SOCCER GOALIE GLOVES GUIDE
Although they are not required equipment, almost all goalkeepers wear specialized soccer goalie gloves to improve their grip on the ball and to protect themselves from injury. Goalie gloves come in a wide variety of types and styles.
Like the selection of soccer shoes and shinguards, the glove chosen is dependent upon the wearer’s comfort level and personal preferences. Goalie gloves offer significant advantages and are strongly recommended for the serious goalkeeper. They provide better a grip on the ball when making saves, protect and cushion the fingers and palms, and help with boxing and punching.
Visually, the most striking feature of soccer goalie gloves is that the majority are over-sized compared to the hand of the wearer. This provides for the flexibility and full freedom of movement of the hands and fingers, which are absolutely critical to making saves. Proper goalie gloves, personalized to the wearer, can result in enhanced performance and ball control, and increase the confidence of the goalkeeper.
Soccer goalie gloves are an essential part of every goalkeeper’s kit. A preference for certain gloves is developed over a period of time after accounting for a large number of options and contributing factors. Some of these considerations include:
– Palm surface
– Hand protection
– Wrist closure
– Sweat wicking
– Weather and field conditions
Try Them on for Size – Grab a Ball
Soccer goalie gloves do come in sizes, but everything about them is always going to come down to how they feel to the wearer. Again, the gloves are expected to be at least slightly oversized from the actual size of the wearer’s hand in order to ensure that the movement and flexibility of all parts of the hands and fingers is never constricted by the gloves themselves. General guidance calls for the fingers of the gloves to be approximately ½-inch longer than the fingers of the wearer, but no less than ¼-inch and no more than 1-inch. In addition, the actual tubes (circumference) of each finger of the glove should not be tight to the fingers themselves.
The most common goalkeeper adult glove sizes range from “5” to “13.” They can also be labelled as being for “men,” “women’” or “unisex.” (Gloves can also be identified as for “youth” or “juniors,” ranging from size “3” to “8.”) One way to determine your size is to use a cloth tape measure. In inches, measure around your hand below the knuckles, not including your thumb. If necessary, round up to the next full inch, and then add 1 to get your size. If both of your hands are not the same size, it is recommended that you use the larger measurement of the two. Another way is to measure from the full base of the thumb, where it meets the wrist, to the tip of the middle finger. Again, round up to the next highest inch and add 1 to the measurement to determine your glove size. (Oddly enough, at least for men, an alternative method is to use your shoe size as an approximation, rounding up to the next whole number if your shoe is a half-size.) A number of manufacturers also offer size charts on the back of their packaging that correlates the measurement of the width of the hand, from the outside of the index-finger knuckle to the outside of little-finger knuckle, in millimeters, to the size.
Try on a pair, make sure the fit feels good and that the soccer goalie gloves are flexible and comfortable. Make sure the fabric of the thumb crotch (the “V” formed at the base of the thumb and the index finger) does not pinch. Then grab a ball to test the grip and overall “feel” while firmly holding the ball.
Although such skills as punching, boxing, tipping and throwing are critical for a goalkeeper and can be affected by the selection of soccer goalie gloves, the single-most important skill is to grip and maintain possession of the ball. The materials used to make goalie gloves are usually latex for the palms and fingers, and polyurethane for the backhands, cuts of the two of which are then stitched together. Some use proprietary chemical blends that include natural or synthetic rubber. No matter what is used, it is the palm and fingers of the goalie glove that provides for a strong grip.
The palms and fingers of goalie gloves come in various surfaces and thicknesses. Surfaces include “smooth” (“flat”), “dimpled,” and “textured.” Smooth palms and fingers are generally preferred for match play because they tend to provide a better grip. Dimpled and textured palms and fingers tend to be more durable and are usually used for practices. The palms and fingers can be made with different thicknesses, generally identified in millimeters, with 3mm and 4mm being the most common. Thinner palms tend to be used by keepers who may want a better “feel” for the ball while thicker palms tend to be used by keepers who may want more protection, cushioning or “shot absorption.”
Other considerations for the palm and fingers may include weather conditions. Some are simply better in the rain than others. Some gloves may soak up water, which is bad, while others may be better at wicking water away. As with every other component, the type of palm and finger surface desired comes down to personal preference.
Try on more pairs of gloves and compare the grip. Clearly, the most-enhanced the grip, the better.
