Introduction to Shoulder Pads & Why Size Matters
As a former high school linebacker, I know firsthand how important it is to have properly fitted shoulder pads. The right size and shape can be the difference between preventing an injury or ending up on the injured reserve list. But choosing those pads isn’t always straightforward, even when you have experience under your belt.
I’ll never forget showing up to summer training camp my sophomore year. I had grown a couple inches over the offseason but figured my trusty old shoulder pads would still do the trick. Boy, was I wrong. Those pads were suddenly too small and constricting in all the wrong places. Not only was I roasted by coaches for looking sloppy, but I also started developing nagging shoulder and neck issues during tackling drills.
That’s when I learned proper shoulder pad fit isn’t about what feels comfortable at first. It’s about finding pads tailored to your current size that give you full mobility while protecting vulnerable joints and muscles. If the pads are too big, they’ll slide around and leave you exposed. Too small, and they’ll pinch nerves and restrict your athletic performance.
But with so many sizes and styles of football shoulder pads on the market, how do you determine what’s best for your body type and position? I’ve picked up some helpful fitting tips over the years that I want to share. Let’s walk through the key measurements and factors to get the pad size right.
Measuring Up: Critical Shoulder Specs
Your shoulder width is the starting point for finding the right pad size. Just wrap a soft measuring tape around the broadest part of your shoulders and upper back. For most adult males, shoulder width falls between 14 to 20 inches. Women generally measure between 12 to 16 inches across.
But those numbers only tell part of the story. The contours and slope of your shoulder also determine what size range you should be considering. Having a teammate or coach analyze your shoulder’s shape from the front and side as you stand straight with arms relaxed can provide valuable insight.
Players with more squared-off, broad shoulders do best in larger, wider pads to encapsulate the shoulder joint. If your shoulders have a sharper slope or narrower build, scale down the pad size so it sits flush along the deltoid without gapping or pinching.
Positioning the Pads Precisely
Your on-field position also factors into proper shoulder pad specs. Skill players like wide receivers require maximum freedom of motion, so more streamlined, contoured pads are ideal. Linemen need thicker, more protective pads that shield the impact of clashing bodies in the trenches.
For instance, quarterbacks and defensive backs should have enough raise along their trapezius and deltoid to deflect hits without totally engulfing the shoulder. Loosen or remove attachments like epaulets and caps for greater mobility. Meanwhile, linebackers and linemen will benefit from more robust padding and collars to take the brunt of blocks and tackles play after play.
Try simulated tackling drills in different pads to gauge how well you can move your arms and shoulders without compromising protection. Your coaches can spot check for proper fit around your neck, shoulders and chest.
Height, Weight and Pad Width
Your height often directly correlates with shoulder width, so use it as a reference point for sizing. Here are some general width guidelines based on player height:
- Under 5’5″ = 10″ to 13″ pad width
- 5’5″ to 6’0″ = 13″ to 15″ width
- Over 6’0″ = 16″ to 20″ width
However, also factor in your weight, body type and muscle development. A shorter but stockier player may need a jump in pad width to ensure full shoulder coverage. The same goes for someone with an exceptionally thick neck or trapezius muscles.
Conversely, a lighter framed player can likely get by with more streamlined pads in a smaller width, even if they’re on the taller side. Always try before you buy to assess fit.
Get the Right Thickness for Protection
Shoulder pad thickness through the chest and back plates also varies. Thicker pads with more padding layers provide increased shock absorption. But mobility typically decreases.
For hard-hitting positions like linebacker and lineman, thicker pads around 1 to 1.5 inches are ideal. Lighter skill players should look for low-profile pads under 1 inch thick to preserve speed and flexibility.
Epaulets, collars and bicep guards can also add targeted thickness and protection. Just don’t go overboard piling on attachments if they’ll impede performance.
Advantages of Adjustable vs. Fixed Shoulder Pads
Many high-end shoulder pads now feature adjustable features that allow you to customize fit on the fly. For example, some models have removable pads or extenders to enlarge the width. Others use interchangeable attachments like epaulets or collars to modify thickness.
This adaptability ensures you get a dialed-in fit as your body changes. It also helps fine tune protection based on your position or comfort needs. However, adjustable pads are typically pricier than traditional fixed designs.
Fixed shoulder pads still offer solid protection if you nail down the right size from the start. They also tend to cost less than adjustable options. Just make sure to get re-fitted anytime you gain or lose a significant amount of weight.
Finding the Best Fit for Young Athletes
Determining the right shoulder pad size for youth football players brings added complexity. Their bodies grow rapidly through puberty, so sizing needs frequent reassessment.
