Running is a popular exercise because it’s got almost no barrier to entry. Equipment is minimal and it doesn’t require much research to get started, making it an ideal sport to take up if you’re looking to get fit for cheap.
However, our increasingly sedentary lifestyles can lead to our bodies being unused to strenuous activity, and even something as natural as running can cause or exacerbate injuries. This is especially true when it comes to your knees, which take most of the impact of running. If you’re keen to get out and jog but know your knees aren’t in the best condition, then a knee support for running could be the key to making sure you can enjoy the benefits of exercise without worrying about injury.
- What to Look for in a Knee Support for Running
- Different Types of Knee Supports for Running
- Top 10 Knee Supports for Running 2021
- 1. Best Overall Knee Support: UFlex Athletics Compression Sleeve
- 2. Best Budget Knee Support: Physix Gear Knee Support
- 3. Best Premium Knee Support: Powerlix Knee Compression Sleeve
- 4. Best Knee Support for Alleviating Chronic Pain: CopperJoint Compression Sleeve
- 5. Best Knee Support for Comfort: Pure Support Knee Brace
- 6. Keenhealth Compression Knee Brace
- 7. Best Knee Support for Freedom of Movement: Modvel 2 Pack Knee Compression Sleeve
- 8. Best Knee Support for MCL & ACL Support: RiptGear Knee Support Sleeve
- 9. Best Knee Support for Patella Protection: NEENCA Knee Brace With Patella Gel Pad
- 10. Best Knee Support for Running After a Serious Knee Injury: Techware Pro Knee Brace Support
- Guide to Buying the Best Knee Supports for Running
- The Final Hurdle
What to Look for in a Knee Support for Running
Running with a knee support can help you to carry on exercising when you have a minor injury. Although they aren’t a direct substitute for strengthening exercises and physical therapy, they can offer an excellent addition to a recovery program. If you’re simply trying to avoid injury, then you shouldn’t be looking at medical-grade supports as they can cause more harm than good by leaving your knee overreliant on an outside support. As can often be the case, a simple solution can be just as good as a more advanced one.
Different Types of Knee Supports for Running
There are a plethora of options available for those looking to support their knees during strenuous activities like running. Some are more appropriate for certain situations than others, and some should only be used if discussed first with a physician.
This type of knee support offers runners the most mobility while still supporting the knee joint. They work by tightening the area around the joint to limit the buildup of swelling and keep ligaments in place. While other knee supports can limit movement, these are generally safe to wear as long as they feel helpful to you. If you have Runner’s Knee then this type of knee support can be used in conjunction with other methods to make sure you don’t make the injury worse.
This type of knee support for running offers slightly more support than the compression sleeves because of a modified area around the kneecap. They tend to be used when there are patellar ligament issues but can lead to a weakening of the ligament if relied on for too long. Sometimes they come with adjustable straps for further stability.
Patellar sleeves can be split into two types: open patellar sleeves and closed patellar sleeves. Open sleeves are useful for those with tendon issues as they keep the kneecap in place. Closed sleeves offer more general support to the knee thanks to a reinforced area around the kneecap but are more restrictive. Runners will generally use open patellar sleeves because of the additional freedom and because they support the specific areas that are stressed during running.
Functional Knee Braces
These types of braces are for heavy-duty issues. Unless you have a serious knee injury or are a professional athlete, then you won’t need any category of knee support that offers more protection than this.
Unlike the other two options, these braces have additional straps and reinforced supports that restrict movement. Functional knee braces should only be used after consulting a doctor, whereas sleeves can be worn by anyone as they impact movement less. Functional knee braces are available in custom fits and off the shelf models.
When to Use a Knee Support for Running
Although they seem harmless you shouldn’t use a knee support for running unless you’re experiencing mild pain, you’ve had knee issues in the past, or your doctor recommends it. If you are buying a knee support without speaking to your physician first, you should start off with a compression sleeve as they’ve been shown to have little to no negative impact on tendon and muscle strength.
One other scenario in which you may find it useful to use a knee support for running is if you’re switching the terrain which you exercise on to something harder, i.e., grass to concrete. Supports could help to avoid any impact injuries while your body gets used to the new surface.
