Which gear? Goalkeeping kit buying guide

Discussion in 'Goalie Zone' started by Folmer, Feb 8, 2015.

  1. Folmer

    Folmer FHF All Time Great

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    Introduction and disclaimer
    There are a lot of questions about goalkeeper(GK) kit on the forum. Also a lot of the same questions keep popping up, including the same answers. This is not a problem as we are here to help each other, but I thought it might be a good idea to bundle the answers in one thread for reference.

    The first couple of posts will be some general information and buying tips, later posts will provide some brand and type specific information.

    Some of the information here are my own opinions, some is based on the combined experiences of the members of this forum. I have tried to write this article as neutral as possible and it is in no way my intention to discredit or promote any specific brand. Also I am not connected to any brand, reseller or any other company in the hockey industry.
     
    #1 Folmer, Feb 8, 2015
    Last edited: Feb 8, 2015
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  2. Folmer

    Folmer FHF All Time Great

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    General information
    Kit buying rules
    For buying kit there are a few simple rules:
    1. Don’t save money on the important bits.
    The important bits are (in order of importance):
    a. Helmet
    b. Groin/Pelvic protector
    c. Kickers
    d. Hand protectors
    e. Bodyprotector
    f. Legguards
    g. The rest​
    2. Try before you buy
    3. You get what you pay for
    4. Don’t mix-and-match brands with kickers/legguards, but you can do it with everything else.

    Brands
    There are lots of brands around selling GK gear. The most used brands are:
    - Obo
    - TK
    - Monarch
    - Mercian
    - Grays
    - Brabo
    - Mazon
    - Gryphon
    - Several other smaller brands.

    Each brand offers kit for most levels of the game, but how well they perform is very different per brand. The goalkeepers playing at international level are usually sponsored and the kit they use is often personalised, so the simple fact that you see a certain brand being used there doesn’t tell you anything about their off-the-shelf product.

    There are some on-line retailers which offer ridiculously cheap sets of foam kit. For these: see rule 3!

    Performance
    Performance can be defined by protection, fit and wear, additionally rebound can be a factor. The amount of rebound required is a personal preference, although most prefer more rebound to make one-time clearances easier.

    Most of the times the first indication for the performance of gear is the price, see rule 3. Secondly you can have a look at what other goalkeepers are wearing, especially if they have bought their own gear. Most buy gear which provides best value for money, while still providing the protection required for their level of play.

    What protection level do you need?
    Of course we all want the best of the best, but GK kit costs a lot of money and we can easily save a couple of pennies to get the gear for the level we actually need instead of what we want.

    The thing to consider is: what level will you realistically end up and in what time will you probably get there.

    If you are an U12 GK it is a waste of money to buy top level gear, even if you have national team aspirations and potential because you will have to replace the gear before you get to that level. If you are a senior at your “end-level” it is of course a lot easier to determine what level you require.

    Fit
    Most brands offer a sizing chart, which is usually fine for legguards and kickers, but most of the times useless for body protection and shorts. This is because the shorts may interfere with the legguards, body protection may overlap the shorts and no two bodies have the same shape. It is therefore very important to try kit on before buying it, not just shorts and bodyprotectors, but everything.

    Buying online may be cheaper, but buying the wrong size will be more expensive in the long run.

    Be aware that almost all kit needs some breaking-in period.

    Wear
    Before talking about wear: one of the key things to increasing lifespan is maintenance. Don’t leave wet kit in the bag, don’t leave it in direct sunlight, don’t sit on the bag, store kickers done up, etc… (more on maintenance in this thread)

    There are two types of wear: wear due to contact with the pitch and other items of the kit; and wear due to loss of protection. Loss of protection is mainly an issue for kickers and gloves and to a lesser extent for legguards, but not so much for other items. Wear due to contact friction is for all items, but mainly kicker wear due to turf abrasion.
    When playing on a sand based pitch the wear is much higher than when playing on water based turf. Thus the surface you will be playing on can be a factor in deciding which gear to buy. This is mainly an issue for kickers as they are in constant contact with the turf, but also to a lesser extent for legguards, shorts and gloves.
    For shorts the wear is concentrated on the outer shell due to sliding. Therefore a thing to consider when buying shorts is how easy it is to repair. Some shorts have removable padding which makes them easier to repair and also to wash.
    Wear on gloves is mainly loss of protection due to the shots they face, but also wear from the turf when sliding and diving.
    Body protection wears due to the separate padding sections rubbing against each other, this can often be repaired by a needle and thread.

