The human body is a beautiful machine, and it can take an awful lot of abuse. That being said, every part of a machine has its limits. This is especially the case for our knees, particularly for the athletes & elderly amongst us.
For them, when injury or the wear of age comes knocking, a knee brace is the upgrade that keeps them going as far as they can go.
They come in a wide variety of shapes & sizes, constructed to serve the needs of every stripe of person that puts their knees to the test. Whether you’re recovering from an injury you’ve already sustained, or protecting yourself from future pain, you have plenty of options available.
Unfortunately, not every brace is as effective as it should be. For starters, there's a lot of variation in terms of comfort level, along with how easy they are to use in general. You also have to consider what sort of material is being used, along with whether it has features in place to help speed up your recovery.
Your knees are fundamental to your movement, and that means you need to treat this purchase accordingly. You only have two knees, and improper care of either can end up costing more money & time than it would take to pick the right brace.
With that being said, this might be your lucky day. Why do you ask? Well, we've scoured the internet, considered every option, and put together a brief list of the best knee braces on the market in every major category.
If any group of athletes needs a good knee brace option, it’s runners. Powering through mile after mile can lead to pain that lasts long after you cool down, and that same pain could end up appearing during the run, too.
Dedicated runners don’t quit or slow down in the face of pain, and they need a knee brace that’ll keep the same energy. Protection & compression are part of it, but if it can’t move along with you when you’re living your life, that’ll do more harm than good when you’re trying to recover.
If you're in that sort of situation & dealing with mild pain regularly, a knee sleeve is going to be your answer. They don't have the straps & hardware of other braces, and they're usually sleek enough to fit under regular clothes.
If you choose the wrong one, though, you could end up having to buy replacement after replacement, and dealing with its issues could lead to more stress, and therefore more pain, in the long run.
Fortunately, Physix has a product to silence all of those worries.
This brace is lightweight, much more so than a lot of other competitors you’ll come across, but that doesn’t mean they’re slacking in support. In fact, the brace offers four-way compression for your knee, making sure every problem area is covered.
“If my knee is being compressed from all those directions, won’t that limit my movement?” A valid question, but if the hundreds of Amazon reviews are anything to go by, this isn’t an issue in the slightest.
Buyers especially tout its ability to ease pain sustained during the course of a run, which allows them to go even farther & faster than they could hope otherwise. When you don't have the pain to focus on, all you have to think about is the road ahead.
This pain relief isn't just reserved for runners, either. Given its sleek & smooth build, even regular folk can slip this on, put on their jeans (or another pant-of choice) and head off into the world relieved & ready for the day!
What’s better, with its durable nylon & lycra knit build, you’ll be able to stick with the same pair for ages beyond the competition, and the wide variety of sizes they offer means people of almost all sizes have the chance to experience the comfort Physix offers.
Those with pain that’d be better described as moderate to severe should look elsewhere, though. Sleeves are incredibly useful, but they can’t offer the most support overall if it means they have to sacrifice comfort & flexibility. That goes for any sleeve, too, not just this one.
Runners aren’t the only athletes that need support in their joints. Powerlifters, hikers, skiers, & basketball, football & soccer players alike push themselves beyond their limits on a regular basis.
That joint stress becoming standard, of course, is bound to lead to knee pain that only gets worse & worse when untreated. If it gets bad enough, it can prevent one from ever doing their activity of choice again. For many, that's not an option.
For some of those people, though, the cost of a typical quality compression sleeve can be prohibitive. In that instance, they might end up having to result in inferior options that are uncomfortable, inadequate in bringing relief, and potentially harmful in the long run.
With all that in mind, it’s important to put heavy consideration into each budget-friendly choice you might find. We took care of that work for you, and our findings led us in the direction of an offering from the compression specialists at Powerlix.
Similar to the offering from Physix, this brace is built to offer targeted support to the parts of your knee that need it the most. Unlike Physix, though, this brace offers graduated compression for the areas above & below the knee, which is great news for those who need their muscles to stay in the game as long as possible.
What's more, similar to the top dogs in their category, they also boast strips of silicone gel around the upper band of the brace. These are intended to solve an age-old issue with these sorts of sleeves: slippage. After all, what good is a brace if it just keeps falling off?
Furthermore, the fabric they've used is designed to absorb sweat as it accumulates throughout your day, keeping the are dry & bacteria-free as a result. Along with keeping you dry, it also heats the area just enough to enable circulation and bring about pain relief.
