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Best Knee Sleeves For Running in 2021

 

Any kind of pain can be detrimental to your running. But knee pain is a particular demon! A sore knee can not just make your run miserable, but it can dissuade you from running altogether.

The reasons for knee pain during or after running are many. Sometimes, the problem is the actual knee – for example, runners’ knee. Other times, the problem originates from the ankle, calf, or hip, and the pain you’re feeling in the knee is simply referred pain.

Either way, if you have a tender knee, using one of the best knee sleeves for running can help to reduce pain and accelerate your recovery time.

It won’t necessarily fix the problem; you’ll still need to correct your form, consider changing your shoes, and get to the root of knee problems.

But using a knee sleeve can help ease the pain enough that you can still enjoy a run (and strengthen those leg muscles while you’re at it to support your knee).

We recommend the OS1st KS7 Performance Knee Sleeve. It utilizes Compression Zone technology and gel stabilizers to protect and support the knee and has a seamless construction so you can run comfortably.

For more great choices, read through our full list!

Top 3 Best and Favorites

 

OS1st KS7 Performance Knee Sleeve

 

  • Compression Zone Technology
  • Seamless construction
  • Gel stabilizers
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Pro-Tec Gel Force Knee Support

 

  • Thick, non-slip gel pad
  • 4-way stretch
  • Breathable fabric
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Zensah Elite Gel Compression Knee Sleeve

 

  • Anatomical gel pad
  • Anti-slip silicone grip
  • Dual spiral stays
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Best Overall

1. OS1st KS7 Performance Knee Sleeve

This knee sleeve may look like a simple, minimalistic bit of fabric, but it’s incredibly effective for supporting the knee and reducing pain.

From the outside, it just looks like a normal compression sleeve. There is some great compression here, delivered via Compression Zone technology. This feature alone is super helpful, improving circulation to help accelerate recovery and reduce aches and swelling.

But paired with that are gel stabilizers. Hidden on the inside of the sleeve, these fit around the patella, supporting it while seven levels of graduated compression are applied around it.

These gel stabilizers also help to keep the sleeve in place, so it won’t move around much while you’re on the move.

The sleeve can provide relief from a variety of painful conditions, including runner’s knee, ITBS, patellar tendonitis, and even arthritis.

It’s hypoallergenic, comes in two colors, has seamless construction for extra comfort, and has a wide band at both hems, which relieves pressure on the calf and thigh.

PROS:

  • Compression Zone Technology
  • Seamless construction
  • Gel stabilizers
  • Moisture-wicking fabric

CONS:

  • The sleeve runs small and you may have to order a size bigger
 

Top Sleeve with Gel Inlay

2. Pro-Tec Gel Force Knee Support

This knee sleeve looks more heavy-duty than the previous one. The outer shell is made of lightweight, elastic material that covers a gel doughnut that fits around the kneecap to stabilize it.

The gel circle inside the sleeve is non-slip, which helps it stay put whether you’re exercising or simply walking around the house.

As well as the supportive gel, the sleeve provides some compression benefits too. The better the circulation in the injured or tender joint, the quicker it should be able to heal and feel better.

4-way stretch material makes it easy to get the sleeve on and off despite the gel pad in the middle. The flat-knit stitching means there’s less to chafe, and it helps the sleeve to stay flush against your skin, maximizing that compression.

You can buy this knee sleeve in one of four sizes, from small to extra large. Each is sized according to the circumference of the leg. To size it correctly, measure the circumference of your leg about an inch above your patella (kneecap).

PROS:

  • Thick, non-slip gel pad
  • 4-way stretch
  • Breathable fabric
  • Medial and lateral patella support

CONS:

  • May be slightly too thick to wear under some pants when exercising
 

Best Grip Knee Sleeve

3. Zensah Elite Gel Compression Knee Sleeve

If you’re going to be doing any kind of vigorous exercise while wearing a knee sleeve, this is the one we’ve chosen for its great grip. Nothing can throw you off like your knee sleeve moving around or rolling down while you’re running or moving.

The Zensah knee sleeve uses targeted compression to improve circulation in the joint and the muscles around the joint, accelerating healing and pain relief.

