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There aren’t many shocks to the system quite like a slap check to the arm or a rogue lacrosse shot catching your elbow. Just the memory sends a shiver up the spine of those of us unfortunate enough to experience such horrors.
The importance of lacrosse arm guards and elbow pads cannot be understated—they absorb checks and errant shots, and can be the difference between a light bruise and a shattered bone.
Arm protection in lacrosse comes in three main types that are typically based on the position (attack, midfield, and defense) for which they are worn.
There is no rule as to which position must wear which pad so long as some form of arm protection is worn. But there is a tradeoff between mobility and protection that you should consider based on your position.
- Attack arm guards are longer, bulkier, and designed to withstand the physicality of life around the crease.
- Arm pads for middies are a bit smaller allowing for more mobility while maintaining a decent level of protection.
- Elbow pads for defensemen are easily the smallest and lightest for a position that is more focused on dishing out punishment than absorbing it.
This guide will break down the best arm guards and pads on the market in all three categories and give you the pros and cons of each product so that you find protection that works the best for you or your player.
Best Lacrosse Arm Guards (Typically for Attackmen)
Arm guards are mainly used by attackmen due to their maximum protection. They are longer, bulkier pads that could run from a few inches from your glove to well over your bicep.
These arm guards are designed to withstand the physicality of life in the box and around the crease. They provide the greatest amount of protection for the position that easily receives the most checks out of anyone else on the field.
1) STX Stallion 500 Arm Guards
The STX Stallion 500 Arm Guards are the perfect union of flexibility and protection, making them a great option in the attack arm guard market.
This model is an updated version of previous STX arm guards, and STX has put in the work to upgrade this guard wherever possible.
The biggest upgrade is in the material. HD2 foam is a leap forward from the previous model’s construction, sporting a lighter weight without sacrificing protection. The center pad employs Hex Pro material over the HD2 foam to promote greater flexibility at the elbow.
But, with flexibility comes some downside. The inside of the arm guard does not have any padding, leaving the inside of players’ arms more vulnerable to checks and errant balls. Despite this being a less-checked part of the arm, some other arm guards provide some padding there, whereas the STX Stallion 500 only features a neoprene sleeve.
The STX Stallion 500 is a great arm guard to consider for those players that value both protection and flexibility in their gear.
You can wear this around the crease with comfort in its protective quality, or rock these with the midfield line thanks to their light weight and flexibility that will not weigh down your box-to-box play.
2) Maverik Rome Arm Guards
The Maverik Rome Arm Guards receive high marks for their ability to match protection with a lightweight design.
The Anaform spine coupled with the E-Form Technology contours to the fit of the user. Soft Poron XRD foam at the elbow joint gives the pad a pliable feel but hardens on impact to not sacrifice any protection.
Unique to the Maverik Rome is the singular design of the pad. The elbow cap is molded to the Anaform spine to limit its bulkiness but maintain flexibility.
The drawbacks to this product are the forearm coverage and long-term durability questions inherent to the Maverik line. Reviews note that the pad leaves a decent gap between the arm guard and glove that leaves the forearm exposed. The liner stitching has been noted to begin to tear or lose its elasticity over time.
This arm pad is perfect for a more advanced attackman. It provides maneuverability without undervaluing the protection you require around the crease.
3) STX Surgeon 700 Arm Guards
The STX Surgeon 700 Arm Guard is another solid option from the STX line of protective gear. Like the Stallion 500, the Surgeon values a lightweight design with moisture-wicking technology that keeps the fit comfortable and unobtrusive to all of the moves you need to make around the crease.
Additionally, despite this being one of the newer arm guard models on the market, it isn’t as expensive as some other options.
The downside to the Surgeon comes at either end of the pad. The Surgeon employs an elastic sleeve to cling to the user’s arms. This can be troublesome for smaller players who cannot fill out the pad, possibly causing the arm guard to slip down. A few customers also complained about the pads not providing enough protection for their biceps.
Still, the Surgeon is an arm guard that you will see countless attackmen wearing in the upcoming high school and college lacrosse seasons.
These are great pads for a crease player as they provide maximum protection with no notable gaps between sections and mobility that will not affect a quick-release shooter.
Best Lacrosse Arm Pads (Typically for Midfielders)
Middies have a difficult decision to make when it comes to their selection of arm protection.
Their involvement between the boxes puts a value on speed and range of motion, but they also need protection for when they inevitably get checked in transition or on offense.
Luckily for them, arm pads are the perfect mix of protection and mobility with sizes that are typically between that of an arm guard (attackmen mostly) and elbow pads (defensemen mostly).
1) STX Stallion 500 Arm Pads
The arm pad version of the STX Stallion 500 uses all of the same technology and upgraded material as its arm guard counterpart. But this version of the 500 strips down the excess padding around the upper arm and forearm to make for a streamlined performance that middies gravitate towards.
The Stallion’s positives mirror that of its attacking counterpart. Similarly, its sole drawback comes with the meeting place of the top and bottom pad to the center. There is a potential vulnerability thanks to a slight gap that may appear between the pads depending upon your arm position.
