Shin pads, also known as shin guards, were invented in Nottingham, United Kingdom, in the 19th century by Nottingham Forrest player Samuel Weller Widdowsonin. He cut down a pair of cricket pads and strapped them outside his stockings. At first Weller Widdowsonin was ridiculed, but it soon caught on with other players. His Nottingham Forrest-team was also the first team in the world to wear shin pads.
Nowadays shin pads are made of various synthetic materials, including
Plastic - less protective than any of the other shin pads
Fiberglass - light weight, stiff and sturdy shin pads
Foam Rubber - Very light, but not as solid and protective as fiberglass
Polyurethane - Heavy shin pads, but sturdy, offering the best protection
You should find the shin pad that gives you the best fit. The area just above your foot until three inches below your knee should be covered. The shin pad should not be so stiff that it interferes with you moving around and should feel secure in the front.
Furthermore, you need to determine which type of shin pad you prefer. You can find equipment with and without ankle sleeves. Shin pads with ankle sleeve will give you extra protection of your ankle and keeps the shin pad better in place. The pads without sleeve, which are also known as 'slip ins' because they are slipped into the socks, are more comfortable and lighter, but offer less protection.
Most major sports brands make shin pads and most of them use the same technologies and materials, so it's hard to say what the best manufacturer of shin pads is. Shin pads are available in retail stores as well as online stores, with prices starting at $10.