Youth pads are scaled down versions of adult models, available in sizes to fit players under 5 feet tall. Major manufacturers like Schutt and Riddell offer adjustable features on many youth models to accommodate growth spurts.
Some parents size up to small adult pads to allow room to grow. But be careful going too big – oversized pads can shift and leave young players vulnerable.
Your best bet is measuring your child’s shoulders every 4-6 months and having coaches evaluate fit during practice. Swap out pads at the first sign of pinching or gapping.
Mix and Match for Comfort
Don’t be afraid to mix-and-match pad components from different manufacturers or use aftermarket accessories to customize fit. For example, swapping out a fixed collar for an adjustable neck roll may relieve pressure points.
Just make sure any frankensteined pads meet the same safety standards as the original model. Using uncertified off-brand parts could compromise function and protection.
Prioritize Quality Construction for Durability
Shoulder pad shells made from long-lasting, impact-resistant materials like polycarbonate alloy can withstand seasons of heavy hits. High-density EVA or PU foam offers superior shock absorption over lower-grade foam.
Premium pads often carry a steep price tag but resist wearing down or warping over time. That durability saves you from frequent replacement costs in the long run.
Inspect used pads for cracks or deformities along the shell, shoulder caps and epaulets. Fraying stitching around attachments can indicate needed repairs.
Proper Maintenance Keeps Pads Performing
Speaking of durability, keeping your shoulder pads in prime shape involves some regular maintenance:
- Wipe away dirt and sweat after use to avoid salt and grime buildup
- Sanitize interior lining and foam occasionally with antimicrobial spray
- Use leather conditioner on straps to prevent cracking
- Air dry pads fully between uses to avoid mold or mildew
- Hand wash removable padding components when dirty
With some basic care, your shoulder pads will deliver reliable protection for seasons on end.
Getting Professionally Fitted for Custom Pads
For players who want a truly tailored fit, custom-made shoulder pads provide a personalized option beyond off-the-rack models. The specialized design process involves:
- Taking dozens of precise shoulder measurements
- Crafting a custom pad pattern based on your specs
- Molding high-density foam and plates to match your contours
- Assembling the pads with your choice of components and style
While expensive, custom pads offer unmatched comfort and flexibility by accounting for your body’s unique nuances. Just be prepared for a long lead time when ordering.
Shopping for Shoulder Pads Online
The rise of internet shopping has made accessing a huge selection of shoulder pad brands and models easier than ever. But I recommend caution when sizing and buying pads sight unseen.
Reading through customer reviews can help identify how certain pads tend to fit. Focus on feedback from players with body types similar to yours. Some brands run large or small.
If possible, purchase from retailers with free returns in case the pads don’t work out. It’s just tough to gauge nuances like strap adjustments and overall comfort without trying them on.
Your local sporting goods store may have some pads available to test. But selection is often limited during the offseason. Ultimately there are no shortcuts – make time to test prospective pads at camps or pre-season practices.
Finding shoulder pads that check all the boxes for protection, comfort and performance takes effort. But that investment will have you ready to attack the gridiron with confidence.
Common Shoulder Pad Sizes for Men & Women
When embarking on the quest for perfectly fitted shoulder pads, one of the first steps is determining your general size range. While every player’s body is unique, shoulder pads typically come in standardized sizes based on gender and usual variations in shoulder width.
Understanding these common size charts provides a helpful starting point before fine-tuning fit further. Manufacturers like Schutt and Riddell have their own sizing, but some general estimates for adults are:
Men’s Shoulder Pad Sizes
- XS: less than 34″ chest
- S: 34-38″ chest
- M: 38-43″ chest
- L: 43-48″ chest
- XL: 48-53″ chest
- XXL: 53″+ chest
A good rule of thumb for men is your chest size correlates closely with proper shoulder pad width. Measure around your pecs to get an idea of the pad width range to start with. Smaller men under 5’8″ tall often fall into XS or S. Average men up to 6′ tall usually fit the M to L sizes. Larger and taller men find their match in XL or XXL.
Women’s Shoulder Pad Sizes
- XS: less than 30″ chest
- S: 30-33″ chest
- M: 33-37″ chest
- L: 37-41″ chest
- XL: 41″+ chest
Again, chest circumference gives a general gauge of which women’s size group to start with. Petite women under 5’4″ tend toward XS or S pads. Average height women fit into M or L. Larger and taller women will likely need XL sizing.
Tweaking Fit Within Size Ranges
Keep in mind these size charts merely provide ballpark estimates. Two men with 42″ chests could still need different pad widths based on shoulder slope, arm length and muscle mass.
That’s why most manufacturers offer 2-3 width options within each size range. Take measurements of your specific shoulders to determine ideal fit beyond just chest circumference. Epaulets, collars, and other attachments also help modify fit.