An anatomically-designed gel pad and dual spiral stay keep the knee well supported and stabilized in the sleeve.

Despite the thick cushion around the patella, the knee sleeve isn’t cumbersome, and should be easy to run or exercise with.

The entire knee sleeve, with the exception of the gel pad, is covered in small perforations to allow adequate airflow so you don’t overheat while wearing it.

One of the best things about this sleeve is how grippy it is. If you’ve ever run or exercised hard with one of these on, you know how easy it is for the sleeve to start rolling down your thigh.

This knee sleeve combats that by inserting wide, soft, silicone strips on the back and front to keep it in place without feeling restrictive. It’s super helpful to know that no matter what you’re doing, it won’t be moving or rolling or annoying you.

PROS:

  • Anatomical gel pad
  • Anti-slip silicone grip
  • Dual spiral stays
  • Allows for a full range of motion

CONS:

  • The inner seams may feel a little rough and cause chafing in the beginning
 

Top Quick-Dry Sleeve

4. CEP Compression Knee Sleeve

CEP is a well-known compression company, and their products are of good quality and well worth the buy.

We’ve chosen this one as our best quick-dry sleeve because nobody wants their knee sleeve to be soaked through and dripping while they’re exercising!

This sleeve is made from synthetic fibers that get rid of moisture and odor-causing bacteria. You most likely won’t notice it until you realize you aren’t as hot and sweaty around your compressed knee as you may usually be!

In terms of compression, it has a 3D, medically-inspired anatomical design that conforms to the knee like a second skin. It offers light to moderate compression (depending on the size you get) that keeps the circulation going, bringing red blood cells to the site of the pain to help improve it.

As well as drying quickly after you sweat while wearing this sleeve, there’s a handy thick, silicone band at the top hem to stop it from rolling down when you’re moving.

PROS:

  • Silicone top band
  • 3D anatomical design
  • Light compression
  • Made with high-tech synthetic fibers

CONS:

  • If you have large calves, the lower hem may feel tight
 

Best Minimal Knee Sleeve

5. Pro-Tec Athletics Short Sleeve Knee Support

Sometimes all you need is a well-placed bit of support to alleviate your pain. This knee sleeve is minimalistic but well-designed, and it gives you firm support right where you need it.

One of the best things about this knee sleeve is that it’s not a typical “sleeve” construction. It supports without hampering the joint’s range of motion, so you should be able to do whatever exercise you want to without this getting in the way.

Unlike other sleeves, it doesn’t cover the entire knee. There’s a hole in the sleeve right over the patella, and which increases the breathability of this wrap.

The part that ends under the knee is made from firm EVA foam and provides the same benefit as a patellar tendon strap does.

Just that extra bit of pressure on the tendon under the knee can do wonders for alleviating knee pain. It ends just below the patella, and thanks to its minimalistic design, you may hardly even notice it’s there!

The support sleeve is made from neoprene, with a CoolMax mesh lining for extra breathability.

PROS:

  • EVA foam patellar strap
  • CoolMax mesh lining and Velcro
  • Allows for a full range of motion
  • Ends just below your kneecap

CONS:

  • The seam sits behind the knee and may be rough
 

Most Customizable Knee Sleeve

6. ACE Adjustable Knee Support

This knee brace is a great choice if you aren’t totally sure what size you need, or if more than one person may be using it. It fits knees with a circumference from 11 to 22 inches.

It features two adjustable Velcro straps, one on either side of the knee. This is different from other designs, because you can adjust the brace to give your knee as much compression as you feel comfortable with.

It opens up entirely when unstrapped, making it incredibly easy to put on and take off. The material is a soft neoprene blend, and the hole over the knee allows for impressive airflow. The sleeve also features numerous perforations for better circulation or air.

For even more support, there’s a stabilizer running down each side to keep your knee in proper alignment.

You can also wear this sleeve on either the left or the right knee, adding even more versatility!

PROS:

  • Flexible contoured design
  • Adjustable straps for custom compression
  • Can be worn on either knee
  • One-size-fits-most

CONS:

  • The Velcro could scratch the back of the leg
 

Best Knee Sleeve 2-Pack

7. Mava Sports Compression Knee Sleeves

Sometimes one knee sleeve isn’t enough! Perhaps you want one for each knee, or maybe you just want a backup so that when one is in the washing machine, you still have another.

