Tell me if this is you… Walking in a sports equipment shop, eagerly looking for a football helmet and ending up leaving empty-handed. Why? Because everything is just too expensive and you’re not even sure if you’ll commit to football long-term.
Hey, I get it. Buying a helmet is an important investment when deciding to play football, but if you’re still not fully committed to it or not have enough budget, it may be better to start off looking at the cheaper end of football helmets.
After all, many “cheap” football helmets are packed with some amazing technology that will keep you safe and comfortable. So why not start there?
Here’s a list of excellent but cheap adult football helmets. Let’s get to it!
Cheap Adult Football Helmets
1. Best All-Around Helmet: Schutt Vengeance Pro LTD
The Varsity Vengeance Pro is a great all-around helmet that surely won’t break the bank. Featuring a low-profile helmet shell and an inflatable SUREFIT air liner along the back and sides, this helmet both looks good and feels good.
TPU Cushioning on the inside won’t wilt or wither under the force of even a thousand impacts. Additionally, the liner around the helmet wraps itself around the player’s head, evenly distributing the pressure and weight.
Moreover, the Varsity Vengeance Pro LTD comes with a 5/8” Inter-Link jaw pads, and is available to be customized with many of Schutt’s most popular faceguards, including titanium faceguards which offer an unrivaled level of sturdiness and durability.
This is a great helmet overall for those who want full round protection and a comfortable, locked-in fit.
2. Most High-Tech Helmet on a Budget: Xenith Varsity X2E Football Helmet
The Xenith Varsity X2E football helmet is great for those on a budget, as it is generally adaptable to any level of competition.
Xenith’s patented Adaptive Head Protection System conforms to the shape of your head, offering a custom fit without the need for air pumps.
Moreover, a FitBand silicon band cinches to your head to further conform to your unique head shape. This means you’ll be able to wear the Xenith Varsity X2E over the course of several seasons, barring any damage or wear and tear! You get to spend less on this helmet over the long run, even if it’s current price point might be a little outside of your budget.
We haven’t even mentioned all of the cutting-edge absorbing technology on the inside of the shell! A shock suspension system allows the bonnet and the head to move independently from the shell, thereby enabling the helmet to adapt to hits and minimize the impact from linear impacts and rotational forces.
More comfort is found in the VN comfort pads which, aside from comfort, also provide high impact resistance. All this while the polycarbonate shell is durable and not likely to crack or be damaged.
The Xenith X2E is one of the few “cheap” helmets that has also been rated 5-stars by Virginia Tech’s Helmet Ratings, and with so much amazing technology, it’s not difficult to see why.
3. Most High-Tech: Xenith Epic+
This gives the Epic+ helmet plenty of flexibility when taking on hits, mitigating the “snapping” of the neck which can so often cause concussions.
Moreover, Xenith has added even more shock absorbing technology by way of Aware Flow, which increases the helmet’s resistance to impact by lightening the load of the hit. The X2E also features an Adaptive Head Protection System which covers the occipital bone in a high-density foam pad that conforms to the occipital area.
Lastly, XRD and VN comfort pads provide additional comfort on the inside of the helmet, as well as resistance to high-velocity impacts.
4. Best Budget Protection: Schutt Vengeance Pro Adult Helmet
But like the LTD Pro, the Schutt Vengeance Pro features a similar, redesigned Vengeance shell that is sleeker with a lower profile.
The padding in the shell is super lightweight, which in turn reduces the weight of the helmet, reducing the strain on the player’s neck.
That is an underrated feature of the Schutt Vengeance Pro, as the shell is made of polycarbonate material. While polycarbonate is the most durable and shock-resistant material on the market, it is also heavy, so it’s good to see that Schutt has mitigated the weight of the shell without compromising player safety.
The helmet also comes with a standard carbon steel Vengeance faceguard and Inter-Link jaw pads, which can easily be removed and customized thanks to a Twist Release retainer.
5. Best Entry-Level Helmet: Riddell Speed Football Helmet
The main difference between the Riddell Speed football helmet and the SpeedFlex is that the Riddell Speed has an additional outer rear bumper, which helps to protect the back of your head when you fall.
Moreover, the Riddell Speed has a Quick Release attachment software, which makes switching facemasks relatively easy. And with so many options for facemasks, this is an underrated but much appreciated feature.
However, the drawback to the Quick Release attachment software is that it is more costly than using a mechanical attachment, so expect the price point to reflect this.
Riddell’s Patented Side Impact Protection is available for the Riddell Speed, and helps to ensure a comfortable and stable fit.
Overall, this is a solid helmet that doesn’t necessarily have all of the cutting-edge technology that other helmets on this list have, but is nonetheless a great entry-level helmet for those starting out or unsure if they want to commit to playing football long-term.