Factors Beyond Size
Your position and pad features must also sync up with basic size parameters. Skill players need more mobility from slimmer pads, while linemen require maximum protection from thicker padding.
Likewise, adjustable pads with removable components offer more customization of width, thickness and attachments. Fixed pads limit you to what’s built-in based on size.
View general size charts only as a starting point before dialling in the right specs and styling. Don’t be afraid to test multiple sizes around your initial estimate.
While pad dimensions rely on some standardization, your body is one-of-a-kind. Let precision measurements be your final guide to finding that perfect, tailored fit.
Measuring Your Shoulder Width for Proper Fit
Pinpointing the ideal shoulder pad width for your frame starts with accurately measuring your shoulder span. While factors like chest size and position impact overall fit, your shoulder width sets the foundation.
Follow these steps to measure up properly:
- Stand straight with your arms relaxed at your sides. Have a partner help get accurate measurements.
- Use a soft, flexible tape measure. Rigid or rough materials could skew measurements.
- Wrap the tape horizontally across the broadest part of your shoulders and upper back. Keep it flat and snug but not constricting.
- For the most precise width, measure across the prominent ridges of bone at the edge of each deltoid muscle.
- Perform multiple measurements for consistency. Shift the tape slightly higher or lower with each pass. Average the results.
- For men, typical adult shoulder widths range from 14-20 inches. Women usually measure 12-16 inches across.
- Write down your exact width to compare to size charts when shopping.
Armed with your precise shoulder span, you can narrow the field when evaluating different pad widths. But keep in mind other physical attributes also impact ideal fit:
- Players with sloped or sharp shoulders need a more contoured pad shape.
- Broader, squared-off shoulders require maximum width to encapsulate the joint.
- Long arms mean you need extended shoulder caps for coverage.
- Thick neck muscles necessitate roomier collars and trapezius padding.
Test potential pads in a range around your measured width to find the best match for your physique. Move up or down a size as needed to eliminate pinching or gapping.
Don’t assume padding labeled “medium” will automatically work for your medium-sized frame. The variance of half an inch in pad width can make a huge difference in comfort and flexibility.
Likewise, adjustable pads allow you to customize width as needed. So focus more on your precise shoulder span than standardized sizing when selecting optimal models.
Dialing in the right pad width requires looking past approximate size charts to your body’s unique specifications. So take the time to measure accurately and use that baseline for comparison when finding your perfect shoulder pads.
Matching Pad Size to Your Shoulder Pad Position
Shoulder pads for different playing positions require specialized fitting to match needs on the field. Size parameters like width and padding thickness must align with the role and responsibilities of your position.
For example, a wide receiver relies on freedom of motion to run routes and catch passes. A linebacker needs maximum protection against hard hits on tackles. Getting the right pad size and specifications prevents injury while optimizing your performance.
Here are key size considerations by common football positions:
Quarterbacks and Defensive Backs
Agile skill players like quarterbacks and defensive backs thrive in lighter, lower-profile pads. Look for small to medium pad widths sized to your precise shoulder measurements.
Padding thickness should be under 1 inch to preserve mobility. Streamlined Epaulets and collars that contour flush to the shoulders also facilitate movement.
For quarterbacks, removable rib protectors and back plates allow modifying protection if needed in the pocket.
Running Backs and Wide Receivers
Speedy running backs and receivers also require light, breathable pads for quick cuts and bursts. Lean toward medium or smaller sizing with thin padding Sections that articulate well and won’t shift or slip are ideal.
Minimalist epaulets that won’t impede arm extension when carrying the ball or reaching to catch are best. Consider models with built-in girdle belts or tight torso fit to keep pads stable.
As an impact position, linebackers need larger, thicker pads engineered to withstand collisions. Look for medium to large sizing with 1 to 1.5 inch padding thickness.
Robust epaulets and collars help deflect blows from blocks and tackles. Make sure shoulder caps extend far enough down the deltoid for full coverage and protection of the joint.
The big guys battling in the trenches require the biggest, toughest pads. Opt for XL sizing or go custom-fit for linemen frames.
Maximum padding thickness over 1.5 inches disperses intense contact. Neck rolls, rib guards and extended shoulder caps protect vulnerable areas.
Look for adjustable features like removable pads or extenders to fine tune the right amount of protection and mobility.
While position-specific fitting is critical, also consider your physique within the role. For example, a leaner tight end can size down versus a stockier linebacker.
Test different pad configurations to find your ideal balance of comfort, flexibility and protective padding. Get input from coaches to ensure pads suit your position properly.
Choosing Pad Size Based on Your Height & Weight
While precisely measured shoulder width sets the foundation for proper pad size, factors like your height and weight also influence the ideal fit.