If you’re looking for a pair, Mava Sports 2-pack is what we recommend. It’s a great idea as a gift for runners, but it would also be helpful for people with arthritis in their knees.

These knee sleeves are super soft on the skin. You may be surprised to find out that they aren’t made from conventional materials, but instead from bamboo charcoal fiber.

Targeted compression (13-20 mmHg) increases blood flow to the painful area and helps to retain body heat, which also gets the circulation going.

Choose which sleeve fits you best, from small to XXL!

PROS:

  • Made from bamboo charcoal fiber
  • Anatomical design
  • Targeted compression
  • Retains heat to stimulate circulation

CONS:

  • They may slip down if you’re doing vigorous exercise
 

Top Open-Patella Design

8. TechWare Pro Bidirectional 3-Strap Knee Brace

You’ll have noticed that knee sleeves come in open or closed-patella styles. Each has its own small benefits, although both will do a good job of supporting and stabilizing.

This one gets our thumbs up for being the best open-patella design of the products we reviewed.

It’s easy enough to figure out how to use it. The hole goes around the kneecap, and the Velcro straps fit around the knee to close it as tightly as you need. This criss-cross Velcro closure design helps with stability, too.

Around the knee are four stabilizing spring coils. The open-patella hole is surrounded by a gel pad for gentle but effective support and compression.

To keep it in place, the upper and lower hems have a small silicone band to prevent it from sliding down, although if you close it tightly enough, it should stay put throughout whatever exercise you do.

To get the right size, measure your leg’s circumference at the kneecap, and take another measurement about 3 inches up (mid-thigh). Consult the sizing chart to decide whether medium, large, X-large, or XX-large would be best.

PROS:

  • Alternating closures
  • No-slip silicone strips
  • Open patella design
  • Moisture-wicking neoprene

CONS:

  • Sizing starts at medium, so very petite people may find that it’s too large for them
 

Best Value

9. PowerLix Compression Knee Sleeve

If it’s your first time using a knee brace, you may want to try our best value choice before going for something more expensive. It’s a good option if you aren’t sure what benefit you’ll get – although we’re pretty sure it will help!

The PowerLix knee sleeve ticks all the boxes for what you’d need in a sleeve. It offers light but effective compression across the knee joint, enhancing stability and keeping it in alignment.

It’s made from 80% nylon and 20% spandex, which gives it that elasticity and compression. The sleeve remains breathable, so you won’t overheat even if you’re doing an intense workout.

Their anti-slip silicone strip system also keeps the sleeve in the right position on your leg, preventing it from sliding or rolling downwards.

Another thing that makes this the best value choice is the fact that PowerLix offers a 100%, 6-month money-back guarantee, no questions asked!

PROS:

  • 4-way stretch capability
  • Double silicone gel strips
  • Odor-resistant fabric
  • Targeted compression

CONS:

  • The silicone may wear out after a couple of washes
 

Top Knee Sleeve for Cross-training

10. Rehband Rx Knee Sleeve

Are you getting in some cross-training between your daily runs? We hope so, because the benefits are many!

This knee sleeve is 5mm thick and offers solid support without compromising your range of motion. Whatever cross-training exercises you’re doing, this should be supportive enough to keep your knee joint in place but still allow you to move freely.

It’s constructed with an anatomical fit, molding to your knee so it doesn’t feel too unnatural. It helps your knee joint to move safely and in the right plane of motion.

5mm is a great middle-ground for exercises such as running, where the range of motion is smaller, as well as things like kickboxing, or even heavy deadlifting, where that knee joint gets plenty of use.

It helps to warm your muscles up more quickly, too, which reduces the risk of injury while you’re working out.

PROS:

  • Uniform contoured compression
  • Anatomical shape
  • 5mm thick neoprene
  • Versatile enough for any cross-training

CONS:

  • Runners may find that the thicker material gets too warm
 

FAQs

Still wondering about the best knee sleeves for running? Here are some questions you may be asking.

What are the Benefits of Knee Sleeves?

