The structure of your knee contains several different bones and ligaments, all which work together to connect two large mechanical levers: the thigh and the lower part of your leg. The anterior cruciate ligament, the posterior cruciate ligament and the medial and lateral collateral ligaments all stabilize the tibia and femur and stop your knee from sliding around. Another key component of your knee is the spongy cartilage tissue that surrounds and protects it.
The knee works amazingly well when it’s in good shape, but all the complexity inside of it has a downside. The many moving parts in your knee can wear out over time. In addition, the location of the knee leaves it very vulnerable to all kinds of impacts– especially falls. There are several different diseases that can affect the knee, ranging from osteoarthritis to gout to chondromalacia patella– just to name a few. If you have a knee injury, you should be particularly careful when it comes to protecting this fragile area of your body. According to a study published by the peer-reviewed medical journal Arthritis Care and Research, knee injuries can make knee arthritis worse.
One of the best ways to care for an injured or weakened knee is with a knee brace. There are many different types of knee braces that you can buy, ranging from lightweight ones that provide moderate support to more robust knee braces for people with serious knee injuries or chronic knee conditions.
Here are the best knee braces you can buy:
- TechWare’s Pro Knee Brace is perfect for athletes because it’s made from neoprene– a very rugged material that’s similar to rubber, but even stronger and tougher.
- If you have healthy knees and you only need moderate support, you may want to go with POWERLIX’s Compression Knee Sleeve. It won’t restrict your movements and it provides excellent mid-leg compression, which shortens the time you need to recover from intense exercises.
- IPOW’s 2-Pack Knee Pain Relief & Patella Stabilizer provides targeted kneecap support. If you have unstable kneecaps, this affordable and low-profile knee brace could do the trick.
- The best knee brace option for weightlifters is Nordic Lifting’s Knee Sleeves. They offer strong compression and are designed to help improve your lifting posture.
- Shock Doctor’s Hinged Knee Brace provides extra knee support because it’s equipped with metal hinges. Since those hinges are made from aluminum, it’s surprisingly light.
The all-around best sport knee brace
TechWare’s Pro Knee Brace
TechWare’s Pro Knee Brace Support is excellent for use when doing physically demanding activities because it stabilizes and protects the entire knee. Since it’s made primarily out of neoprene, it’s very rugged and won’t break down in the wash when you need to clean it. Another perk is the open patella design, which provides extra breathability.
- Supports all sides of the knee. Velcro straps on the top and bottom provide vertical reinforcement, while the open patella design holds the kneecap in place.
- Protects and stabilizes. Padded neoprene protects your knee against dings and nicks.
- Doesn’t soak up sweat. The moisture wicking material makes this knee brace easy to clean.
- Stays in place. Non-slip silicone strips stop the knee brace from moving around after you strap it on.
- Fits most leg sizes. There are four different available sizes, all of which can be customized by adjusting the velcro straps.
- Slim design. Some sport knee braces are bulky, but this one is thin enough to fit under most types of clothing.
- Send it back if it doesn’t fit. TechWare will let you return your brace if the fit isn’t to your liking.
- The non-slip strips may irritate people with sensitive skin. If you’re sensitive to silicon, you may be better off with a different knee brace product.
In a nutshell
Even though this sport knee brace provides extra support and protection, it won’t make your knee sweaty thanks to its ventilated design. Not everyone will like the non-slip silicon strips that hold the brace in place, but if you don’t have sensitive skin that shouldn’t be an issue.
The best sleeve style knee brace for compression
POWERLIX’s Compression Knee Sleeve
Compression garments like the POWERLIX Compression Knee Sleeve offer faster exercise recovery time and a number of other different scientifically proven health benefits. The features that set this knee brace sleeve apart are its fashionable style options, flexible yet rugged fabric, woven design and unconditional six-month money back guarantee.
- Improves exercise recovery. Compression helps improve blood flow, which in turn aids in helping your body recover from intense exercise sessions.
- Doesn’t smell bad, even after you sweat. The 80% nylon, 20% Spandex material blend wicks away moisture and is easy to clean.
- Comfortable and easy to wear. This knee brace is more comfortable and ergonomic than most because the material is woven together.
- Fashionable design. The three available colors include black, pink and blue.
- Multiple size options. Rather than attempt to make a one-size-fits-all style brace, POWERLIX decided to offer five different size options. Check the product page to find out which size you need.
