You’ve been in heavy running mode as you gear up for the slew of spring races you’ve signed up for. But lately your knee seems to be feeling the strain of those extra miles and is causing you extra pain. Will finding the best knee braces for running give you the support you need to continue running at this pace?
Quick Look: Our Top Picks
WHAT CAN A KNEE BRACE DO FOR YOU?
It might be easier to start with what a knee brace can’t do. It can’t fix your injury (especially cruciate ligament or collateral ligament damage) -- you won’t be cured once you slap on the knee brace. And it can’t make up for overtraining, which is one of the most likely reasons for your knee pain outside of a patellar (knee cap) injury.
So if you’ve been increasing your mileage too quickly, you need to scale it back a bit before you injure yourself, cause additional pain or even permanent damage to your knee joint. You don’t want to get to where you have to take weeks off from running.
In some ways, knee braces are like Band-Aids. They give you a temporary solution for your problem by providing additional knee support. That might be good enough if you just have to power through a few more workouts before race day and you plan to take a break after that to help relieve the pain.
With that quick lecture out of the way, let’s get to what a knee brace can do for you. They offer support right where you need it the most -- the muscles and joints that are experiencing pain. You want to make sure that you get the most knee support you can, while still being comfortable.
They can support a strained ligament and provide support for those who might be suffering from patellofemoral pain syndrome or those that just might have a little bit of runner’s knee pain. They are also less expensive and take far less time to put on than a hinge knee brace.
WHAT SHOULD I LOOK FOR IN A KNEE BRACE?
It isn’t easy to pick out a knee brace when there are so many choices out there. You need to consider a few factors before heading to your nearest sports store. You don’t want to grab the first knee brace you see and throw it in your cart. To find the knee brace that’s best suited for your particular needs, ask yourself these questions first.
What Type Do I Need?
If you haven’t looked for a knee brace before, you’ll be surprised and maybe a little overwhelmed by how many options there are. There are many types of knee braces, but the two types you’ll see runners use most are knee sleeves and patella braces.
- Knee sleeves: These braces can give you compression, which should help you if you’re having swelling. Plus, sleeves should help with blood flow to those affected muscles. Knee sleeves won’t have holes in the knee area, and you’ll just pull them on, like a tight-fitting legwarmer.
- Patella brace: Patella braces are knee braces that have a hole cut out for your knee area. You may want to see a doctor to find out if your problem requires this kind of brace. If you need this type of knee brace, you’ll want to pay attention to the right way to use it.
You need to decide if you want a knee sleeve, or if you want a knee support, knee stabilizer or hinged knee brace.
Knee stabilizers provide stronger support -- they’ll have steel springs on either side of the knee. A hinged knee brace has, as the name implies, hinges that let your knee move in a fairly normal position as it gives you a lot of support. These are usually used for more extensive knee injuries, such as people recovering from surgery or ACL tears.
If you’re just having a little soreness, you can opt for the knee sleeve to see if it helps. Or you can take a short break from running, ice the problem area off and on for a few days to try to help the injury that way. You don’t have to give up fitness entirely during this time. You can always hit the pool for a workout that won’t aggravate your knee.
If you’re having significant pain or swelling, you’ll want to consult your doctor to figure out which type of brace is best for you. No one likes to go through the time and expense of making a doctor’s appointment, especially if you aren’t sure it’s necessary. However, your knees are crucial when it comes to running so you need to protect them.
What Size of Brace Do I Need?
You’ll need to decide upon sizing, depending on which type of brace you choose. If you get a brace that offers multiple sizes, you’ll need to take measurements of your knee and possibly other areas of your leg. If you find that you are right between two sizes, you should size up.
How Much Do You Want to Spend?
Knee braces can vary wildly in price and now isn’t the time to get cheap. If you need a knee brace, you are going to have to pony up the money -- you don’t have many options.
If you want to keep running as much as you can while you pinpoint the cause of your injury, you’ll have to take your injury seriously. You don’t want a few dollars to stand between you and your lifelong love of running.
Best Knee Braces For Running
1.Winzone Knee Brace
- This neoprene support brace provides a lot of knee support without feeling stiff or rigid. It’s flexible enough that runners will be able to comfortably run while wearing it.
- It fits a wide range of knees, from 12.4” to 21.7” circumferences.
- It cost less than many other knee braces (including neoprene competitors).
- It’s fully adjustable so you can find a great fit.
- Made with 100 percent neoprene, which won’t feel uncomfortably hot against your skin.
- It slips off and on quickly so you won’t waste too much of your time fiddling with your support brace.
- You can toss it in the washing machine to clean it (neoprene is durable).
- Since the center of the knee is cut out, you’ll be able to ice that area while the brace is on.
- It won’t slip out of place while it’s on.
- It doesn’t hold up well to repeated long-term use for people who have chronic injuries.
- This kind doesn’t offer as much compression as some other brands.
