How to Buy Goalie Leg Pads

Hockey Goalie Leg Pads Buying Guide

Here is some advice from on how to buy Goalie Leg Pads


Goalie leg pads are worn by goaltenders to protect their legs from pucks, sticks, skates, and anything else that they might encounter during game play. Every goalie has his own style of play and his own set of preferences when it comes to the gear he chooses to wear. The function of the pads, which is to protect, remains the same from one pair to the next – but we're not comparing apples to apples, so it's important to make note of the many options that are available to you as an individual player.

Leg Pad Construction & Materials

Goalie leg pads are constructed with various materials, such as synthetic leather, nylon and different types of foam padding. Different types of materials are used for each specific part of the leg pads, enabling manufacturers to construct the pads in such a way that the leg pads will offer optimal protection, comfort and durability. Of course, the quality of the materials used varies from one pair of pads to the next, so you shouldn't be surprised to find that $1500 leg pads offer superior comfort, protection, weight and durability when compared to leg pads in the $300 price range. We'll discuss some of the pros and cons of the materials used for each part of the leg pads, as well as the different functions and purposes that they serve.

Leather Straps vs. Nylon Webbing Straps

Leather Straps

Elite level goalie leg pads are usually equipped with leather straps and metal buckles. Leather straps have been used for many decades and are still the preferred choice of most elite goaltenders, due to the comfort and superior fit that they provide. They are just a bit heavier than nylon webbing straps, but in the opinion of most goaltenders, the durability and ease with which they can be adjusted certainly makes up for the small amount of added weight. You may find that some mid to high end pads will use nylon thigh straps rather than leather thigh straps. This is because the thigh straps are typically worn very loose and require less frequent adjustment.

Nylon Webbing Straps

Mid level and introductory level goalie leg pads are typically equipped with nylon webbing straps and quick-clip buckles, also known as alligator clips. Nylon straps can sometimes be cumbersome to adjust, but once you've set the straps to the desired length the quick-clips are very easy to use. Nylon straps and plastic clips are more cost-efficient for manufacturers, but they aren't necessarily inferior to leather straps – many goalies actually prefer the convenience of quick-clips and nylon straps over the classic fit and feel of leather straps and buckles.

Leg Pad Foam

In the past, manufacturers used materials such as horsehair and shredded packing foam to stuff the leg pads for protection and comfort. With the evolution of the material fabrication industry, more cost-efficient, higher-quality materials are now used to pad the walls of goalie leg pads. Goalie leg pad manufacturers will often use a proprietary type of foam (Shred Pak, Flex Pac, etc.) or various combinations of high-density foams and lower-density foams in their pads.

High density foams are used on the front and sides of the leg pads to help the pads retain their stiffness and shape, as well as providing great protection. Lower density foams are used to deaden the puck upon impact, which aids the goaltender in controlling rebounds. Lower density foams are also used in the interior leg channels to make the pads more comfortable to wear. Most high-end leg pads are constructed with proprietary foams or a combination of 2 to 3 foams of various densities. Entry level and mid level pads will most often use single-density foam to reduce cost and production time.

A high-quality pair of goalie leg pads will be constructed with several different types of foam which are strategically placed to target the goaltender's need for comfort, protection and mobility. This is one of the features that you pay the extra cash for – light, durable, comfortable padding.

Outer Shell Materials

The outer shells of most goalie leg pads, especially higher quality pads, are constructed with synthetic leather, which is lighter and more cost-effective than authentic leather. Synthetic leather is also more durable and less likely to retain moisture, unlike authentic leather which tends to become much heavier over the course of a game. The side walls of many higher quality leg pads are made with synthetic leather as well, although some are constructed with high grade nylon.

Mid and lower level goalie pads are covered in heavy gauge nylon or Cordura to further reduce the weight and cost of the pads. These types of pads are normally for inline or street hockey use because nylon and Cordura are more prone to moisture absorption on ice surfaces. In addition, the durability and protective capability of these materials lend themselves more to inline hockey and street hockey and are not as well-suited for ice hockey. While inline goalies often use what's considered to be an ice pad, like the Bauer Vapor X:40 Goalie Leg Pads, using inline and street pads such as the Tour EVO 6000 Goalie Leg Pads or Mission Grommet Goalie Leg Pads on the ice should be avoided at all costs because they do not provide ample protection on the ice. Ice hockey pucks are much harder and heavier than inline hockey pucks and street hockey balls.

