.

For good reason, which we will explain below. With the needs and desires of linemen in mind, we studied football equipment brands and shoulder pad models for the very best shoulder pads going into 2024 ~ and well beyond.

Perhaps more so than in any other sport, the shoulders must be protected for football play. The insides of a baseball player’s shoulders are vital for throwing, sure. But shoulder pain keeps football players off the field. Footballers cannot avoid bumps to the shoulders.

The shoulder is a very complicated joint, not just 2-dimensional like knees and elbows. Shoulders rotate on a ball of bone, able to move in a broad circular range, and are connected with a lot of tendons and ligaments.

In football, players bash shoulders against opponents or the ground repeatedly during play. And nowhere more than those players in the lineman positions.


Primer: What are Football Shoulder Pads & What is a Lineman?

Shoulder pads do just what is implied in the name: protects a football player’s shoulders. Aside from protection for the brain (e.g. the helmet, and head and neck area), the shoulders are probably the most important body parts to protect for linemen.

Shoulder pads are common in other team sports filled with body contact, like ice hockey, or lacrosse. Modern shoulder pads are created with a hard plastic exterior (the hard part that makes some noise on hard tackles), with foam between the hard plastic and body to lessen the impact of blows.

There are several pads, all secured together with strings (which can be adjusted for sizing) or riveting. The pieces are usually secured with rivets or strings that the user can tie to resize.

Shoulder pads have a number of parts that a new player or parent should become aware of, such as:

  • Neck. Opening in the center-top of the pad where the head pops out. What’s important here is the lining around the edges, for a soft, comfortable fit from fabric or special lining
  • Rivet. These little objects connect the exterior plastic shell to the padding and cushioning inside. Think of rivets on blue jeans, little metal snap-like things. Rivets hold all the parts of the overall piece of equipment secure.
  • Epaulet. This is another piece of plastic shell beyond the main shoulder pads closer to the head; basically extending out to protect the shoulder joints.
  • Body cushion. The primary inner cushion is secured on the underside of the shell plastic. This barrier cushions as well as molds tightly to a player’s chest.
  • Belt or Buckle. These are the straps or contraptions that hold the overall item snug and secure. They come in a range of styles, including straps that wrap around the back, to hold pads where they need to be.
  • Bias or Auxiliary. Second line of cushioning, bolstering the ability to absorb or soften impacts.

What to Look for in Buying Shoulder Pads for Football

First, consider the player’s size and skillset; then look at the position or positions played; and finally how they play (timidly or aggressively).

  • Size: The larger the player, the more impactful the hits. So, heavier players should want shoulder pads that are sturdy and provide good protection. Smaller players (comparing with the age level played in) can afford to go lighter on the pads to make it easier to run fast or move the arms in every direction to catch the football.
  • Position: Some positions, like linemen, don’t have to use their arms to catch or hold balls, so they can “bulk up” on shoulder pads. That is, have extra small plastic shields over the lower bicep area, for instance; or, add more lining inside even if heavier.
  • Playing style. Some football players are ultra aggressive from the start, fearless in running into people. Others, perhaps a quarterback, are more cerebral, skipping the hits for strategy and moving the ball. Either could impact which type of shoulder pads they want up top.

Both of these considerations involve a very important element for football linemen: fatigue. Probably more than with the other football positions, linemen can get too hot, or very tired, from repeated wrestling matches along the line of scrimmage.

Fatigue could force linemen from the field, or cause a reduction in effectiveness. Basically, linemen need energy and cannot afford to get too tired.

This in mind, look for the lightest shoulder pads model possible, but also look for key terms like “air flow,” “air management,” and “cooling.” Some models have more ventilation holes or design elements just to breathe than others.

Types of Football Shoulder Pads

Most football insiders say there are 4 types or categories of shoulder pads. We’ll start with the positions that this article focuses on:

Lineman Shoulder Pads

Shoulder pads designed for the most protection possible, from the most violent of collisions. These are the offensive and defensive linemen. Its features:

  • Heaviest on the field
  • Most durable pads because these players knock shoulders on every play
  • Not terribly wide; linemen keep jerseys tight to prevent opponents from gripping
  • Pad streamlined if possible to, once again, reduce profile
  • Lack of additional epaulets (smallish pads on the corners of the shoulders, beyond the main pads, like what a general would wear) to prevent holding of the pads
  • Connector is belt-like stretchable straps to allow for in-game adjustment, and to allow easier movement; or maybe a vinyl buckle

Other types of shoulder pads are worn by the players fans are most familiar with: the quarterback and, basically, players who touch and move the ball.