Materials Used in Knee Supports for Running
Although there are a huge number of materials that are used in the production of knee supports, the ones listed below are immensely more popular than others. Many supports are also made of a combination of the below materials and others.
A synthetic rubber, neoprene is great at working under a range of temperatures. It also tends to stand up to wear and tear better than other materials, so supports made of this material will last longer.
The inside of the supports tend to use this material so that they stay gripped to your leg. It’s breathable yet tough and will make sure your support stays on your knee during high-intensity bursts of activity.
The most lightweight and breathable of the materials most often used to make knee supports for running, nylon is great for minimizing the loss of range of movement that some supports can cause. However, it can be uncomfortable and scratchy, especially after a long period of use.
Incredibly stretchy and comfortable to wear, spandex knee supports are great for everyday use. However, they don’t offer as much support as some other common knee support materials. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, especially if you’re looking to support your knee without taking all the pressure off of the muscle and ligaments.
Top 10 Knee Supports for Running 2021
- Sizes: S: 14.5”-17”/ M: 17”-19.5” / L: 19.5”-22” / XL: 22”-24.5”
- Material: Nylon + Spandex + Anti-slip Silicone
The star of the show and an excellent all-rounder, the UFlex Knee Compression Sleeve ticks all the boxes when it comes to a knee support for running. This knee compression sleeve does everything from preventing injury to aiding in recovery and can be used across multiple sporting disciplines, but is especially useful for running.
The materials used here also make this sleeve one of the warmer ones out there. It also limits kneecap movement and stretches easily to compress your knee while not feeling too restrictive. That means if you have a slight injury it will keep everything in place, but also will not impact recovery my making your knee too dependent on a support while running.
These are incredibly snug so opt for the larger size if you’re on the measurement boundary. The nylon material also makes it more breathable than similarly tight sleeves made of neoprene. This means if you’re a long-distance runner who will need the maximum amount of comfort as to not impact their performance, this support is great for you.
- Sizes: S: 14.5”-17”/ M: 17”-19.5” / L: 19.5”-22” / XL: 22”-24.5” / XXL: 24.5” – 27”
- Material: Nylon + Lycra
Another excellent all-round choice for every type of runner, the Phsyix Gear Knee Support really excels when it comes to longevity. While some supports become looser with general wear and tear, this particular sleeve maintains elasticity for a long period of time. That means if you’re wearing a knee support for running to avoid the exacerbation of a chronic knee injury, then it’s probably your best bet.
However, even if you are simply using it during a short-term injury spell it has many benefits. While it doesn’t have the tightness or heft of more medical-grade supports, there is plenty of force to keep everything in place and alleviate pressure on the knee. This happens without compressing the affected joint too much, which can lead to an over-reliance on outside support and further long-term damage to knee ligaments.
The sleeve is also quite lightweight and unrestrictive compared to other alternatives, which means you get a full range of motion when running. The additional stability and grip of the composition materials also makes it an excellent choice for long-distance runners who don’t want to waste precious time pulling up on slippery knee supports.
- Sizes: S: 8”-10.5” / M: 10.6”-15” / L: 15.1”-19. 5” / XL: 19.6”-23.5” / XXL: 23.6”-26”
- Material: Nylon + Spandex
If your cardio is focused on HITT sessions, sprints, and mid-range distances, then this is the sleeve for you. The four-way compression system in this knee support helps to maintain stability when running at higher speeds and causing a bigger impact on your knees. The sweat absorption is also of the highest quality, which is useful if you are going for high-intensity workouts. It’s also quite a bit longer than other alternatives, which means more warmth and better circulation to the areas you wish to protect.
Powerlix also offers much smaller sizes than most retailers, which means if you’re on the thinner side you’ll easily be able to find something snug. The elasticity is second to none, which is another reason it manages to shape so well around the leg and keep everything in place, even under the duress that speedier running places on athletes.
Although this additional tightness is useful for higher impact activities, this does mean it’s a bit more restrictive than some other alternatives. This is exacerbated by their smaller sizes. If you’re big on comfort and freedom, as long-distance runners tend to require for their equipment, then there are better alternatives, although it’s still good enough to help you to avoid further injuring yourself.
