The purpose of this guide is to answer all your questions about the single most important piece of equipment for avoiding injury: lacrosse goalie gloves.
I think the goalie stick is the most important piece of equipment for making saves. You want a stick setup that feels great and is balanced in terms of the weight for proper rotations. Just like the stick setup of the MLL pro’s.
But in my opinion the most important piece of equipment for protection are the goalie gloves because the hands and especially the thumb are fragile and exposed.
Here are the topics that this lacrosse goalie gloves guide will cover. Click a link to jump right to that section of the guide.
During my playing days at Cal I used to work our Thanksgiving camp for 10-12 year olds.
It was a great time and the kids absolutely idolized the player/coaches helping out with the camp, which made it all the better.
The year was 2000 and goalie gloves had just come out so they weren’t as prevalent or popular as they are now. So I was just using regular lacrosse gloves as I manned the cage for a scrimmage with the kids during the last day of camp.
We were all having fun when one of the 12-year olds caught a ball right on the crease and fired it at the goal as hard as he could without really looking. There was no precision in his shot, he was going for pure power even through he was literally standing right on the crease.
I matched his lacrosse stick head with my goalie head as you should do to make a 1v1 save!
Crack! I heard a loud crunch followed by a pain way great than any other time I had been hit with a shot.
The ball caught the inside of my thumb essentially hitting the finger with no padding and bent it in the wrong direction.
As I removed my glove to inspect the damage I could tell right away that it was broken or at least dislocated. Normal thumbs don’t bend like that.
Turned out to be both dislocated and slightly broken at the joint.
I had to have surgery to repair the thumb and was out a few months recuperating. Even after all the rehab the joint is very stiff and I still only have about 90% of the normal movement.
So if you’re asking why goalie gloves are so important simply look at the photo above.
The Proper Goalie Grip Exposes the Thumbs
The proper technique for a goalie is to setup with their wrists to the rear of the shaft. This allows for a quicker reaction and also proper wrist movement and rotation during the process of making a save.
The drawback is this exposes the tip of the thumb.
Regular gloves do not have any protection there and thus you often have the case like me, where a goalie takes a direct shot to the thumb and does some serious damage.
Talk to any goalie who played lacrosse before goalie gloves were a common piece of equipment and surely they have some sort of injured thumb story to tell you.
Nowadays each lacrosse equipment maker produces a glove that is specific for goalies.
These special lacrosse goalie gloves offer far more protection to the hand and especially the thumb than the normal attack/middie/defense gloves.
The reinforced thumb on the gloves would have totally prevented my injury and its a shame I didn’t have a pair at the time.
Top of the line gloves like the STX Shield 500 also protect the side of the thumb, the fingers and the back of the hand much more than regular gloves.
Shooters today are shooting harder than even before. Thus making us goalies at risk to injury in protected parts of our hands and body.
Also as we saw with my Thanksgiving camp story it doesn’t even take that hard of a shot to do some serious damage.
Therefore out of every piece of goalie equipment, a pair of goalie gloves is an absolute must for all goalies.
What to look for in Lacrosse Goalie Gloves
When you’re in the market for a new (or used) pair of goalie gloves, here are the items that you should consider:
Protection: This is the primary reason we’re wearing goalie gloves. When we play in goal we’re going to take shots to the hands and the thumbs. Lacrosse goalie gloves offer the additional protection to ensure that none of our bones get broken by shots. Different gloves are going to offer different levels of protection.
Durability: Are the gloves built to last? Or will they start to come apart after a season of use? Good gloves should last you several seasons if they’re properly cared for. Poorly made gloves will start to come apart or show major wear and tear after just a single season.
Size: Do the gloves fit? Lacrosse goalie gloves need to fit snugly against your hands and fingers. Otherwise the movement of your hands inside the gloves when struck by a high velocity lacrosse shot could cause injury. Even if you’re totally in love with a certain pair of lacrosse goalie gloves, if they don’t come in your size don’t even think about buying them.
Comfort: With many gloves you’re going find a trade-off between protection and flexibility or comfort. In the higher end models like Warrior Regulator II’s you can have both great protection and great comfort. However in earlier and cheaper models of lacrosse gloves the ones offering high protection tend to be very stiff and uncomfortable.
Price: In an ideal world we could have any piece of goalie gear we wanted for free! Unfortunately we don’t live in that world and price is a real factor to consider when selecting a pair of gloves. You should get the best pair of gloves you can afford however that will of course mean different budgets for different goalies.
Old school goalies who are accustomed to minimal gloves often complain that the stiff thumb is a hindrance. But personally I like it.
Here a few pairs of gloves that I’ve used over my playing career.
Note: This post was originally published in February of 2016. A lot happens in the lacrosse manufacturing world in two years so I’ve updated the glove recommendations.
