How to Fit Football Shoulder Pads

Learn how to properly fit football shoulder pads to get the most coverage, performance, and safety from yours! Measuring shoulder pads is easy, once you know how to do it.

You spend a lot of money suiting yourself, or your child, up for the game. Helmets, chin straps, pads, cleats…they all help protect you on the field, but unfortunately, together they can all cost an arm and a leg! So to make sure you’re getting the most for your money, it’s incredibly important to find the right gear for your size. Improperly fitting football equipment, no matter how high-end and advanced, isn’t worth the box they put it in if it doesn’t fit you! This is why football shoulder pad sizing is so important.

Let me take a few minutes and run down the best way to measure and fit football shoulder pads, so you know you’re getting the most coverage and performance out of yours. Just follow these simple steps, and you’ll be in good shape:

  1. Grab a friend or a parent. Measuring yourself can be awkward, and may lead to inaccurate readouts and ill-fitting shoulder pads.Shoulder Pad Chest Fitting
  2. Measure your chest. Standing up straight, have someone wrap a flexible measuring tape around your upper torso and record the measurements. Think about wearing a tight fitting shirt to get the most accurate, next-to-skin measurements possible.
  3. Measure your shoulder width.   Again, standing up straight, stretch Shoulder Pad Shoulder Fittingthe tape over the contour of your shoulders, between the AC joints (those are the joints between the tops of your shoulders), and record the measurements.
  4. Weigh yourself. Typically, youth shoulder pads are sized by weight class, so to properly fit youth shoulder pads, it’s important to know your exact weight.

Once you have these numbers written down, you can start shopping for new football shoulder pads. SU has a huge selection of youth and adult shoulder pads for every position, age range, and budget, from the top brands like Schutt, Riddell, Douglas, and Bike…just saying.

When you find the shoulder pads for you, simply consult the size chart found on the product page, and use your shoulder pad measurements to know which size to select.

Now, once you receive them, it’s important to know how to put on football shoulder pads. You should also make sure they fit properly, and deliver the coverage and mobility you need before using them. When you get your pads, make sure to:

  1. Bring the pads down over your head. Align the shoulder pads carefully, and be sure not to scratch your eyes or nose when putting them on.
  2. Secure all straps and laces. Each shoulder pad front connector and strap system is different, depending on brand and position, but no matter what the configuration, make sure to properly connect the front and back of your pads. Then tightly buckle all belts and straps Shoulder Pad Fitto get a snug, comfortable fit against the chest and back.
  3. Check the fit. Once everything is secure, ensure the shoulder pads fit properly. The padding shouldn’t be pinching your collar, and should sit comfortably on your shoulders. Typically, about 1″ of padding should extend from your shoulders.
  4. Check coverage in the front and back. The shoulder pads should fully cover your sternum and upper shoulders, as well as your scapula and rhomboid. Confirm this full coverage by extending your hands above your head. Properly fitting and measured shoulder pads should still cover these areas when lifted up.
  5. Move around and double check the fit. Perform some on-field
    actions in the new pads Shoulder Pad Movement(even if it looks a little weird), to double check comfort, fit, and coverage in game-like situations.

Follow these steps, and you’ll get the absolute best coverage, performance, and comfort from your shoulder pads, no matter how much you spend on them.

And remember, if you have any further questions or concerns regarding your pads, or any other football gear for that matter, you can always consult Sports Unlimited’s Shoulder Pad Buyer’s Guide, or our huge library of football gear buyer’s guides, that cover every aspect of everything football from football helmets to thigh pads.

By Brandon Porter.Brandon is a product specialist at Sports Unlimited.

28 thoughts on “How to Fit Football Shoulder Pads”

  1. i have a question, my son is 5.10 and his shoulders are 18.5 and his chest is a little smaller than the size that his shoulders are built for, how do i go about buying him pads, should i go by his shoulder size or his chest

    1. Thanks for the comment Ryan. As a rule of thumb, when sizing shoulder pads you always want to err on the side of the shoulder width. Your son’s shoulder pads need to cover his entire shoulders to provide the right amount of protection, and unfortunately, shoulder pads can only be adjusted in the chest, not in the shoulder width. If the shoulder pads you purchase give him some extra room in the chest, but adequate shoulder protection, try tightening the shoulders pad straps as much as possible. If there is still too much space, he can always try wearing a youth padded football shirt, which should give him more impact protection and fill out the space as well.

  2. my apologizes he is 18.5 shoulders and 39 in chest….so a medium or should go large…hes only 12
    thanks for the reply

    1. Different shoulder pads define their sizes differently, so without knowing which shoulder pad you’re looking at, I couldn’t say to go with a large over a medium. But almost all major brands’ youth shoulder pads have a size that fits shoulder width 17″ – 18″ and chest 38 – 40″. Although this doesn’t fit your son’s shoulders exactly 100%, a half inch difference won’t reduce the protection, and will still cover him adequately. He should fit in them quite comfortably. Please let me know which shoulder pads you had in mind, and I can give you the exact size to go with. Thanks!

