Shopping for a knee brace can be tricky. To complicate matters, some products promise much more than they can deliver. When it comes to your knees, a subpar brace can have you back on crutches as quickly as you can say, “ouch!” However, with so many high-quality knee braces available today, there’s no need to worry. We made this quick guide to simplify your search for the best knee brace for your unique lifestyle.
Why buy a knee brace?
There are two main reasons why people invest in a knee brace. The first is to provide structural support to the knee. This is often necessary when your knee is healing from an injury such as an ACL tear. The other reason people choose to wear a knee brace is when chronic knee pain lessens their enjoyment of life and keeps them from engaging in the activities they love. Thankfully, a high-quality knee brace can be purchased for less than a meal at a restaurant. It’s a great item to keep in your sports bag for when it’s time to get physical.
What should you look for in a knee brace?
- Size: Unlike wrist braces, most knee braces are not a one-size-fits-all solution. Before purchasing a knee brace, be sure to measure your knee so that you know what size will work for you based on a product’s sizing guidelines. This can be done by measuring the circumference above and below your kneecap with a tape measure.
- Design: The main types of knee braces you will encounter online are hinged braces, compression sleeves, and wraparound braces. Hinged braces tend to offer the most stability and are thus great for recovering from serious injuries. Compression sleeves offer less stability but provide reliable compression for mild muscle or joint injuries. Wraparound braces are somewhat in between and are great for stabilizing your kneecap and taking stress off the surrounding tendons.
- Comfort: If a knee brace drives you crazy while wearing it, it won’t matter how much relief or support it provides. Thus, finding a knee brace that is made of quality materials is incredibly important. Make sure your knee brace is constructed from comfortable, breathable fabric (such as neoprene) to prevent an itchy, uncomfortable experience.
How often should you wear a knee brace?
Determining how often and for what duration to wear a knee brace can be tricky. Thus, it is best to consult your doctor to ensure your routine is beneficial to your health. One thing to consider is that wearing a particularly restrictive knee brace too often can result in stiff joints and muscle atrophy. So, if your brace really limits your range of motion and you are not healing from surgery, giving your knee a break every now and then is probably a good idea. However, not wearing a brace during physical activities can make you more susceptible to re-igniting a past injury.
UFlex Knee Compression Sleeve
This brace offers gentle compression and excellent ventilation for comfortable, everyday relief.
Pros: If you’re seeking an affordable knee brace that stays in place while you exercise, but is also comfortable enough for daily pain relief, the UFlex Knee Compression Sleeve is a great choice. This brace offers excellent compression that isn’t too tight and restrictive but still manages to relieve knee pain and inflammation. This is also one of the more breathable options out there, making it a great choice for those who get irritated by chafing caused by lesser products.
Cons: While this brace offers plenty of support for those with mild lingering pain and discomfort, those who have recently undergone surgery or faced a serious injury setback are better served with a more supportive option. However, if used as intended, this is one of the best compression sleeves you will find.
Bottom Line: When a knee brace feels this comfortable, it usually means that it’s not properly doing its job. However, most users report near-instant relief when wearing this brace, showing why it is such a highly rated option. While this won’t offer the support of your average wraparound brace, it still offers reliable compression that can be called upon regardless of the task at hand.
JIUFENTIAN Copper Knee Brace
This knee compression sleeve sports a handy nonslip grip and provides reliable muscle support to alleviate mild pain.
Pros: For those with mild but persistent knee pain, the JIUFENTIAN Copper Knee Brace offers the most relief at the lowest price. This brace uses a gently compressive material to apply continuous pressure on the knee joint for lasting relief. The fabric is also breathable with a unique warming element and nonslip grip. It’s so comfortable that you can wear it all day and forget it’s on.