I still think the Warrior Regulator II and STX Shield Pro are good gloves so I’ve left their reviews in here. It’s just companies have come with newer gloves with more features and of course a higher price tag.
STX Shield 500 Goalie Gloves
These are the latest goalie gloves from STX and they do a wonderful job of combining light weight with high protection.
Most importantly they have a thumb protection design unlike any I’ve ever seen. The plastic protection piece does not bend all too well, however the thumb itself is able to move with ease. This allows for a stiff protection, but still gives the goalie flexibility inside the glove, which is a great design an to me, and something many other gloves don’t offer.
The Warrior Regulator II’s have a big stiff thumb which is totally fine for dexterity but provides amazing protection.
Seriously, look at that thumb. You could probably take a shotgun blast to the thumb while wearing these things and not feel a thing.
Even if you’re not used to the large protective thumb on your gloves, it’s very easy to get accustomed to it. You’ll be surprised how little you actually use your thumbs in cradling or throwing outlet passes.
The material in the palms is flexible enough to allow for quite a deal of thumb movement on the stick. Plus it actually has extra padding on the thumb, not just a little piece of flimsy plastic like other goalie gloves.
The “armadillo” style plating allows for a lot of flexibility that I find to be on par with a pair of normal field gloves.
I’ve used these gloves for a few years and have talked to many other goalies who also echo their praises. They score high in all the areas you need: Protection, Durability, and Comfort.
They may be slightly stiffer than what you’re used to coming from normal lacrosse gloves but I find this is very easy to get accustomed to.
The one drawback of these gloves is while they are the Ferrari of lacrosse goalie gloves, they cost just about as much comparatively. At about $190 per pair you’re going to have to save up to get the Warrior Regulator II’s but you’ll be glad you did.
Many MLL goalies including Jesse Schwartzman use the Warrior Regulator II’s. If it’s good enough for the pros, its good enough for me.
These little pieces of equipment are fairly cheap (under $15) and simulate the padding and stiffness that’s built into today’s goalie gloves.
The problem is since goalie gloves are fairly prevalent this piece of equipment is becoming more and more extinct and it’s actually hard to find nowadays.
2.) Custom Tape Job to Gloves
Your second option for transforming regular gloves into lacrosse goalie gloves is taping or glueing extra padding to the thumb.
In 2018 the Syracuse lacrosse team is sponsored by Nike so the team uses the Nike Vapor Elite 4 gloves. But Nike doesn’t make a goalie glove yet so you can see their current starter Dom Madonna using this custom tape job to beef up the thumb of his top hand glove.
To make your own custom protection, get a piece of hard carbon fiber or curved plastic and tape, or super glue, it to the thumb. Get some help from a friend or parent as you’ll want to be wearing the gloves while attaching this extra material. This will ensure a good fit.
You can also attach padding from old equipment. Find a pair of gloves no longer in use and cut off some of their padding to add to your customized reinforced thumb via tape or super glue.
You can also attach padding to the back of the glove to provide further protection your hands and fingers.
Another option is to use what’s called a SAM Splint. The SAM Splint is built from a thin core of aluminum alloy sandwiched between two layers of closed-cell foam. This little thing when attached to your thumb can help provide extra protection against shots.
Having just written those options, I will now say the best option is to get a pair of goalie gloves with this thumb protection built into the glove. If you can’t afford new gloves check the sporting goods section of your local Craigslist to find a reasonably priced used pair of goalie gloves.
Sizing for Lacrosse Goalie Gloves
One of the most important factors in safety with lacrosse goalie gloves is to buy a pair that fit your hands.
Wearing gloves that are too large for your hands is risky as the hand and glove can move when impacted by a shot and this could injure your hand and/or fingers. Similarly, wearing gloves that are too small for your hand is dangerous as we don’t get full coverage with the protection.
Here is a quick sizing chart to help you find the right size lacrosse goalie glove:
The above sizes are simply recommendations. Since everyone’s hands are different sizes, finding the right size glove is hard by just reading a post on the internet. You have to try them on.
So head to your local sports store and try on different size goalie gloves to see which fit your hands.
That doesn’t mean you need to buy the gloves at that sports store. Online vendors of lacrosse gear sites like Amazon can often offer you better deals since they’re not paying for a brick and mortar store like a local sporting goods store does.
Or you can also then search for that exact size and style used in the sporting goods section on a site like Craigslist.
Here is a video from ComLax’s Mike Sullivan showing off his amazing beard while at the same time explaining the proper fitting of lacrosse gloves.
One final tip for boys goalies who have small hands is to look at female lacrosse goalie gloves like the Sultra. They come in the smaller sizes (like 10″) and, in my opinion, they look just like mens lacrosse goalie gloves (especially the black).
