Impact shorts, or padded shorts, are designed to absorb some of the force when you fall – and therefore save you a bunch a pain. As with all snowboard protection, the idea is to keep you riding for longer, rather than having to sit it out because of an injury. So who should be wearing these?
When you’re learning to snowboard you tend to have a lot of low speed falls as you discover how to balance, control your edges and turn. A key point here is that you tend to repeat a lot of the same falls – one of which has you landing on your backside.
Even though these falls are individually, relatively minor, continually falling on the same area can cause the pain to build up. This is especially true when it comes to landing on your ass. Impact shorts are great for reducing/eliminating the pain you feel from these beginner-style falls.
It’s surprising how quickly a series of falls can get you to the point where it’s painful to sit down, and when you’re in that position, falling again is a killer! That’s why impact shorts are great for those learning to snowboard.
Freestyle snowboarders are also at risk from repeated falls – although their falls can be at higher speed or on harder surfaces. As you go through the process of learning a new trick or technique, until you start to get it, failing the attempt often results in a fall. Freestylers fall a lot – that’s part of the progression.
Lots of falls – lots of opportunities to take a nasty one on your hip or backside, or lots of opportunities to let a bunch of minor slams build up to make an are of your body really painful. Impact shorts help to absorb the impact…
Any snowboarder can potentially benefit from impact shorts – a fall is a fall. But it’s beginners and freestylers that tend to fall the most and repeat falls, which makes them more likely to benefit the most.
Design features of impact shorts
If you’re considering impact shorts, be aware of the following:
Protection. That’s what you’re buying them for. Bigger, thicker pads will offer more protection. Some designs include plastic plates for increased protection. But also consider the positioning and coverage of the padding, do they provide protection where you want it?
Low profile? For many snowboarders, being low-profile is important – you don’t want to be able to see that there are impact shorts underneath your outerwear. Lower-profile typically means less padding, so this is a trade-off with protection. For example, consider this design from Pro-tec:
Pro-tec IPS Hip Pads (womens)
Clearly, impact shorts with bigger pads and/or plastic plates are going to offer more protection, but they’ll stick out more and fit less well beneath your snowboard pants.
Comfort. If you’re wearing these all day on the hill, comfort is an important factor. When it comes to comfort, the size of the padding will play a role – if they don’t fit easily under your snowboard pants, they’ll feel more restrictive and generally less comfortable.
However, also be aware of other factors such as breathability. You’ll most likely be wearing something under the impact shorts, but they’re still close to the skin and therefore part of your base layer. Good moisture management will help to keep you dry and comfortable.
Where to buy
If you’re looking to get hooked up with some impact shorts, be sure to consider the the different design points and read some reviews – especially when it comes to comfort. On the protection side of things, decide what’s more important, out-right protection or a lower-profile fit? Whichever you go for, impact shorts aren’t going to save you pain on every fall, but you’ll definitely be better off than without them!