An active lifestyle has undeniable health benefits, both mentally and physically. However, sometimes high levels of activity can lead to discomfort or injury, particularly in your joints. Knee injuries especially can be painful to cope with if you don’t have the proper equipment or support.
One of the most recommended supports for your knees is the knee brace. Not all knee braces are created equal, and each type has its own level of usefulness and intended functionality. To obtain the best results, you need to know what kinds of braces are out there, and what their intended uses are.
We’re going to show you a variety of knee braces organized by the type of problem they alleviate. Following that, we’ll address some FAQs.
Top 4 Best and Favorites
OS1st KS7 Knee Sleeve
Pro-Tec IT Band Compression Wrap
McDavid True Ice Therapy Knee Wrap
General Knee Support Brace
These are some general-use braces that address a wide range of injuries.
1. Zamst JK-1
The Zamst JK-1 brace is one of the better choices out there for those who suffer jumper’s knee pain. You’ll barely notice that it’s there with the advanced flyweight technology and material.
The P-Tech disperses pressure away from the patella tendon, reducing stress and pain while you’re active. For additional comfort, the material helps to ventilate your skin during exercise. It features adjustable fasteners for a tailored fit and the design allows for a full range of motion.
This brace fits comfortably on either knee without any trouble, so feel free to use it as you need.
- Can be worn over clothing
- Is highly adjustable and comfortable
- Lightweight and doesn’t get overly warm or hot when being worn
- May slip off easily on some knees, especially if the fit isn’t ideal
2. Pro-Tec X Factor
The Pro-Tec X Factor knee support brace offers a customized, supportive fit for your knee. It provides a level of warmth and compression to the knee joint to help prevent and alleviate injuries. It has medial and lateral spiral stays for additional stability and joint protection.
The knee-wrap design allow you to control the level of compression on your knee. An additional layer of neoprene gives a customizable fit. Plus, it has an infrapatellar buttress that helps to support the patella.
This brace is fantastic for alleviating patello-femoral pains and light to moderate ligament tears.
- Provides a customized fit with a second layer of neoprene
- The back of the knee is open for greater support
- Offers compression and knee joint stability
- The brace may be a bit stiff and inflexible, making it feel uncomfortable
3. Bauerfeind Sports Knee Support
Bauerfeind has a long line of useful, effective products and their knee support for sports is absolutely one of them. It offers fantastic movement support of the knee by providing gentle, beneficial compression. This also helps alleviate the effects of high-impact activity and overuse of your knees.
Using an anatomically-contoured pad around the knee cap, it disperses pressure. The knitted fabric then massages the connecting muscles and tissues. This helps activate the stabilizing muscles, improving stability and reducing the risk of injury.
Make sure that you select the proper size for this brace, and wear a thin layer of fabric under it if your skin is sensitive.
- The contoured knee cap pad disperses pressure
- Built to stabilize and support your knee during a variety of sports and activities
- Offers maximum freedom of movement while staying in place throughout use
- Not great for sensitive skin due to the tacky silicone strips on the inside
- The brace may slip if the sizing is incorrect
4. McDavid VOW Versatile Over Wrap Knee Wrap W/Hinges and Straps
This knee wrap is best used for moderate instabilities in your ligaments. This includes swelling and recovering sprains. It’s a level 2 advanced support that will help to relieve pain from chronic conditions, as well.
It features two spring steel stays on each side of the support. These stays help to enhance the lateral support and overall fit of the brace. The easy, quick wrap-on design even goes over pants and other fabrics, so you won’t have to disrobe to put this brace on.
With a lightweight and flexible design, you will get a more versatile and comfortable fit with consistent, compressive support to your knee.
- Has an easy, quick wrap-on design that can fit your knee over or under pants
- It has top and bottom stretch and non-stretch adjustable straps for a personalized fit
- Offers compression and support in a flexible, lightweight design
- The back of the knee is closed instead of open like most other supportive designs
Knee Compression Braces
Compressive knee sleeves and braces add compressive support to damaged or painful knees as a result of meniscus tears, mild to moderate strains or sprains, and arthritis.
5. Pro-Tec Gel Force Knee Support
The Pro-Tec Gel Force support offers moderate knee joint stability while alleviating pain. It helps to alleviate symptoms of patello-femoral pain syndrome, patellar tracking, ligament tears, and more. It does this by providing support, compression, and stability to the knee cap.
