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Working out with knee pain can be a real, well, pain. Beyond the literal hurt, aching joints can make it tough to stay active or hold you back from performing at your greatest potential. Luckily, knee braces do wonders in minimizing discomfort supporting your endurance while you move. Sometimes called a knee sleeve or knee strap, the over-the-counter variety helps protect weakened muscles while allowing for a full range of motion.
Most use compressive technology, which, according to certified personal trainer Dianna Falzarano, increases the amount of oxygen and blood flow sent to the area by adding gentle pressure. Knee straps can also support injury recovery and alleviate some symptoms of arthritis.
Scroll down to check out the best knee braces for everyone and every activity.
Best Overall: Shock Doctor Knee Compression Sleeve
May stretch out
What do buyers say? 80% of 1,300+ Amazon reviewers rated this product 4 stars or above.
You can count on Shock Doctor for over-the-counter relief from various knee ailments. Made of vented neoprene with lycra bindings and a grippy silicone lining, the brand's Knee Compression Sleeve is breathable, moisture-wicking, and comfortable with a secure fit.
It also comes in sizes small through extra-large and can be adjusted to accommodate the unique curve and width of your leg. The compression provides gentle support while promoting patella alignment and taking the edge off minor aches and pains.
Material: Lycra, neoprene, silicone | Fit: Size S–XL
Best Budget: Equate Adjustable Knee Brace
Fit is not universal
For those on a budget, we recommend Equate's Adjustable Knee Brace. Boasting triple-strap contouring and a compressive design, you can count on comfortable support and protection for aching, weakened muscles.
Material: Polyester, latex | Fit: Adjustable
Best Compression: Neenca Professional Knee Brace
Patella gel pads
Multiple color options
The ergonomic Neenca Professional Brace uses a blend of nylon and spandex to deliver breathable, moisture-wicking compression to the knee. This medical-grade sleeve also has comfy patella gel pads and metal spring stabilizers for added support.
Material: Nylon, spandex, silicone, metal | Fit: Size S–XXXL
Best for Injuries: Doufurt Knee Brace Stabilizer
Prone to rolling down
If you're recovering from an injury, the open-patella Doufurt Knee Brace might aid your recovery. With compressive technology and support from all sides, it is designed to help drive blood flow to the area to reduce swelling and accelerate the healing process.
Material: Neoprene, spandex, metal | Fit: Size S–XL, adjustable
Best with Stabilizers: Bodyprox Knee Brace with Side Stabilizers
Patella gel pads
Only two sizes available
Made of a nylon-spandex fabric with an adjustable velcro strap, the Bodyprox Knee Brace is comfortably compressive, breathable, and absorbent. Flexible stabilizers on each side alleviate pressure and minimize stress at the kneecap, while gel pads around the patella encourage a full range of motion.
Material: SBR (styrene-butadiene rubber), nylon, spandex | Fit: Regular or XL size, adjustable
Best Hinged: Shock Doctor Ultra Knee Guard Hinged Compression Knee Brace
Looking for a hinged design? Your best bet is the Shock Doctor Ultra Knee Guard. Hinges on either side offer bilateral support, while the compressive fabric and anatomical contouring help you move comfortably.
Material: Spandex, neoprene, aluminum | Fit: Size S–XXXL
Best for Sports: Cambivo Knee Brace Compression Sleeve 2 Pack
Good for athletes
Pack of two
Attention, athletes! The Cambivo Knee Brace was designed with sports therapy in mind. Whether you're a runner, hiker, cyclist, ballplayer, or HIIT enthusiast, the stabilizing pressure will minimize stiffness without sacrificing comfort.
Material: Nylon, latex, spandex, silicone | Fit: Size S–XXL
Best for Arthritis: Modvel Compression Knee Sleeves 2 Pack
Pack of two
For folks with arthritis, we suggest Modvel Knee Sleeves. You'll get a pack of two ergonomic braces, each made of stretchy, compressive fabric to alleviate pain and discomfort in the joints while providing the support you need to stay active.
Material: Spandex, nylon, latex | Fit: Size S–XL
Best with Patella Gel Pads: TechWare Pro Knee Compression Sleeve
Patella gel pads
The TechWare Pro Knee is designed with a circular patella gel pad to offer support and gentle compression where you need it most. This knee brace also has two flexible spring stabilizers to protect the joints and encourage natural alignment.