Lastly, similar to the Physix brace, it can fit nearly under whatever clothes you’re wearing, and it doesn’t look too bad if it’s popping out from under some shorts or a dress, either.
Coming in at just under $17 for any of the five available sizes, which range from small to XXL, we’d consider this your best option if you don’t want to empty your wallet too much. It also comes in blue or pink, along with black. Who said knee braces had to be boring?
The offering from Powerlix has a slight advantage, in our opinion, but it never hurts to have an alternative option, especially if it’s a quality selection that’s highly praised in its own right.
UFlex Athletics offers quite a few products in the compression & brace categories, all of which are well-regarded by online reviewers, but their knee compression sleeve is the definition of bang for your buck, that is if over 9,000 customer reviews are anything to go by.
Like its competitors at double the price, it offers compression across every part of the knee without limiting your natural motion. This compression also offers the heat needed to keep your circulation going strong, meaning you’ll recover that much quicker in turn.
Similar to the others, it features built-in silicone grip gel along with the upper band, which serves to prevent slippage during high-intensity situations. With that in place, you can be assured it will work perfectly when you need it the most.
And you won’t have to worry about sweat or odor in those situations, either. That’s because it features a quick-dry & breathable fabric that stops bacteria in its tracks, which means you no longer have to dread the experience of taking it off after a long day.
Along with being quick to dry from sweat, the fabric they use is waterproof, too!
In all of this, it’s nearly identical to the Powerlix brace outside of one or two minor factors, although this will suit you better if you prefer a shorter brace overall.
You can get yours for less than $15 on Amazon, with three main sizes available. You can tell which size you are by measuring the circumference of your thigh at 4 inches above the knee cap. If the circumference of your thigh is at the upper limit of one size, they recommend you buy the larger size, and vice versa if you’re at the lower limit of the corresponding size.
As great as they are, knee sleeves don't fix everything. Sometimes things are a little more intense; you might not be immobilized, but you certainly wouldn't use the word "mild" to describe your pain. You don't need anything extreme, but extra support could come in handy.
In that case, wraparound knee braces are your best friend. Sitting between sleeves & hinged braces (which we’ll discuss later), these are ideal if you’re experiencing moderate pain, or perhaps suffering from a dislocation or general instability around the kneecap.
Many companies that offer sleeves offer these as well, and UFlex’s offering, similar to their sleeve, is a highly praised option that won’t get close to leaving you in the red.
The open patella design relieves pressure on the knees, and the customizable fit allowed for by the straps makes unnecessary stress in the area far less likely.
This brace also shows it’s ready for action with wide silicone strips that prevent slippage. Other offerings in this list have a similar feature, but the strips here are considerably sturdier & can take considerably more use before they begin to wear out.
These strips are also the main mechanism that allows the brace to keep your muscles warmed up. Other braces have this warming effect as well, but this is the only one on our list that achieves this effect with the use of silicone strips.
The 80% neoprene build also makes it waterproof, along with allowing for a full range of movement, and the size of the brace itself (going barely above & below the knee) makes it that much easier to use during your workout sessions.
After said workout session, you'll also be happy to realize that it dries off quickly. Along with making things far more comfortable, it also means you won't have to worry about bacterial buildup in your brace.
What does all this go for, you ask? Well, even though it offers more support than their sleeve, you can get it for the same price! Prime users can have it at their door in two days for less than 15 dollars.
Arthritis is very much a life-changing affliction; when every movement brings waves of pain along with it, it'll take serious support to restore even a fraction of the movement sufferer's enjoyed before things went wrong.
For them, as we discussed before, knee sleeves won't go very far for people in that position. Wraparounds help more, but they don't do the trick either. Rather, they're going to need what's commonly referred to as a hinged brace.
Essentially, a hinged brace has two velcro straps, one above the knee & one below, along with metal hinges placed along the sides for additional support. These are typically prescribed to people after surgery in that area, although those who have arthritis, along with anyone else who needs extra help, can benefit from using one as well.
As with the sleeves, though, comfort is essential, along with efficacy as a brace. In this area, along with every other, Vive’s hinged brace offering is everything you’ll need & more.
For one, they use a lightweight & durable neoprene (the material used in scuba suits) to provide a pleasant balance of breathability & strength.
