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Choosing Pads

If you wanna play derby, you’re gonna need some good quality pads. There is nothing more important than protecting your joints to ensure a long and happy derby career, so making sure you have the right stuff and the right fit is crucial. If you go to an open house or tryouts, you’ll probably be rooting through a bin of the team’s old, smelly, mismatched pads to hold you over til you get your own (ew). So trust us when we say that your first fall onto a shiny new clean set of knee pads will be a whole different experience. We’ve got a few tips to help make your derby experience as happy and pain-free as possible.

If you ask your teammates for advice, no doubt at least one person will tell you verbatim “brand XYZ knee pads feel like falling on kittens”. Rest assured that this legendary kitten-smushing sensation is completely subjective. Any good quality, properly fitting knee pads SHOULD feel like clouds/kittens/marshmallows/whatever, and if they don’t then you should re-evaluate your gear. Out of all your pads, knees are arguably the most important. Knee injuries are the #1 most common injury among derby girls, so for the love of Quadzilla do NOT buy a cheapo set at Walmart and think you’ll be protected. Stick with the brands that are tried and true and invest in the higher-end professional-level models. We stock 187 Pro Derby, Deadbolt, Smith Scabs, and S-One knee pads, all of which we trust. Whatever brand you choose, make sure the fit is on-point, as a knee pad that slides down to your shins when you fall is the same as no knee pad at all.

Another good item to consider are gaskets, which are neoprene sleeves that go under your knee pads, usually with a bit of extra padding to support your knee caps. These are especially important if you have existing knee issues or want to prevent future damage. They act as compression support but also can help your knee pads fit better, to prevent them from sliding around (see above). If you decide to go with gaskets, bring them with you when you buy your knee pads (or buy them at the same time!) and wear whatever bottoms you’ll be skating in so you make sure you’ve got enough room under your pads to still be flexible and that you’re happy with the fit.

Next up: elbows. Elbow pads are usually the most-overlooked piece of gear on a derby skater, but they’re nothing to sneeze at. Take it from someone who chipped a chunk of bone off her elbow from coming down just right in some sub-par elbow pads: you want good ones. After that traumatic experience, I personally only trust 187 Pro elbows for the most protection available without being super bulky. 187 also makes two other elbow options: their classic elbow and a slim version. Both are good choices for the less-traumatized, just make sure they fit properly and that you’re comfortable with the size of the hard caps (warning: the classic elbows have a smaller cap than the slims!). Offerings from other brands are also available, your mileage may vary!

Wrist guards are crucial for those just learning how to skate, but please be advised: wrist guards will NOT completely prevent you from breaking your wrist. If you’re relying on your wrists/hands to catch you every time you fall, then bend your knees and get lower and learn to fall properly! Now that that’s out of the way...you still need wrist protection just in case. Styles vary from strap-on (easy to get in and out of) to slide-on (comfy but tricky to get on and off when you’re sweaty!) to practically non-existent (we’re looking at you, Atom). Try a bunch on to find which ones make you happy and confident. We stock a variety of styles including the famous Ennui City Brace for maximum protection.

You’ll also wanna keep your pearly whites in good shape with a mouthguard. This one is a no-brainer as far as we’re concerned: the SISU 1.6 mouthguard. This thing is a game-changer, especially if you remember the days of bulky rubbery mouthguards that made speaking/drinking/breathing impossible. It’s super thin but super tough, and your teammates will be able to understand what you’re saying. Pick your favorite color and you’re set. You can also have a nice quality mouthguard custom made by your dentist, if you’re into that. Just don’t forget it when you get on the track!