Still, this drawback is even less of a gamble in the midfield as the number of arm checks and threats from errant shots reduces dramatically compared to the attack.
Like the majority of STX products, the Stallion middie arm guard is high quality and high performance-ready. It provides the mobility and weight reduction middies desire without sacrificing much in the way of protection.
2) Epoch Integra Elite Arm Pad
Epoch Lacrosse may be a newer lacrosse company, but that does not deter them from challenging the status quo when it comes to gear—and the Integra Elite Arm Pad is no exception providing great protection without limiting mobility.
ARIAPRENE and molded density foam work in tandem to leave next to no vulnerabilities to the protection offered while still providing a natural range of motion for the user. Labeling this pad as plain would be a miscalculation to what Epoch accomplished—they eliminated all excess padding and other unnecessary material to favor function over fashion (though I must say I really do like the clean look of them, as well).
The lone drawback is in the sizing. This arm pad may run large in comparison to the provided size chart. You may want to purchase the Integra Elite from a retailer with a favorable return policy in case there are any sizing issues.
The Integra Elite offers more padded surface area in comparison to some of its competitors making it a good option for those players who spend a lot of time carrying the ball.
3) Maverik Rome Arm Pads
The middie version of the Maverik Rome shrinks down its arm guard relative without losing any of the performance and comfort in its design.
It sports the same Anaform spine, E-Form Tech, and Poron XRD foam to provide a secure, adjustable fit to its user without sacrificing any of its protective quality.
The only real knock on this pad is the long-term durability questions applicable to this Maverik line. The liner sleeve’s stitching has been noted to begin to tear or lose its elasticity over time which may greatly hamper any extended use of the pad.
The middie specific version of the Rome protective line deserves strong consideration for any middie who prefers a bit more protection as these pads are a bit bigger than others on this list.
Maverik’s balance of protection and mobility lends extremely well in handling the physicality and flexibility of middies who take a lot of checks.
Best Lacrosse Elbow Pads (Typically for Defensemen)
Defensemen and LSMs (and some bold middies) prefer the smallest elbow pads possible to give them maximum mobility.
As a long pole, you dish out a lot more punishment than you receive making arm protection less important. Still, you do need some kind of arm protection based on the rules. In addition, it’s nice to have something there for when you come across a pesky riding attackman.
1) Epoch Integra Elite Elbow Caps
- Colors: Black, Grey, White
- Form-fitting compression sleeve to limit slippage
- Sandwich Locking System for a secure, custom fit
- Composite material for a lightweight, flexible feel
- Hardshell elbow cap for extra protection
- 2-Step Molded Multi-Density Foam for flexibility and protection
Another form of arm protection from Epoch makes our list, this time the Integra Elite Elbow Caps.
Compared to most other elbow pads designed for defensemen, the Integra Elite Elbow Caps have a bit more protection for the lower bicep without limiting mobility.
In addition, the Sandwich Locking System and odor control pay real dividends when it comes to security on the field and longevity as your arm protection of choice.
There are drawbacks to the Integra Elite Elbow Caps, however, depending upon your body type. Larger users have noted discomfort and tightness around the bicep. In the same vein, the cap extends further up the bicep than down the forearm which is not the best prioritization outside of the elbow.
Still, the Integra Elite is a great product to consider for those long poles looking for a bit of extra protection around their elbows and biceps.
2) STX Stallion 500 Elbow Pad
The Stallion 500 Elbow Pad is about as minimalist as you can get for defensive arm protection. It is extremely stripped down without even a strap for security of the wear.
The positives to this are clear: the Stallion 500 is lighter and less hampering to a long pole’s natural movement, while still sporting a main elbow pad for protection.
The downside of this minimalist design is the long-term fit of the pad and the lack of additional protection beyond the elbow. Notably, the compression sleeve’s elasticity, while great in concept, can be prone to slippage for smaller body types and diminishing quality over time.
The Stallion 500 is a great pad for any long pole not looking to break the bank and who also does not mind leaving their forearm and upper arm unguarded.
3) Epoch Integra Elite Defensive Caps
The Integra Elite Defensive Caps is the meeting place between Epoch’s other Elbow Caps and STX’s Stallion 500 Elbow Pad; it sports the minimalist style of the Stallion but with the additional protection and features of its Epoch relative.
The Integra Elite Defensive Caps’ design makes for a lightweight feel that values maximum flexibility for the user. Even if it is stripped down, the Defensive Cap still sports Epoch’s hardshell padding and moisture protection that elevates it amongst similar products.
The addition of a strap to the compression sleeve adds a necessary layer of security to avoid the discomfort of slippage that may occur without it.
The Integra Elite Defense Caps are the top of the line in minimalist elbow protection as they solve the Stallion’s main deficiency while remaining at a competitive price point. This is a great pad to consider for those poles seeking a long-term addition to their gear.
4) STX Cell 4 Elbow Pads
The STX Cell 4 Elbow Pads offer more protection than most other elbow pads while not making the pad much more intrusive to the user.
The improvement to the Cell 4 comes where it’s needed most. The addition of interior tape to secure the pad’s placement is an interesting alternative to a strap. It maintains the stripped-down, lightweight feel of the pad while at least addressing the Stallion 500’s slippage problem.