Material: Nylon, spandex, latex | Fit: Size S–XXL
Best Stabilizing: DonJoy Performance Anaform Shin Splint Sleeve
If it's stability you crave, go with the DonJoy Anaform. While this knee sleeve isn't adjustable, it boasts anti-migration technology to stabilize your joints and provide relief from sore, stiff, or swollen ligaments.
Material: Neoprene, lycra | Fit: Size S–XL
Best for Recovery: Physix Gear Knee Compression Sleeve Support Brace
Can be used on knee or elbow
Made from an innovative blend of lycra and nylon, the Gear Knee offers comfortable, compressive four-way stretch. If you're recovering from a sports injury, a sprain, or an overuse injury, the gentle, even pressure from this support sleeve might help you feel better sooner than later.
Material: Nylon, latex, silicone | Fit: Size S–XXL
The best knee brace overall is the Shock Doctor Compression Sleeve, which is made of vented neoprene with a silicone lining and lycra bindings. It's breathable, sweat-wicking, supportive, and comfortable with an adjustable fit. However, if you're on a budget, go with the Equate Adjustable Knee Brace. It offers comfy support and compressive protection to alleviate aches and pains without breaking the bank.
Meet the Expert
Dianna Falzarano is a certified personal trainer, as well as the founder and owner of Dynamic Fitness LLC. She earned her personal training certification through the National Council of Strength and Fitness (NCSF).
What to Look For in a Knee Brace
Most knee braces on the market today are made of either neoprene or a thickly woven synthetic fabric containing a blend of nylon, latex, spandex, or lycra.
To ensure they stay in place, knee sleeves often have grippy silicone or SBR (styrene-butadiene rubber) linings. Additionally, some have metal stabilizers or hinges for added support.
One of the most important considerations when buying a knee brace is how it fits. They typically come in multiple sizes, ranging from small to extra-large (and sometimes larger).
A brace is supposed to be compressive, but take note of models that run small, as you don't want to constrict the area. Also, many knee sleeves are adjustable to help ensure a customized fit.
Open vs. closed patella
Knee braces will either have an open patella (with an opening over the knee cap) or a closed patella (fully covered over the knee cap). An open patella will offer a little more breathability while taking some pressure off the front of the knee. A closed patella is generally better for circulation and heat retention, though both styles offer these benefits to a certain degree.
Patella gel pad
Some knee braces have a patella gel pad, a special cushioning on or around the kneecap. This feature helps protect the front of the knee while allowing it to move with ease and minimizing stress on the joints.
What does a knee brace do?
In the context of sports therapy, the main purpose of a knee brace is to provide compression around the joint to encourage blood flow to the area, minimize swelling, and reduce knee pain. Falzarano tells Byrdie that compressive technology may also "help your muscles function better, increase your athletic performance and reduce muscle fatigue."
How do you put on a knee brace?
The proper way to put on a knee brace depends on the design. With a standard compression sleeve, you'll slip your foot into the hole and then pull it over your bare leg up to your knee. If you're using a wrap-style brace, you'll place the back of your knee against the inner middle, then wrap it around and secure the straps.
How long should you wear a knee brace?
How long to wear a knee brace depends on what you're using it for—injury recovery, arthritis relief, exercise support, etc. A knee sleeve is typically worn for at least a week and may or may not be taken off at night for sleeping. Having said that, follow the instructions provided by your orthopedist or physical therapist if you're using one for medical reasons.
Why Trust Byrdie
Theresa Holland is an experienced freelance writer with a background in health and fitness. For this roundup, she spoke with a personal trainer and researched the various purposes and key features of knee braces. She considered the materials, fit, style, and price of dozens of products and pored over user reviews before making her final selections. Theresa is a regular contributor at Byrdie, where she covers exercise equipment, workout apparel, and cosmetics.
According to our Diversity Pledge, 15% of products in our newly-published market roundups will feature Black-owned and/or Black-founded brands. At the time of publishing, we were not able to find any knee braces from a Black-owned and/or Black-founded business. If you know of one we should consider, please email us at email@example.com and we will evaluate the product ASAP.
Wang L. Study of properties of medical compression fabrics. JFBI. 2011;4(1):15-22. doi: 10.3993/jfbi04201102
Cudejko T, Esch M van der, Leeden M van der, et al. The immediate effect of a soft knee brace on pain, activity limitations, self-reported knee instability, and self-reported knee confidence in patients with knee osteoarthritis. Arthritis Research & Therapy. 2017;19. doi: 10.1186/s13075-017-1456-0