In general, taller players need wider padding to fully encompass their expanded shoulder span. Shorter athletes can size down to more streamlined shoulder pads. But there are some guidelines to follow based on your stature.
Height Size Recommendations
- Under 5’5″ = 10″ to 13″ pad width
- 5’5″ to 6’0″ = 13″ to 15″ pad width
- Over 6’0″ = 16″ to 20″ pad width
Use your height as a starting point for sizing ranges, then zero in through on-field testing. A long-armed 6’2″ receiver may need extended shoulder caps, bumping him up from medium to large pad width.
Weight and Body Type Factors
Player weight and build also impact ideal shoulder pad size beyond just stature:
- Stockier frames need wider, thicker pads for coverage.
- Heavier players require breathable padding materials.
- Muscular necks need roomier collars.
- Leaner athletes can size down for mobility.
For example, a muscular 5’10” linebacker could opt for large pads over a medium width better suited for his height alone. His expanded chest, shoulders and neck require the extra room.
Conversely, a taller but lanky 6’2″ receiver can get away with narrower pads if they match his thin shoulders. Prioritizing mobility helps maximize his speed and agility.
Balance Protection and Flexibility
Aim to get the snuggest pad fit without restricting movement or comfort. Loose pads shift and slide, while overly compressive pads pinch nerves.
During sizing, simulate football stances and movements. Raise your arms overhead fully extended to ensure pads don’t impinge mobility.
Adjustable features like swappable padding sections or sizing extenders help customize fit across different body types and positions.
While height and weight offer helpful starting points for sizing, choosing pads requires a holistic view. Just make sure to factor in your complete physical profile when finding that ideal fit tailored to you.
Getting the Right Pad Width for Your Body Type
Shoulder pad width must align with your specific body type for ideal protection and performance. Players with broader, squared-off shoulders need maximum width pads. Narrower, sloped shoulders call for a more contoured, streamlined pad shape.
Here are some fitting tips based on common shoulder structures:
Broad, Squared Shoulders
Players blessed with a broad, strongly defined shoulder structure require larger pad widths to fully encapsulate the joint.
Look for shoulder cap length that extends just past the edge of the deltoid muscle for full coverage. Padding should wrap around the shoulder without pinch points or gaps.
Avoid pads with an extreme slope or arch that don’t align with your shoulder’s natural shape. Maximum surface area contact distributes impact evenly.
Narrow, Sloped Shoulders
Athletes with a sharper shoulder slope need narrowly tailored pads that won’t slip out of place.
Seek out pads with an arched cut contoured to your shoulder line. Extended cap length helps keep pads anchored in a tackling position.
Remove unneeded epaulets and collars that can float and shift on narrower frames. Focus on a flush, seamless fit across the deltoid.
Trying Before You Buy
Assessing your shoulder structure helps narrow optimal pad shapes and widths.
But only simulated practice in different pads will determine what truly complements your body type best. Move through football motions like blocking, tackling and arm extensions to test fit.
Analyze how the pads sit at rest and when muscles are fully flexed. Any gapping, pinching or chafing means refining the width and contours.
While manufacturers offer general sizing ranges, your shoulder’s distinct build requires a custom perspective. Keep testing pads until achieving that perfect personalized fit.
Finding the Correct Pad Thickness for Protection
Finding shoulder pads with optimal thickness is crucial for staying protected against hits and blows on the field. But more padding isn’t necessarily better for performance and safety.
Here are some guidelines for selecting pads with the right thickness by position:
Quarterbacks, receivers and defensive backs need maximum mobility from thinner pads under 1 inch thick. Ultra-low profile designs keep these speedy players light on their feet without restricting motion.
Look for padding layers made from breathable, sweat-wicking materials to avoid overheating. Single sheet HD foam or perforated padding allows airflow.
Maneuverability is key, so size down thickness until pad movement becomes restricted in your position.
Linebackers withstand tackle after tackle, so moderately thick pads from 1 to 1.5 inches provide solid shock absorption.
Dual-density foams or removable interior pads help fine tune thickness for finding the sweet spot between protection and flexibility.
Focus on extra thickness over collar bones, shoulders, and rib areas for deflecting blows. Thick epaulets also diffuse impact from blocks.
The heavy lifters on the line require max thickness pads over 1.5 inches thick to withstand intense contact.
Robust padding across chest, rib and shoulder regions disperses impact of clashing bodies in the trenches.
Premium materials like customizable poly-lock foams and flexible carbon fiber plates provide lightweight protection against repeated poundings.
Remember – thicker doesn’t automatically equal better. Too much padding can bind movement and overheat players.