Still, the longevity and functionality of the silicone tape are questionable in comparison to a strap, but it is still better than nothing.
The Cell 4 strikes a perfect balance between the minimalism of the previous elbow caps and the extra protection of some upper and forearm coverage.
This is a great option to consider for any player that wants more protection and decent flexibility. Middies who prefer elbow pads, especially, may find this an amazing choice.
Lacrosse Arm Pad Buying Guide
Here are some things to consider to find a lacrosse arm guard, arm pad, or elbow pad that works best for you.
1) Position & Style of Play
As touched upon earlier, your position will often be the single most important decider in narrowing down your selection of arm protection. There is some interchangeability between certain positions which is where style of play will enter in as more of a factor.
To reiterate from earlier, attackmen value larger, bulkier arm guards to withstand the inevitable onslaught of stick checks they’ll receive in a game. They need pads that can withstand the physicality while not infringing too heavily upon their ability to quickly react and maneuver with the ball.
Midfielders tend to drift more towards lighter weight and more flexible arm pads that still provide enough protection for when they are in transition or on offense and for those midfield scrums for a loose ball. As they are less checked, the standards for protection become a bit looser.
For most defensemen and LSMs, elbow protection is more of a formality required by the rules than a necessity as they seldom get checked hard throughout the game. They instead value mobility, giving them the freedom to lay checks quickly.
As you grow into the game, you become cognizant of the type of checks your style of play absorbs. For an attackman, this may allow you to experiment with less and less padding around your arms. The same goes for a midfielder: a defensive middie may gravitate more towards the elbow caps of their long pole counterparts than the bulkier forearm protection offered to their position.
The hard and fast rule is more protection equals less mobility, and more mobility equals less protection. Figuring out what arm guards/pads work best for you is weighing your value between these two.
2) Finding the Right Fit
Next to your jersey, your arm protection may be the most size-dependent item that you wear on the lacrosse field. Given the lack of adjustment possible in an arm guard, it is important that you consult the size charts provided on the product page or by visiting the manufacturer’s website to get to the closest approximation of fit that best suits you.
But, you still should not take a size chart as undisputed truth to the fit of the product. It is important that you also consult all available reviews from customers to see if a given pad runs large or small, favors certain body sizes over others, or if there are any other quirks to the fit that may not be clear in the product listing.
We cannot overstate the importance of doing your own research into the sizing because there is nothing quite as disruptive and simply uncomfortable on the field as a slipping or bunching arm pad. Take your time to get it right.
As harmless as sweat seems, it can be detrimental to your immediate play on the field and the long term durability (and hygiene) of your arm pads. An arm guard that gets soaked in sweat can weigh you down and cause distracting slippage in your pads that detract from your play.
Luckily, many arm guards on the market today come prepared for the war on moisture. Most, if not all, employ compression sleeves that wick away moisture, keeping your arm dry and your pads snug. This works in tandem with lighter weight, breathable foam and modern cooling technology to maintain the highest level of comfort for the player.
When researching pads, it is important to look for these breathability features that will support you through the wet Spring and hot Summer days.
4) Strap System
Your preference in a strap system vs mainly compression fit for an arm guard is also important to consider. As mentioned under breathability, compression sleeves provide a natural cling to the user’s arm for initial security in the fit.
However, you may not be comfortable with depending on only compression for the fit of your arm guards. Many options, especially those for attack and midfield, include some form of strap —usually elastic—at both or one end of the pad. This allows players to adjust the fit for themselves, letting them find the perfect balance of tightness and comfort.
There are also some other inventive options. The STX Cell 4 elbow pad, for example, employs an inner lining of silicone tape to supplement the compression fit rather than the added bulk of a strap. You may prefer an alternative solution like this to maintain a more streamlined fit to your arm protection.
5) Customer Reviews
To reiterate from the fit section, customer reviews are an invaluable resource in your search for arm protection. We depended on customer reviews to construct this guide, and you should do the same to see what pads worked for people and what potential hiccups may be present in a given product.
Things like durability are not immediately obvious in a product listing. A customer review can easily tell you if an arm guard starts to deteriorate after a few months of use or if the product has a slipping problem or some other deficiency that affects the wear.
Last but not least is your budget. Arm protection for the most part comes at a premium given the necessary value between protection and mobility.
As you scroll towards the high-end arm guards, the balancing act between protection and mobility skews much closer to equilibrium. The opposite goes for cheaper pads on the market, potentially leaving you to choose between one or the other.
Additionally, the long term viability of your protection is something to consider. The constant wear and tear at these pads could send you back looking for a new option every few months if you rely on a cheaper product.
It is important that you try to stick to your budget, however arm protection is not the best place to cut corners on quality when it comes to your gear.
Other Gear Guides
Here at Lax Drip, we have many other gear guides to help you find your perfect fit. Here are some you may be interested in:
- Best Lacrosse Gloves
- Best Lacrosse Shoulder Pads
- Best Lacrosse Heads
- Best Lacrosse Shafts
- Best Lacrosse Helmets
- Best Lacrosse Cleats
Photo credit: Flickr