I found the perfect shin guard by not looking for one!
But, please, let me elaborate: The initial objective was to get new knee guards. I wore baseball catcher shin guards since I started HEMA. I had a fantastic pair of Easton combined shins/knees that were perfect in every way and I was really happy with them.
With HEMA being a heavily gear-related martial art, however, practitioners are always on the lookout for better equipment because, hey, gearing up is part of the thrill. The only downside to my Easton shins were that they were too bulky (although very light!) and I wanted something more compact and easier to pack and carry to tournaments. It was time for a switch.
In US HEMA it’s hard not to get exposed to the KneePro Ultra III. Everyone wears them, everyone loves them, and for a few good reasons (follow this link for an excellent review). I really wanted them as well, but everyone I knew was using the KneePro with soccer shin guards, and they never really covered the sides of the shin for those pesky one-handed leg hews. Additionally, all the shin guards I tried shifted around a lot, and don't forget how they left the ankles completely exposed. All but one.
Enter the Harrow Probot Field Hockey Shin Guards.
(Editor: I purchased these to replace another set of lacrosse shins that I owned, but threw them in the back of the closet when they didn't come with straps. However, after the author of this review insisted I give them another try, I did - and now I don't want to go back.)
Review Experience / Methodology
(Editor: I've been wearing these for a few months now, and have worn them in two tournaments. Jay has worn his in multiple tournaments as well. Both Jay and myself purchased them via amazon, so the order process was obviously blind.)
Construction & Materials
The Probot shin guards are produced by Harrow, a bona fide hockey gear brand; one that, in fact, sponsors Olympic athletes. As such, the Probot shin guards are legitimate sports equipment that are designed to take a hard blow—or three—to the shins and are built to last.
They’re made of a durable, solid one-piece plastic that can indeed take a hit. They are dressed with an easily removable and washable elastic fabric liner. Once that's removed, they are stripped down to a bare plastic shell which can in turn be simply be ran under the water and wiped down clean effortlessly.
(Editor: I'm a huge fan of uncomplicated gear, because it's less prone to break. The quality of both the shins and the padding is extremely well done - stitching on the padding doesn't dig or chaffe the legs, and doesn't lose much when you wash them.)
The Harrow Probot provide optimal protection, as they wrap around the shins and all the way down and over the ankles. They end in a pair of forked flaps that will cover and protect your ankle on both sides of your shin, inside and out.
My first worry was that the ankle flaps would interfere with shoes. But battle-testing the product wearing high-tops (the HEMA-popular Asics “Mattflex 4” wresting boots) through an entire tournament proved otherwise.
While wrestling boots are softer around the ankle, I’m sceptical that a high-top shoe with a more rigid ankle would make an optimal pair to the Probot, so I definitely suggest using it with low-tops. I currently wear them with fencing shoes (Adidas “En Garde”) with great results.
These shin guards are intended to be worn under your socks, just like soccer shins. But, unlike soccer guards, the Probot shins will not shift about since they wrap around your shin and not just cover the front.
(Editor: One of the reasons why these originally failed for me was because I wore socks that were far too tight. To be fair, they were too small even without the shins, but once I upgraded to a proper sock I had no issues with these what so ever. I was constantly forgetting I was even wearing them.)
This design is also why they can afford to be strapless. Let me note here that not only is the lack of straps not an issue but a definite plus that improves mobility and maximizes comfort (Editor: Agreed - I've lost straps on other shins, and having one less object that can be lost at a tournament is appreciated).
The Probot shin guards are perforated and ventilate very well. They are very light (each weighs 250g est) and can easily be tucked into each other for easy carry.
A match made in heaven: Probot Shins + Kneepro 4 ever
The Harrow Probot shin guards work seamlessly with an already established HEMAdopted product, the super-popular KneePro Ultra III. Not only are they not interfering with each other, but the Probot perfectly complements the KneePro, allowing it to secure much better in place. Used together, these two products allow no unprotected gap between them.
Price and Availability
The Probot shins come in three different sizes—Small, Medium, and Large. While on some websites they are advertised as Women’s gear, I have contacted Harrow and have established that it’s a Unisex product and that the aforementioned sized should easily cover all. I myself am a big dude and I am perfectly satisfied with having purchased the Large.
Harrow sells the Probot guards for as low as $30.00. If you order from Amazon, you will get them on a 2-day free shipping deal, with Amazon Prime, and for a buck less than if purchased directly by Harrow. The downside to an Amazon purchase is that prices will vary dramatically between sizes (from $29.05 all the way up to $49.99 at the time of the review).
TLDR; - or, Conclusion
- They provide optimal protection, wrapping around the shin and all the way down and over your ankles. They don't interfere with shoes.
- They are strapless and hold well in place by your socks alone, improving mobility and comfort.
- They come in different sizes.
- They are a fantastic pair to KneePro, keeping in place while not obstructing one another, leaving no gap in between the two products, and also actually better securing the KneePro in place.
- They are perforated and ventilate well.
- They are dressed with an elastic fabric liner that will come off and allow for easy washing and cleaning.
- They are very affordable at $30.00
- You will get them on a 2-day free shipping deal, with Amazon Prime.
- Might not be optimal to use with some high-tops.