- Sizes: S: 14”-15” / M: 15.5”-17” / L: 17. 5”-19” / XL: 19.5”-21” / XXL: 21.5”-23”
- Material: Copper Infused Nylon + Spandex
CopperJoint uses a patented technology that infuses copper ions with nylon to effectively stimulate oxygen delivery to muscles and allow peak airflow. In layman’s terms, this means that those with more serious or longer-term knee issues will have an added layer of stability for their knee, meaning a smaller risk of further damage.
Although it would likely be overkill for general, non-chronic knee problems and not good enough for issues around serious ligament damage, if you are arthritic or have a painful but not debilitating injury that wouldn’t require a support that needs medical sign off then this is a great choice. It’s much less restrictive than other supports that claim to offer similar levels of compression, which gives runners the benefit of a wider range of movement while out on the track.
However, it’s not just the actual product that makes CopperJoint such an excellent choice: they offer a lifetime guarantee and easy exchanges in case of sizing issues, although the latter won’t be a problem if you measure yourself correctly. This means that if you are looking for a long term, heavy-duty solution to knee issues that are exacerbated by your runs, there aren’t many better choices.
- Sizes: S: 14”-17” / M: 17”-19” / L: 19”-22” / XL: 22”-24”
- Material: Elastic Yarn + Anti-slip Silicone
Despite having a lower price this knee support from Pure Support can compete with the best of its competitors. The manufacturers use a unique knitting process to make the sleeve, utilizing an elastic yarn that offers much more comfort than the plastic-based materials that usually compose knee supports for running. This material is also incredibly breathable which makes it a great choice for more intense exercise or even day to day use.
If you’re suffering from minor arthritis or issues with your meniscus, this knee sleeve has been designed to mold into a shape that alleviates the pain from these issues. This design also means that knee buckles are less frequent, as it stabilizes the specific areas of the knee where these mostly occur.
The knee support is also quite aesthetically pleasing, which is a bonus for fashion-conscious runners. Moreover, because it’s so thin it can also be worn underneath other clothes without showing an outline. The fact that the sleeve is so lightweight only adds to the high comfort levels it affords. This is also aided by how snugly it fits, meaning no uncomfortable rolling it up and down like some similar products which fall out of place during exercise. All in all, the main benefit of the Pure Support is that if it didn’t help to alleviate knee pain so much, you’d likely not even notice it was there after a while.
- Sizes: S: 11.8”-13.4” / M: 13.5”-16.4” / L: 16.5”-18.7” / XL: 18.8”-21.7”
- Material: Nylon + Latex + Spandex
If you’re unfortunate enough to be suffering from damage to both knees, then you might be better served buying from Keenhealth as their knee sleeves come in a pair. Even if you only have one knee that needs looking after, then it could be worth purchasing this product just to have two supports. Having a pair would mean less wear and tear due to overuse and means you will have a knee support available even if one is being washed.
In terms of actual support, these knee sleeves do an excellent job of maintaining stability. Your patella is kept in a neutral position which means there’s less chance of slippage and ligament damage. With that being said, those looking for serious compression may be better served by supports that are tighter the entire way down. These knee supports are kept in place by a silicone band, which allows for more freedom around the knee area, although not enough to allow for damage thanks to dodgy landings.
Keenhealth has crafted a really useful product here, but the bang you get for your buck is what really makes it worth it. This knee support is proof that more money doesn’t always mean the best product. If you’re looking into a knee support for a short period or want multiple, then this is where you should be browsing.
- Sizes: S: 12.9”- 16.1” / M: 16.1”-18.1” / L: 18.1”-20.4” / XL: 20.4”-22.8”
- Material: Neoprene
These Modvell Knee supports are a good all-round choice for more casual runners who might also use their knee support in other athletic endeavors. The neoprene material allows for breathability without sacrificing snugness or stability. They’re also easy to maintain as they’re machine washable, unlike others which are only hand washable.
The major benefit of these knee supports over their competitors is that they allow for swelling in the knee without restricting growth too much. While swelling can be bad, it can be worse for you to force the knee to continue to exert itself due to over compression. That fact makes this one of the best knee supports for those who don’t want to exacerbate further injuries by running through them.
