Athletic Cups for Paintball

The Problem

This one’s obviously for the boys.

Guys, don’t tell me the fear of getting shot straight in the giblets isn’t always lingering in the back of your head while you play. I know I’m not the only one. Hell depending on the bunker I’m behind, the stance I’m in and the position of the opposing players, there’s plenty of times that fear is front and center. It’s distracting a.f. and I finally decided it was worth doing something about it so I could focus on paintball, not on worrying about my hardware…’software‘? Whatever, you know what I mean.

The Turning Point

The reason I finally decided I wanted to try an athletic cup was because when I came back to paintball in ’22, most of my gear from ’04 still fit perfectly. The 1 thing that didn’t was my DYE slide shorts. This left me without a lot of the protection that I’d come to need as a young front-player in my teens.

So came the mission of finding a good replacement. Long story short, I got a pair of Planet Eclipse Slide Shorts and while I was very happy with their breathability, stretch and padding around the hips, the crotch padding left much to be desired. My DYE shorts had been much thicker and coupled with the thick rugged pants we used to play with back in the day, I felt very protected. Now that I’m older and gear has evolved to be much lighter (way better for hot weather!), I was happy to have more heat-tolerant jogger pants and more breathable slide shorts underneath. Like I said, the only downside was that I felt much more vulnerable around the tator-tots.

After playing a few times and noticing myself playing rather clumsily in order to position myself for the least-likely chance to take a shot to the pocket rocket, I decided it was time to find some actual protection so that I could play confidently and free my mind of the distraction of ‘what if I take one in the huevos‘. So the search began.

The Candidates

I knew I wanted to try at least a few different products to make sure I found the best solution, or more specifically to make sure I didn’t leave myself stuck with a bad decision. So I did a little research, including watching the hilarious How to Protect Your Balls Playing Paintball by Paintball Ruined My Life. Brad was a fan of the soft cup, and while I don’t think he’s wrong or anything, I personally didn’t like the idea of any protection down there being “soft”. If I want to squash fears of busting my boys, I want to know there’s no chance the cup is going to cave. I figured, if none of the hard designs are comfortable, I’ll look into a soft style.

Luckily, I didn’t have to. I narrowed down the hard cups to 3 models that seemed to cover all be bases. After all, there’s not much in the way of options as it relates to athletic cup ergonomics. They’re all nearly identical. The Diamond MMA was the most unique-looking cup available (and the most expensive), while all the others (McDavid, Mueller, Shock Doctor, Champion, etc.) had virtually zero differences in their overall design.

The notable differences I saw in the athletic cup market were:

  • Size (although some size by age, which is, uh…weird)
  • Material (carbon fiber, rubber, foam, plastic, etc.)
  • Style (color, cut-outs, coatings, etc.)

Like I said, I just didn’t see many differences that would actually translate to performance differences between models. This allowed me to pretty easily narrow my selection down to 2 brands, and 3 models. Shock Doctor seemed the most popular, and a recommended brand by Brad, so I decided to go with their design in 2 different sizes. Their cup design is virtually identical to every other brand, so I figured if any of those others will work, so will one of these. The other brand I went with was Diamond MMA, who seems to be a new player in the world of athletic cups, but with a few years of marketing and feedback under their belt (no pun intended).

Here’s what they look like next to each other:

Left to Right: Diamond MMA, X-Large Shock Doctor, Large (aka “Adult” size) Shock Doctor

Diamond MMA Cup

This was basically theĀ only other cup design on the market. It had a unique shape to it and looked a little extra spacious which I thought could prove valuable, so along with all the 5-star reviews this seemed like a must-try.

Shock Doctor – Large

As described above, it’s basically the standard cup design on the market and this one comes with the “supporter” that makes sure the cup is held up against the body and prevents the rubberized edges from rubbing directly against your skin.

Note: The sizing is a bit confusing here. All sizes actually come with either an Adult (Large) or Boys (Small or Medium) cup size. The Small – XXXL refers to the size of the supporter (the strap with pouch) and goes by waist size, so keep that in mind when ordering.