Quarterback and Wide Receiver Pads

These pads provide a full range of motion by the arms, and are light for mobility and quick lateral moves. These pads are light in weight; have no extra (or heavy) epaulets (small pads atop corners of shoulder); and a shell that might be made of a flexible material.

Running Back and Defensive Back Pads

This shoulder pad allows for agile movements, while still offering enough extra protection from collisions between running men. These pads are like quarterback shoulder pads, light, flexible, and allowing for a full arm range of motion.

They also should have a bit more padding and cushioning than on the QB or wide receiver shoulder pads; and have no extra (or heavy) epaulets. Basically, have as few extra exterior pads as possible.

Fullback or Linebacker Pads

This shoulder pad style is made to provide significant protection, while allowing unrestricted, fast action. They need a decent range of arm motion as they handle the ball, but not as much as running backs or receivers. Features on these pads could include:

  • Very, very secure fit; these players do not like to be grabbed and held
  • Protection you can trust in huge impacts
  • Heavier than RB or QB pads, but lighter than those worn by linemen

Measuring for the right size of shoulder pad involves accurate measurements from multiple angles, so it might be wise to get a flexible measuring tape like those used by tailors or seamstresses. Measuring requires help from another person, while the player holds still.

With measurement numbers you can explore shoulder pad models. The fit of some manufacturers may differ from the rest, so the wise buyer reads into the user feedback if they are provided online. Sizing is often noted in these “reviews.”

Our Choices: Best Shoulder Pads for Linemen

1. Best Shoulder Pads for Linemen Overall ~ Xenith Velocity 2 Varsity Football Shoulder Pads


All things considered ~ quality, price, utility, protection, comfort, etc. ~ we landed on the Xenith Velocity 2 Varsity Football Shoulder Pads to top our list. It was not easy, as there are superb shoulder pad models to consider below. It’s just that this Xenith model seems to be the whole package, for a variety of football age levels.

The Velo 2 checks all the boxes of desirables for the punishing lineman positions: light in weight, full of comfort elements, and the manufacturer was thoughtful with the design to let the pads move well with the body, and to absorb impact decently. Overall, it’s the superior fit that players will appreciate.

This shoulder pads model is made for play at the school level, meaning mainly high school, but maybe some college linemen could benefit from its weight or sizing. This updated version of the original Velocity has a lower profile. In all honesty this is a fine shoulder pad model for any position, at the school level of play.


  • Weight: 3.5 lbs.
  • Material(s): Plastic, metal rivets, and air-management foam padding
  • Special Feature(s): Removable deltoid pads

What We Like

  • Lightweight
  • Impact cushioning ability
  • Vertical chest pad right down the middle

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2. Best Shoulder Pads for Linemen Runner-Up ~ Schutt Schutt Sports Varsity XV HD Shoulder Pad


This manufacturer is known to deliver shoulder pads used by many football players, especially at the school levels, so no surprise that the Schutt Sports Varsity XV HD Shoulder Pad ranks high up in our list.

What jumps out is what Schutt did to keep a lineman cool: a moisture and heat management system that lets air flow fluidly to and from the body. It is designed to keep the skin underneath dry, so it can naturally cool itself. How cool is that?

For protection, there’s super impact absorption from the XV HD’s high-density EVA foam; and a ventilated arch with raised corrugations for even more protection. Notice plenty of 7 mm vent holes, and other pre-drilled holes to allow for accessory attachments. Players got to look cool, right?


  • Weight: 3 lbs.
  • Material(s): Plastic
  • Special Feature(s): Raised corrugations (rib-like ripples) for additional strength and fluid air flow

What We Like

  • Super light
  • Superb impact cushioning
  • High-performance arch design, aimed at cutting weight while still retaining strength

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3. Best Shoulder Pads for the New Kid Linemen ~ CHAMPRO Scorpion Youth Football Shoulder Pads


For this exceptional price, and excellent user reviews, a parent could hardly go wrong with the CHAMPRO Scorpion Youth Football Shoulder Pads for a quite young, new football lineman. Weighing in at less than a half-pound, hundreds of really young football players have grown up with the CHAMPRO models.