As a result of this, it will pay to go a size up if you’re on the boundary of the size chart for this knee support. The additional room won’t be felt because of the ergonomics of the design and the neoprene composition but will be utilized if the knee swells slightly. All in all, Modvel has created something that allows for a wide range of motion and little resistance, while still offering the support you would need to avoid worsening an injury.
- Sizes: S: S: 14”- 15.5” / M: 15.5”- 17.5” / L: 18.1”-20.4” / XL: 20.4”-22.8”
- Material: Nylon + Non-Slip Silicone + Spandex + Rubber
Ligaments and tendons are prone to the most damage when it comes to our knees, and this knee support helps to alleviate pain caused by issues with these areas. While this RiptGear product also helps with pain related to arthritis and other muscle tissue issues, it excels in stabilizing the joint areas.
The compression is firm but because of the softness of the fabric it molds around the patella area quite tightly. While the area under the knee support will be kept snug, tightness is not as consistent across the whole covered area like some other products. This focus on the patella area is what makes it so good for joint issues.
Like all the products we’ve suggested here, sizing is incredibly important. There should be no pinching around the back of your knee. In fact, the only real tightness should be around problem areas, alleviating the pain.
If you’re recovering from a ligament or tendon injury and don’t want to lose too much mobility while also protecting the most vulnerable areas, then this knee support is a great choice. RiptGear also has an excellent return policy, so if you do make a sizing error it is usually fixed with minimal effort.
- Sizes: S: 12.2”- 13.78” / M: 13.78”- 15.35” / L: 15.35”-17.72” / XL: 17.72”-20.47”
- Material: Nylon + Non-Slip Silicone
This patella compression sleeve is without a doubt one of the better options for those with issues around the kneecap. NEENCA uses a combination of a gel insert and metal stabilizers around the patella area to maintain tightness and keep it warm. This means that pain is alleviated quickly and there is almost no chance of ligament slippage.
While this knee support is great for more serious issues, you must bear in mind that it isn’t a long-term fix, and overuse can lead to the weakening of ligaments and thigh muscles which normally keep the kneecap in place. We would recommend speaking to your physician and getting a knee strengthening program in place to make sure you’re getting back to full fitness instead of becoming dependent on a patella sleeve.
With that being said, the breathable material and anti-slip silicone that make up this knee support means that it can be worn for a long time with no irritation, although a few people have reported that it can slip if you’re on the lower end of a size boundary, so make sure you measure correctly. It’s also designed to fit either leg and is unisex. It’s useful for more serious conditions and issues that aren’t directly related to your knees, such as pain issues around MS. If you’re looking to alleviate patella pain, then this is for you.
- Sizes: M: Knee 10 – 14”, Thigh 16” / L: Knee 14 – 18”, Thigh 15 – 23” / XL: Knee 18 – 21”, Thigh 23 – 25” / XXL: Knee 12 – 24”, Thigh 25 – 27”
- Material: Neoprene + Velcro
If you’ve suffered a serious knee injury or have chronic knee issues then this knee support with straps is the one for you. Made up of neoprene, a gel pad around the knees, and straps to tighten to your preferred size, Techware has developed a product that can help alleviate the pain associated with most knee issues.
To allow for a good range of movement the patella is left uncovered, but the boundary is surrounded by soft gel supported by strong stabilizer coils. That means you don’t have to choose between stabilization and movement, which makes it ideal for runners who are getting back into the support after an injury layoff. The adjustable straps are also useful for maintaining a consistent level of comfort throughout your exercise.
If you have got serious mobility issues or larger legs, this product is a godsend. The straps make it much easier to wear and take off, and the fact they’re adjustable means all sizes can benefit from this knee support. This also means that if you’re prone to swelling you can adjust the strap to avoid further discomfort. However, we would recommend talking to a physician before purchasing this product as overuse can weaken your knee and leave you reliant on supports.
Guide to Buying the Best Knee Supports for Running
If you’ve zeroed in on the support you think might be best for you but would like some more information about how, why and when to use your knee support, then this full guide will tell you everything you need to know.
