The 8 Best Football Shoulder Pads of 2019

Protective gear for players of all levels

Our editors independently research, test, and recommend the best products; you can learn more about our review process here. We may receive commissions on purchases made from our chosen links.

Our Top Picks

Best Overall: Schutt Varsity AiR Maxx Flex 2.0 at Amazon

"An all-purpose design for most positions."

Best Budget: Sports Unlimited Youth Football Shoulder Pads at Amazon

"Ventilated channels help players breathe during the summer."

Best for Youth Football: Schutt Sports Y-Flex Pads at Amazon

"The safest pads on the market for a wide range of positions."

Best for Wide Receivers: Adams VS5000 Varsity Pads at Amazon

"Perfect for easy maneuverability and protection."

Best for Linebackers: Riddell Varsity Power SPX Pads at Dicks's

"Provides strong protection from hard hits and tackles."

Best for Running Backs: Riddell Power SPK+ RB/DB Pads at Amazon

"Give a wide range of motion and specific protection."

Best for Linemen: Douglas Battlefield Lineman Shoulder Pads at Amazon

"Contains reverse cups, massive epaulets, and a strong front piece."

Best for Quarterbacks: Schutt Sports Varsity AiR Maxx at Amazon

"Designed with open-cell foam to absorb hits."

Our Top Picks

Best Overall: Schutt Varsity AiR Maxx Flex 2.0

Schutt Varsity AiR Maxx Flex 2.0

Courtesy of Amazon

The Schutt Varsity AiR Maxx Flex 2.0 is a great option for any football player. Available in the all-purpose design for most positions or the QB/WR style with less padding, backs and linemen can all take advantage of this balanced set of pads. 

The Schutt Varsity AiR Maxx Flex 2.0 pads include TPU cushioning for perfect comfort on the top of the shoulders. This cushioning is paired with D30, which is light and soft and absorbs the most brutal tackles. You can quickly and securely fasten these pads every time with its BioThane belt system. They're designed with a long arch, removable deltoid pads, and improved collar bone protection, so you get an improved fit over the 1.0 design with even more safety features. Schutt has also eliminated “grab points” making it harder for offensive players to get caught and defensive players to be held up at the line of scrimmage.

Best Budget: Sports Unlimited Youth Football Shoulder Pads

Many youth athletes only need shoulder pads for a year or a summer before they start high school football (where all the pads are provided), so there’s no need to overspend. Sports Unlimited offers a reasonably priced set of youth football pads that parents will appreciate. 

These pads come with a dual-layer foam design for hit-absorbing protection. The foam portion of the padding extends longer than the hard plastic pads to offer a bit more protection for the ribs. The entire design is lightweight and made with ventilated channels that breathe during summer practices.

Check out our round-up of the best foam rollers for post-practice stretching.

Best for Youth Football: Schutt Sports Y-Flex 4.0 All-Purpose Youth Football Shoulder Pads

When it comes to youth football players, nothing is more important than safety. The Schutt Sports Y-Flex 4.0 All-Purpose Youth Football Shoulder Pads are some of the safest pads on the market and perfect for younger athletes.

They feature dual-density padding and easy-to-use elastics that attach at three points on the arched plastic for great protection and movement. The mesh material makes them breathable to keep players cool and reduce odor.

Best for Wide Receivers: Adams VS5000 Varsity Football Shoulder Pads

Adams VS500 Varsity Football Shoulder Pads

 Courtesy of amazon

A great set of wide receiver shoulder pads will give you the padding you need to be protected from injuries while providing you the maneuverability to reach that ball way above your head for the game winner. The Adams VS5000 Varsity Football Shoulder Pads do exactly that, balancing movement with protection. 

These lightweight pads are designed with a wider front arch and “deeper cut” that allows you to have complete versatility of arm motion. Lacing up in the front and strapping around the chest makes for a secure fit and easy on/off in the locker room. The pads are short, stopping high on the chest but provide some underarm padding not found everywhere. These pads are small enough for a wide out or wing back, but Adams also makes a larger “all-purpose” option for other backs, backers and linemen.

Best for Linebackers: Riddell Varsity Power SPX LB/FB Football Shoulder Pads

Riddell Varsity Power SPX LB/FB Football Shoulder Pads

 Courtesy of Amazon

Just as linebackers are the hybrid between defensive backs and D-linemen, the best linebacker pads balance a range of movement with the bigger pads necessary for hard hits and intimidation. Riddell’s Varsity Power SPX LB/FB shoulder pads are directly targeted at linebackers with their broad design and easy arm movement. 

These pads use an air management cushioning system to disperse the power of hits, avoiding direct impact. The flat pad design, the STAC shoulder system, and Biothane STAC straps allow for great movement but also protect the AC joint. The straps and belts create a comfortable and secure fit while the stainless steel hardware guarantees long-lasting toughness.

Take a peek at our roundup of the best football cleats.

Best for Running Backs: Riddell Power SPK+ RB/DB Football Shoulder Pads

Running backs need shoulder pads that will protect them from the hits and tackles at the line as well as providing the range of motion to catch a pass out of the backfield. The Riddell SPK+ RB/DB Pads give you the best of both, with a STAC shoulder pad system and attached backplate.

Riddell uses the flat pad design and RipKord Technology for reliable protection that doesn’t limit motion. Many of the pads and sections are detachable or moveable, to allow you to customize the fit to your preference. The collars are velvet and the hardware is stainless steel, giving you a secure but comfortable fit. These pads, which are available in sizes XS-XXXL, are great for running backs but also work well for cornerbacks, safeties, and special teamers.

Best for Linemen: Douglas Battlefield Lineman Shoulder Pads

Most linemen like their pads to have a little more heft and size than those for running backs or wideouts. For offensive linemen, this size makes it easier to block blitzes from coming across the line. For defensive linemen, you get a bit more size to hit the blockers off the line and get to the quarterback. The Douglas Battlefield Lineman Shoulder Pads are simple and effective pads for linemen on either side of the ball. 

These pads have a popular flat-pad design to disperse energy. Pair these with the “air management system,” open-cell foam, and the lightweight design, you get a lot of maneuverability and protection. They also feature reverse cups, massive epaulets, and a strong, solid plastic front piece for impressive blocking and hitting power.

Looking for more options? Check out our article on the best football helmets.

Best for Quarterbacks: Schutt Sports Varsity AiR Maxx Flex 2.0 Football Shoulder Pads

Quarterbacks will love the Schutt Sports Varsity AiR Maxx Flex 2.0 Football Shoulder Pads. With small shoulder coverings and larger chest and rib protection than the all-purpose version of these pads, they give quarterbacks the ideal range of arm movement necessary to throw and sneak, while protecting the signal-caller from devastating sacks. 

These pads are designed with open-cell foam that features “microscopic air chambers,” allowing for a more compact and lightweight design that still absorbs hits. The Maxx Flex 2.0 pads include a high-performance arch design as well as D30 energy lock tech. You also get an attached backplate with these pads for added protection.

Our Process

Our writers spent 6 hours researching the most popular football shoulder pads on the market. Before making their final recommendations, they considered 23 different football shoulder pads overall, screened options from 12 different brands and manufacturers, read over 20 user reviews (both positive and negative), and tested 3 of the football shoulder pads themselves. All of this research adds up to recommendations you can trust.

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