Perform position drills in any pad under consideration to ensure full, unhindered mobility. Adjust thickness until finding your optimal balance of protection and flexibility.
Getting pads tailored to your role with smartly designed, right-sized padding thicknesses eliminates gaps that leave you vulnerable on the field.
Adjustable vs Fixed Shoulder Pads: Pros and Cons
When selecting new shoulder pads, one key decision is whether to choose an adjustable or fixed design. Both have benefits and limitations to consider.
Here’s an overview of the pros and cons of adjustable vs. fixed shoulder pads:
- Customizable fit as your body changes
- Swap components like epaulets and collars
- Fine tune protection and mobility
- Accommodate growth spurts in youth
- More expensive than fixed pads
- More parts may increase potential for malfunction
- Sizing exchanges often needed to dial-in fit
- Less expensive than adjustable
- Simple sizing based on set dimensions
- Fewer parts and seamlines
- Often lighter weight than adjustable
- Limited in adapting fit over time
- Replacement needed if gain/lose significant weight
- Lack customization of padding thicknesses
Try on both adjustable and fixed pads during sizing to determine the right balance of customization versus cost. Test mobility in different configurations.
While adjustable offers more flexibility, fixed works well if sized accurately from the start. Shop smartly based on your current needs and future growth predictions.
Buying Youth Sizes vs Smaller Adult Sizes
Finding well-fitted shoulder pads for young athletes in their rapid growing years requires some savvy shopping. Parents often debate between buying true youth sizes versus simply sizing down in adult pads.
Here are some tips for choosing the right path for your child:
Youth Shoulder Pad Sizing
Leading brands like Schutt and Riddell offer shoulder pads designed and sized specifically for youth players.
Key features of youth pads include:
- Smaller, contoured shoulder cap shape
- Adjustable components to accommodate growth
- Flexible, lightweight padding materials
- Built-in girdles for secure fit
- Removable parts to modify protection
Sizes range from extra-small for players under 100 lbs up to youth large for middle school ages. Measure your child’s shoulder width to determine best fit.
Downsized Adult Pads
Some parents opt to save money by sizing down in adult pads instead. This can work but be careful going too small.
Considerations when buying adult pads for youth include:
- Stick with adjustable designs only
- Inspect padding condition closely if used
- Remove unneeded parts that restrict movement
- Prioritize shoulder cap length for coverage
Ill-fitting hand-me-down pads compromise protection and performance. Visit shops that allow on-field testing of any pads.
Properly fitted youth shoulder pads build confidence and skills for young players. So invest in the right pads tailored specifically to your child’s current size and needs.
Mixing & Matching Pad Sizes for Comfort
Most football shoulder pads come as complete units in standard sizing. But for some athletes, mixing and matching pad components from different brands and sizes can optimize comfort and protection.
Customizing your pads by mixing sizes gives you options like:
- Pairing smaller shell width with thicker padding
- Combining different brand caps and epaulets
- Swapping standard collars for adjustable neck rolls
- Adding aftermarket ribs, biceps and spine protectors
Hybrid pad configurations allow dialing in fit for body nuances. For example:
- A short, stocky player can size up padding without going bigger on the shell.
- A long-armed athlete can pair longer shoulder caps with a smaller torso width.
- A thin-necked player reduces chafing with a third-party padded collar wrap.
Some key guidelines for mixed and matched pads:
- Ensure shell and padding originate from regulation brands
- Verify aftermarket accessories meet safety standards
- Check for attachment and sizing compatibility
- Don’t overload with unnecessary elements
Test any frankensteined configuration thoroughly for mobility and stability before game action. But exploring mix-and-match sizing could unlock your ideal combination of protection, performance and comfort.
Identifying Quality Features: Materials & Durability
Shoulder pad construction directly impacts protection and longevity. Seek out premium materials and components that provide durability play after play.
Look for these indicators of quality when shopping for new pads:
- Polycarbonate alloy shells resist cracks and retain shape.
- Carbon fiber composite shells offer lightweight strength.
- Avoid pads with plastic shell components.
- Select high-density EVA or PU foams over standard low-grade foams.
- Dual-density foams optimize flexible cushioning.
- Perforated padding enhances breathabilty and airflow.
- Metal alloy or coated steel hardware avoids corrosion.
- Nylon straps with ample adjustment range add durability.
- Avoid pads with plastic clips or loose stitching.
- NOCSAE logo confirms third-party safety testing.
- Manufacturer’s ID and date verify authenticity.
- Beware of pads missing key labeling.
Prioritizing premium pad construction provides reliable protection for many seasons of use and abuse. The investment up front saves money over frequent pad replacements.
With a bit of materials knowledge, you can identify durable, high-performing pads engineered to go the distance on the field.