Knee sleeves offer a variety of benefits, including reducing pain, preventing injuries, and providing support for the knee.

Unlike knee braces, knee sleeves allow for a fuller range of motion while aligning your knee and providing stability. This also helps to develop your proprioception, as you’re more aware of the position of your knee.

A sleeve also provides compression, which helps to increase blood flow, reducing pain and swelling. It prevents the loss of body heat, which is why you’ll feel the sleeve warming up the knee within a few short minutes of putting it on.

This insulation of body heat helps with the recovery process, as the increased blood flow will help to open the synovial membrane.

The synovial membrane is a layer of connective tissue that lines the fluid-filled sacs in between the bones and tendons. It’s responsible for lubricating the joints.

A knee sleeve will also help if you’re recovering from a minor injury, as it provides support while letting the knee strengthen. If you’re experiencing knee instability, especially around the anterior knee, you may need more rigid support and should consider getting a knee brace.

What’s the Difference Between Open and Closed Patella Knee Sleeves?

Knee sleeves with an open patella are designed specifically to support the kneecap, as it places less pressure on the actual kneecap. It also helps to make sure that the patella is in alignment with the rest of the knee joint when you’re doing an activity.

People with a meniscus tear, IT band syndrome, patellar tendonitis, chondromalacia, or even knee arthritis, would benefit from using an open patella knee sleeve.

The closed knee sleeve may provide more support and stability, but it also places some pressure on the kneecap. It does allow the kneecap to move more freely than the open knee sleeve. It’s most commonly used to support the overall knee in HIIT, weightlifting, or heavy workouts.

What to Look for in a Knee Sleeve?

Size

Knee sleeve sizing varies from brand to brand. This can make it a little tricky when it comes to choosing which size to buy, especially if you’re between sizes.

The first step is to measure your knee. While you can do this sitting down, it would be best to do it while you’re standing naturally. When we stand naturally, our knees bend slightly. Taking your knee measurements standing will make sure that you get a better and snugger fit.

Find the center of your knee and measure the circumference with a tape measure. Then identify the spot where you’re having pain, and measure 6 inches upwards from that. At that point, measure the circumference of your upper thigh.

All that’s left to do is to take the measurement of your calf. Measure 6 inches down from the center of the knee towards your calf, and take the circumference here. You’ll now have the measurements you need to use the sizing guide to order your knee sleeve.

If you find yourself between sizes, it would be best to go for the smaller size. It may be a tight fit in the beginning, but the knee sleeve will stretch out over time.

Thickness and Purpose

Knee sleeves come in three different thicknesses; 3mm, 5 mm, and 7mm. Each thickness is best for different sporting activities, and for slightly different reasons. The type of activity you’ll be doing when wearing the knee sleeve will help to determine the thickness that you need.

The 3mm thick-knee band is often used by runners, as it’s lightweight, provides stability to the knee and helps to prevent injuries. This thickness allows for a full range of motion, whether you’re running a marathon, working on your speed, or simply training.

If you’re going to be taking part in multiple sports where you need both support and flexibility, like CrossFit, then the 5mm sleeve may work better for you. It’ll remain agile enough for you to easily do exercises like box jumps, and support your knee seconds later in explosive weightlifting moves.

7mm is the thickest knee sleeve you’ll find, and it provides the maximum amount of support and stability. These are most commonly used by people who are powerlifting or have increased weight significantly in their gym routine.

This will help to prevent injury and provide ample support when deadlifting 300 pounds, or back squatting 400 pounds as an elite weightlifter.

Material

Knee sleeves can be made from materials like nylon, Lycra, and spandex. You may even come across more eco-friendly knee sleeves made from bamboo. But the most popular material is soft neoprene.

Neoprene not only holds its shape better, but it provides good support while insulating and retaining body heat. This helps promote the healing and recovery process. Neoprene draws moisture away from your skin to help keep you dry during your workout.

Consider it a material that’s not only going to provide support, but that’s able to maintain its elasticity so that you’re always getting the right amount of support.

Whatever material your brace is made from, it should be long-lasting and have reinforced stitching (double or triple-stitched). This’ll prevent the knee sleeve from fraying quickly when it gets snagged on something, increasing its durability.

The Wired Runner