- Made with elastic yarn and 3D circular technology, this sleeve lets the air circulate for decent breathability.
- It won’t feel heavy or bulky on your leg because of the lightweight material, which is good news for runners who don’t want to be weighed down.
- The material won’t feel scratchy against your skin or give you a rash on hot days.
- It is bacteria resistant, even when you’re sweating.
- It helps limit the movement of your patella.
- This support brace offers a 100 percent guarantee which allows you to try it without any risk of losing your money on an inferior product.
- This can fit a knee circumference of 14.5 inches to 22 inches.
- An inexpensive option to try to make your knee pain more bearable.
- If your pants aren’t too tight, this sleeve can fit underneath them.
- For really thin women, this brace will be too big to offer enough compression.
- This sleeve doesn’t come with washing instructions, which is a big problem for runners who tend to sweat a lot.
3. Venom Knee Sleeve
- It has a gel dual stabilizer that gives you extra cushioning to help with your pain level and guard your injury from further damage.
- The compression this sleeve offers helps support your joint and keeps the heat in to help fight inflammation.
- It’s elastic and lightweight so you have greater mobility than you do with rigid braces.
- This sleeve resists bunching and slipping because it has a flexible grip. Once you put it on, it’ll stay in place -- even during long runs.
- It comes in four different sizes to ensure you’ll find a proper fit.
- If you’re interested in learning new recovery exercises, it comes with a PDF guide of moves you can do to speed your recovery.
- It can be used on both your knees -- it doesn’t have to match up with left or right in order to work.
- Any age can use this sleeve.
- It’s easy to slide on and off.
- It’s pricier than some of the other knee sleeves on the market.
4. 2nd Era Knee Runs 1 Knee Sleeves
- The price is great considering you get two knee sleeves. That should appeal to runners who don’t have much money after they buy new shoes every few months.
- These give you knee support and compression when you are running, weight lifting, or doing yoga.
- The air circulates well throughout these sleeves, which won’t leave you feeling sticky and sweaty around your knees.
- If you’ve just had knee surgery, these can help your recovery.
- They come in three sizes, fitting knee circumferences from 14.5 inches to 22 inches.
- These aren’t overly long -- their length is 10.5 inches.
- Some people won’t like the orange accents on these sleeves.
- If you’re doing a lot of bending with your knees, like squats, these tend to bunch up slightly behind the knees.
- The inside fabric of the sleeve could be a little softer on your knees. It isn’t awful, but it can start to feel a bit grating after a long training run.
5. Ultra Flex Athletics Knee Compression Sleeve
- This sleeve offers compression that is great for a wide range of weight bearing exercises and sports. It’s also good at helping with particular ailments like tendonitis.
- It has anti-slip silicone, which will ensure your sleeve will stay on when you need it most. You won’t be limping along on a run you’ve already begun, while tugging the sleeve back up every few steps.
- The nice fit of this sleeve is due to 3D technology and the nylon and lycra materials used to make it.
- Fits a wide range of knee circumferences, from 14.5 inches to 22 inches.
- This sleeve comes with a 30-day money back guarantee, which protects your moola in case you don’t like it.
- People with allergies or sensitivities to latex or spandex may have rashes as a result of using this sleeve.
- The durability of this sleeve isn’t the greatest -- with long-term usage, loose threads start appearing and the brace can start to feel a bit stretched out.
6. Pro-Tec Athletics Gel Force Knee Sleeve
- This gel based sleeve provides support for overall knee pain from patellar strains (strains to the tendons connected to your knee cap) and can even help calm the effects that arthritis may have on the joint.
- It has proprietary stretch material that provides supportive compression while allowing full range of motion.
- The fabric is light and breathable so your knee area won’t get uncomfortable.
- Different sized to accommodate a wide range of knees.
- Medial and Lateral spiral stays provide additional joint stability.
- Some people prefer the tightness of an actual neoprene sleve.
- The soft fabric that stretches around the “donut” can take abuse depending on the amount of wear & tear (use of the brace).
7. Bauerfeind GenuTrain Knee Brace
- Silicone Omega Padding leaves the patella without pressure and provides support to the soft tissues around the knee cap.
- Comfortable, breathable and lightweight so your leg doesn’t feel smothered during training.
- The meniscus wings in the brace provide gentle pressure to help alleviate meniscus strain.
- Can also be used to treat mild arthritis symptoms in the knee.
- Price – for a premium knee brace, it’s a bit on the expensive side.
- Limited Colors - You'll end up with one of a few color selections depending on your size.
8. Rehband Rx Knee Support
- Compression improves blood flow and input from the knee, to help ensure your knees are moving correctly.
- Comfort seams will help ensure that the knee brace is aligned with body mechanics.
- The Rehband knee support is classified as a medical device and all research is done at Rehband’s research facility in Sweden.
- Designed to promote blood flow which reduces inflammation and enhances recovery.