Palms and Palmar-side of the Fingers – “The Cut”
How the palms and fingers of goalie gloves are stitched to the backhands is known as the “cut,” and provides the basic design. The usual cuts for goalie gloves include “positive,” “rolled,” “negative,” and “hybrid.” The cut is important because each variety provides a different feel and fit to the wearer.
The positive cut, also known as the “flat” or “traditional” cut, uses exterior stitching to attach a single piece of stamped, flat foam, used for both the palm and the fingers, to the backhand. (Stitching on the outside; looser fit; generally for keepers with broad hands and fingers.)
The rolled or roll cut, also known as the “Gunn” cut, has seams or stitching on the back of the fingers, causing the finger extensions of the palm to wrap or “roll” around the individual fingers. (Stitching on the outside; tighter fit; generally for keepers with normal-sized hands and fingers.)
The negative cut has the stitching on the inside of the glove, causing the tightest fit. (Generally for keepers with slim hands and fingers; may be preferred by women.)
A number of hybrid cuts may offer different combinations of the flat, rolled, or negative cut within the same glove. This may include a roll-cut design for the little and index fingers and a flat- or negative-cut design for the two middle fingers. (Generally for keepers with shorter little fingers or who may have irregular-shaped hands.)
Almost all goalie gloves have a piece of cloth, or “gusset,” sewn into the glove that exists between the latex surface of the glove and the palm and the palmar-side of the fingers. This provides both reinforcement and comfort. The negative cut must have this gusset. Palm interiors may also have extra padding.
There are also gloves with cloth panels on either side of the fingers that provide additional flexibility and breathability.
Note the type of cut and feel comfortable with the location of the stitching.
The backhand, or dorsal-side, of the hand and fingers of the glove, completes the main construction of the goalie glove. Usually made of a stronger, but still flexible polyurethane, when compared to the latex palms, the backhand provides protection while punching or boxing the ball away. Again, almost all goalie gloves have a piece of cloth, or “gusset,” sewn into the glove that exists between the backhand surface of the glove and the dorsal part of the hand and the dorsal-side of the fingers for reinforcement and comfort.
Some gloves may come with sewn-in backhand padding which may be made of foam or the same latex as the palm. Still others may offer the option of a removable or supplemental backhand pad.
Punch a ball with your fist. Feel comfortable with the padding and the flexibility of the backhand.
Fingers and “Fingersaves”
The size, cut, and gussets of a goalie glove begin to define how snug the wearer perceives the fit of the glove to be on the fingers. It is critical that the goalkeeper be most comfortable with this fit and that the movement of the fingers is not constricted in any way. The fingers are the basis for the goalkeeper catching and securing the ball and some keepers prefer the gloves to be tighter around the fingers while others prefer the fingers to be looser. Some manufacturers offer supplemental finger gussets for individuals who may want a tighter fit. Other manufacturers offer “segmentation,” fingers segmented at the joints, to provide for greater flexibility. If these are tried, it is important that the segments line up with the joints of the fingers.
Still other manufacturers offer plastic spines for the back of each finger (and thumb) that are intended to provide protection against sprains, jams, and hyperextensions. The majority of these spines, also known as “fingersaves,” or “finger spines,” are removable and work to keep the fingers from moving backward or to otherwise help prevent injury. They usually slip into pockets built into the backhand of the glove.
Fingersaves generally come in two types, “segmented” and “flexible.” Segmented fingersaves bend forward but not backward and are specifically intended to try to prevent hyperextension. They are the most common. Flexible fingersaves bend both forward and backward and are intended to provide supplemental support.
Fingersaves take up room in the glove and may create a much tighter fit around the fingers. If the wearer likes the gloves, but does not like the fit around the fingers, the fingersaves can simply be removed.
The wrist closure of the goalie glove secures the glove to the hand with a wrap around the wrist in order to keep the glove from slipping off or rotating. The most common wrist closure is a hook-and-loop (“Velcro®”) style that allows for personal adjustment for tightness. The second-most common style is called a “bandage” closure that is similar to an elastic wrap. This design tends to provide the most support for the wrist but may be considered to be too tight or to restrict movement.
Yet again, comfort and fit are key. Some gloves have a “double’ closure that provides an inner layer for wrist support and comfort and an outer layer in the hook-and-loop style.
Weight – Gloves can feel “light” versus “heavy” to the user. Most goalkeepers seem to prefer gloves that tend to feel lighter.