When to Use Knee Supports
While most of the items on this list can be used without any potential weakening of your existing ligaments, tendons, and muscle, it’s still highly recommended to only utilize a knee support for running after discussions with your doctor. This isn’t just so weakening can be avoided, but also because despite feeling better your knees may still not be in shape for running.
If you are desperate to get back out there and don’t have the time or resources to see your physician, then make sure you start off with a knee sleeve and not a strap or medical-grade support. That way, if you’re still suffering, you’ll know that you have to go and see a doctor before taking up running again.
Only use the support during bursts of activity. If you find that even with a knee support you’re struggling with mobility and pain after your runs, then seek the advice of a medical professional.
Can I Use My Knee Support for Other Sports and Activities?
Many active people enjoy a wide range of sporting activities and obviously don’t want to have to buy a support for every sport they partake in. All of the knee supports we’ve listed are of the highest quality and could definitely be used for other sports at an amateur level. If you’re a hardcore practitioner or even a professional, then we’d recommend talking to your doctor before using the same strap that you would for running.
In general, tighter sleeves are better for activities with high levels of exertion, like weightlifting, sprints, and most ball sports that require a burst of pace. Looser sleeves are better for those going at a more consistent pace, like golfers or long-distance runners.
Benefits of Knee Supports for Running
There are plenty of benefits to running with a knee support, most of which are related to increasing mobility and reducing strain through different mechanisms.
By keeping the knee and surrounding area warm with a support, you’re less likely to suffer a stress injury or pull a muscle fiber. They can also help with pumping blood effectively through your legs, which has all manner of benefits, especially reducing the chance of injury.
By making sure your knee is kept compact, knee supports can help you avoid exacerbating injuries caused by the overextension of your knee joint. The extra support they add also means ligaments are less likely to slip out of position, which is incredibly painful and dangerous.
By reducing the strain of the impact your knee faces during high impact activities, knee supports can reduce the chance of injury in case of a misstep or poor technique.
By keeping the knee in place, knee supports can help to alleviate mild pain during running. This is due to increased blood flow and maintaining the correct position of the knee.
Caring for Knee Supports
Many people will use their knee support constantly in the future as they learn to run without pain again. However, even if you’re only buying a knee support for short term relief as you recover, you never know when you might need it again. Knee issues can stop affecting you, but the problems can be brought back easily, and as such it pays to look after your brace. Moreover, you will be using it during strenuous exercise, so you want to keep it clean and fresh.
While some supports are machine washable most must be hand washed. You can do this with plain warm water or with a gentle soap. Try to avoid anything with bleach or too much heat, as this can damage the materials in the brace and make it feel loose. Soaking it as you would a silk garment or something else that’s delicate is a good option.
Measuring Yourself for Knee Supports
As the best knee supports for running offer an incredibly tight fit, you need to measure yourself properly to avoid any sizing issues with your purchase. Most of the sizes in this guide are measuring the circumference of the thigh, not the knee. Moreover, each brand measures from a different spot, usually between 3” and 5” above the kneecap (starting from the middle of the patella), so make sure to check on the product page where they expect you to measure. If you can’t find a specific number, 4” above the knee is the standard so go with that.
If you’re on the boundary of a size, you may be inclined to drop down to a smaller one to avoid losing out on compression. However, if your knee support is too tight it can cause circulation issues and exacerbate injuries. Going a step up usually doesn’t mean a loose fit, as they are designed to cling to your leg.
Allergens in Knee Supports
Latex has been known to cause adverse reactions in some people, so make sure that you’re not allergic to it prior to purchasing a knee support that uses it. There are hypoallergenic brands available for those with serious issues, and some brands have created their own patented material, so you can look into these as well.
The Final Hurdle
Knee supports for running can be a valuable asset to previously injured joggers or those who have chronic issues. The wide variety of supports on offer can make purchasing an appropriate one confusing, but in general, as long as they feel good and take away some (or all) of your pain, they’re doing a good job. As long as you don’t have a serious condition that requires professional medical advice, there’s no harm in trying a knee sleeve: if it gets you back out there, then it’s a job well done.