Leg Channel Materials

The interior leg channels of goalie leg pads are typically constructed with nash leather and/or nylon. Some goalies have a strong preference regarding the leg channel materials because of the differences in texture and water absorption. Nylon leg channels usually allow the pads to rotate on the goalie's legs a little easier than nash leather leg channels, which can be beneficial for butterfly goalies. Nash tends to provide a more secure fit, which is usually preferable for hybrid style goalies. This is just a minor detail, but still worth noting.

Butterfly vs. Hybrid

When you're looking to purchase a set of goalie leg pads, one of the questions you should ask yourself is whether you're a true butterfly goalie or a hybrid goalie, since pads are generally constructed to suit a particular playing style. This is not to say that a hybrid goaltender cannot use butterfly leg pads, or vice versa, but there are distinct differences in the general construction of each leg pad type that enable a goaltender to perform certain maneuvers more easily and effectively.

Butterfly goalies rely heavily on positioning and technique, spreading both pads flat on the surface in order to take away as much of the lower net as possible – while still maintaining a big, upright position with their chest, arms and hands to minimize the amount of net a shooter sees. Hybrid and "ProFly" goalies tend to use a combination of butterfly, half butterfly and stand up styles and react to the shot, putting greater emphasis on their reflexes and athletic ability, rather than relying quite as heavily on perfect positioning in order to make saves.

Here are some of the features to take note of regarding the differences between Butterfly and Hybrid style goalie leg pads:

hockey goalie butterfly hybrid leg pads

Butterfly Pad Features

  • Flat face, pre-curved shape with no breaks on the vertical/side rolls. We are now seeing some manufacturers implementing internal flex breaks to allow some flexing of butterfly style pads.
  • Butterfly pads are built to be fairly stiff (especially from the knee to the tops of the thighs), which allows them to hold their shape and limit bleed-through on shots – especially through the 5 hole.
  • Thicker landing pads for knees (these are usually removable and adjustable). The thickness also varies depending on the quality level and maker of the pad. Thicker landing pads help reduce the strain on the hips and knees when in the butterfly position.
  • Butterfly pads also have thicker calf risers to help maintain pad contact with the ice when in the butterfly.
  • Shallower shin cradle to allow pads to rotate easier when butterflying.
  • Squared up thigh and boot provide maximum coverage.

Hybrid Pad Features

  • Traditional knee rolls (can be round or flat). Traditional knee rolls make it easier for a goaltender to flex the pads at the knees.
  • Flex cuts on vertical side rolls (usually 1 to 3 cuts) above and below knees for easier flex.
  • Thick landing pads to protect goaltender's knees when "flopping" down.
  • Deeper shin cradle to ensure pads stay in position as goalie moves around.
  • Top of thighs may be angled inward for increased mobility, but most are now squared up to help with closure of the 5-hole when using the butterfly.

Goalie Leg Pad Sizing

Leg pad sizing can be a little bit tricky because every manufacturer uses a slightly different method when measuring their leg pads. It would be nice if you could simply look at a height chart and find the corresponding size – unfortunately, there's a bit more that goes into it. The standard method for goalie leg pad sizing is based on the following formula:

  1. Your Skate Size
  2. Ankle to knee measurement (inches)
  3. Knee to thigh measurement (inches)

a + b + c = Your Leg Pad Size

So, for example, if you wear size 9 skates (a), have a 17" ankle to knee measurement (b), and you measured 7" from your knee up to the point on your thigh where you'd like the leg pads to reach (c), you should probably be wearing 33" leg pads. I say "probably" because personal preference and manufacturer specificity come into play. The very best way to size yourself up for goalie leg pads is to try on the pair that you plan on purchasing. The method above is fairly accurate, but sizing consistency from manufacturer to manufacturer is still a little bit of a crapshoot. Your odds are "good", not "great". Use the formula as a general guide and you should be able to come within 1" of the appropriate size for you.

Goalie Leg Pad Sizing Guide