12 Best Knee Sleeves Tested & Compared
Regular runners can often feel pain before, during and after runs, especially in the knees. Long-term runners, in particular, can be susceptible to knee damage, so it can often become important to protect the knees with top-quality sleeves. These help with protection, prevention, and recovery, so they’re a multi-purpose option. In this article, we take a look at the best options on the market for wrapping up those knobbly knees and making your future runs as pain-free as possible. We consider some which are better for injury-prevention, some which are better for recovery, and some which offer a combination of both.
Knee sleeves are a bit different to full-blown knee braces, the aim is to keep the knee warm and compressed to prevent injuries or give support and comfort if you have knee problems. Knee braces are used more post-injury to avoid more damage but there are knee sleeves which offer support comparable to knee braces as is evident in our review.
Compression for a problem knee while running certainly has benefits, increased blood circulation, a reduction in the risk of painful swelling. With the patella supported this can assist running performance, here is a quick list of the widely accepted benefits.
- A secure and Increased stability
- The knee will be kept warm
- Reduces the risk of injury.
- For knee tracking, the runner is consciously aware
- Ultra Flex Compression
- Anti-Slip Silicone
- Recovery + Pain Relief
- Mava Sports Support
- Osteoporosis Pain Relief
- Post-Surgery Pain Relief
- All Around Compression
12 Best Knee Sleeves
Ultra Flex Athletics
The compression here is fantastic and really allows for quick recovery and excellent stability and support without sacrificing mobility or flexibility. It has 4-way stretch capability to keep you unrestricted and the lightweight design keeps it comfortable and supportive. It also offers enough protection to relieve minor pain while exercising. The sizes are comfortably snug, which is just what you want.
A very small amount of users have experienced sizing issues, so make sure you read the sizing guidelines before ordering one. Other than that, everything here is great, including the durability.
Slightly pricey, but absolutely worth it.
- Fantastic anti-slip technology
- Good 4-way stretch to keep you flexible and supported
- Relives minor pains
- Increases blood flow
- Good durability
- The most popular option out there.
- Very slight sizing issues
The comfort here is great, with no restrictive squeezing and no uncomfortable itchiness. It’s designed for retaining heat, which helps you to quickly recover and gives a nice feeling while wearing. The compression and support is very nice here without too much tightness, and helps to prevent injury while you’re on the move. The anatomical design helps to accommodate the size and shape of your legs and knees.
Some people find the fit a little too tight, but these are otherwise of good quality. The stitching comes away a little quicker than others on the market, and the material can attract dust and dirt. That said, they are still of decent durability compared to lots of other options.
A good bargain option!
- Way more comfortable than most other fibrous options
- Warming and supportive
- Genuinely comfy enough to wear all day
- Accommodate to your size and shape fairly well
- Not as durable as some others
- The material attracts dirt.
This sleeve is made of smooth moisture-wicking, flexible fabric, so this sleeve provides support without irritating your skin or becoming bogged down with sweat. There is no need to be wary of the compression provided, as it is gentle yet supportive and evenly dispersed around your joint.
This sleeve is strong and can withstand multiple wears and trips through the washing machine. The fabric won't stretch, pill, or lose its compression. It also has silicone grips inside the top and bottom to ensure that the sleeve stays in place during a workout or a recovery period.
This is an affordable knee sleeve, especially considering it is a compression product.
Variety of colors available
Stays in place
Some may want tighter compression
The stability here is quite intelligent in that it provides compression for support and recovery while simultaneously relieving pressure with its non-tight fit. The stable fit, if worn throughout recovery, can help to improve the natural movement and co-ordination of your stride, and the pain reduction here is really quite effective. The heavy duty design means that you perhaps can’t wear it all day but the foam padding gives a nice feel.
The durability and quality are pretty good. These are slightly thinner than your average heavy duty brace, which may be good or bad depending on you personal preference. The sizes can run a little small, and this model can become slack over time.
Slightly on the pricey end of the scale.
- If you want heavy duty support, this is great.
- Great for injury recovery
- Helps to improve co-ordination and stride
- Good pain reduction
- Keeps the knee warm
- Can slacken over time
- Sizes sometimes run a little small
- Not comfortable enough to wear all day
The moisture-wicking design stops you from becoming saturated while exercising. There is no chafing or itching here thanks to the great ergonomic design. The anti-slip technology is genuinely fantastic and the copper helps to eliminate odors, which is handy if you plan to wear this all day. This reduces pain well and helps to recover after injury. The design is comfortable and provides snugness while the four-way compression helps with mobility. Unfortunately, this is too tight for some users, so if you don’t like a squeezing fit, this might not be ideal for you. The tightness can also cause rashes.