- Doesn’t leave marks or prints. Some compression garments leave imprints, but this one doesn’t, thanks to the woven design of the fabric.
- Six month satisfaction guarantee. If at any time within the six-month return window you decide that you don’t like this product, you can send it back for a refund.
- Other knee braces offer more support. While this knee brace does offer some knee reinforcement, strap-style knee braces provide better support.
In a nutshell
If the main reason why you’re looking for a knee brace is that you want to take advantage of compression health benefits, this could be the best option available. People with weak or injured knees may want to go with a strap-style knee brace instead.
The best low profile knee brace for targeted patella support
IPOW’s 2-Pack Knee Pain Relief & Patella Stabilizer
If you’re suffering from patella tracking disorder or some other similar type of kneecap-related problem, you need knee brace that’s specifically designed to support that area. That’s where IPOW’s 2-Pack Knee Pain Relief & Patella Stabilizer comes in. This low profile knee brace is as subtle and inexpensive as it is effective.
- Ideal for people with sensitive skin. The fact that this knee brace doesn’t cover much skin is one of its main benefits.
- Targeted support. It reinforces the patella and absorbs shocks when you jump and run.
- Easy to put on and remove. Larger knee braces aren’t as easy to clean or wear.
- Multiple color options. Choose from black, blue, pink and white.
- Excellent value. Two knee braces come in the pack.
- You can wear it under your clothes. You can wear it under pants, long skirts and dresses.
- 12-month satisfaction guarantee. If anything goes wrong– or if you just don’t like this knee brace– you can send it back to IPOW any time within a 12-month time frame and get a refund.
- The velcro straps wear out over time. After about a year of use, you will probably need to buy a new pair of braces.
In a nutshell
If ordinary knee braces sometimes cause your leg to chafe, this knee brace may be for you. It’s a simple knee strap that provides significant knee support, yet won’t restrict you or slow you down.
The best knee brace for weightlifting
Nordic Lifting’s Knee Sleeves
Weightlifters have special needs when it comes to knee support, especially bodybuilders. It’s not hard to injure your knees, even if your muscles are strong enough to handle very heavy weights. That’s why Nordic Lifting’s Knee Sleeves are especially designed to compress and reinforce the area around the knee. The thickness of the material and strong intensity of the compression helps weightlifters, since the extra reinforcement helps improve lifting posture.
- Protects against injuries. The compression improves your blood flow, which in turn helps you keep your muscles healthy.
- Rugged construction. Reinforced stitching ensures that the fabric won’t split apart.
- Suitable for both men and women. Either sex can wear these knee braces.
- Improves workout recovery. Along with guarding against injuries, compression can help reduce the amount of time you need to rest between sets.
- Three style options. Choose either camo, pink or black.
- Dedicated support team. Even if you need help on a Sunday, Nordic Lifting’s customer support team is ready to help.
- 30-day satisfaction guarantee with a one-year warranty. If your knee brace doesn’t fit or if you simply don’t like it, just send it back to Nordic Lifting within 30 days.
- Wears out quickly in the wash. Nordic Lifting recommends that you hand wash this knee brace to avoid wear and tear.
In a nutshell
The best thing about this knee brace is that it provides the specific type of knee reinforcement that weightlifters require.
The best hinged knee brace for extra knee support
Shock Doctor’s Hinged Knee Brace
Shock Doctor’s Hinged Knee Brace is lighter than most other heavy duty knee braces because of its aluminum hinges. Extra padding inside adds comfort, while handy finger pads make it easy to take off and put on. If you’re recovering from a serious knee injury or suffering from a chronic knee problem, there’s no better option.
- Rugged and long lasting. Some hinged knee braces wear out after a few weeks of use, but this one is sturdy enough to last for an extended period of time.
- Versatile. The fact that this knee brace fits both knees makes it more adaptable.
- Material resists odors and germs. The bindings are made from lycra, which is why they don’t easily get smelly or dirty.
- Finger tabs assist with donning and removal. Handy grips located on the sides of the brace make it easy to put this knee brace on and take it off.
- Ample padding. The padding adds to comfort and reduces chafing and scratching.
- Lightweight aluminum hinges. Aluminum is much lighter compared to steel, and just as durable.
- Doesn’t slide around. Shock Doctor has a patent pending on its unique X-style strap design, which stops the brace from shifting and moving around.