Cons: Since this brace isn’t adjustable, be sure to measure your knee and leg before purchasing to ensure a perfect fit for optimal compression. Luckily, this brace comes in a wide array of size options, making it fairly simple to find the best fit. That being said, this is first and foremost a product for mild, persistent pain, and not an ideal brace for recovery from an injury or surgery.
Bottom Line: If mild knee pain is keeping you from living your best life, this brace from JIUFENTIAN is a must-have, especially if you’re on a budget. While this isn’t the most rugged or supportive knee brace on the market, its gentle warming and knee support have won over many, making it one of the highest-rated products at its price range.
MODVEL Professional Knee Brace
This brace won't alter your range of motion while running but still offers effective compression.
Pros: The MODVEL Professional Knee Brace is a great choice for runners, whether it’s used during a long run or afterward to aid in the recovery process. This brace stabilizes the knee quite well while still allowing for a full range of motion, meaning it won’t get in your way or alter your stride. Additionally, its breathable fabric is incredibly gentle on skin, so after a few minutes, you can forget you’re wearing a brace and concentrate on the miles that lie ahead.
Cons: It’s important to accurately measure yourself before purchasing this knee brace since it seems to move slightly more than similar products while you’re engaged in physical activity. In terms of sizing, many have noted that if you are in between sizes, selecting the smaller option is a smart move. This will likely help keep your knee stabilized and the brace stationary.
Bottom Line: Running definitely begins to take a toll on you as you get older. If you’re feeling more than a few aches and pains during or after a run, investing in a gentle brace like this one is a great idea. While this lacks the rigid hardware to be an effective post-surgery brace, it’s definitely effective at staving off the effects of a lifelong running addiction.
KARM Plus Size Knee Brace
This knee brace comes in a variety of colors and is flexible enough to wear for all-day knee support.
Pros: If you’re seeking a plus-size knee brace due to arthritis or post-surgery recovery, this offering from KARM is the real deal. Featuring an open patella design with dual side stabilizers, this knee brace will reduce a lot of pressure on your knee without being overly bulky or cumbersome. As such, it’s a great brace to take to the gym or use for everyday stability when recovering from an injury. Additionally, this brace comes in sizes XS-6XL, as well as four unique style options, making it one of the most accommodating options around for men and women.
Cons: This brace has the tendency of bunching up in the back if it’s not properly adjusted to your knee. Thankfully, it’s simple to readjust the brace and alleviate discomfort. However, some may be irked if and when this issue occurs in the middle of a set while at the gym.
Bottom Line: While this brace may have to be adjusted slightly more frequently than other models, the degree of support and versatility this brace provides makes this minor annoyance a fair trade in exchange for the lasting relief you will receive.
Shock Doctor Hinged Knee Brace
This rugged knee brace sports incredible knee support that's perfect for exercising after recovering from a knee injury.
Pros: If you’ve recently recovered from a knee injury and have the green light from your doctor to start running again, the Shock Doctor Hinged Knee Brace is for you. In terms of keeping your knee stable when walking, jogging, or running, this brace can’t be beaten, thanks to its bilateral, dual-hinge design. While this isn’t a brace that you will forget that you are wearing (it’s designed to fit very snugly), its dual hinges and integrated aluminum provide heavy-duty support that will give you confidence after an injury setback.
Cons: Those seeking next-level comfort might not be satisfied with this rugged knee brace. However, those who value stability over comfort will be elated by the amount of support this brace provides.
Bottom Line: Working out after a major injury setback can be a harrowing experience, so it’s no wonder why so many people throw in the towel. If you’re not ready to give up on the activities you love, this knee brace is definitely worth a shot. While it is considerably more expensive than other braces on the market, the degree of support you will receive is practically second to none.
When one considers the cost of corrective knee surgery, investing in a cost-effective knee brace really seems like a no-brainer. Since there are quite a few different styles of knee braces on the market, it’s important to focus on your unique needs and lifestyle. If you do this, as well as some research on the knee braces you’re eyeing, you are likely to end up with a brace that suits your needs well.