The materials are all of great quality, but the tightness is an annoying issue. The durability is around middle-range; not bad, but there are better options on the market.
- Built with copper
- Four-way compression which helps with mobility
- Very good anti-slippage
- Good for injury recovery
- The copper can eliminate odors
- Way too tight for some users
- Not the best durability
- Can cause rashes
Pro-Tec Athletic Gel Force
The gel on this is nice and thick so it really offers a unique and comfortable feel on the knee, with good fluidity and movement. The gel also means that it doesn’t feel as tight as other ones on the market, despite being nice and snug. The fit and stretch offers very good support.
This slips a little at times, more than most others on this list, and the durability is not as good as some might hope. The fit can also be a little wrong at times. It is otherwise of very good quality.
Very pricey in comparison to most others here.
- The gel is very comfortable and snug.
- Really nice feel on the leg
- Doesn’t feel too tight
- Breathable material
- Good for recovery, support and reducing pain
- Can slip quite a lot
- Fit isn’t reliable
- Not the best durability
- A little pricey
ACE Knee Braces
The Velcro can potentially irritate the knee a little. The neoprene material is thinner than many other bands while still offering similar support which many users like. The band is nice and snug without too much tightness, and the breathability is really quite effective.
The durability here is good, but the Velcro system can often cause the brace to slip and come loose. This is otherwise good quality given the price. You won’t get the luxury of more expensive brands, but this really does a good job for what it is.
This is a really good bargain option.
- Great price point
- Great stability
- Very good breathability
- Can slip a little
- Isn’t as sophisticated as some more expensive brands
Seriously can be worn all day. It has great compression without too much tightness. It gives very good flexibility while remaining stable, and the fabric feels comfortable against the skin. It’s a little thicker than some might like which may cause some to get sweaty.
There seem to be no durability issues here, and the quality is overall very good. It unfortunately does roll which can be frustrating.
Around an average price.
- Good for preventing injury
- Very nice combination of flexibility and stability
- Feels very natural
- Can be worn all day
- Breathability isn’t great.
- Rolls more than others on this list
Bracoo Breathable Neoprene
This does restrict motion a little more than most of the other sleeves on this list, which you may want to consider especially if you wear this while trial running. The support is otherwise very good, and feels structured around the entire knee thanks to the design. It can scrape the leg a little, which takes away from the comfort factor.
The quality is pretty good, especially given the price point, but the sizes can be a little off at times. For a Velcro design, the durability is good.
A good bargain option.
- Lots of support
- Open patella design is good for stability
- Gets you moving naturally
- Good price point
- Decent durability for Velcro
- Can scrape the leg
- Sizes can be slightly off.
- Restricts motion a little too much for some
OS1st KS7 Performance Knee Sleeve
Designed for wearing while running, this means runners can get very good support foreleg, knee joint, and patella, this support stays in place and does not slip or move. A very thin high performing knee brace which can be comfortably worn under running clothing.
You get great support from compression-zone-tech which incorporates gel stabilizing to embrace fully the patella in 7 strategic areas for compression. Improved circulation while also providing brace support for the knee joint.
High performing knee sleeve which gives relief from pain, stability to the knee-joint, improving for patella tracking and ensured stability and comfort because it will stay firmly in place giving support. For more comfort note the Hypo-Allergenic - Gel anti-migration tech through compression and support at high medical standards.
You get light-weight tech which gives real support to tendons, the knee joint ensuring healthy therapeutic support while you are mobile.
A high-quality product constructed from durable materials in a combination of spandex & nylon which has the anti-microbial capability with wick-ability.
The price reflects a good performing knee sleeve, a sound investment.
Support for the patella
Assists recovery from injury
Good for runners knee
Thin high performing knee sleeve can be worn under running pants
No reported cons, not as light as some knee sleeves though it gives support.
Zamst ZK-7 Knee Brace Sleeve
The ZK-7 is the strongest knee support for moderate to severe sprains.
Four way support from EXO-TECH-Quad for ligaments and designed with durable comfortable resin-stays which give support both medial and laterally plus (x-strap) parallel strapping which enables stability for (ACL-PCL) posterior and anterior.
A nice light knee sleeve due to being constructed from lightweight materials, good ventilation qualities due to designed in V-Tech, this means your knee area stays cool while you are moving.
