Lacrosse Shoulder Pad Buying Guide

There are three different styles of shoulder protection that lacrosse players have to choose from; traditional shoulder pads, hybrid shoulder pads, and shoulder pad liner. The player should easily be able to choose the correct style of shoulder protection based on the following information provided in this buying guide. Before a purchase is made, make sure to take the time to evaluate these criteria; style of play, and if you value comfort or protection. If categorized correctly, it is almost guaranteed that you will make the right decision for your skill set.

Three Styles of Shoulder Protection

Traditional Shoulder Pads: Out of the three styles, traditional shoulder pads will give you the most security and protection. This Shoulder pad set-up will provide several layers of padding such as the collapsible shoulder caps that expand and contract as you move. This system allows for maximum protection with decent flexibility. This style will provide the most protection of the clavicle and deltoid muscle. Shoulder pads on the market will come with removable bicep guards that give you the option to protect your upper biceps from vicious crosschecks and slashes.


Hybrid Shoulder Pads: The next style of shoulder protection evolved from players buying the bulky shoulder pads (above) only to cut off some of the excess padding to improve flexibility. Manufacturers noticed this trend and tried to accommodate it. This lighter, hybrid design will fit anatomically to the chest and shoulders to establish the feeling of not wearing shoulder pads at all. Hybrid pads will also come with removable bicep guards that can be put on, or taken off depending on the physicality of the game. Lastly, when considering shoulder liner, be sure to look into models that have reinforced padding within the liner.


Chest/Shoulder Liner: This style of shoulder protection is essentially the same thing as the Hybrid shoulder pad set-up (above) without the bicep guards and less reinforced padding throughout the shoulders and sternum. These pads will be lighter and provide maximum flexibility and arm rotation. This is the minimum amount of shoulder protection players are allowed to wear by rule, so obviously the player will be vulnerable to some bruising. The heart and clavicle will be protected against hard stick checks and shots, while your arms will have no restriction to rip high velocity shots and land nasty stick checks.

How to choose shoulder pads based on style of play

With the exception of goaltenders, when it comes to lacrosse shoulder pads, a player’s position does not necessarily determine what shoulder pads they wear. A player’s shoulder pads should reflect their attitude on the field.

The Aggressive Players are very physical and throw a lot of body checks. They will need to wear the traditional shoulder pads with collapsible shoulder caps. These players are constantly winning ground ball battles, make devastating body checks on defense, and are never afraid to dodge through traffic to score goals. These players always have a target on their back because of their gritty playing style and will to win. Lastly, there is a very popular trend in lacrosse to buy traditional shoulder pads and take the bicep guards off for increased flexibility, but this will make them vulnerable to bruising.

The Athletic Players will want the Hybrid shoulder pads. This style is heavily sought out by players who hate the bulk and restriction of the traditional shoulder pads and their collapsible shoulder caps. These players are physical, but mainly use agility and finesse for success. The hybrid shoulder pads are the perfect combination between the traditional shoulder pads and the shoulder liner. Skilled defensive players have been known to like these shoulder pads as well because they provide an ample amount of protection, while maintaining a lightweight frame. Lastly, players who are known to have advanced stick skills prefer the hybrid style.

The Specialist Player has a surgical playing style.  They want the least amount of shoulder restriction as possible and that is why they purchase the chest/shoulder liner. Lacrosse is the fastest sport on two feet and every inch counts. If wearing less padding gives you an extra step on your opponent, then by-all-means take advantage of it. These pads however are recommended for full-grown adult players who are strong enough to get away with it. They are very popular among midfielders and defensemen who constantly run and gun in space.

Features to Consider Before Purchasing

Breathability – The majority of shoulder pads on the market will have ventilation technology throughout the pads to manage body temperature.  One thing to look into is if the pads flex as you breath. Some of the top price-point models will feature elastic segments in the chest that stretch to allow the player to breath easier. Not only will the pads expand as you inhale, but they will contour to the players rib cage and provide better protection.


Strapping System – make sure to look into how the pads latch onto the players body.  Believe it or not many of the competing manufacturers have attempted different strapping systems over the years to improve the overall feel of the pads. Most shoulder pads use Velcro, but others use plastic buckles. Velcro is the most dependable and cost effective, but unlike Velcro the buckle system will not make your jersey fray and lose its strength of adhesiveness over time.


Heart Protection – It goes without saying that lacrosse is a dangerous sport. The ball travels at a high rate of speed and sometimes players get hit in the chest so hard it makes their heart stop. Many lacrosse pads offer a removable air bladder system that can be placed under the pads to protect the heart. Manufacturers are aware of this and have been working hard to prevent this by placing an extra sternum plate for added protection. Ultimately, the best way to prevent this tragedy is to get shoulder pads that offer a sternum plate or an air bladder system which is essentially a bag of air that is Velcro’d inside the pads.


Lastly, when it comes to choosing lacrosse shoulder pads, use what you know, trust your first instinct, and you will make the right decision. If you have any questions about the process of picking the perfect shoulder pads, feel free to contact any of our experts at one of our Monkey Sports superstores, or  a customer service agent at


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