Goalkeeper gloves, like boots, cars, and pizza is something that each of us have a different take upon. While some like sport cars or Adidas, others like SUV’s and Puma. We all love pizza, but not everyone likes the same combination of toppings. Keeper gloves, while a necessity and quite utilitarian, also provide many options for your consideration. Oh, and by options, I mean something other than color or price.
In general there are three main components of keeper gloves – the backhand, the palm, and the closure. The backhand is the portion of the glove which provides the most protection to the hand; provides a solid base to which the palm, fingers, and closure are attached. The backhand is also the part used for punching our the ball as well as used against the ground to get back on ones feet. The quality and complexity of the backhand can significantly affect the price of the gloves. The palm is the part of the glove used for catching and handling the ball. Gloves with ‘good grip’ means that the palms are somewhat sticky, strong, and durable. Materials for the palm include latex and polyurethanes and can be smooth, textured, dimpled, or rippled. The closure is exactly what is sounds like – the type of system to secure the glove to your hand. The closure also includes material to assist donning the gloves via tabs or a collar. Hook and loop (VELCRO) are the most common type of closure as they are quick to adjust, can be done one handed, and seem to endure well. The most common closure style is called the ‘bandage Closure’ which is the wide material used for the closure which wraps around the wrist providing a secure fit and support for the wrist and hand.
A goalkeeper glove’s cut refers to the way the palm material is constructed.
Flat: Also called “traditional cut”, the palm on these goalkeeper gloves is a single piece of flat foam. Flat palm gloves offer a loose fit and boxier appearance, with exterior stitching.
Rolled/Gunn: Roll/Gunn cut goalkeeper gloves are identified by their “rolled” finger construction, the seams on the back of the finger causing them to roll. The sides of the palm are wrapped or rolled around the fingers. This cut offers a snug fit and larger contact area with the ball.
Negative: The seam is on the inside of the glove. The palm is made with one piece of latex with gussets between the palm and the backhand. The negative provides the most snug fit, and is ideal for female goalkeepers and goalkeepers with slimmer hands. There are actually two types of Negative Cut – the Negative Cut and Negative Roll. Here are explanations of the two types:
- Negative Cut: Negative cut goalkeeper gloves (and hybrids that utilize this style) have become increasingly popular over the past years, particularly across Europe. They are similar to the flat cut in that they use a single piece of latex attached to the backhand via gussets, the key difference is that the stitching/gussets are inside the glove. This provides a much tighter and snug fit with control on the ball that is more “true” to your hand. Due to this, gloves utilizing this type of cut will wear slightly quicker than roll finger for example.
- Negative Roll: Negative roll is a hybrid style that combines negative and roll finger to produce an even greater level of comfort, fit and feel. The fingers are rolled in the same way any roll finger glove will, but the inside of the palm is stitched much like a negative glove. The benefits of this combination mean that if a snug fit is your thing and you are a fan of negative gloves, you can have an even better fit but with more latex contact on the ball thanks to the rolled fingers. For those used to a more open or loose fitting glove you may want to consider going one size up when choosing a glove with this cut
Hybrid: Hybrid cuts offer a combination of cuts in the same glove. This cut is a combination of rolled/Gunn and either the flat or negative cut.
GRIP and PALM
When glancing at the price tag of a pair of keeper gloves one might wonder why some are $15 while others are $200? The best answer is the GRIP. Like with many other things in football, and life, the more expensive something is the better it is… usually… In this case of keeper gloves the higher price usually means a more grippy glove. That is not to say that an inexpensive glove is not going to aid in stopping a ball. What it does mean that a lesser expensive glove won’t perform as well under less-than-perfect-conditions. For younger players and beginners please PLEASE start off with the cheaper gloves! For one thing, their little hands will grow fast enough to not warrant spending more on gloves… secondly because at younger ages technique is taught rather than relying on a grippy glove.
A few helpful hints:
- The softer the palm, the better the grip. More durable gloved have a rougher palm. Roughness is rubber which is added to the latex giving it more strength.
- Keeper glove palms come in a variety of thicknesses with 3 and 4mm being the most common. While a thicker palm provides more protection and shock absorption there is a loss of touch and feel. Thinner gloves provide more touch.
- Where you play makes a difference. Higher rubber content (like mentioned above) can be great for indoor or on artificial turf. Playing in a very wet climate? There are gloves designed for that! Ask your local shop owner or your coach for their recommendations!
A goalkeepers glove should be roomy but not loose. A nice fit is one with about 1/2″ of room at the end of the fingertips. Gloves which are too snug may experience splitting or a blowout which is no fun during a match! To find your size, it’s pretty simple: measure the circumference of your palm (bare hand) just below your knuckles and NOT including your thumb. Take that measurement and round UP to the next whole inch THEN add one inch to find your size. Do this for BOTH hands and use the larger size if there is a difference. There are some that say that your shoe size is also your glove size (again rounding up to the next whole number but NOT adding an extra 1) but, in my case, this is not accurate. Best way to know? Try some on!
WEAR and TEAR: MAINTENANCE
As with other parts of your kit, proper care and maintenance will extend the life of your gloves. After only a short time on the pitch you will notice some wear in the latex palm. This is normal for these gloves! Latex is somewhat fragile and will show wear! Fear not, as even as the palms may show wear their grip is retained until the layer of foam wears away completely. Different glove manufacturers have their own recommendations for care of the gloves so be sure to check with them for their suggestions. I can say that allowing gloves to live in your backpack is NOT the best for the gloves as they do not have a proper way to air out and dry. NEVER dry your gloves in direct sunlight or with any heating device!
Owning a couple of pairs of gloves is a good idea so you can rotate them in and out of your practice and match days. This will also be helpful in the event of your needing a new pair in your match if one blows out! Also latex gloves typically perform better when you moisten the palms with clean water. This sort of ‘activates’ the latex and the stickiness of the palms. Doing this once or twice during a match is not a bad idea especially on very hot days or in very dry climates.
There are glove washes available from different retailers which can help with “Glove Funk”. Nasty smelly gloves are just gross… stinky and gross! Washing your gloves can help reduce or eliminate glove odor and help keep bag smells at bay. Proper air drying, too, is essential in keeping your gloves fresh[er] and clean[er].
I hope this little primer/guide helps. Questions or comments? Let me know below!