Because a hockey goalie is on their knees a lot during a game, it's imperative their leg pads fit properly. The goalie's knee must fit securely where it is designed to, in the pad's "knee cradle" or "knee lock.” Pads that are too big or too small will cause the goalie's knee to miss the inside pads and land directly on the ice, which can cause significant injury.
To achieve a precise fit, bend your leg slightly and measure the length of your shin, from the center of your kneecap to your ankle. Then, measure the length from the center of the kneecap to the mid-thigh. Add these two measurements together, along with your skate size, and an additional inch or two for extra padding. The resulting number should allow you to find leg pads that will fit properly.
Here is an example calculation:
- Skate size: 10
- Ankle-to-knee: 18"
- Knee-to-thigh: 7"
- Extra padding: 1"
- Approx. pad size: 10 + 18 + 7 + 1 = 36"
The 1" of extra padding helps goalies with their butterfly position and provides extra five-hole coverage. More experienced (typically adult) goalies often add 2" to their measurements instead, so the calculation above may vary.
To accommodate growing goalies, we recommend that the center of the goalie's knee is no lower than 1" from the exact center of the knee lock and that the inside of the knee contacts the knee riser. To make sure the pad fits properly, strap it to your child's leg while they're wearing skates and see where the knee lands in the cradle.
Some manufacturers recommend using a "floor to knee" measurement formula for their leg pads. This process involves measuring the distance from the floor to the center of the kneecap in a sitting position, and then comparing this measurement to their size chart to determine the pad size.
GOALIE LEG PAD SIZING
Goalie leg pads typically fall into four age groups and sizes:
Youth (4-6 yrs.)
- Size: 22"-24"
- Width: 8.5"-9"
Junior (6-10 yrs.)
- Size: 25"-30"
- Width: 9.5"-10"
Intermediate (11-13 yrs.)
- Size: 29"-31"
- Width: 10"-10.75"
Senior (14+ yrs.)
These are general size guides and may not correspond exactly to an individual player's dimensions or age.
HOCKEY GOALIE STYLES
Before you skate too far down the buying and fitting road, it's important to know the goalie's preferred style of play. Generally speaking, today's goalies play one of two styles: Reaction/Hybrid or Blocking/Butterfly style. Each style demands different features in leg pads.
Goalies who play in this style rely on their reactions to make quick saves. They typically demand maximum mobility from their pads and prefer to catch, trap, or cover most shots. The Reaction/Hybrid goalie wants rebounds to stay close to the pads.
Since mobility and a dampened shot rebound are important, goalies playing in this style generally prefer leg pads with:
- Breaks above and below the knee
- A tapered boot and/or offset boot channel
- Knee rolls (sometimes)
- A "softer" pad stuffed with both rigid and shredded foams for dampened rebounds
Goalies who play in this style move less in the crease and rely on positioning, patience, and size to make saves. They often move laterally on their knees and attempt to block or deflect shots rather than catch and control them. The Blocking/Butterfly goalie wants rebounds to travel as far as possible from the crease.
Since positioning and blocking are important, goalies playing in this style generally prefer leg pads with:
- Either one break below the knee or no breaks at all
- A squared boot section
- Flat-faced fronts (no knee rolls) for more directional rebound control
- A "harder" pad stuffed with mostly rigid foams that propel rebounds from the crease
THE ANATOMY OF GOALIE LEG PADS
Goalie pads include many features. In order to find the leg pads that best suit your style of play, it'll be helpful to know the names, locations, and function of the many leg pad features.
EXTERIOR PAD FEATURES
This is the stuffed roll on the outside edges of the goalie's leg pad. Outer rolls help prevent the puck from impacting the top of the pad and "skipping over" it into the net. This is where pad breaks are located, which help determine the pad's flexibility.
Pads with zero breaks in the outer roll are typically more rigid—good for goalies with a wide butterfly stance who don't need a flexible pad to close the five hole
Pads with one or two breaks in the outer roll flex more easily at the knee.
"Single break" pads include one break below the knee and are good for goalies with a moderately wide butterfly stance, who need a little extra flexibility to close the five hole.
"Double break" pads include breaks—one above and one below the knee—and are good for goalies with a narrow butterfly stance who need a flexible pad to close the five hole.
The thigh rise is the pad facing that rises above the knee rolls or knee area. Most current pads come with a +1" size, meaning the pad extends an extra inch at the top for added five-hole protection in the butterfly position. Some larger model pads offer a +2" size.