Assisting with the former, it also features what’s known as an “open patella” design, meaning there’s a hole that lets the tip of the knee get some fresh air. This build also makes it ideal for everyday use, since movement isn’t too strictly limited.
Helping out with the latter, Vive's hinged brace offering comes with a feature that stands out amongst otherwise comparable options. To be specific, this brace comes with extra fasteners on either side of the knee to ensure it fits exactly the way you want.
If you only need the support of the hinges temporarily, you might also be interested in the fact that the Vive brace’s aluminum hinges are detachable! That’s right: for the price of one hinged brace, you get a great dual-wrap brace when you need it!
Overall, whether you’re recovering from a previously sustained injury or trying to avoid a new one, they’ll be there to provide that support.
It comes in either black, tan or grey, and you can get yours today for under $35 if you have Amazon Prime! Non-Prime customers can grab their own for less than $50.
Although a meniscus tear, or injury to your ACL or PCL, isn’t quite as serious as arthritis, people suffering from any of them need to have the most support possible if they want to be able to get through the day.
Improper treatment can also lead to a delayed recovery process, not to mention the very real potential for additional injury. In short, if you need to buy a brace that offers maximum support & gets you back to peak condition fast, you want to make sure you get it right the first time.
Shock Doctor, famed for their dedication to keeping athletes protected on the field, understands this better than anyone. That's why they've taken the time to develop what we consider to be one of the best-hinged knee braces on the market today.
From the second you take a look at it, you can tell it means business. Complete with padding & extra thick straps, this is probably the most sturdy brace on our whole list. Despite this, it also maintains breathability with its unique venting system across the front and back sides.
Speaking of the straps, they utilize Shock Doctor’s unique X-Fit technology, which is optimized for security & comfort. To keep things even more secure, there are even build in side stabilizers that move along with your leg, keeping you secure & moving along at the same time.
Similar to the offering from Vive, it also has an opening at the tip of the knee to assist in keeping things cooled down enough for comfort.
Heat still comes where it counts though. With the help of their N-Tex tech, the brace allows for therapeutic warmth that allows for circulation & subsequently promotes healing. This same feature also allows for moisture wicking, acting in tandem with their Integrated Antimicrobial Technology that keeps things cool, dry & bacteria free.
Up to this point, this & our previous pick are on equal footing, and whether you have arthritis or are dealing with a meniscus/ACL/PCL injury, you'd be more than fine going either way.
Where Shock Doctor differs with its knee brace, though, is in the hinge design. They’re still on the sides, but the hinges themselves are bilateral, as opposed to media/lateral (the standard with most braces like this). They’re also equipped with impact absorbing pads that make even the most strenuous of activities that much more bearable, even comfortable.
They also boast their offering is 100% latex free, instead sporting four-way stretching Lycra mesh, along with Lycra binding.
With all this, of course, comes a bit of a heftier price tag than the others. The standard price is just under $70, but Amazon Prime users can get it for less than $55.
You also have seven size options, ranging from extra small to triple extra large, so if you fall on either extreme, this might be your optimal choice.
Perhaps more so than any other joint in our body, the wellbeing of our knees is vital to how we go through our lives.
Athlete or not, a person living with arthritis or not, the solution you pick to heal your knees is an important one, and we hope we've been able to help you get closer to figuring things out.
Remember to ask those key questions: is this going to be comfortable when I’m going about my day? Does this provide the sort of support I need? Will the design bring me closer to recovery?
We mentioned it briefly at a couple of points throughout the guide, but durability is also a major factor to consider. If you're putting in hours upon hours on the track, court, or field, you'll likely mess up your knee more than once, and you'll need a brace that's there for you every time.
If you’re suffering from a specific injury, or just have needs that aren’t directly addressed by the products shown here, it also might be worth it to consider other categories of braces.
For those who are mainly running & jumping in their activity of choice, a knee strap is a minimalist brace that gives you support in the exact areas stressed by those activities.
There are also smaller bands that accomplish this goal while taking up less space.
If none of those options seem like they'll work for you, we'd recommend getting a custom brace that's optimized to deal with your issues. It'll cost a couple of pretty pennies, but the ability to move about this world freely is priceless.
We also understand, though, that not everyone has the money for custom medical products. If you find yourself in that situation, try contacting a medical professional to see which premade products will work in a pinch.
There are plenty of decent options out there, but we want you to have the best. Stick with any of the products in our list, and we’re confident that you’ll be walking off in comfort & style.