- Lycra tends to stick to your skin when you sweat. Even though lycra has many good advantages, one disadvantage is that it gets uncomfortable when it gets moist.
- No formal warranty policy. Shock Doctor offers good customer support, but the lack of a specific warranty policy may be a concern.
In a nutshell
If you’re looking for a comfortable knee brace that offers extra support but doesn’t weigh you down, this aluminum knee brace from Shock Doctor is an excellent choice.
Buying guide for knee braces
How long do you plan to use it?
The old saying “timing is everything” applies to wearing knee braces. A heavy duty knee brace can protect your knee and allow it to heal. However, it could also weaken the muscles and ligaments around your knee if you depend on it too much. If you’ve sustained a knee injury or are recovering from knee surgery, you should ask your doctor how long you should wear your knee brace. It may also be a good idea to get information about knee rehabilitation exercises as well.
Mobility vs. support
The more support a knee brace provides, the more restrictive it is. Too much restriction can make it difficult to do things like play sports or engage in other types of strenuous physical activities.
Different materials have different benefits and drawbacks. Lycra, for example, is extremely tough but it also tends to stick to your skin when it gets sweaty. That’s why it’s a good idea to find out what your prospective knee brace is made of before you buy. This is an especially important thing to do if you have sensitive skin or if your skin reacts to certain types of fabrics.
Donning and removal
Let’s be honest: if it takes a lot of time for you to put your knee brace on, you’re probably not going to use it very often. If you have arthritis, a hand injury or other issues that could interfere with your ability to don and remove your knee brace, look for one that’s equipped with zippers, tabs and other ease of use features.
How comfortable is it?
Even if you don’t intend to move much while wearing your knee brace, comfort is something to think about before you buy. Some knee braces have metal parts, which can poke through the material. Others come equipped with silicone non-slip pads, which are designed to hold the brace in place. These strips may bother you if you have sensitive skin.
Maintenance and washability
Many knee braces have velcro straps, which tend to break down if you machine wash them. If you don’t like the idea of hand washing your knee brace each time you clean it, you may want to go with a strapless knee brace or a knee brace that uses some other type of strap.
Can you get your money back if it doesn’t fit?
If a company is unwilling to support its knee brace with a generous money-back guarantee, that should raise a red flag. Some knee brace makers do offer a guarantee, but force their customers to go through a lengthy process to get their money back. Reading through a few reviews before you make your purchase will help you identify and avoid these types of sellers.
Sleeve-style knee braces do a great job of compressing the tissues and muscles around the knee and they typically only cost $15. Patella braces also fall into this price range.
Sports knee braces are a bit more expensive than general purpose knee braces because they’re tougher and offer more padding and protection. Expect to pay around $25.
Medical grade knee braces usually cost around $100. They are typically equipped with features like reinforced padding and metal hinges.
Frequently asked questions
Q: Can I wear my knee brace to bed?
A: People with healthy knees probably won’t get much benefit from wearing their knee brace at night. However, people with some types of knee problems can benefit. The compression that some types of knee braces provide can help reduce recovery time following knee surgery.
Q: Is a sports knee brace better than athletic tape?
A: Taping and bracing are both beneficial because both can prevent further damage after a knee injury. However, athletic tape does have several downsides to consider. The primary issue with athletic tape is that it’s not very durable. Sweat and movement can reduce its effectiveness. That’s why athletic tape is better suited for smaller, bonier parts of the body. In a pinch tape will do, but a sports knee brace is the better solution.
Q: Is it true that knee braces weaken your knee muscles and ligaments?
A: Yes and no. If you become overly reliant on your knee brace, this could eventually happen. But if you use knee brace only when you engage in strenuous physical activity, you’ll avoid this problem.
Tips and tricks
- Use the two-finger test to determine if you’ve achieved a proper fit when tightening the straps. If you can fit more than two fingers between your leg and your knee brace, it needs to be adjusted. Your knee brace should fit securely and snugly around your knee. Knee braces that are too loose don’t provide any support and can turn into tripping hazards.
- One clever way to extend the life of a knee brace is to let it air dry. Machine dryers are known to cause stitching and velcro to deteriorate.
- If you plan on wearing your knee brace under slacks, you may want to consider track pants instead of jeans. Athletic pants are stretchier, looser and more breathable.