KNEE ROLLS OR KNEE AREA
Knee rolls, usually in a group of three, allow for additional pad flexibility through the knee area. They're generally constructed with one of two materials:
- Shredded foam, with a rounder shape to help deaden puck impact
- Rigid foam strips, with a flatter shape for more predictable rebounds
The alternative to rolls is a "flat" knee area that lacks rolls. The construction here is a sheet of flat, high-density foam that keeps the knee area rigid, increasing the predictability of puck rebounds.
TOE TIE/ SLIDING TOE BRIDGE
The toe tie and sliding toe bridge attach the bottom of the leg pads to the goalie skate.
- Toe ties allow the goalie to snug the bottom of the pad close to the toe of the skate. This helps the pad "re-center" to its original position after a butterfly save.
- Siding toe bridges help keep the skate toe close to the bottom of the pad but allow for skate movement along the bridge channel. This movement decreases the stress on a goalie's ankles in the butterfly stance.
INTERIOR PAD FEATURES
The thigh guard is an added piece of protection attached to the goalie's knee or thigh area. It's usually laced through tabs above the knee lock and is removable.
The knee lock is a pair of padded foam sheets on either side of the knee area. With the use of a Velcro strap, the lock holds the goalie's knee to the pad, helping the pad maintain the correct position.
KNEE STACKS/KNEE RISERS
The knee risers are found adjacent to the inside edge of the knee lock. These pads can come as sheets of foam and nylon laced together (stacks), or as larger blocks of foam (blocks). Knee stacks can often be added to or removed from a pad with existing stacks.
The leg channel is the channel on the inside of the pad that runs from the knee lock to the ankle area. Leg channels vary by pad width and pad style:
- Deep, narrow leg channels, often found in "hybrid"-style pads, are helpful in keeping the pad tight to the leg and thus help the pad stay more centered on the leg while moving.
- Shallow, wide leg channels, often found in "butterfly" or "blocking"-style pads, allow the pad to rotate to a position perpendicular to the ice more easily in the butterfly.
The calf lock consists of sheets of foam padding on either side of the leg channel in the calf area. It often comes with a Velcro strap that secures one side to the other across the goalie's calf. Calf locks protect the calf area and lock the goalie's shin into the leg channel.
Note: not all leg pad models include a calf lock.
The boot channel is the pad area that sits on the goalie skate. Like leg channels, boot channels can vary by depth and width.
The medial edge refers to the inside edge of the leg pad that comes in contact with the ice in a butterfly position.
HOW TO PUT ON GOALIE LEG PADS
Once you have determined the appropriate pad style and size, the next step is to attach them to your leg. For the proper fit, it's essential to try on the pads while wearing both goalie pants and goalie skates.
STRAPS AND TIGHTNESS
The straps behind the pad are meant to be worn loosely, especially on the top half of the pad. The only exceptions are the knee cradle and calf wrap straps (if your pads have them). If your pads are strapped tightly, you will not be able to butterfly properly. The leg pad needs to fit loosely enough on the leg so it can rotate into the butterfly position.
- Attach the toe ties to the pad.
- Run the bootstrap through the back hole of the skate cowling, keeping the strap approximately 1-2 holes outside of snug.
- If the pad has a calf-wrap strap, attach this to your desired level of tightness. Attach the calf straps from the top of the boot to the bottom of the knee approximately 2-3 strap holes outside of snug.
- Attach the knee and/or thigh straps. These can be worn the most loosely of all the straps. We recommend attaching them approximately 4-5 holes from snug to begin.
- If the pads come with attached knee/thigh protectors, tighten the straps around the knee and thigh and tuck the pad underneath your pant leg.
The toe ties are the strings at the toes of the pad and are designed to make sure the skate and pad move together.
First, make a knot ¾" to 1" from the toe bridge of the pad. This allows you to tie the laces tightly but still allows the pad to shift enough when using the inside edges for lateral movement. Without this knot, the pad will be too snug and may grip the ice instead of the skate blade, causing the foot to slip from underneath the pad.
LACING TOE TIES
There are multiple ways to lace toe ties. Here is the most common and easiest tying method:
- Align the knot of the toe tie to the toe of the skate. Take one lace to the right side of the skate and the other to the left and then loop both through the first hole of the skate holder.
- Pull the laces tightly and repeat step 1 through the second hole of the skate holder.
- Pull tightly and lift both laces over the top of the skate and tie them tightly.
Part of the fun of learning to play a specialized position—like a goalie in hockey or catcher in baseball—is wearing specialized gear. Goalie leg pads might sound complicated and may require many steps to get them on properly at first, but with practice, you'll soon be suiting up like Carey Price.
New to hockey or buying goalie gear for your child? Refer to our handy goalie equipment guides for everything you need to know before making your purchase. Pure Hockey carries goalie leg pads and everything else you'll need for game day. And our Low-Price Guarantee promises the most competitive prices available.