Shock Doctor – Extra-Large

I ain’t about to strangle my wedding tackle so in case the standard Adult size wasn’t spacious enough I went ahead and got the next size up. I don’t think there’s anything bigger on the market so for all you gifted fellas…guess bigger ain’t always better is it!

Here’s about how big they are:
(laugh all you want, you’re welcome!)

The Predictions

I had two schools of thought about how this was going to go based on size and design.

If the cup was too small, it was going to:

  1. Not feel safe enough for lack of coverage
  2. Be very uncomfortable because it’d make my crotch claustrophobic

If the cup was too large, it was going to:

  1. Impede mobility in tight positions
  2. Distract me while running as it banged against each thigh

I knew that as long as I could find a cup that was perfectly narrow at the bottom so that each leg could freely move while running, deep enough to allow plenty of room for the boys, and shaped well enough that it stayed in place and didn’t rub me wrong that I would have exactly the level of performance and protection I’m looking for.

The Predicament

I literally went full circle in how I assessed these three cups. It was confusing enough at first trying to figure out the best way to place the cup: over boxer briefs and under the slide shorts, or inside the slide short pouch? I knew it wasn’t a good idea to wear them inside my boxers because skin rubbing directly on those rubber edges is a rash waiting to happen.

I quickly figured out that the goofy looking jock strap is actually imperative for getting the cup to hold in place against the body correctly. They’re simply too heavy to rely on the pressure of underwear or slide shorts to hold the cup in place securely. Once I wore each cup inside the jock strap, or “supporter” as they call it, that’s when I was finally able to assess which cup was most comfortable.

Even then, I literally concluded that each one was more comfortable than the rest at one point or another. I’d wear one for 10-20 minutes as I went around the house doing normal everyday things. I’d think, “Ok, this one’s actually pretty comfortable.” Switch to the next one and 10 minutes later be like, “Actually this one’s really comfortable, I think I like this the most.” I literally did that 4 times. Each one won “most comfortable” at one point in time, each lost that award at one point in time, but I did eventually land on a winner.

The Winner

I ultimately settled on the cup that I originally predicted would win: the smallest (i.e. The regular Adult size Shock Doctor. It’s obviously plenty spacious in all the ways it needs to be, but because it has the most narrow base, it ends up resting absolutely perfectly between the thighs securely against your body so that you barely notice it’s there when you’re playing. Believe it or not, it actually gets more comfortable as a day of play goes on; somehow it seems to just settle in better and better.

The reasons the two larger ones ended up being returned is because they were just too big to ever settle in fully. My thighs were always knocking them back and forth a bit when I’d walk. I imagine the Diamond MMA cup is great for fighters who regularly stand with their legs wide, always ready to jump sideways to make or block an attack. For paintball though, it just ends up feeling like it’s blocking you from having your legs closer together when getting in tight to a bunker.

For those wondering which cup took 2nd Place: it’s honestly hard to say, but I think I’ll give it to the Diamond MMA cup. The Diamond has a uniquely cut ‘notch’ on the inside of the base and for some reason that actually feels more comfortable against the body. BUT, the edge of the Diamond has a bumpy texture and that can actually kind of rub you wrong, even through the supporter. The XL Shock Doctor didn’t have any rub issues, it just hit my legs a bit more than the Diamond did when walking, crouching, etc.

I can’t stress enough how important the strap/supporter is that is specifically designed to hold the cup upwards against your body. Letting the bare cup sit between your boxers and slide shorts, or in the pouch of your slide shorts is not going to allow the cup to get up and in there. Only the strap will do that; and no, you don’t want this inside your undies rubbing against bare skin.

TAKEAWAY: Wear boxer briefs under the jock strap (cup inside the pouch of the strap), and slide shorts over the jock strap. This will make sure everything that needs to be padded and protected is such during play, and everything will stay in place without chafing.

Affiliate Disclosure: If you buy any of the products from the links provided in this article I will receive a small portion of the sale. Thank you to anyone who decides to give one of these products a try and chooses to purchase from the link provided.

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