    Helmets wear is a different story, this depends strongly on the materials used in the helmet.
    If a soft foam padding (usually Vinyl-Nitrile) is used in a helmet this will break down in time and has to be replaced at least once every two years. Some helmets use a harder foam combined with softer comfort pads. This harder EPP plastic will retain its protective properties in time, but after a very hard and localised hit it may be crushed and lose its protection. This loss of strength is not always visible so after such a hit (which is very rare in hockey) it is wise to replace the helmet.
    The shell of the masks are made from either plastic or fibre materials bonded with a resin. Plastic helmets and those where a polyester resin is used are susceptible to breakdown due to sunlight exposure. This usually takes a couple of years to become noticeable, so when a helmet becomes older it is something to be aware of. Fibre helmets built using an epoxy resin do not have this problem so the can last a lifetime, but this is reflected in the price.

    Another very important item on a helmet is the grill. Be aware of rust on the grill, especially around the welds of the bars and the screws holding the grill in place. When after a hard hit bars are bent NEVER bend them back, but replace the grill.

    Foam composition
    A very important factor in a lot of performance items is the composition of the foam.
    • Softer foam is lighter
    • Softer foam generally creates more rebound
    • Softer foam wears quicker, both in protection and external wear
    For most goalies wear is more important than the other factors so most of the time harder foam has preference.

    Buying kit
    If there is a local shop you can go to, go and talk to them. Try on kit, see what options there are. You can frequently get a better deal on a full kit, and they should be willing to mix & match stuff for you as well. And in general, supporting your local shop is a good thing. Also you should talk to someone who is a goalie or at least knows a fair bit about goalie stuff.

    If possible try on kit from other goalies at your club or the opposition if possible to see how you get along with different stuff.
     
    #2 Folmer, Feb 8, 2015
    Last edited: Apr 14, 2016
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  3. Folmer

    Folmer FHF All Time Great

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    Items
    Below some considerations to take into account when buying a specific item of kit are described.

    Kickers
    The kickers are obviously the most used item in a goalkeeper’s set. It is therefore very important that they are fit for your level of play.

    Because kickers are the most used item, they will also wear quickest. So when you need to buy them yourself the average cost per year is usually the most important factor in the decision which brand and type to buy.
    The lifespan of a set of kickers is best described in usage, not time. A 1st team player training 4-5 times a week facing 100+ km/h—all on target—will obviously go through a set of kickers much quicker than a lower-team goalie with the same set training once a week facing average shots of 75 km/h while half the shots miss the goal. The first might need two sets a year, while the second can get 4–5 seasons out of a single set, possibly even more.

    Obo is generally regarded as having the least amount of wear, but the price reflects this. The lifespans of other brands are more or less equal to each other. Expect to replace your kickers at least once before needing to replace the legguards.

    Legguards
    Legguards are often overrated for importance. Although they do have to protect you against shots, the frequency is nowhere near that of kickers or hand-protectors, and legguards are usually pretty bulky so even lower level types will be able to take quite a beating without getting hurt in them. They are also quite often the most expensive pieces of the kit so they are an easy item to save money on.
    Most brands allow to mix-and-match items from different levels of their kit, so you can use Level 1 kickers with Level 3 legguards (and vice versa). Mixing kickers and legguards of different brands is usually a bad idea although some brands use the same mould which allows for mixing and sometimes a small tweak and tinker is enough to make it fit.

    Some legguards allow you to “surf” on them when sliding, others stick more to the turf. Twisting is an issue for some legguards, some legguards are more forgiving of different sliding techniques. You might need to adjust your sliding technique to the legguards of your choice, or choose the legguards to match your sliding technique.