- As with most neoprene knee supports, the amount of use you'll get out of the brace will depend on the amount you use it and how you treat the product.
9. DonJoy Reaction Web Knee Brace
- The webbing on the brace provides for a unique fit, and is lightweight enough to use on a daily basis.
- Because of the design, it can be worn on either leg without modification.
- A nylon/spandex undersleeve is included in case you need additional support or don’t enjoy the webbing directly against your leg.
- Open knee design allowing maximum patellar freedom while still providing support.
- The fact that the webbing consists of multiple strands allow there to be more potential for stretching or breaking, unlike a neoprene sleeve.
10. CopperJoint Copper Knee Sleeve
It can be used for basic knee support, or treatment of mild arthritic symptoms. The antibiofouling (prevention of germs from growing on wet surfaces) is also a nice touch to keep this particular knee brace a little more sanitary.
- Germ Free & Fungus Free
- Doesn’t roll or slide down – is ideal for anyone looking for sleeve support that doesn’t need a full on knee brace.
- Can help with minor strains, aches & pains caused by activity or mild arthritis.
- It’s durable, lightweight and can be packed while taking up minimum space.
- Great compression sleeve for your knee if you are on a budget (wallet friendly).
- Because the sleeve is extremely form fitting, some people have mentioned that the sleeve can be pretty tight.
Knee Brace FAQ:
Before we tell you which knee brace is our absolute favorite, let’s look at some commonly asked questions for anyone considering a knee brace.
Q: Should I Wear a Knee Brace For Running?
A: This is best determined by your doctor. Typically if you have light pain from a light spraign, ranging all the way to iliotibial band syndrome or a small strain in your anterior cruciate ligament, a knee brace can be a good route to go in order to add extra support.
Q: Can I continue running with a knee brace?
A: This answer is also best determined by your doctor, on a case by case basis. Generally if you have sore muscles, tendons or cartilage, having a knee brace can help you effectively manage the pain. If you have a serious injury like a meniscus tear, then your doctor should help you determine when you can resume running.
Q: Do you need a knee brace for runner’s knee?
A: While a knee brace isn’t always needed, it can be highly effective in managing pain from runner’s knee by providing additional support to the patellar tendons and other muscles/tendons around the knee joint.
Q: Should you get a knee brace after ACL surgery?
A: This should be determined by your doctor, but most times after you’ve had major surgery, a knee brace can be an effective way to help mitigate pain and provide extra support. Often times, a hinged knee brace or an unloader brace will be recommended.
Q: If I have pain, should I wear a brace all the time, or only when running?
A: Doctor’s orders here again – do what your doc says is best. Chances are if you only have pain when you run, it’s only necessary to wear a knee brace to prevent runner’s knee from continuing to occur.
Q: Could a volleyball knee pad work OK for an athletic knee brace?
A: If you need a knee brace, don’t substitute with other items that don’t offer the support a knee brace will or you could risk additional knee injury, knee problems or muscle strain.
Q: Will wearing a knee brace hurt me in the long run?
A: Typically, no. You’ll want to moderate the use, but when used in moderation, a knee brace is an effective way to provide additional support while not risking additional injury.
Q: What is runner’s knee pain?
A: Runner’s knee isn’t necessarily a specific injury, but a strain that comes from a variety of factors which include overuse, misalignment with your bones or problems with your feet. Runners knee treatment can vary by severity, but it is usually accompanied by some type of knee support or knee brace. Often times physical therapy can help.
Q: What is ITB or Iliotibial Band Syndrome?
A: IT Band Syndrome is pain and swelling that develops on the ligament that runs down the outside of your thigh from the hip to your shin. It frequently happens to people that run on hard surfaces like concrete or asphalt, and the best thing to do is rest immediately if you feel you’ve come down with IT Band Syndrome. Cortisone injections are a popular treatment on top of physical therapy, if rest, stretching and a proper knee brace support aren’t working to relieve the pain.
Q: What’s a good remedy for knee pain from running?
A: Rest and proper knee support like a neoprene brace or compression sleeve can help most minor ailments.
Q: What’s the best knee brace for running with a torn ACL?
A: Early on, you shouldn’t be running at all with a torn anterior cruciate ligament. As you progress in your physical therapy and are given clearance to run from your doctor, you will usually be given advice by your doctor which brace will be best to support your healing ACL while you fully recover.
AND THE BEST KNEE BRACE FOR RUNNING IS …
While the Venom Knee Sleeve is a little pricier than other options, it’s worth the extra money. It’s a versatile sleeve that offers great compression whether you’re lifting weights, doing lunges or running. It’s heavy duty enough to keep up with a full workout schedule.
The gel stabilizer is a welcome addition, and the extra cushioning and warmth it provides pushes this sleeve to the top of the list.
You’ll be able to wear this sleeve without threat of it slipping down on you just as you start getting into your workout. This will help to avoid further knee injury or knee problems down the road.