Care & Maintenance: Keeping Pads in Good Shape
Shoulder pads can totally transform an outfit, helping create a bold silhouette or a more powerful physique. But like any garment, shoulder pads require some care and maintenance to stay looking their best. Here’s how to clean, store, and repair your shoulder pads so they maintain their structure and shape.
Most shoulder pads can be gently hand washed and laid flat to dry. Use a mild detergent or soap and lukewarm water. Gently knead and squeeze the pads to remove dirt and oils. Rinse thoroughly. Reshape the pads and lay flat on a towel to air dry. Avoid using hot water or putting shoulder pads in the washing machine or dryer, as this can distort their shape.
Storing Shoulder Pads
After air drying shoulder pads, store them in their original packaging or in breathable garment bags. Make sure they are completely dry before storing. Allowing moisture to remain can promote mold growth. Store padded garments with the pads sewn in to maintain the garment’s structure. Hang padded garments on wide, sturdy hangers to support the extra weight of the pads. Keep all shoulder pads in a cool, dry place and avoid humidity or hot conditions.
Check shoulder pads regularly for signs of wear, tearing, or holes. Small holes can be repaired with iron-on patches or stitched closed by hand. Torn seams may need re-sewn and loose padding re-secured. Remove damaged pads by snipping any interior stitches and install new shoulder pads of the same size and thickness. When inserting new pads, carefully hand stitch to secure in place within the garment lining. Use a whip stitch and sturdy thread to avoid future tearing.
Re-Shaping Misshapen Pads
Sometimes shoulder pads can lose their form, becoming flattened, creased or bent. Lay the pad on an ironing board and cover with a damp cloth. Using a medium heat setting, gently press over the pad, applying pressure to re-shape and smooth. Use caution not to scorch or melt any pad materials. Allow the pad to fully cool and dry before re-installing into a garment. Repeat steaming and shaping as needed.
Finding the Perfect Shoulder Pad Size for You: Become a Linebacker Overnight
Shoulder pads can provide that finishing touch, taking an outfit from drab to fab. But finding the perfect shoulder pad size is essential for comfort, aesthetics, and functionality. The right pad size helps create that ideal shoulder line without going overboard. Consider your body dimensions and style goals as you select the ideal shoulder pads for your wardrobe needs.
Measure Across Shoulders
Determining the width of your natural shoulder line is key for finding well-fitting pads. Have a friend or sales associate help take an across shoulder measurement. Keeping the measuring tape parallel to the floor, measure from the tip of one shoulder’s acromion (the outer edge of the shoulder) across your upper back to the acromion of the opposite shoulder. Record this measurement to find shoulder pads about the same width or slightly smaller.
Consider Garment’s Shoulder Width
The garment’s existing shoulder width is also important for selecting pads. Measure straight across the garment’s shoulders from the shoulder seams. Compare this to your across shoulder measurement to find pads about the same width or up to an inch wider. The garment’s shoulder width sets the upper limit for pad size. Going too wide creates an awkward overhang.
Determine Ideal Pad Thickness
Pad thickness is measured in inches or millimeters and affects structure and silhouette. Thin pads from 1/4″ to 1/2″ add light shaping. Medium pads around 1″ subtly broaden shoulders while maintaining a natural look. Thick pads 1 1/2″ to 2″ create a pronounced shoulder line, excellent for strong tailoring. Consider your style goals and build in determining thickness.
Use a Shoulder Pad Size Chart
Consult a sizing chart to compare your measurements against standard pad dimensions. Charts provide width, thickness and garment size conversions. Look for your across shoulder measurement to find the suggested pad width in both inches and millimeters. Pick pads around your shoulder width but at least 1/2″ smaller to avoid overhang. Combine with your desired thickness.
Try On Different Pad Sizes
It’s smart to try on garments with varying shoulder pad sizes. This helps you see the aesthetic effects first-hand. Try both wider and more narrow pads, as well as different thicknesses. Observe the shoulder line. Too small can cause collapsing. Overly large creates an unbalanced, squared silhouette. The right size provides defined shoulders without obvious padding.
Consider Intended Use
How and where you intend to wear the padded garments also guides size selection. Subtle pads work for daywear. Need padded shape for a formal event or photo shoot? Go larger. Athletic pads with more padding excel for contact sports. Get the desired look and function by factoring in your intended use.
Work With a Tailor
When in doubt, consult an experienced tailor. They can assess your measurements, garment, and style needs. A tailor may sew test pads temporarily into a garment to preview sizing. This helps identify the ideal shoulder dimensions and thickness to achieve your desired silhouette before making permanent alterations. Their expertise can ensure the pads complement both you and the garment.