    Groin-/Pelvic-guard
    This is possibly the smallest and cheapest piece of kit, but still one of the most important ones. And not just for men, women can feel the same kind of pain as a man from a good hit in that area. A good groin-/pelvic-guard can not only save you from a lot of pain, but more importantly from infertility and several other very painful conditions. This is one piece which should be compulsory for both men and women.

    Most groin guards are good enough for the regular goalie; just make sure you get one that fits properly. It needs to stay in place properly, not restrict movement, and be big enough so everything will fit inside. Abdomen protection is advisable if your shorts don’t offer protection there, which most don’t.

    Shorts
    In the early days of hockey the only thing available were ice hockey player shorts. Some GKs still use them, but the protection is inadequate for hockey goalkeeping. It is always better to buy a pair specifically designed for hockey.

    Hockey goalkeeping short come in many shapes and sizes, but can generally be divided into two types:
    - All-in-one
    - Girdle
    The girdle type can subsequently be subdivided into Velcro-girdles and pull-up girdles.

    The all-in-one shorts are, as the name describes, a one-stop solution. You put them on and are ready to go. The girdle on the other hand is a shell—usually made from stretchy material like Lycra—which holds the protective padding and requires a separate protective outer shell to protect the girdle from excessive wear (covershort). While the all-in one shorts do not require a covershort it is advised to wear them over these as well because they are usually hard to repair once damaged.
    The advantage of the girdle is that the stretchy fabric holds the padding in place a lot better than the usually baggy all-in-one shorts which increases protection and movability. This is especially true for the Velcro-type shorts as they are easy to adjust and put on just as tight as you want. Because girdles are stretchy and more adjustable, they cover a wider range of fits and sizes than the all-in-one shorts.

    Some tight fitting all-in-one type shorts are currently available, the padding in these stays in place really good and movability is great.
    Another advantage of girdles is that the padding can be removed, this makes them very easy to repair and wash. Some all-in one have this as well, but most don’t.

    Obo recently brought to market the Robo Bored shorts. This is an all-in-one short which can be adjusted almost the same as the velcro girdles. It has rave reviews especially for protection, however it still has to prove its durability and I do not know how easy it is to repair.

    Body protector/armour
    This is a very important piece of equipment as it protects all the organs which reside inside your body, i.e. the heart, liver, lungs, etc., plus there are several nerve junctions (or plexus) which can result in severe injury if hit. Think about it very well before saving money on this item.

    There are body protectors available made entirely from foam. These are fine for U14 kids, but beyond that I recommend using ones where the padding is encased in fabric (body armour) because the protection of these is usually a lot better. Some even have solid plates across the chest to distribute impact forces.

    As a hockey goalkeeper is very active, this is one item which requires a really good fit, also in combination with the shorts, so it doesn’t restrict movements.

    Elbow- and arm guards
    The need for arm protection is a point of debate between goalkeepers. The debate concentrates on being fully protected versus the ability to move freely. In the end, there is no right or wrong in this debate, it is just a question of personal preference. And the best part is: there are so many different guards available that you can choose virtually any point between the two ends.
    You can choose to not wear any, wear a pair of volleyball guard just to fend off turf-burn, a pair of ice-hockey elbow guards to protect against stray balls, or go for the full arm guards and be able to use your arms as extra stopping area. And there are many options inbetween the ones mentioned above still.

    If you have the chance to try guards from fellow goalkeepers, try as many as you can and then decide which setup is the one for you. When you are not sure which setup is for you better err on the side of more protection, it’s easier to remove protection than to add.
     
    #3 Folmer, Feb 8, 2015
    Last edited: Aug 9, 2016
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  4. Folmer

    Folmer FHF All Time Great

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    Hand protectors
    Hand protectors are, after kickers, the most used piece of equipment. As for kickers it is therefore important to get a pair which fits your level of play. Also it should fit your style of keeping.