Comfort due to the sleeve design ensuring ventilation while you run, enjoy a full motion range through the pre-curving in the design which give stability for the knee cap while you are moving.
For secure FIT you can use the fasteners which are adjustable, so the knee sleeve will fit all sizes while enabling variable comforting compression.
A light construction made from long lasting durable materials which are able to maintain a stable ongoing performance from this product.
A fair price and a good investment in a quality product.
Very strong knee support
A few runners prefer closed knee front and no ventilation
Shock Doctor 865 Compression
The lycra gives good binding without restriction and allows for good movement when wearing the sleeve. It’s comfortable enough to wear all day and the design stabilizes the knee very well. The warming effect on these is very effective, while keeping you comfy and providing some support. It’s very lightweight. If you want something hardcore, Shock Doctor makes many more braces for more intense needs, but this one should suit most runners.
The sizes on these do run small, and it can be prone to quite a lot of slippage. The durability is good.
A little more expensive than some on this list.
- Nice freedom of movement
- Comfortable enough to wear all day
- Good stability
- Nice warming design
- Moisture-wicking technology
- Not great if you want something intense
- Quite a lot of slippage at times
- Sizes run small
- A little pricey
The Criteria We Used When Choosing The Best Knee Sleeves
Most of the times we confuse the knee sleeves with the knee braces, but in reality, the two are very different. Both do provide knee support but a knee sleeve functions in a much different way compared to the brace. Knee braces provide support to the knee, especially when there was a past injury, they protect the injury and prevent any further endangerment to the injury. While knee sleeves provide the support to the knee by protecting the knee from against future injuries or risky situations that can cause damage to the knee. This kind of protection is very important especially to athletes who are involved in daily exercises that exert a lot of pressure on the knees.
Apart from just protecting the knees, these sleeves are made in a way that they not only provide support to the knee before the injury but they can also provide the same support after the injury. They are able to do the same work as knee braces. Another thing about this wonderful sportswear is that it’s able to increase how much weight you can lift by providing additional support to the runners’ knees.
They provide compression hence being able to give a rebound out of your run. During compression, the knee is able to have increased blood flow, hence be able to receive input. This enables an athlete to perform movements that more stable, more comfortable and more controlled. Also, the material has a warming effect that also aids in increasing the flow of the blood and also keeps the knees warm during the whole exercise experience.
When picking out the best knees, several factors were taken into consideration to come up with the best knee sleeves for you. The main factors were:
It’s important to get the right measurements of your knee sleeve in terms of size. This will make sure you have the best knee sleeve in the long run. Getting the right size is done by following the following simple steps. Determine the circumference of your leg, right above the kneecap. This should be about 2.5 inches more or less. Different knee sleeves’ brands vary in size, but most fall below the following standards: large (17 to 19 inches), medium (15to 17 inches) and small (14 to 15 inches).
When it comes to how tight the knee sleeve should be, just pick something that is smaller than the actual size of your knee. This will be able to give you additional security and hence minimize any chances of slippage when working out. The best is always opting for a snug knee sleeve always.
The thickness of the sleeve is another important factor, it is closely similar to fit but then totally depends on the personal preference of the athlete. The thickness is simply determined by the amount of material on the sleeve. Many assume that the thicker the sleeve the more support it provides to the knee and compression compared to the thinner sleeves.
The thickness of the sleeves can be grouped into three major categories: 3 mm, 5 mm and 7 mm. The sleeves that are 3 mm thick are worn by marathon runners, they are able to provide stability and additional support during long runs. Weightlifters wear the 7 mm sleeves because they give additional support to the knees. The 5 mm sleeves happen to fit in all the other sporting activities, it is the universal knee sleeve for most athletes.
Knee Sleeve with 3mm thickness: Sports that need endurance
its perfect for sports that need endurance like long-distance running. Athletes involved in such sporting activities use this type of knee sleeve cause it’s lighter. Hence making the sporting activity much easier. The sleeve provides support when the athlete starts to feel exhausted and weary by providing support towards the completion of the work of the work out hence gaining control of one’s knees movements.
Knee Sleeve with 5mm thickness: For mixed sporting activity
ideally recommended for mixed sporting activities. Athletes who are involved in a variety of sporting activities that require a certain level of agility and extra support, would find the 5 mm sleeve very helpful. The beauty of it is that it is used for a wide variety of sporting activities from track running to yoga fitness activities. It’s what many athletes would call a universal knee sleeve for all sporting activities.
