Football helmets have evolved significantly in the past 20 years; long gone are the days of perfectly round helmets filled with hard foam that felt like sand bags. Following up our “Top 5 Youth Helmets,” Let’s look at our top 5 varsity/adult football helmets on the market!
Before we get into the list, there are a few important points. For starters, no helmet can or will ever be 100% concussion-proof; when you walk on the football field, there is always a risk involved. Next, there are a number of factors to consider: weight, fit, comfort and to many, aesthetics.
5. Schutt Vengeance Z10 LTD | $499, SchuttSports.com
Schutt has worked to cut weight as much as possible while still being as protective as possible. In recent years they’ve introduced the Helmet Stabilization System (HSS), lighter models, and they continue to use their TPU design.
Pros – The Z10 is light, with a large variety of facemask options alongside Schutt’s HSS and their TPU padding technology. It also received 5-Stars in the Virginia Tech helmet study.
Cons – The Z10 LTD is used in relatively small numbers at the NFL level; mostly on defensive backs. It also has received conflicting test results; an impressive 5-Stars from Virginia Tech, but a lower rating with the NFL’s helmet study.
Final Thoughts– The Vengeance Z10 LTD is a very impressive, comfortable, lightweight helmet that I would look into using if you’re at a skills position or favor a lighter piece of equipment.
Get the Schutt Vengeance Z10 LTD for $499, SchuttSports.com.
4. Xenith Shadow XR | $549, Xenith.com
From the very beginning of its existence, Xenith has been making some of the more unique and scientifically driven helmets on the market. Their newest helmet, the Shadow XR continues that trend.
Pros – Xenith’s bonnet system has consistently tested towards the very top of every major test since their inception. The XR variation of the Shadow uses new shock absorbers by RHEON that help it perform even better. The Shadow XR has a relatively small shell with a number of very large air vents, helping the player’s head breathe during play. Their unique chinstrap system wraps around the head, creating a consistent ‘custom’ fit on the fly.
Cons – Every Xenith helmet has been criticized rather heavily for its looks; quite frankly the general consensus is that they’re hideous. Customization options are rather limited; you have a rather small selection of facemasks and chinstraps to choose from.
Finals Thoughts – Xenith’s primary focus has always been to combat rotational forces with their bonnet system. If you’re not put off by the aesthetics of the helmet, I would very highly recommend looking into Xenith’s technology.
Get the Xenith Shadow XR for $549, Xenith.com.
3. Riddell SpeedFlex | $410-$500, SportsUnlimited.com
The most popular and sought after helmet at every level of football, the SpeedFlex, which launched in 2014, packs every piece of innovation that Riddell offers into its sleek structure. Strap-Loc’s lock the top strap to the helmet, the 4-point quick release facemask system helps medical staffs remove it in case of an emergency while the Ratchet-Loc, and more recently the Cam-Loc systems have completely revolutionized how chinstraps are connected.
Pros – The SpeedFlex is incredibly popular and packed with technology.
Cons – The SpeedFlex is a large, heavy helmet that may not be for smaller players. Customization options can be a bit limited; some of the more preferred facemask options can be a hassle to get your hands on, and if you prefer the classic buckle chinstrap you’ll have to look outside of Riddell for good chinstrap options. Visors are a very popular helmet accessory, but they’re typically a nightmare to put on the SpeedFlex due to its unique shape; newer models of visors are starting to combat this issue though.
Final Thoughts – When you think of helmets in 2020, your first thought is likely the SpeedFlex. Do some shopping to make sure it’s the right one for your position and body type, but I’d be rather comfortable using it in-game.
Get the Speedflex for $410-$500, SportsUnlimited.com.
2. Schutt F7 VTD | $385, Amazon.com / $700 SchuttSports.com (Custom)
The fascinating plates along the top and back of the shell are likely the first thing to catch your eye; these are part of an impact system called the Tektonic Plate 3DM System. These plates move independently of the shell on impact, absorbing energy. Schutt’s constant innovation has culminated in an impressive helmet, the F7 VTD. The F7 VTD is worn by players like Jarvis Landry, Kenyan Drake, Mark Ingram and James Robinson.
Pros – The F7 utilizes the Helmet Stabilization System (HSS), jaw pads that help lock the player’s head into the helmet. The Tektonic Plate system and Schutt’s tried-and-true TPU padding are packed into the F7 VTD.
Cons – The F7 VTD is the most expensive helmet on this list, sitting at $700 as of January 2021 (cheaper non-custom on Amazon). There are other models of F7 that can be found at a lower price, but I personally favor the VTD model.
Finals Thoughts – The F7 is one of the fastest growing helmets at the NFL level, and it’s easy to see why. If the price tag isn’t a concern, the F7 could be a perfect option for you.
1. Riddell SpeedFlex Diamond | $499, Riddell.com
Riddell teamed up with 3D printing company Carbon to produce 3D printed padding for their custom helmets in tandem with Riddell’s Precision-Fit technology. In 2020 they released a retail version of it, but this one is available to the public without the eye-popping price tag and the need to be scanned for your own model.
Pros – The SpeedFlex Diamond offers Riddell’s latest technology that used to be exclusive to the pros. Carbon’s Diamond technology has tested incredibly well during its very short lifetime; all the perks of the original SpeedFlex with even further improved technology!
Cons – The SpeedFlex Diamond is heavy, heavy, heavy. Coming in at 5 pounds or more, the Diamond is undoubtedly the heaviest helmet on this list.
Finals Thoughts – Maybe not for smaller players. If you know exactly what you’re buying, the SpeedFlex Diamond will be a great choice for you!
There’s our top 5, but we’re not done yet! It was hard to narrow the list down to just 5 helmets, so I’ve got two Honorable Mentions I’m going to briefly highlight.
Get the Riddell Speedflex Diamond for $499, Riddell.com.
Riddell Speed | $340, Riddell.com
The Speed was basically a coin-flip for the fifth spot on our list. The primary reason the Vengeance Z10 LTD was chosen over the Speed was age. The Speed continues to test well in every major study and is still popular at all levels, but it’s over 10 years old at this point. An older helmet does not equal a bad helmet by any means, but the newer helmet received the #5 spot.
Get the Riddell Speed for $340, Riddell.com.
VICIS ZERO1 | Unavailable
The VICIS ZERO1, worn by Pat Mahomes and Russell Wilson, topped every study it was entered into and was heavily funded by the NFL and players that invested in the company, but nonetheless the company experienced some financial issues and declared bankruptcy in 2019. Reformed under new ownership, and developing a new helmet, VICIS should be worth keeping an eye on. The ZERO1 itself bolstered an astronomical price tag, and coupled with an uncertainty of its obtainability (currently unavailable on the web) and future, it missed our top 5. If you can get your hands on one, you’d be very happy wearing it.
So there’s WPW’s top 5 adult helmets available right now. For youth players, check out our top 5 youth helmets here. There is a huge number of helmets to choose from these days, so do your research and find the right one for you!