    For the right hand protector (RHP) there are basically two types: The tube, like the Obo HiControl and Mercian Xtreme, and the upright type like TK and Obo HiRebound. There are also some hybrid models available like the Mercian Ultimate and Obo HR+.
    In the tube style RHP it is usually easier to get the stick flat on the ground and wrist movement is very good. The upright models have a larger stopping area. The hybrid models try to combine the best of both model, with mixed success.
    Which type of RHP is for you is a question of personal preference.

    The left hand protector (LHP) for all brands is mostly a big block of foam, the only difference is the way it is secured onto your hand/wrist. Some must be gripped to have full control others are held on at the wrist. Again, which one is for you is personal preference.

    Helmet
    With all helmets the most important thing is fit. Better to use a slightly lesser protecting one with a perfect fit than a top level helmet with the wrong fit. There are helmets around made specifically for juniors, make sure you do not use them above the intended age range.
    There are two styles of helmets: The ice hockey player helmet (in combination with a grill and dangly throat protector) and the full mask.

    Some people would advise against the use of ice hockey player style helmets, but all the evidence I have seen in my many years of hockey shows that they are a safe choice... as long as you use one with a high enough level of protection.
    For a grill you can use the HM30 cateye on any helmet around. Several different types are available including a "pro" with thicker bars than standard and one certified for use in ice hockey. Be sure to always use the J-clips to catch the grill and transfer the energy of a hit to the helmet instead of your jaw.

    Because the padding in a mask type helmet is usually a lot thinner than a player's helmet, it is important to get a stiff shell if you are facing hard shots. So for lower speeds a plastic (PolyEthylene) helmet is good enough, but for the average men's game I would recommend a helmet made from fibreglass at the least (even at the lowest levels there are some very hard hitters). For higher level games consider helmets incorporating Carbon or Kevlar fibres.
    You can also have a look at ice hockey goalie masks, those are usually stronger but also a lot heavier. This is because they have to be strong enough to resist harder shots and puck edge hits. Since a ball has no edges a hockey specific mask can be lighter. The lack of edges is also the reason that a player style helmet is good enough for field.

    There are certain masks with a reputation of being a bad choice. The TK/Grays/Mazon do not have the best reputation because they are re-branded baseball catcher's masks. Their top-level masks are worn by GK's at the highest level so even though they may be relatively heavy they can't be all bad, just be careful with the lower level stuff. The Slazenger mask has received very bad reviews. Further for anything else than U12 hockey don’t use a street-hockey mask.

    In the end it's all up to personal preference, if you feel safe and comfortable in a specific helmet it is good for you.

    When replacing the grill or buying one separate from the helmet make sure you get the right fit and all the required fittings.

    Throat protector
    The throat protector comes in two versions: The wrap-around and the dangly. The dangly has two versions as well: a Lexan “beard” and the “standard” one.

    The dangly is mostly used in combination with a helmet as the mask has a long chin to cover the neck, although you see both types of danglies used with masks as well. They can be a hassle to mount properly so they don’t restrict movement while still protecting properly, but once that is sorted you will hardly notice it until you need it and then are very glad you have it.

    A wrap-around is mostly used in combination with masks as extra protection for ball slipping through under the chin. The usefulness of a wrap-around against hard shots has been questioned. It is copied from ice hockey goalies where it is mainly for protection against cuts from skate blades, not against shots. It also restricts movement somewhat. But if you feel comfortable wearing one please go for it.

    Stick
    Which stick to use is a very personal preference. Some GKs prefer a goalkeeping stick because of the balance, others a regular outfield stick because they are a bit heavier. Generally it is easier to stop hard shots with a heavier stick, while a light stick moves quicker.
    The key to finding the perfect stick for you is to go to a shop, with your RHP and a friend to throw balls at you, and try out as many as you can.

    Bag
    Should be big enough to hold all your kit and some spares, but be aware of getting an overly big one. Your team mates will want to store balls, bids, facemasks and what not in it and if it doesn’t fit they will have to find another victim. Also it is easier to keep your clean clothes in a separate bag so you will be able to find everything.
    It is good to have some pockets for spare parts, tools and a roll of tape for ad-hoc repairs. Just make sure you remove the tape from foam pieces as soon as possible as the glue will attack the foam.