The medial and lateral sides of the knee get extra support from spiral stays.
This knee support is made of breathable, soft fabric that has a four-way stretch. This allows it to provide even and comfortable compression throughout the brace. The thick oval gel provides additional comfort and support to the patella area.
- Uses a gel oval design to provide comfort and stabilization to the patella
- Uses medial and lateral spiral stays for added support
- Breathable with a multi-directional stretch
- The support is not made to hold up well to machine washing, so you will have to wash it by hand
6. OS1st KS7 Knee Sleeve
If you have particularly sensitive skin or allergies, the OS1st KS7 may be the perfect knee brace for your needs. It uses a hypoallergenic gel system that helps to keep this sleeve in place. The reduced slipping also helps to improve overall performance, since you won’t have to adjust it as often as other braces or sleeves.
It’s made with a high-quality micro-nylon and spandex material instead of latex or neoprene. This, along with the hypoallergenic gel, reduces skin irritation and negative reactions. The material is also treated with an anti-microbial and moisture-wicking agent to control odors and improve breathability.
This sleeve specifically targets and helps to treat runner’s knee, patellar tendonitis, patella tracking, and instability caused by injuries or surgery.
- Uses a hypoallergenic gel system to keep the sleeve in place and reduce slipping
- Made of high-quality micro-nylon and spandex rather than latex, reducing negative skin reactions
- Uses a lightweight and thin design that offers seven zones of compression
- It may fit a bit more tightly than you’re used to, so try to order a size up where possible
7. CEP Compression Knee Brace
These knee braces are 3D anatomically-designed and are built to provide comfort and support while you’re in motion. The CEP Compression brace will stabilize and support your knee both on the field and in the gym for optimal performance.
It uses non-slip silicone to keep the brace from sliding down out of place and off of your knee. While stabilizing your joint, it will prevent further or future injuries. It also provides a stimulating deep tissue massage that improves the circulation of blood in your knee, helping to optimize your overall performance.
Just remember to be careful while washing this brace, as the rubber inserts could come loose.
- The 3D anatomical design helps to provide comfort and support
- Uses non-slip silicone stays to keep the brace from sliding
- Stabilizes the knee joint and provides relief from injuries
- The rubber inserts come out easily in the wash
- The material isn’t great for sensitive skin types
8. CW-X Stabilyx Knee Joint Support Sleeve
This knee joint support sleeve gives you all of the performance benefits of Stabilyx Support Tights but without the “tights” aspect. The patented compression support sleeves feature the CW-X Support Web technology. This gives you additional stability, reduced fatigue, and faster recovery.
The CW-X Support Web is based on kinesiology taping. This means that it bands together the ligaments and muscles of your knee to increase joint stability while reducing vibrations. It offers a significant increase in efficiency as a result.
- Offers a chafe-free, comfortable form of stability for your knee
- Uses a patented kinesiology taping knee support system
- Reduces vibrations while on the go to increase the efficiency of the support
- Seems to slip out of place easily and frequently
9. McDavid Hyperblend Knee Sleeve
The HyperBlend Knee Sleeve is intended to relieve pain associated with arthritis and tendonitis. But it may also help with other, similar knee pains. Compared to other neoprene sleeves, this sleeve is about 25 to 30 percent lighter.
This is due, in part, to the fact that this sleeve uses HyperBlend technology to combine the breathable compression of knitting with the support of neoprene. What results is a light sleeve with superior, targeted compression.
It uses bilateral aluminum spiral support stays for added support and stability. It also features a foam buttress, which targets and supports soft tissue and the patella.
- Uses HyperBlend technology to combine knit and neoprene materials for optimal compression
- Helps to relieve pain caused by tendonitis and arthritis
- Uses bilateral aluminum support stays
- May not work well as a general support brace
10. Zensah Compression Knee Sleeve
The Zensah sleeve is used by professional athletes and gold medalists worldwide. This sleeve is fantastic for training, performance, and recovery. It helps to reduce inflammation in the knee joint while offering additional pain relief and support.
With muscle-mapped support that pinpoints areas in need of compression and stability, you can really get a lot of use out of this sleeve. It uses a non-slip, silicone grip cuff that prevents slipping even during periods of intense activity. It’s incredibly breathable and also features silver ion technology for odor control.