6. Most Comfortable Helmet: Xenith Shadow
The Xenith Shadow is unique for the reason it features a completely novel and innovative polymer shell that increases energy absorption and durability compared to the traditional polycarbonate shell.
Moreover, making a return from Xenith’s line of helmets is its patented “Shock Bonnet” technology, which is ranked among the highest in the Xenith line for its shock absorption.
Like other Xenith helmets, the shock arrangement inside the shell of the helmet moves independently from the shell, which gives the helmet superior protection from blindside hits that can occur any time on the football field.
Moreover, integrated occipital and jaw components conform to the wearer’s head. The 3DX Chin Cup not only secures your helmet, but also adapts to your face shape to give you a comfortable, custom fit that will last all season.
To top it all off, Xenith has designed the Xenith Shadow to be as comfortable as possible without compromising the security and safety of the athlete. Wearers will notice a number of quality-of-play technologies from the helmet throughout the course of the game.
For instance, you’ll notice several ventilation holes inside and outside the helmet to deliver optimal amounts of breathability and airflow. Combining this with large ear holes for a more comfortable fit and better on-field communication.
The internal padding is also super-lightweight and comfortable, and makes taking the helmet on and off much easier. As a bonus, the helmet feels almost weightless, thanks to a balanced weight design that distributes the weight of the helmet around, allowing the athlete to be as agile as possible.
Pair all that with a sleek aesthetic, and you have a helmet that will help athletes look good, feel good, and play good, as they say.
7. Best Protection: Schutt Vengeance Z10
The Vengeance Z10 is Schutt’s latest in its popular Vengeance line. It features a redesigned lower profile shell that sits closer to the player’s face, thus helping stabilize the helmet for advanced safety.
The Schutt Vengeance Z10 also features a titanium faceguard that is 60% lighter than the average faceguard while still being just as durable. The SC4 Hard Cup Chin Straps adds more durability to the overall frame and provides a locked-in fit.
Furthermore, Schutt outfitted the Vengeance Z10 with SUREFIT airliner and a single-layer of mechanically attached TPU Cushioning. This makes the Vengeance Z10 a comfortable but sturdy helmet with options to customize the fit if the player chooses.
Schutt has left no stone unturned when it comes to ensuring that the Vengeance Z10 is one of the most protective helmets on the market, with an external cheek stabilizer that increases the strength of the ear flaps.
That’s why VA Tech awarded the Schutt Vengeance Z10 a 5-star rating, making it one of the safest helmets on the market today.
8. Best Value: Schutt AiR XP Pro VTD II
The AiR XP Pro is next in Schutt’s ever-evolving line of excellent helmet manufacturing and designs. With returns of prominent features such as advanced TPU Cushioning, SUREFIT airliner and lightweight materials, AiR XP Pro helmets possess a balanced combination of comfort and protection.
It’s easy to see why Schutt has used some of this returning technology. TPU is an excellent cushioning material that absorbs more impact at a wider range of temperatures. This is a great feature as TPU is virtually impervious to the mold, mildew, fungus, thereby offering much in the way of protection.
SUREFIT airliner is outfitted along the back and the sides of the helmet, and this gives the helmet a soft “pillow-like” feel. A soft cup chin strap and inter-link jaw pads offer more in the way of comfort and can be replaced and customized to offer the most secure fit.
All of this lightweight technology comes under the hood of a polycarbonate shell, which is the most protective material on the football market today.
Overall, the Schutt AiR XP Pro is best known for delivering amazing impact absorption with a super comfortable fit in a traditional helmet shell.
9. Can’t Go Wrong: Riddell SpeedFlex
The Patented Side Impact Protection features side shell extensions which combine with side liner extensions to reduce linear and rotational acceleration, thereby mitigating the risk of concussions.
The PSIP is an awesome feature because some collisions on the football field can come from the blindside, where the player does not see the hit coming and therefore cannot brace for impact. The added protection and support in the mandible and temporal regions is not just there to keep you safe, but also to enable you to play to your fullest capabilities.
The SpeedFlex is also one of the more comfortable helmets on the market, as Riddell has outfitted the SpeedFlex with FlexLiner. FlexLiner is a high-end lining that improves the helmet’s stability and provides additional comfort.
The FlexLiner is an integral part of Riddell’s innovative Flex System, which engineers “give” into the helmet, so that the helmet recoils with the player’s head when taking a hit.
Protection is further buffed by the Composite Energy Management padding system, which helps absorb impact and allows the pads on the inside of the helmet to retain their position and durability.
Although this helmet has been around for what feels like forever, the 2019 edition of the Riddell SpeedFlex ranked highly under the ranked highly under the NFLPA’s laboratory testing, coming in at 8th best helmet overall. 
All these features come together to provide a solid, comfortable and secure helmet.
10. Best Impact Absorption: Schutt DNA Pro+
First introduced in 2003, the current Schutt DNA Pro is vastly superior today, with traditional foam padding that provides better impact absorption, better heat management and better hygiene.