Finding perfectly sized shoulder pads helps polish off any look. With some measurement comparisons, garment assessments, and fit trials, determine the ideal pad dimensions to take your outfit to the next level. The right fit not only shows off great style, but also maintains comfort so you can confidently wear those bold shoulders all day long.
Custom-Fit Shoulder Pads vs Off-the-Rack
When upgrading your wardrobe with shoulder pads, you have two main options – custom-fit tailored pads or off-the-rack pre-made pads. Each has its own pros, cons and considerations when aiming for that perfect shoulder silhouette. Understanding the key differences helps determine which choice suits your needs and style goals best.
Precise Fit with Custom Pads
The major advantage of custom-made shoulder pads is the ability to get an exact fit for your body and garment. An experienced tailor takes detailed measurements of your shoulders, back, and the garment to create pads sized just for you. This precision helps the pads complement your proportions and frame for a natural look.
More Size Options
Custom pads allow choosing from a wider range of sizes not found pre-made. Get the exact shoulder width, thickness, and length ideal for your shoulders and garment. Tweaking proportions evens out asymmetries and adapts to unique fitting needs. Optimize both comfort and appearance.
Personal Style Input
Collaborate with your tailor to design pads that match your personal style. Select specialized fabrics like felt, quilted cotton or foam. Choose thickness for desired drama or subtlety. Incorporate unique shapes, curved profiles, or built-up necklines. Customize decorative accents. Personalize pads to complement your look.
A tailor can ensure custom pads properly align with the garment itself. They insert and secure pads into the ideal position to suit the garment’s cut and design. The pads integrate neatly into seams and darts for minimal bulk. Careful placement balances and lifts the whole garment.
The made-to-order nature of custom pads involves more time, effort and materials which increases cost. Expect to invest $75 to over $200 for custom shoulder pads from a high-end tailor. Price varies by materials used and complexity of design and sizing.
You’ll need to budget extra time for the design process, multiple fittings and pad construction. This may mean leaving a garment with the tailor for several days or weeks before pads are complete. Plan ahead when padding a garment for an upcoming event.
Off-the-rack shoulder pads offer the advantage of convenience. Many sizes and styles are readily available for immediate purchase and use. Simply pick a style and size close to your needs for easy upgrading without the wait.
Buying pre-made pads costs much less than custom, with prices ranging from $5 to $40. Even high end ready-to-wear options pale in price compared to custom. Affordability makes it easy to experiment with different looks.
Some Size Variety
While not as flexible as fully custom pads, pre-made pads come in a useful range of standard sizes. Choose from different thicknesses like thin linebacker pads or thick power shoulder dimensions. Widths span average to broad. Consider petite and plus sizes too.
Style and Material Options
Ready-made pads offer lots of styles like cap sleeves, raglan shaping and embellishments. Materials range from lightweight polyester to sturdy foam. Try bold colors. Peruse options to find pads suiting your style sense, build and needs.
May Not Fit Perfectly
The major downside is standardized sizing rarely fits every body perfectly. You may need to size up for width then trim down for length. Expect some trial and error finding the closest match to your proportions.
Less Control Over Design
With pre-made pads, you get what you get. You can’t fine tune the exact shape, seam placement or height. Work within the available selection to get as close as possible to your shoulder goals. Mix and match pairs for better fit.
Weigh the pros, cons and your budget to decide between custom-made and ready-to-wear shoulder pads. Custom promises a precision tailored fit but costs more. Pre-made offers affordability and convenience though the fit may not be exact. Either option provides a great shoulder silhouette upgrade.
Shopping Online for Shoulder Pads: Tips & Reviews
The internet opens a whole world of shoulder pad options beyond what’s available locally. Online shopping makes it easy to find the perfect pads to give your outfits that bold silhouette. But with so many retailers, how do you choose? Consider these tips for finding and assessing online stores for the ideal shoulder pads.
Search by Your Measurements
Rather than randomly browsing pads, first determine your body and garment measurements. Your across shoulder width and preferred pad thickness will help filter options. Search retailers using those specific dimensions to immediately see choices that should fit.
Reference Size Charts
Use retailers’ size charts to compare your measurements against their pad sizes. Charts convert measurements to SKUs to pinpoint your best fit. Consider if you need standard, petite or plus sizing. Match your shoulder width but size down in thickness if between pad sizes.
Check for Helpful Customer Photos
Look for actual customer photos of shoulder pads purchased, not just stock product images. Customer pics show how different sized pads fit on real people. See how widths and thicknesses compare visually on bodies similar to yours. Reference customer images to gauge the right proportions.
Read Fit Reviews
Don’t just look at overall star ratings, read through individual customer reviews focused on pad fit. See what body types and shoulder measurements a pad fit well or ran large/small for. Cross check your measurements with reviewers’ for the best gauge of what may fit you best.