    Wheels are an expensive option, not just in purchase but also because those bag usually wear quicker. Nice to have but kit doesn’t weigh that much nowadays plus it makes the bag heavier and a lot less flexible so it might hinder getting the bag in the boot of your car.
     
    #4 Folmer, Feb 8, 2015
    Last edited: Aug 9, 2016
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  5. crazymonkey42

    crazymonkey42 FHF Newbie

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    Mind if I use your advice on my website, some really great stuff here
     
  6. Folmer

    Folmer FHF All Time Great

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    The texts above are free to use for all. A reference would be nice, but is not required.
     
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  7. crazymonkey42

    crazymonkey42 FHF Newbie

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    Thats great thanks, what would you like to be referenced as?
     
  8. Folmer

    Folmer FHF All Time Great

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    My forum name and a link to this thread is good enough.
     
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  9. Kent Goalie 31

    Kent Goalie 31 FHF Newbie

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    This really helped me thanks!!!
     
  10. Jaimie

    Jaimie FHF Starter

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    Thank you!!! i need to get new EVERYTHING as i have grown out of everything so this will be helpful in planning my new gear!
     
  11. sbatewilliams

    sbatewilliams FHF Top Player

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    this is really valuable information!

    I am weighing up the dreaded task of potentially moving from outfielder to goalie.... my knees can handle sprinting a lot, so wondering if goalie would enable me to still play the game. Have always fancied it and really enjoyed my very limited amount of goal keeper coaching (as the coach)
     
  12. Dave7

    Dave7 FHF Newbie

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    Hi
    This is a very clear and helpful guide. I've played on and off for years so do know vaguely what I need etc, but it's helpful to have such a clear guidance.

    The problem I'm having is that I've only really had one set of kit so it's very hard to figure out which brand to go for. Very few stores seem to stock any/much kit, especially in the south, and ordering online could be expensive to return items, especially if I have to do it multiple times.

    Do you have any recommendations?

    Thanks
     
  13. Folmer

    Folmer FHF All Time Great

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    Ask other keepers if you can try on their gear. This can be other keepers from your club or opposition keepers.
    This is the easiest way to try on different bits of kit and saves you P&P for ordering and return.
     
  14. THC Oli

    THC Oli FHF Newbie

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    an excellent post, it has expanded on info i have already gathered and perfect as i am sourcing my first kit as we speak

    Thank you
     
  15. TandersGK

    TandersGK FHF Starter

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    Do you know about knee pads?
    I have been hit in the knee a few times over the years and it has often taken me out of the game for a few seconds, I was wondering if they are good.
    I also think that if I’m on the ground and the play is getting scrappy I might need some knee protection
    Thanks!
     
  16. sanabas

    sanabas FHF All Time Great

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    Getting hit in the knee is mostly a technique issue. Doesn't stop it hurting though, and if knee pads will give you more confidence and some protection for those inevitable hits, then they're certainly worth wearing. Obo makes one, http://obo.co.nz/ranges/cloud/knees-up-knee-protector/ , I've never worn it so have no idea what it's like. Important thing with whatever you look at would be to try it on with legs & shorts, make sure it doesn't interfere with them. I'd be surprised if you could make something like a hard shell volleyball/skate kneepad work without pushing legguard out of place, for instance.
     
  17. Folmer

    Folmer FHF All Time Great

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    The Obo Knees-Up are only for the inner leg gap between shorts and legguards, not for actual knee protection. The only thing you can do there is volleyball or skate protection and that interferes with your legguards, as @sanabas said.
    Work on your technique, that should solve the problem.
     
  18. TandersGK

    TandersGK FHF Starter

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    thanks
    My thigh area is sort of a blind spot for me as I can never decide to put my hand down or my leg up
    I think that they might improve my confidence quite a bit
    The only time I get hit on the knee is when I try to do a block save but underestimate the speed and I do o sort of a small crouch to deflect it down to control it
    I should probably work on how to clear it in one movement from a block save
    Thanks
     

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