Paintball is a bunch of fun, but it’s also super dangerous, and not just because people are trying to fill you full of paint, but because to avoid that paint, you have to throw yourself around like a ragdoll in a hurricane.
We’re not saying that getting shot by those candy-ish looking balls doesn’t pose a risk, they absolutely do.
Take one of those to your bare ankle and you’ll be straight out of action, but you also need to be saved from yourself, and the best way to do that is to kit yourself out with some awesome elbow pads.
The only problem is, it’s hard to know where to start.
All the padding in your specialist paintball pants is fully integrated into the clothing, but elbow pads are normally bought separately.
So, in the spirit of safety and keeping your elbows protected as your duck, dodge, dive, and snake crawl your way to survival, we’ve compiled eight of the very best elbow pads for paintball you can buy.
We’ve put an in-depth buyer’s guide and FAQ section together too, just in case nothing on our list takes your fancy.
No Time to Check Out All Eight?
No worries, sharpshooter. Here’s our top pick straight away for a quick look.
OUR TOP PICK
HK Army is one of the leading paintball clothing brands, and these elbow pads are a testament to their success.
Made from an incredibly breathable thermo-fabric designed to keep you cool as you venture into technicolor combat, you’ll be comfortable from the moment you slip them on to the second you take them off.
It’s a common worry that over fortifying yourself can lead to sluggish performance, but HK Army has thought of that and done their best to keep these pads as low profile as possible, and with 4-way flex zones, your movement won’t be compromised.
The padding itself is a double-layer crash foam made from a mixture of open and closed cell foam that travels from the elbow cap down to your wrist.
They secure at the bicep with a velcro strap and at the bottom with a reinforced glove and thumb loop.
- Great padding. You won’t feel a thing
- 4-way flex doesn’t impede movement
- Low profile
- Breathable materials
- Reinforced gloves
- Good foam coverage
- They’re a little oversized at the bicep
- Only one color available
Exalt’s T3 designs are crafted using super breathable fabrics.
The lining, in particular, has an especially vented feel, but if it’s a hot day and you do start to sweat, they have water wicking qualities too, meaning moisture is drawn away from your skin.
At 6.4oz, these are some of the lightest heavy-duty elbow pads on the market, which you’ll be thankful for during those long days shooting.
They also feature very thin abrasion-resistant flex zones to keep you tanked out and ballet-dancer limber.
Pad-wise, you get tri-layer foam stretching from your tricep all the way to the base of your wrist.
Secured with ingenious silicone weaves at the bicep and thumb cuff, these pads offer an amazing totally strapless fit.
- Strapless design
- Water wicking qualities
- Very breathable comfortable fabrics
- Tri-layer padding
- Great coverage
- Fit most sizes well
- Low profile and flexible
- No glove padding
- Only available in one color
With a neoprene rubber base, a thermoformed layer of padding, and a final custom-molded, ribbed elbow cap, these gloves are both flexible and strong.
Moreover, thanks to a pass-through retention strap running down the inside length of the pad, they’re super low profile and form-fitting too.
The FreeFlex is a very transparent glove in terms of feel. The mesh material of the inner arm has great air transfer and moisture wicking capabilities, and they’re fairly lightweight as well.
They feature a forearm strap that adds a feeling of security and keeps them in place, but they run a little small so you may not even need them.
These are perfect for those looking for an airy feel, but lots of protection.
- Tri-layer protection
- Great coverage
- Glove padding
- Moisture wicking qualities
- Breathable mesh liner
- Fairly lightweight
- Custom-molded padding facilitates awesome freedom of movement
- Not as padded as some
- Run small
- Only one color option
The thumb cuff on these gloves is incredibly well designed.
The loop is large and the cuff is wide, perfect for accommodating gloves without fatiguing the joints in your hand and hampering movement.
You get an incredibly breathable 4-way flex fabric underarm that’s both form-fitting and durable, and the padding is a multi-layered, ridged design mounted on a supportive neoprene base.
The padding wraps further around the wrist than some and conforms nicely, eliminating that irritating looseness you get with some gloves, and a velcro bicep strap keeps them firmly in place at the top.
One caveat is that they tend to run a little large. If you normally wear a large, a small/medium glove should fit fine.
- Multi-layered padding
- Super stretchy and breakable lining and inner arm material
- Great thumb cuff
- Very well priced
- Loads of coverage
- Low profile, form-fitting design
- Bicep strap secures them in place
- Runs very large
- Require breaking in as they can be quite stiff to begin with
- Only one color available
Coming in at number five we have a glove that, with adjustable wrist and bicep straps, offers the most customizable fit on our list.