The ergonomic, 3D ribbing also helps to improve circulation. This helps to improve performance, prevent injury, and relieve pain.
- Helps to reduce inflammation and offer pain relief in the knee
- Uses pinpoint compression with raised ribbing to offer targeted support with a full range of motion
- Moisture-wicking and anti-odor with breathable, durable fabric
- Comes in limited sizing options that may not fit all wearers
IT Band Compression Bands
Iliotibial (IT) band braces help to stabilize the outer part of the knee throughout its range of motion. It also helps with knee extensions and flexions.
11. Pro-Tec IT Band Compression Wrap
This IT Band compression wrap is most commonly used to treat ITBS or iliotibial band syndrome. When worn during periods of activity, it can help to reduce additional strains to the outside of your knee, the femoral condyle.
To increase the effectiveness of its use, this band uses EVA foam. The foam pad allows for targeted compression to be placed directly on the IT Band. This reduces any rubbing or irritation to the outside of the knee.
- Uses EVA foam to reduce rubbing and irritation on the femoral condyle
- Used to treat iliotibial band syndrome
- When used during activities, it reduces strains to the outside of the knee
- May snap if used improperly
12. OS1st IT3 Performance ITB Sleeve
This sleeve features a comfortable, shaped fit that delivers three different zones of compression. It’s so comfortable and effective at relieving the discomfort that you could, if necessary, wear it every day. It’s not bulky and will not migrate down or along your leg.
It uses a hypoallergenic gel support system to stay in place. This helps it to more effectively treat ITBS, upper lateral knee stress, and other related pains. It fits easily under any kind of apparel, including tights and yoga pants.
This IT band brace offers medical-grade support with its patented Compression Zone Technology. It comes in different sizes so you’ll always have a comfortable fit.
- Targets iliotibial band syndrome and upper lateral knee stress
- Made of soft, moisture-wicking fabric
- Uses patented Compression Zone Technology
- Daily use may minimize effects
Patellar Tendonitis Knee Bands
These straps are most commonly used for treating patellar tendonitis, runner’s knee, IT Band friction syndrome, chondromalacia, and patello-femoral pain syndrome.
13. Pro-Tec Patellar Tendon Strap
The Pro-Tec tendon strap is a great tool to help alleviate a variety of pains, including those brought on as a result of jumper’s knee, runner’s knee, and Osgood-Schlatter’s. It does this by providing compression to the patellar tendon. It spreads pressure uniformly across the tendon, which helps to reduce irritation and discomfort.
It’s made of stretchable, durable neoprene that helps it to stay in place. When used correctly, it’s designed to constantly and comfortably apply pressure to your patellar tendon. It can be placed quickly and easily with one hand using the unique attachment system.
- Alleviates a range of pains and symptoms of Osgood-Schlatter’s and runner’s knee
- Improves patellar tracking by helping to stabilize the patella
- Can be placed and adjusted with one hand using the unique attachment system
- The sizing of this strap seems to be far off when some measure it.
14. OS1st PS3 Performance Patella Sleeve
This is a knee sleeve that doesn’t have Velcro or any other fastener. It comes in four sizes to offer you a secure, comfortable fit. However, these sizes may not be suited to everyone, so be sure to double-check before ordering.
The PS3 Performance Patella Sleeves are made of a thin, lightweight, breathable spandex and micro-nylon combination that is breathable and wicks away moisture. It’s easy to wash and you don’t have to worry about it losing its elasticity.
This medical-grade compression sleeve is not just for athletes. If you’re experiencing patella pain, this could be a great solution.
- Uses a combination of spandex and micro-nylon
- Relieves patella tendonitis and helps reduce similar knee pains
- Uses hypoallergenic gel to keep the sleeve in place and slip-free
- Won’t fit all leg sizes, so be sure to measure accurately before ordering
Post-Run Knee Recovery
These wraps are best used for use after running, whether you’re injured or simply decompressing and de-stressing your muscles and joints.
15. Pro-Tec Ice Cold Therapy Wrap
Following an injury or intense practice, you may feel the need to ice your joints. Ice therapy is widely regarded as the best option for an injury such as a sprain or inflammation. This cold therapy wrap is a great tool for this use.
This wrap is flexible enough to move with you. It is also very form-fitting, giving you a snug, secure fit. While it uses plain ice, it provides longer-lasting pain relief and cold treatment therapy than a majority of gel packs.