The Scorpion offers plenty of lineman protection with its high-impact polyethylene construction. Also, shoulder pads can be like chest protectors for baseball catchers: if they’re not comfy, the player won’t use it. So the Scorpion’s sliding 1-inch-wide elastic straps are easily adjustable for a snug fit, while still allowing plenty of free movement.

At the very least, parents, take note of the strap-release system that’s easy enough for the player to help players unhook straps without help! CHAMPRO, it seems, knows what parents want, too.


  • Weight: 0.41 lbs.
  • Material(s): Polyethylene
  • Special Feature(s): Cantilever design to disperse impact and shock

What We Like

  • Excellent pricing for very young players
  • Built for durability
  • 7 sizes all the way up to 180 lbs

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4. Best Shoulder Pads for Linemen or Other Big Players ~ Douglas Legacy RC Football Shoulder Pad


The Douglas Legacy RD Football Shoulder Pad is a solid choice for the biggest of the big players on a football field. All the bigger reverse cups, epaulets,, and solid front provides the big player more stability and ability to give and take hits.

What we like most with the Legacy RD is its streamlined design, which coupled with a decently light weight provides good protection to go along with a wide range of motion with the arms.

These larger players will really appreciate the air-management technology that Douglas applies throughout this model. Playing in the trenches is brutal, hard work, and besides protecting the body from injury, the good shoulder pads also prevent overheating.


  • Weight: 5 lbs.
  • Material(s): Plastic
  • Special Feature(s): Air-management technology

What We Like

  • Breathability to keep cool
  • Balance of strength and lightness
  • Streamlined, cool-looking design

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5. Best Shoulder Pads for Utility of Positions ~ CHAMPRO Gauntlet III Football Shoulder Pads


Not sure where the player might play most? A utility-type player who seems to be placed anywhere on the field at any moment? The CHAMPRO Gauntlet III Football Shoulder Pads just might work for you.

This up-and-coming shoulder pad model is getting rave reviews from users already. What we really appreciate is how flexible the overall item is, with the swivel back and front connectors which seem to let the pads move along with the player naturally.

Optimal fit and greater mobility were targets for this manufacturer, which is known to produce excellent shoulder pads for football players of various ages. Decently priced, kind of in the mid-range of prices, this model is designed really for high school play.


  • Weight: 5 lbs.
  • Material(s): Plastic
  • Special Feature(s):

What We Like

  • Extensive padding including built-in rib pads
  • Air management system for cooling
  • The matte finish will look really cool in the locker room

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6. Best Shoulder Pads for Nimble Tackles or Ends ~ Xenith Element Varsity Football Shoulder Pad


Some linemen slots can be deceiving. The big guys who play on the end of the line, the tight end or tackle on offense, defensive end on D, may also be very fast and in fact play a speed game (over power game). For them we suggest the Xenith Element Varsity Football Shoulder Pad.

Compared with other shoulder pad models, what we like most with the Element line is the Xenith reliability for its belt and buckle system, which is proven to work; and the durability of this model with the laceless design and buckle straps. (The Element line comes in Skill, Hybrid, or Lineman models, with differing attributes depending on the position and playing style).

These linemen more than the others appreciate speed; and would sacrifice a bit of protection if it gets them to the quarterback faster, or around on a sweep with more ease. The Element is “engineered for all-purpose players,” but in today’s game, that could mean pretty much anyone on the field.


  • Weight: 5 lbs.
  • Material(s): Plastic
  • Special Feature(s): Short chest plate

What We Like

  • Lightweight and low profile in all models of this line
  • Easy to maintain with removable padding
  • Easily adjustable straps and buckle

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Related Questions

Question: How long does a football shoulder pad last?

Answer: As with a lot of sports equipment, it depends. A player’s weight and age division plays a role in more quickly weakening joints and elasticity; as will the intensity of usage, meaning number of times used, and against what type of opponents. Broadly, shoulder pads last about a year. Very low-quality models can fail months short of a year

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