Goalkeeping gloves are designed to protect the goalkeeper's hands as well as provide a better grip on the soccer ball. They range in price from $10 to over ten times that! The gloves a keeper buys will depend on budget and needs, but here are some things to look for when purchasing gloves.
- Grip. How well does the glove surface (usually latex foam) stick to the ball? In general more smooth foam grips better than dimpled foam. I don't recommend gloves with rubber "ping-pong paddle" grip or rubberized grids - they just don't grip well enough. I also recommend gloves where the entire palm surface is foam, not just a few spots here and there. More expensive gloves have specialized foams (and better marketing!), but that doesn't necessarily mean they always grip better.
- Durability. It would be nice if those expensive gloves lasted for a long time. Unfortunately, great grip sometimes comes at the expense of durability. Thicker foam will usually last longer, since the grip goes throughout the foam itself and is not just at the surface. Some soccer gear catalogs have durability as well as grip ratings for the gloves they sell. Durability applies to more than just the foam, too. Poorly made gloves can start coming apart at the seams before the grip is worn out.
- Cushioning. Gloves provide cushioning to take the sting off a hard hit ball. Thicker foam and glove material helps this; just make sure it's not so thick it hinders the grip.
- Wrist Support. Decent gloves will provide some support for the wrist which can help prevent injury on very hard shots. Look for a wide wrist strap that can be tightened securely.
- Comfort. What glove feels comfortable will vary from keeper to keeper. Some gloves are made with vents or breathable materials to prevent sweaty hands.
- Fit. While goalkeeper gloves should naturally be a bit large-looking on the hands, the exact fit, tight or loose, is up to personal preference. Some keepers like their gloves snug, others like them a bit larger. Many keepers who like close-fitting gloves prefer a negative-cut glove (finger seams are sewn on the inside), which are designed for a more snug fit. On the other hand (so to speak), resist the temptation to buy gloves that are too large, especially for young, growing keepers. The gloves should not be so big that the hand moves around inside them or the gloves twist or bend around the hand.
- Other features. Manufacturers have come up with all kinds of ways to get you to spend more on goalkeeping gloves. Finger protection is one of the most popular - the glove's fingers have plastic inserts that allow the fingers to flex forward normally but not bend backwards. The intent is to prevent finger injury, at the expense of some feel and flexibility. While they may help against certain types of injuries and provide a feeling of security, they are not a cure-all for injury problems or a substitute for developing strong hands. Other gloves have special foams for certain conditions, differently sewn seams, etc. The choice of any of these should be dictated by keeper preference and wallet size.
Once you've gone out and spent all that money on a pair of gloves, you want them to last as long as possible. For gloves, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Here are some basic tips for prolonging the life of keeper gloves:
- The biggest thing a keeper can do to make their gloves last longer is to use proper technique! Catch the ball and use it to cushion a fall instead of slapping it away and falling on the hands, and don't use hands to get up if possible. Practice, practice, practice.
- Keep two sets of gloves, one for practice and one for games only. When my match gloves start to lose it, I relegate them to the practice pile. Only use the $100 gloves for games.
- Wash the gloves after every use. This has two benefits - it removes dirt and grime from the latex, and it keeps them from smelling! (The latter is a major benefit when gloves are being shared.) Hand wash them in mild dish soap (I have never had a problem with this damaging the foam - however, don't use dishwasher detergent) and rinse them thoroughly with clean water. Let them air dry out of the sun.
- Store them in a plastic bag in a cool, dry place (not the trunk of the car). Make sure the gloves are dry first so they won't mildew. The plastic bag will keep the foam from losing its resiliency and tackiness.
- Most latex foam gloves will grip best if slightly dampened before use. The keeper should have a water bottle in goal not only for drinking, but for moistening gloves on dry days. A little water can make old gloves usable for just a little while longer.
Helpful tips to increase the life of your gloves
- Buy the Correct Size – If gloves are too big or small it not only can affect your performance but also accelerates the wear and tear of the gloves. Fingers that are in gloves that are too big or small can put stress on the latex and the seams causing premature breakdown or tears. When sizing your gloves, your fingers should be no less than a ¼ inch from the top and no more than ½ inch.
- Know your palm latex – Purchase a glove based on your playing surface and weather conditions. Know whether your glove and latex is best suited for all weather, dry conditions, wet conditions, hard ground, or natural surfaces. Soft tacky professional grade latex palms that are used for “All Weather” or “dry weather” and soft “natural surfaces” should be moist while playing. A wet weather glove requires care and soaking pre match and potentially at half time. Only wet weather gloves are good in the rain. A glove designed for futsal, turf, or hard ground isn’t porous and should not be soaked with water since it will make the glove slippery. A Super Soft tacky glove will breakdown on harsh indoor surfaces and hard ground.
- In match care – With softer latex gloves you need to moisten the palm again with water as it dries. Spit only goes so far. Super Soft latex palms can become slippery when wet. Figure out the correct balance before your match to avoid wearing sponges when you need the gripping power the most.
- Training Gloves – To insure your game gloves are in the best shape possible don’t practice with them. Buy a relatively inexpensive training glove that can take the beating of training. Once your game gloves start to show considerable signs of wear relegate them to the practice field and purchase a new pair. It is important to have 1 pair strictly for matches and another for training.
- Clean your gloves – Dirt and sweat break down the latex of the glove. Dirt acts as sandpaper and dries the soft, tacky, porous latex into a hard crusty surface. The toxins in your sweat also can dry out the gloves over time. Rinsing the gloves after a game will help wash the spit, sweat, and dirt away.
How to clean:
- Wash your gloves with luke-warm water.
- Gently squeeze excess water out. Wringing can tear the seam.
- A mild detergent can be used to help with the smell and really dirty jobs but it is not necessary.
- Hang dry.
- NEVER ever accelerate the drying process with dryers, the sun, or dehumidifiers. Don’t keep in a sunny car to bake either. All the above will take the natural moisture out of the gloves causing them to be dry and brittle.
- Proper Storage – After a game don’t throw your gloves in a bag and forget about them until the next game. If your next game is tomorrow then wipe the dirt of the palm with a moist glove towel. Washing them for tomorrow’s game may cause the gloves to be too wet. If that is the case, wrap the gloves in a moist glove towel to keep them moist for tomorrow’s game. You don’t want your gloves drying with the dirt and sweat in the palm. Over time dirt and sweat will absorb the natural moisture of the palm causing the glove to dry, crack, and peel. Don’t store your gloves more than a day wet since they will stink and begin to grow fungi. When storing your gloves don’t place them with palms together since they can stick together and rip when trying to separate. A glove bag is the best way to store your gloves. The latex needs to breathe.