It’s very easy to use. It has two wide straps to secure it to your leg and apply even, consistent amounts of compression.
- Form-fitting while remaining flexible
- Provides cold therapy and pain relief longer than most gel packs
- Uses two wide straps to apply even amounts of compression
- It may fit a little snugly or be too small for some adults
16. McDavid True Ice Therapy Knee Wrap
This knee wrap combines compression therapy with cold therapy to give you fast relief and increase your overall recovery speed. This wrap is ideal for sprains, strains, or general soreness in your knees or legs.
Its anatomical design concentrates ice and compression on the affected area. This helps to enhance and speed up healing and recovery. It can also be used on other body parts, not just your knee and leg area.
The durable straps on this wrap allow for a customized, secure fit that also allows for adjustments to optimize compression.
- Ideal for use on strained or sprained knees or legs
- Easy to wear and fill, minimizing the hassle involved in treating your injury
- Has durable straps to allow for a customized fit and compression adjustments
- May leak or come out of the brace after some time – you may need a towel handy just in case.
17. Zamst IW-1 Set
The Zamst IW-1 compression set includes the cold compression wrap as well as an ice bag. It’s a blue, medium-sized bag. The wrap is easy to adjust and apply.
It uses dual elastic straps that enable you to adjust the compression level and position easily. It also has a temporary strap for easy application to your arm or elbow. This is particularly useful if you’re by yourself but need to apply a cold compression wrap to a sprain or other injury.
- Great for cooling and compression in the knees and elbows
- Made with a variety of materials for increased durability and reliability
- Simple to apply, even if you’re only using one hand
- It does not move well, so you have to sit still while using it
What type of knee brace should I buy?
There are four main styles of knee brace, and each has its own uses and benefits.
Wrap-around Knee Braces
These knee braces are designed to provide relief for moderate knee pain. They can be worn while running and can also help with dislocated knee caps and support for patellar pain. Most braces in this style have a customizable fit. These braces provide the most support for runners, but are also the bulkiest.
Compression Sleeve Knee Brace
Compression knee sleeves have the same goal as a wrap-around brace: to help control and minimize knee pain. But it’s done with compression – a tight spandex-like fabric – that holds the knee in place.
These sleeves provide compression which helps reduce pain and increases blood flow to the knee. An increase in blood flow should make the knee heal faster. Compression sleeves also provide heat and increase stability.
Compression knee sleeves can be worn running, but they also work well worn after a run, or throughout the day, to encourage active recovery.
Knee Straps and Bands
Knee straps and bands are designed to support specific knee injuries, typically ITB pain and patella tendonitis (aka runner’s knee). They can be worn running or throughout the day. They are usually fairly small and can be worn underneath regular clothing.
Ice Wrap Knee Braces
These braces are a bit like the wrap-around style brace, but they come equipped with a way to make them cold. Usually, this is gel packs that can be thrown in the freezer to get ice cold. With other models, you put the entire brace in the freezer.
Either way, the purpose is to cool down the brace and provide knee pain relief (from the cold) along with support (from the brace).
Because these are heftier braces, they are best used post-run and not during a run.
Will knee braces help heal my knees?
Knee braces can help to prevent injuries or relieve some of the pain of an existing injury. There is currently no definitive proof that a knee brace or knee support can help to actively heal a knee following an injury. Putting a knee brace or support on will not magically heal your knee injury.
What the brace or support will do, however, is offer structural support to the affected knee. With the additional support, you may experience much less pain. The combination of less pain and additional support often helps the healing process along, as it removes a lot of the stress you feel in the injured knee.
I’ve got a big race coming up and my knees really hurt – should I wear a knee brace?
Athletes of any caliber, including runners, go through a lot while preparing for major races. While training or practicing, it’s not uncommon for injuries or excessive strains to occur. This makes proper support and bracing a crucial factor in preparing for your next big race.
A properly-fitting and supportive knee brace will act as a buffer for your knee, mitigating shock, injury, and other types of harm. A brace will help you to avert injuries during strenuous training regimens, and will help support and sustain an otherwise healthy, if fatigued, ligament.
Make sure that you properly rest while training and practicing as well, though. Adding a brace or support for your training will help prevent injuries and knee damage, but it is no substitute for proper rest. Make sure that you hydrate, rest, and use your brace for the ultimate training and running experience.