In fact, Schutt claims that the DNA Pro+ offers 24% more impact absorption than the Riddell speed and 44% more than your average helmet.
The helmet itself is highly resistant to mold, mildew, fungus and bacteria, which anybody that has spent time washing football helmets will be appreciative of. Moreover, the DNA Pro shell was designed using the latest 3D Computer modeling and analysis tools.
The spherical shape allows glancing blows on helmet-to-helmet hits, while the contours of the helmet are designed to increase strength and durability. Large vent holes in the crown maximize air flow, while SUREFIT makes a return to add superior comfort and fit.
Schutt has mastered TPU and inserted more of it into less space, allowing for more comfort and providing an optimum balance of cushioning, flexibility and weight. This allows the Schutt DNA Pro+ to fit on without the need for fitting accessories, and will help reduce fitting time and reduce investment in fitting parts.
For unsurpassed comfort and fit, the Schutt DNA Pro+ is a go-to, but keep in mind that a facemask is not included and only DNA facemasks are compatible with this helmet.
FEQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
Finding the right helmet is of crucial importance, as a helmet is the primary protective equipment preventing damage to your head and mitigating the force of impacts to the brain, thereby reducing the risk of concussions.
You do not want to skimp on a poorly-padded or ill-fitting helmet, as just one bad hit can cause irreparable damage to your brain.
Luckily, there are a plethora of options when it comes to helmets, and, as you can see above, I have curated and researched several kinds of helmets to help make your research process easier.
In general, the lighter the helmet, the better. A helmet that is too heavy will often result in “bobblehead” football where the player will not be able to support the weight of the helmet through the head and neck.
Therefore, comfort is as much a part of the helmet-wearing process as is protection.
In general, there are some markers to ensure a football helmet is comfortable and fits right.
- First, measure the circumference of your player’s head to get an accurate sizing. Then, check sizing charts of helmets you might be interested in.
When trying on a helmet, be sure to wet the player’s hair to mimic game day conditions. When hair is wet, it shrinks, and the resulting space between head and helmet can chafe and become irritated.
- Then, when wearing the helmet, look at where it sits. The ears should be firmly aligned with the ear holes and the helmet itself should sit an inch above the brow. Aim for snug but comfortable.
- Finally, pull the chin strap around. This is one of the best markers for determining whether the helmet fits. If you need to use the strap to tighten the helmet, the helmet is too loose. If the strap latches easily, however, then the helmet fits just right.
Football helmets should be replaced no later than 10 years from the date of manufacture, though this of course depends on how much wear and tear the helmet has undergone.
Moreover, one should typically get their helmets reconditioned every two years or so, once again dependent on the damage done to the helmet.
A chin strap should be just tight enough to be able to keep your lips closed even while your jaw is relaxed. Without a mouth guard, you should be able to move your mouth and jaw around and should even be able to speak.
A chin strap is too tight if it is being used to secure the helmet in place. A good chin strap should only fasten the helmet, never tighten it itself. In this respect, the chin strap should be fastened fairly loosely.
Football players don’t necessarily get new helmets every game. NFL helmets are replaced “as needed”, which means that one player might wear the same helmet for weeks while another gets his helmet replaced every game.
Typically, the process involves X-Raying the helmets for cracks and damage, and replacing as need be.
The actual rule in the NFL is that a player should wear the same helmet all season, unless the helmet is specifically cracked or damaged or broken. This is a big part of the reason why a lot of NFL teams no longer do throwback/alternate uniforms, as they cannot match the uniforms to the helmets since the helmets require different stickers or a facemask or a color change.
The reason for this is because the NFL believes that broken-in helmets lead to fewer concussions, as new helmets pose an unknown quantity related to the helmet’s stability, even if it’s the same type of helmet.
You really cannot go wrong with any of these helmet choices, but if you’re stuck between a rock and a three hundred pound defensive tackle, you’ll want some protection to your head, and no helmet is better at doing that than the Schutt Vengeance Z10.
Schutt has really made safety the name of the game with this helmet, and thanks to the lower profile shell, you’re much less likely to ever get rattled, and therefore, to ever see stars floating around your head.
What puts the Schutt Vengeance Z10 over the edge is that it retails at an affordable price point, making this helmet one of the best to purchase.
- Schutt Sports. Retrieved from https://www.schuttsports.com/football/vengeance/vtd-ii/?SID=701rrkpj8s045ub7op9fefsak6
- Riddell Speed Helmet. Retrieved from https://www.riddell.com/riddell/en/CPQ-Configurable-Category/SPEED-ICON/p/FB_HELMET_SPD_ICON
2019 Helmet Laboratory Testing Performance Results. Retrieved from https://nflpaweb.blob.core.windows.net/media/Default/NFLPA/NFL_HelmetPoster_031419_ALL.PDF