Knee Sleeve 7mm thickness: For heavy but short activity
These type of sleeve calls for much heavier sporting activity but very short. It’s able to offer maximum stability to those athletes that are involved in heavy lifting. Extra support is provided duringsu rehabilitation. The 7 mm sleeve has always been used by heavy lifters to provide the additional support when lifting weights, though recently it’s been a favorite of people who work out in the gym and practice heavy lifting. It’s designed in a way that it ensures the knee has maximum support for intensive but short sporting activities. Hence the exercises can be done more securely and precisely.
You should not wear your knee sleeves during the entire work out session as this would make you feel uncomfortable and also make the sleeve to be more rigid. Its advised to use them semi-frequently and also to pick the sleeve thickness that matches your sporting activity: for powerlifting usage get thicker ones, for Olympic lifting and CrossFit get thinner ones, and for regular everyday use get thinner ones.
This is especially true if an athlete is involved in a variety of sporting activities. If you do squats frequently every week, then you need a pair of knee sleeves that don’t rip after several uses. Knee sleeves that are found to be most durable are made of the neoprene material, that is both flexible and soft. Cloth is also used cause it’s more breathable and has good stretching that is constant. For perfect durability look for a knee sleeve that has reinforced stitching this prevents ripping of the sleeve during several washes and wear.
Knee sleeves should not only provide support to your knees but then they should also be very comfortable. Excellent support and compression are provided by the best knee sleeves for squatting. It’s important when shopping for a knee sleeve to look for one that won’t chafe your skin or make you feel itchy.
A comfortable fit is very important during your workout, even though it’s possible for sometimes the fit to affect the comfort of the knee sleeves. In order to make sure you attain both good fit and comfortability it’s important to look for a 3 D design because this allows the knees to fit snuggly. And without digging deep into your skin. The ergonomic knee sleeve has also been known to achieve a comfortable fit.
The knee sleeve should remain intact regardless of the workouts you are doing that is why an excellent grip is very important. The sleeve should stay on the knee cap regardless of the various work out positions you assume while training. No rolling off or sliding done. This will only be achieved by getting the right size of your knee sleeve. When picking the size make sure that you go 15 cm down from the mid patella and also remember to measure the circumference of your knee. If you need an extra tightness in your knee sleeve, then you can size down or just use the normal measurements if you are involved in regular sports.
Other factors that were also considered in coming up with the best knee sleeves are:
This type of knee sleeve is able to offer warmth and compression in a very efficient way. They also prevent injuries and improve the performance of the knee during training. Anatomically shaped knee sleeves are the type that are able to conform to the body’s natural movement during workout hence making sure the sleeve has an excellent grip at all times.
Design in terms of the material used is very important. Since sleeves don’t come in very stylish designs the material is given more importance. The Neoprene so far is the best material in the industry offering protection against injury and also offering mild compression. The material also enhances warmth there by making the muscles around the knee to perform more during training. Simple designs are what you will find when purchasing a knee sleeve.
If money is no object, then go for the most expensive brands. There are budget-savvy knee sleeves brands however, which provides superior comfort, protection and performance without the heavy price tag. If you got a budget then stick to it, remember expensive doesn’t always mean it will serve you best. Consult with the sales person on the different effective uses of the knee sleeves before making the purchase.
Other Important Factors To Consider When Shopping Around
There Are Different Types Available
There are different types of knee sleeves and all have different advantages and disadvantages. It all depends with what you want to achieve in terms of your fitness goals.
Open Knee Sleeves
Just by looking at their design you will notice that they do have a hole on the front. The design is meant to significantly reduce the amount of pressure on the knee and also around the knee during any work out exercise, this helps to enhance breathability of the knee.
Closed Knee Sleeves
They are all round wrapped with no hole, they are designed in a way that makes sure that the knee receives maximum heat by enhancing the level of heat retention. It’s also able to provide support to the entire knee cap.
You will find some knee sleeves have been manufactured within built stabilizers. The design of these types of sleeves is very impressive, they are able to provide additional support to ligaments that are located on the knee. No injuries at all.
The material used in making the knee sleeve plays a very important role in determining how effective the knee sleeve will be. Knee sleeves are made using two materials:
Cloth – As you know, any cloth is manufactured to keep you warm. Same with cloth sleeves, they offer warmth and support at the same time making sure you are always warm during the training session. They are recommended for those who have training in the morning hours (when it’s a little chilly) and have a number of resting breaks during work outs.
