What Is a Sliding Pad?

Throughout the years, the sport of softball has witnessed a variety of uniform styles in relation to pants. These changes were often influenced by developments in the game and a deeper understanding of athletes' requirements for competition.


One common motive behind altering the uniform style was to enhance the body's protection during sliding and diving maneuvers on the dirt. As a result, pants have experienced a significant resurgence in the past decade.


If you have ever experienced sliding on dirt, with or without softball pants, you are well aware of the potential leg scuffs, commonly known as "raspberries." 


However, one would expect that by now, there would be improved ways to safeguard the body. Fortunately, there is! This is exactly why softball players frequently wear what’s called a Sliding Pad.  



What Is a Sliding Pad? 

A sliding pad is a protective cover that goes over the knee and shin. In today’s game, it is typically worn underneath the pants with the long sock tucked in.  


There are two styles of sliding pads: 

  1. Knee Sleeve: This variation slides up the leg to the athlete’s desired point of protection. Most athletes have grown to prefer this style because it’s minimalistic, easily adjustable, and does not limit mobility. Top brands of Knees Sleeves include Mizuno, Easton, and Adams.
  2. Velcro-On: This variation wraps around the leg and velcros together behind above and below the knee. A number of athletes still prefer this variation because it offers a larger area of protection and features more padding. The top brands of this option include Schutt, McDavid, and VKM. 

How Can a Sliding Pad Help? 

Sliding pads were designed to protect the areas most prone to scrapes and bruising during a feet-first slide (knees and shins).  


They slide or cover the knees and shins to absorb the majority of the force and friction during a sliding motion.  


Over time, athletes have tried a variety of methods to prevent bumps and bruises, but found the design of a sliding pad to be beneficial for three reasons: 

  1. It stays in place while moving or running
  2. It does not limit the range of motion
  3. It can be worn through all phases of the game without worry  

Who Needs a Sliding Pad? 

A sliding pad is an optional piece of equipment used by athletes. Not all athletes choose to wear one. However, with the resurgence of pants as the preferred uniform style, many players now opt for sliding shorts along with either a Knee Sleeve style pad or no pad at all.

If you frequently perform a "Pop Up Slide" or slide forcefully on your shin during a feet-first slide, wearing a sliding pad regularly can be beneficial for you.

It is important to note that wearing a sliding pad is not mandatory if you believe that a single layer of pants provides sufficient protection.

As a coach, I strongly recommend that any team wearing shorts during competition should wear a sliding pad. I suggest keeping a sliding pad with you as a precautionary measure in case you scrape your leg and require an additional layer of protection. 

How to Pick the Right Size? 

Knee Sleeve Style sliding pads are traditionally made with an elastic fit, so sizes often come as either “One Size Fits All” or in Youth or Adult sizes, while velcro style sliding pads commonly come in small, medium, and large.  


When you purchase from SidelineSwap, you can use the brands' size guide and compare the circumference of your thigh 2 to 3 inches above the knee and the thickest part of your calf.  


What Else Can Help Sliding?

If you’ve played softball before, you know your knees and shins aren’t the only areas to take a beating! Sliding feet first can tear up your butt, upper thigh, and hands while diving can tear up your arms and hands. Worst case, your dive doesn’t have the perfect technique, and any body part is at risk.  


Athletes, coaches, and product manufacturers have come up with a number of additional ways to protect the body from scrapes and bruises: 


  1. Sliding Shorts: These are a form of compression shorts worn underneath your shorts. Similar to biker shorts, they have additional padding or fabric around areas prone to scrapes while sliding (butt and upper thigh). Most athletes find sliding shorts or traditional compression shorts to add cushion and a protective layer underneath their pants.
  2. Batting Gloves: While batting gloves were originally made to help grip the bat, they’ve been molded to suit a variety of needs - sliding being one of them. Batting gloves cover the surface of your hand to prevent scraping, but some are now made to protect the fingers from jamming into bases. You might find players swap out batting gloves once they reach base. A secondary pair can get beat up while sliding and diving around the bases while keeping the at-bat pair clean and free of unnecessary wear and tear. 
  3. Long Sleeves/Arm Sleeves: Your arms are the final exposed area, which can simply be covered by a long sleeve shirt or arm sleeve. Many players continue to wear long sleeves despite the temperatures to prevent scrapes and bruises on their elbows and forearms.  


Sliding has been an integral part of the game throughout its existence. Athletes have successfully adjusted their uniforms and accessories to ensure that it does not hinder their performance or, even worse, force them to leave the field.