Empire has employed both memory and EVA foam to provide the most cushion they possibly can. You’ll also notice vents in the foam to allow air to pass through and keep you cool.
The elbow pad is expertly ridged to give you a bit of traction as you dive on loose-pack terrain.
Some may find these pads a little too bulky for their tastes, as they feature full protection all the way down to the wrist. That said, they retain quite a bit of flexibility which is impressive.
They don’t run quite as far up the bicep as some other designs which may or may not appeal to you, and they’re quite a small fit, so you may need to size up.
A perfect match for the Empire chest protector, integrated loops enable you to connect the garments for awesome pad continuity.
- Dual-foam construction
- Loads of coverage
- Two straps make for a custom fit
- Glove padding
- Compatible with Empire chest protector
- Vents in the foam keep you cool
- Too bulky for some
- They run quite small
- Only available in one color and two sizes
Our sixth elbow pads are for those paint heads who are only looking for a little bit of light support and protection.
With an almost support bandage design, these Body Prox sleeves feel comfortable and secure.
Featuring a single foam grid that covers the elbow and runs partway down the forearm, these will fit nicely under a jersey or camouflage and give you the cushion you need to really immerse yourself in the environment.
They’re not exactly suitable for high impacts, but for general bumps and scrapes, they’re more than enough.
The outer compression fabric is incredibly flexible so as not to slake movement and it’s breathable too, so you can spend long days shooting without developing any sort of discomfort.
They’re not overly secured in place, so they’re not particularly suitable for intensive diving, but if you’re a beginner looking for budget protection, they’re a great first elbow pad.
- Great for beginners on a budget
- Super affordable
- Great for other sporting activities as well
- Compression fabric is form-fitting and breathable
- Don’t impede movement whatsoever
- Great under-armor
- Very light protection
- Not secure in place
Our seventh pick arrives at a reasonable middle ground between our light-gauge sixth pick and some of the heavier duty options higher up the list.
Featuring a neoprene base great for keeping moisture out, shock absorbent foam, and solid ABS plastic guards, these pads are the perfect protection against knocks and abrasions.
To keep the plastic from getting too smothering and claustrophobic, small vents filter air through to your skin keeping your temperature down, preventing excessive sweating.
With a smooth overall texture, these pads reduce snagging, making them great for those long and gnarly slides through tough terrain.
Secured with three straps, one above the elbow and two at the forearm, they stay firmly in place, and their low-key design makes them great for wearing beneath team colors or camouflage.
- Hard ABS plastic guards
- Foam layer absorbs shock
- Low-profile, flexible design can be worn beneath clothing
- Three straps keep them secure
- Quite expensive for what they are
- Sparse coverage
- Not the most breathable pads in the world
Our final elbow savers are a classic under-armor design. The protection they provide is minimal, but for the average once in a while paintball enthusiast, they’re a fantastic and affordable option.
If you’re just starting your paintball career and you want to avoid the ‘all the gear but no idea’ cliche, but you still want to give yourself a little bit of protection, these sleeves are comfortable and discreet.
Providing a very localized EVA elbow pad and another lower down for your forearm, these elbow protectors are all about simplicity.
They’re a polyester-spandex blend, a fantastic concoction of textiles with qualities such as strength, flexibility, and breathability, and much like our second pick, internal silicone strips keep them in place without any bulky straps.
- Perfect under clothes protection
- ‘Great for beginners
- Awesome price tag
- EVA foam padding
- Strapless silicone fit
- Not for intensive paintballing
- Not much coverage
8 Best Paintball Elbow Pads Buying Guide
Let’s take a moment to discuss some of your options and what might suit you.
Not all paintball elbow pads are created equal, so you’ll need to know exactly what you’re looking for before settling on a pair.
You may only be looking for elbow protection, but unlike traditional pads you see skaters donning as they take to the halfpipe, paintball pads give you the option of having even more protection.
The padding always starts just beyond the sensitive area at the back of your elbow and can run down your forearm as far as the tapering of your wrist.
Obviously, your priority should be to protect your joints as they’ll be taking the brunt of impacts, but the weakest part of your arm is the middle of your ulna. Protecting that large, thin bone from force should also be a consideration.