Neoprene – Being considered by Olympic powerlifting persons as the best material, the material has a lot of positive feedback from users due to its high compression feature. It’s also able to prevent any injury to the knee and also like the cloth sleeve able to keep the knee warm at all times.
Color, that will depend on personal preference. Most knee sleeves are black in color, but you can still get them in other colors. If you need help when picking the color its best to consult a fashionista who will guide you effectively on the color taking several factors into consideration. You don’t want to be in pink sleeve while everybody else is in a dull color, worse if you are self-conscious. Honestly I would go with more neutral colors. They are the safest.
Some of the frequently asked questions when trying to get a knee sleeve by many buyers, are addressed below.
Q. What is the difference between Knee Sleeves and Knee braces?
A. Many people will confuse the two and think the refer to the same product. They both sporting accessories that are worn around the knee, though their functions are almost similar. Knee sleeves are sports outwear that are worn around the knee. They both provide support to the knee though they are designed to function differently from knee braces. On the other hand, knee braces offer protection to an already injured knee, while knee sleeves offer protection to the knee against any possible injury or risky situations that can harm the knee. The protection is important to athletes who are involved in sporting activities that involve a great amount of pressure like heavy lifting of weights etc. Knee sleeves have a compression effect on the knee that enables increased blood flow hence reducing pain during and after work out.
Q. What do knee sleeves do?
A. They provide support to the knee though they are designed to function differently from knee braces. The protection is important to athletes who are involved in sporting activities that involve a great amount of pressure like marathon running and weightlifting etc. Knee sleeves have a compression effect on the knee that enables increased blood flow hence reducing pain when the work out is going on and when its over. Knee sleeves work to protect your knees by first keeping them warm and insulated. Next they provide compression to the knee joint and surrounding tendons/ligaments to support the knee.
Q. Do I need knee sleeves?
A. If you squat more than once a week I would say so. Most beginner programs should have you squatting more than three times per week and I always advocate the inclusion of knee sleeves into a program. Also if you are involved in sporting activities that require a great amount of pressure being exerted on your knees then you should definitely have knee sleeves as part of your sportswear. Don’t wear the sleeves during the whole work out session, you can skip wearing them during the warm up session as you prepare to start your training. You should also try and come up with a schedule on when to wear your knee sleeves and when not to.
Q. What are the benefits of using knee sleeves as an athlete?
A. Apart from just protecting the knees, these sleeves are made in a way that they not only provide support to the knee before injury but they can also provide the support after the injury. They are able to do the same work as knee braces. Another thing about this wonderful sportswear is that it’s able to increase how much weight you can lift by providing additional support to the runners’ knees.
They provide compression hence being able to give a rebound out of your run. During compression the knee is able to have increased blood flow, hence be able to receive input. This enables an athlete to perform movements that more stable, more comfortable and more controlled. Also the material has a warming effect that also aids in increasing the flow of the blood and also keeps the knees warm during the whole exercise experience.
Q. Do you really need them when running?
A. If you’re squatting multiple times per week we recommend picking up knee sleeves to not only protect your joints as you go through the movement but to stabilize and enhance each rep through the added support provided from the sleeves. Most beginner programs should have you squatting more than three times per week and I always advocate the inclusion of knee sleeves into a program. Also if you are involved in sporting activities that require a great amount of pressure being exerted on your knees then you should definitely have knee sleeves as part of your sportswear. Don’t wear the sleeves during the whole work out session, you can skip wearing them during the warm up session as you prepare to start your training. You should also try and come up with a schedule on when to wear your knee sleeves and when not to
Q. Is there more than one use for knee sleeves?
A. Knee sleeves are not only made for squats or leg workouts. The best thing about going with a quality neutral knee sleeve is that it can be used in a variety of different environments.
- When experiencing knee pain throughout the day/sitting down they can be useful.
- They can be effective when playing active sports such as hockey, wrestling, football, soccer and even running.
- Throughout rehab/injury recovery they can provide support and stability to help with recovery and prevention of further injuries.
Overall, knee sleeves have multiple uses and are a great addition to any gym bag both inside and outside of the gym. They offer support to the knee, protection to the knee, warmth to the knee and also help in healing injured knees (just like the knee braces).
If you need to wrap your knees up, here we have you (and them) covered. Get wrapped and get running!
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- Ultra Flex Athletics Knee Compression Sleeve Support, Fitness Website, ,
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- 6 Best Knee Braces for Arthritis 2017, Medical Website, ,