Do footballers have to wear shinpads?

Jack Grealish, small shinpads
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Do footballers have to wear shinpads? What was once a statement of the obvious has now been cast into doubt. More and more players at the highest level seem to be entering the field with rolled down socks that couldn't possible cover some shinpads.

Manchester City's Jack Grealish is probably the most famous example in the modern, wearing football socks that barely reach his calves.

Do footballers have to wear shinpads?

Yes, every single player must wear shinpads. Under section 4.2 of the laws of the game (opens in new tab), which outlines compulsory equipment for players, it lists "shinguards", stating:

"Shinguards – these must be made of a suitable material to provide reasonable protection and covered by the socks".

That's pretty clear, then. But it still doesn't explain why some players, erm, don't seem to be wearing them. The answer is simple: some footballers just wear really, really small shinpads.

Take a look at the photo of Jack Grealish below, for instance – you can just make out some very small shinpads poking out of the top of his socks.

Jack Grealish, small shinpads

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Why do some footballers wear really, really small shinpads?

Some footballers find that wearing small shinpads gives them greater mobility and comfort, and only wear shinpads at all in order to comply with the rules.

For Grealish, it is more about the ability to wear his socks rolled down.

“Obviously your socks are supposed to go above your calves,” Grealish told Birmingham Live (opens in new tab) during his Aston Villa days.

“But one year when I was here, the socks once shrunk in the wash. So they wouldn’t go higher.

“That season, I ended up playing really well. So it became a superstitious thing for me. I thought ‘I’m going to keep doing this because I’ve done well’.”

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Conor Pope
Online Editor

Conor Pope is the Online Editor of FourFourTwo, overseeing all digital content, and joined the team in February 2019. He plays football regularly, both on grass and artificial surfaces, and has a large, discerning and ever-growing collection of football shirts from around the world.


He supports Blackburn Rovers and holds a season ticket with south London non-league side Dulwich Hamlet. His main football passions include Tugay, the San Siro and only using a winter ball when it snows.