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How to Choose: Roller Derby Knee and Elbow Pads

What Are the Right Roller Derby Knee Pads?

Roller derby knee pads are almost as critical as a derby helmet. Roller derby knee pads get a lot of use—you fall on them, slide on them, turn on them, and use them to scrub off speed. This is not an area where you want to skimp. While you might be tempted to buy inexpensive knee pads at a big box or sporting good store, recreational-grade knee pads for inline skating will not give you sufficient protection for roller derby. And they likely won't have the durability you'll need either. If you’ve ever had a knee injury, you know how painful they are and how long an injured knee can take to heal. A good pair of derby knee pads will give you the confidence to fall without being scared that you’ll hurt yourself. In talking to our derby customers, the best advice we can provide is to buy the best knee pads you can afford and start skating with them right away so you get used to the feel of the pads.

What about Roller Derby Elbow Pads?

Roller derby elbow pads will probably be the longest-lived of all your derby protective gear. While they certainly won't take the beating your knee pads will get, it's still in your best interest to invest in a good-quality pair of elbow pads. Missed falls or Superman falls will put your derby elbow pads to the test. Introductory-level/recreational-level elbow pads may help you get through your training, but when you start competing, you’ll need derby elbow pads that fit properly and offer you enough protection and padding.

What to Look for in Roller Derby Pads

  • WFTDA rules require that knee pads and elbow pads have a hard protective shell or insert, so don't worry about looking at soft-shell pads.
  • Find knee pads that provide adequate cushioning; this most likely means a pad with an interior hard shell on top of EVA foam and with an abrasion-resistant knee cover.
  • Look for pads that are double-stitched, which makes the pads more durable.
  • Make sure the knee pads and elbow pads fit well and stay secure.
  • Look for straps that are wide enough to stay in place and sturdy enough that they won't lose elasticity over time.
  • Some cheaper pads use foam that falls apart if it gets wet. Make sure your elbow and knee pads are washable to cut down on gear stink.
  • If you find your knee pads keep sliding down or you’re experiencing knee pain from sliding and falling drills, you may need to get a new set of derby knee pads.
  • Knee gaskets under your knee pads can add an extra layer of knee cushions plus a bit of coverage for your shins.

Do You Want Slip-On or Butterfly Closure Derby Pads?

slip on vs butterfly padsKnee and elbow pads (for just about any sport) typically use Velcro closures and feature one of two designs: an open-back (sometimes called "butterfly") and closed-back (slip-on). Closed-back knee pads and elbow pads have a sleeve-like design; they slip on and slide up your leg or arm then secure with Velcro straps. These tend to fit more securely. The trade-off is that you have to remove your shoes/skates/wrist guards to take them on and off. Open-back pads are more convenient because you can take them on and off without having to remove footwear or wrist guards. However, open-back pads can sometimes slip down or slide around.


Should Your Derby Position Influence Your Knee Pads?

Newcomers to roller derby might be surprised to discover that the answer to this question is "Yes." Some derby players find crossovers difficult with certain brands of knee pads, such as 187s, because of their size. If you're a Jammer, you may want to look for derby knee pads with a slightly lower profile. However, other derby players swear by the protection afford by 187 "Killer" knee pads. Some manufacturers, like Deadbolt, have developed knee pads specifically designed for derby Blockers and derby Jammers. Size and bulk are less of a concern with roller derby elbow pads than with knee pads.


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