Breathability – By the very nature of the materials used to make goalie gloves, they do not tend to get much air circulation around the hands. This can make the hands feel sweaty and possibly cause discomfort. Some goalkeepers desire gloves that are designed to be “sweat reducing,” “sweat wicking,” or otherwise have air holes in some parts of the cloth.
Training versus Match Play – Goalie gloves can take quite a beating during training and practice sessions and can wear out quickly. Most goalkeepers have many pairs of gloves, using certain pairs for training and other, newer, pairs for games. Some manufacturers offer products specifically labelled as “training gloves.”
Weather and Field Conditions – Many manufacturers of goalie gloves will advertise their gloves as being appropriate for all weather, sun, dry, light rain, rain, wet fields, anti-slip, artificial turf, or other conditions. (It is generally considered that artificial turf is more likely to wear out latex palms faster, so a thicker palm surface might be a consideration.) Water seepage from rain is very real and, for gloves routinely needed in wet conditions, extra experimentation with different types is recommended.
Durability – How long a pair of goalie gloves will last is mostly based on the experience of the wearer. Gloves are subject to holes, splits, seam separation, and worn wrist closures. Beyond usual wear-and-tear, goalie gloves that are fit (too) tightly receive additional stretching and are more prone to these problems. Some manufacturers advertise their gloves as “wear resistant,” while others have come up with unique tabs to pull on the gloves.
Price – The cost of goalie gloves can range from as little as $8.00, usually for youth just starting out, to over $200.00, usually for top professionals. Expensive gloves do not necessarily mean “better” or that they will last longer. A higher cost is generally indicative of a better grip, but this may be insignificant if the glove doesn’t last at least one season. More expensive gloves, however, tend to offer better construction, more comfort, thicker materials, and more options.
Guarantee – Many retailers will offer a quality guarantee based on the manufacture and construction of the product. This is usually within the first 30 days from purchase and does not cover usual wear-and-tear. If a guarantee is offered, it is wise to get specific details in writing or printed from the web. Some may involve a 100% money-back guarantee for defects while others may be pro-rated. Still others may require return of the gloves or some form of proof of defect and a receipt. Don’t assume that nothing can or will be done if a glove breaks or suffers a blowout due to a defect; ask.
Break Them In
Whether for practice or for games, never start wearing a new pair of soccer goalie gloves without first breaking them in and getting used to their fit and feel. This is not a complicated process. On your own, put them on and flex your hands a lot. Manipulate a soccer ball. Do this enough until you feel comfortable that the materials of the gloves do not resist the bending of your hands and fingers. Another approach is to put on only one glove at a time, make a fist, and compress the glove with your other (ungloved) hand. Test the comfort level with a friend or teammate throwing the ball to you. Further, test the effectiveness of the grip of the glove by applying a very small amount of clean water to the palm. If you like this effect, apply water in ever-increasing small amounts until you reach the optimum effect for you.
Most manufacturers provide care instructions on the package or on an insert to the package. In order to properly maintain and to extend the life of the gloves, it is extremely important to follow the instructions specific to the gloves. The latex palm is probably the most fragile part of the glove. It should not be subjected to any type of harsh soaps, detergents or chemicals. In general, a “glove wash,” preferably made by the glove manufacturer and used according to the directions provided, is highly recommended. Otherwise, one may use a solution of slightly warm, clean water with the smallest amount possible of a mild soap such as clear Ivory or Woolite liquid. Rinse in slightly warm, clean water. Gently wring out. Let air dry. Do not put them in a dryer.
Other products exist which may be tried by a goalkeeper to enhance or improve the status of their gloves. These include “glove glues” advertised to improve the life and tackiness of latex; “dirt removers” advertised to specifically remove dirt particles from latex; and, “glove fresheners” advertised to reduce odors by killing bacteria.
Soccer Coaching Tips:
- It is recommended that goalkeepers have at least three pairs of gloves, one pair for training, one pair for games, and a backup pair for games. Use of one pair for practices keeps the game pair fresh and makes them last longer. All gloves intended for games must be properly broken in before use.
- Gloves need to be routinely inspected and properly cleaned. No matter how well a pair of gloves has been made, or how much they cost, gloves can be defective or degrade with time. Stitches can break and palms can split.
- Always immediately replace gloves that have worn out.
- Multiple pairs of gloves are part of a good Goalkeeper’s Kit.
- It has been suggested that goalkeepers may even experiment with wearing surgical gloves under their goalie gloves in wet or cold conditions.
© Copyright, John C. Harves