Protection is great, but if it in any way compromises your performance, resulting in you getting peppered from all angles, it can’t really be considered protection.
One of the big mistakes someone can make in paintball is to wear bulky armor that pokes out beyond your hiding spot alerting enemies of your location. It may not be your actual body; you may not even feel it, but if the paint pops on your pads, you’re outta there.
To avoid this disappointing exclusion from your next match, it’s important to look for elbow pads with a low profile design. The whole garment should rest close to your skin so it doesn’t compromise your self-spatial awareness.
Another reason to avoid tank-like armor is because you need to stay as limber as possible. Someone with greater freedom of movement is going to outshoot someone who feels bogged down and restricted, 100% of the time.
Under vs Over-Armor
This sort of ties in with the bulk category. How do you intend to wear your new paintball elbow pads? If you want to keep them beneath your clothing, they need to be extra low-profile, or you’re going to need a bigger shirt.
Wearing pads secured by straps over clothing means they’ll require extra long velcro strips to accomodate for the excess material they have to wrap around.
When shopping for paintball elbow pads, people tend to get caught up in the thickness of the padding and the overall aesthetic, but you should be equally if not more concerned with their textile composition.
You’re going to be wearing these skin-tight sleeves for long periods of time, engaging in loads of explosive movement, sweating, possibly on a summer’s day. You need your elbow pads to be as breathable as possible.
Water wicking properties are also desirable. Cotton and polyester blends tend to be both flexible and breathable, so keep an eye out for elbow pads with similar combinations of fibers.
A great fit couldn’t be more important for paintball elbow pads. A lot of designs will have a velcro strap on the bicep so you can secure them in a way that suits your body type, but others rely on silicone strips or the elasticity of the fabric alone.
If a pad is too tight, it’ll cut off the blood circulation in your arm over the course of the match, and you’ll lose vital reaction time and hand dexterity. If they’re too loose and they’re constantly slipping down, it’s going to be uncomfortable, distracting, and they’ll pose a catch-risk.
Durable materials are just as important as breathable ones. Paintball elbow pads aren’t exactly cheap. The last thing you want is to discover a bunch of frayed edges and loose threads after only a couple of games.
The best way to assess the resilience of elbow pads, other than to study up on customer reviews, is to check the stitching. Research the specs and keep an eye out for any bits of information that shed a bit of light on the style and quality of stitching. Perhaps they’re dual, or even better, quad-stitched.
Ideally, you’ll be able to chuck your elbow pads into your washing machine after an intensive day’s shooting, but not all of them are washing machine-safe.
You should always check the manufacturer’s recommendations before cleaning them in any way that may damage them.
Where do you go to paintball? If you’re an outdoors shooter, commonly found in assault-style courses or perhaps in the woods, you’ll need something that blends in to the terrain.
Most pads are too bulky to wear a layer of camo clothing over, so they themselves need to be low key and match your surroundings to a certain extent.
Frequently Asked Questions
Do you need elbow pads for paintball?
At first, probably not. I didn’t take anything in the way of protective gear for my first session, and the gear the company provided me with wasn’t padded.
If you start taking paintball more seriously and wish to engage with it on a more competitive level, elbow pads are essential.
How heavy should paintball elbow pads be?
If you like to keep things as light as possible, you should be looking in the region of 5-11oz.
If you want a builkier pad, 15oz is more realistic.
Do paintballs bounce off elbow pads?
Sometimes, yes, but it’s a rare and lucky occurrence.
Because dedicated paintball elbow pads are so shock absorbent, on isolated occasions the foam may take the energy from a shot preventing the paintball from popping.
Can you wear normal elbow pads for paintball?
Yes, you can wear standard elbow pads for paintball, but they’re not the most functional, and they leave a great portion of your arm unprotected.
Is paintball dangerous?
Paintball is inherently dangerous which is why making sure you have adequate protection is essential. Paintball is essentially simulated combat.
It can take place on treacherous terrain in extreme weather conditions, and it can be very demanding physically.
And then of course, people are shooting each other with hard balls of paint. If you remove your mask and get hit in the eye, you could easily be blinded.
If you’re ready to take paintball to the next level, after you’ve kitted yourself out with your own gun, a good pair of elbow pads is the logical next step.
Pair them with a great set of paintball pants and you’ll be a force to reckoned with. Read our list of the 9 best paintball pants here: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1EsA3xdnQGAYqid2kBw3D76M8B05NzawR8RzRK8zu_DU/edit (Link to another article for same client)