  3. im looking at some mid entry level pads, douglas dp/np and the schuts xv and the gear 2000/pro tec zcool or x2 air series

    1. All great shoulder pads! Your son is right on the cusp between wearing youth and adult sized shoulder pads, so sizing can definitely get tough. In my opinion, based on his size and age, I’d suggest going with a larger youth-specific (Junior Varsity) pad, over a smaller adult one. He may only wear it for a season or two, but it’s going to give him more appropriate protection and fit then an adult shoulder pad would. But, to help you in your selection here are the sizes he’d fit into for each shoulder pad you mentioned (please note, the adult shoulder pads are position-specific, but typically that doesn’t change the sizing, so if he plays another position, the size should still fit him):

      Gear Pro Tec Z-Cool Junior Varsity shoulder pads – 3XL
      Gear Pro Tec XS Air JV-F shoulder pads – 3XL
      Douglas DP 25 Series Adult RB / DB / QB shoulder pads – M
      Douglas NP 25 Series Adult RB/ DB/ QB shoulder pads – M
      Schutt XV Flex Adult All Purpose shoulder pads – M

  4. Hi,

    If I am 16″ shoulder length from AC joint to AC joint, and 38″ Chest length,
    should I wear the Armor Flex SMALL or the MEDIUM?

    The Small is 16-17 Shoulder and 34-36 Chest
    The Medium is 17-18 Shoulder and 38-40 Chest

    Thank you, please message back as soon as possible.

    1. Hi Eitan,

      I’ve always been told to focus more on the shoulder measurements, than on your chest measurements when buying new shoulder pads. Because most shoulder pads let you easily adjust the chest fit, that measurement is more of a grey area. The important thing is to have proper coverage of your shoulders, and since there is no play at all in the shoulder coverage of pads, I’d suggest always following your accurate shoulder measurements. Since you fall on the lower end of the SMALL shoulder measurements, I think it would be a better idea to go with a Small, and adjust the chest straps to get a proper fit, than to have too much, and ineffective shoulder coverage, and a more comfortable chest fit with the Medium.

  5. Hey there, I’m a senior in high school & my shoulder width is 17″ measuring from my AC joints using the method you instructed while my chest is 37- 38″. Should I get the small or medium Schutt Armour Flex for adults? Thanks!

    1. Great question, and one that a lot of players wonder about. Generally, if you’re in between sizes, or don’t exactly fit into the description of each size, it’s always better to size up then size down. So in your case, I would definitely suggest getting a Medium Armor Flex. It may be slightly roomy, but with your measurements you would definitely be uncomfortable in a Small, and at the end of the day, a better fitting shoulder pad is going to protect better. When you get it, simply cinch up the 3 point belt system for a better fit around your chest, and you should be good to go!

  6. Hi I am going into my Junior year for high school football and this year i have decided to buy my own pads. I’m 5’10 and my shoulders measured at 15 and a half and my chest measured in at 43 so I’m confused on which pads size to buy and was wondering if you could tell me. Thank You

    1. Hi Tom, that’s a tough question to answer, but I will do my best. Sometimes it is hard to tell if you are doing the measurements correctly and which pads would be most comfortable for you, but here is my advice. I would look at the specific shoulder pad you want and go with one size down from chest size 43. In Riddell, that would be Small. If the pad that you order does not feel like it fits properly, we do have a return policy . I hope this helps and good luck this season! – Isaac

  7. Hello,

    I am interested in the Riddell Power SPK. However, I am able to fit the youth Riddell Power JPK. Are both the pads made of the same plastic? Would the JPK be able to be used playing in an ametur adults competition?

    Thank you

    1. We always recommend that you use adult specific pads when playing in adult leagues.

  8. Hi, I play football and I’m 6’3″ 345lbs I bough some shoulder pads from you guys and I tighten the straps but they sit like three inches above my shoulder when tight… How can I fix this

    1. There is no definitive time frame for switching from youth to JV to Varsity, but your size should dictate when you make those switches. The most important part of safety with shoulder pads is that they fit properly. If you’re outgrowing your youth pads, you should definitely get new JV or Varsity pads that are measured the the right size for you.

  9. My pads fit correctly on my back and chest without moving themselves and restricting full range of motion but they do sit very high above my shoulders is there anyway I can make them come down on my shoulders or will time playing in them do that

    1. Often, your jersey will help bring the pads down to your shoulders if they are sitting a bit high. If that doesn’t help, you may want to test out a different model shoulder pad so that they fit nicely with your back and chest while also resting comfortably on or not very far from your shoulders.

    1. You really should take a look at the size chart for the specific shoulder pads you’re looking at. Not every pad has identical sizing. You should try to stick as close to the sizing guide as you possibly can so your pads can protect you best.

  10. I am Going to order Douglas CP Mr D Snapper football shoulder pads. My shoulders are 20″ I am 5’7″ weigh 180lbs and 41 1/2″ chest. What size do you recommend?

  11. I’m going to play football for my school and its my first season and I’m planning to play Wide Reciver or running back and I don’t know much about shoulder pads for football but I’ve been looking and I’ve noticed that some of the shoulder pads (right about where your colar bone is) are a little bit wider so it looks like they’re for wide recivers for your hands to go higher to catch the foot ball but still I’m confused so please help me.

  12. I just purchased shoulder pads my width measurement says it should fit but my chest size is to big my pads seem tight and feel LIke they don’t go all the way down should I go to next size up ?

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