Where to Buy Lacrosse Goalie Gloves
There are several places you can buy lacrosse goalie gloves both online and in real life.
Depending on the particular chain you may even find a decent selection of lacrosse goalie gloves.
However these are still somewhat of a speciality item so its no guarantee that a store carrying lacrosse gear will have lacrosse goalie gloves.
Brick and mortar sporting good stores are also a great place to try on goalie gloves (or regular gloves if they don’t carry goalie gloves) to understand what size your hand is.
You can then purchase them via the other two methods I can describe below to look for a better deal.
2. Online Outlets
I typically buy all my lacrosse gear online from Amazon. They offer a full selection of lacrosse goalie gloves, every brand and most sizes. Their customer service is exceptional and I’ve had nothing but great experiences when using them.
Search their entire selection of lacrosse goalie gloves. Those are affiliate links so I’ll get a few dollars if you decide to purchase through those links. No pressure of course and thank you very much for the support.
With the online sites you can often find deals you won’t get in the brick & mortar stores since they don’t have the overhead of rent.
They’ll often run promos too where you can get an additional discounts on lacrosse goalie gloves.
Finally if you’re in the market for a pair of used gloves you can start by searching for them on Craigslist.
Go to your local Craigslist page. Under the “For Sale” section, click on “Sporting”. Then do a search for “lacrosse goalie gloves”.
If you want to be notified each time an item appears on Craigslist matching your criteria you can setup a Google alert for “lacrosse goalie gloves” and then specify the exact page.
This will send you an email each time the phrase “lacrosse goalie gloves” appears on the internet. You can change the phrase as you like and even narrow it down to which specific websites you want to be notified from.
As with any Craigslist purchase, certainly be careful. There are crazies on that site so take all necessary precautions and if a deal seems too good to be true, it is.
4. Sideline Swap
My new favorite place to pickup used lacrosse gear is Sideline Swap.
You can usually find amazing deals on not only lacrosse goalie gloves but also all kinds of gear.
How to Properly Care For Your Lacrosse Goalie Gloves
Now that you’ve invested some serious money into a pair of great lacrosse goalie gloves, you have to care for them to ensure they’ll last you for at least a few seasons, if not your whole playing career.
During my playing days at Cal I used the same pair of Warrior Burn goalie gloves the entire 4 years. Even when our team switched to another brand of gloves I stuck with the Warrior Burns because I preferred them and they had broken in exactly the way I liked.
With good care, your lax goalie gloves can last an entire career.
The rules for caring for your lacrosse goalie gloves are probably very similar to what you’ve heard from your parents after every practice.
Rule #1: Do NOT leave wet, sweaty gear in your lacrosse bag. The goalie gloves need to breathe. Airing out the gloves after a strenuous, sweaty practice or a rainy game will keep the gloves in good shape and ensure that bacteria and fungus doesn’t have its way with the gloves. You’ll also keep the gloves from reeking of bad odor in this way.
Rule #2: Every couple of weeks hit the goalie gloves with a dose of anti-bacterial / anti-fungus sanitizing spray. I would use the same spray that designed for shoes. This will ensure the gloves stay clean and fresh smelling and don’t suffer rot.
Rule #3: Do NOT put lacrosse goalie gloves in the washing machine. This can ruin the leather of your gloves. Instead you can wash them in the sink or a bucket with water and some detergent. Afterwards hose them off to remove any soap and all dirt and then let them air dry in the sun. Or you can also stuff absorbent newspaper into the gloves to help them dry.
Rule #4: To preserve leather palms every couple of weeks rub some leather condition onto the lacrosse goalie gloves and palms.
If you follow these rules, especially #1, you’ll find that your lacrosse goalie gloves will not only last your entire playing career, they’ll also smell better and you won’t be known as that goalie with the funky smelling gloves.
Lacrosse goalie gloves are one of the best investments you can make in terms of gear that will prevent injury.
A goalie’s hands and thumbs are some of the most fragile and exposed parts of the body while make our saves.
With the right care a high quality pair of lacrosse goalie gloves will last you several seasons.
Use this guide to find the right pair of lacrosse goalie gloves for you.
Until next time! Coach Damon
Note: Like some other posts, these links are affiliate links which means I make a few pennies if you decide to buy through those links. If you’ve gotten some good value out of my articles, I’d be grateful if you could use those links if you’re considering buying a pair of lacrosse goalie gloves. Thanks a million!
Anything I missed regarding lacrosse goalie gloves? Ask me a question in the comments.
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About Coach Damon
About Coach Damon
Lacrosse is my passion! The game has given me so much and this blog is my way of giving back to the lax community. Specifically the most bad a$$ part of that community - the goalies! After learning to play goalie from scratch, I wanted to create a site where I could share what I learned with others so they too can become champions in the crease and in life. Learn more about Coach Damon.