Search for shoulder pads with ties, straps or closures that allow fit adjustments. Adjustable fastenings let you tweak the width and shape for your perfect personal fit. Ties and hooks customize off-the-rack pads to suit your body.
Ask About Return Policies
Online shopping lacks the ability to try before you buy, so check out return policies. Know if you can return just for fit reasons even if the pads are undamaged. Pick retailers that allow returns so you can exchange if the size is off.
Shop Sites with Free Shipping/Returns
To avoid sunk costs on pads that may not fit right, use online stores offering free shipping BOTH ways. Free return shipping means no wasted money if you need to exchange for a different size. Only pay when the fit is right.
Look for Detailed Specs
Get the facts on material, thickness, closure types and care recommendations. This detailed info helps determine if specific pads match your needs and outfit fabric. Consider if a style is dry clean only or allows machine washing.
Don’t buy the first shoulder pads you see, comparison shop. Search by your size across retailers to find the best deal. Consider discounts and coupons from online stores as well. Finding the right fit for the right price is the ultimate goal.
Check Company Reviews
Research the eCommerce business itself before purchasing. Look for complaints about shipping delays, damage, or billing issues. Check BBB ratings. Vet an online retailer thoroughly so transactions go smoothly.
Ask for Style Advice
Reach out to customer service before buying with any pad style or size questions. Many eCommerce companies have fashion consultants or fit experts. Ask for guidance to ensure you get pads flattering for your body and outfit style.
Order Multiple Sizes
Since you can’t try on pads, consider ordering your best guess size along with the next size up or down. This allows you to compare fit of multiple sizes at home. Keep the pair that structure your shoulders best, return the rest.
With attentive research and reviews, you can zero in on shoulder pads that fit great without in-person testing. Use these online shopping strategies to upgrade your silhouette in confidence and style.
Consult the Experts: Getting Professionally Fitted
Finding that perfect pair of shoulder pads on your own can prove tricky. For truly tailored sizing and expert style advice, consider getting professionally fitted by a tailor, seamstress or costume designer. Their skills help analyze your proportions, assess garments, and identify the ideal pads to elevate your look.
A professional’s exacting measurements provide key data for identifying well-fitted pads. They’ll carefully measure the length and width of your back, shoulders, arms, and torso using industry techniques. These detailed dimensions give clear size parameters for pads suited to your body.
Bring the garment you wish to pad to your fitting. The expert can analyze its construction, silhouette, shoulder width, armscye depth and more. This shows precisely how pads need to integrate with that specific garment’s cut and fabrication.
Trying Sample Pads
During your fitting, a tailor may have you try on various sample shoulder pads so you can visualize the effects first-hand. See how different sizes, shapes and thicknesses alter your shoulder line and the garment’s drape. Finding the most flattering dimensions and angles gets easier.
The pro helping you understands principles of proportion. They use measurements and fittings to select pads suited to your body’s lines and ratios. The right shoulder width and thickness balances out your bust, waist, and hips for an aligned look.
Dress Style Knowledge
Trust professionals versed in garment construction, historical costuming, current fashions and fitting principles. They expertly correlate your measurement data, body type, and dress style to recommend appropriate shoulder pad shapes and sizes.
Custom Design Input
During professional fittings, you can discuss your desired aesthetics, silhouette goals, and any asymmetries you wish to downplay. This collaborative approach results in shoulder pads tailored to your needs.
Follow Up Fittings
After initial measurements, a tailor may request you return for additional fittings as pads are constructed. Multiple sessions perfect the shaping, alignment, and drape until the shoulder pads achieve the optimal look.
Professional fitting services vary in price but expect to invest around $75-$150 for the complete process including measurements, sample fittings, pad selection, and any follow up needed. This provides invaluable expertise.
Make sure to budget ample time for a thorough professional fitting process. In addition to your hands-on fitting appointment, construction time is needed for any custom-made pads. But the results are worth it.
Learn Proper Placement
An expert fitter instructs you on properly inserting shoulder pads within specific garments. Learn how far down the armscye to position pads and techniques for discreet stitching. Master pad use and care.
During your fitting, a tailor can identify any needed garment alterations to complement new shoulder pads. Consider adjusting armscye depth, taking in side seams, or realigning darts or princess seams around new pads.
Confidence in Fit
Professional pad fitting provides peace of mind you’ll achieve the perfect shoulder line for your body and style needs. Enjoy the confidence of personalized sizing, shaping and alignment.
To gain expertise tailored to you, invest in a professional shoulder pad fitting. Skilled assistance takes the guesswork out of sizing so you feel fabulous in those bold new shoulders.