Whether you are a professional basketball player or a dedicated running enthusiast, your knees bear the greatest brunt of your rigorous training regimen. In order to stave off knee injuries (or recover quickly in case you are already suffering from one), a pair of good quality knee compression sleeves is a must.
But what does a knee compression sleeve do? Do you really need one? What features to look for when shopping for it? And most importantly, which are the best knee compression sleeves?
For a definitive answer to all these questions, read on.
- Do I Need Knee Compression Sleeves?
- Top 10 Best Compression Sleeves 2021
- 1. Best Overall Knee Compression Sleeves: Iron Bull Strength Knee Sleeves
- 2. Best Premium Knee Compression Sleeves: Bauerfeind Sports Knee Support
- 3. Best Budget Knee Compression Sleeves: McDavid Knee Support
- 4. Rehband 7mm Knee Sleeve
- 5. CopperJoint Knee Sleeve
- 6. Sable Knee Braces
- 7. UFlex Athletics Knee Sleeve
- 8. Mava Sports Knee Sleeve
- 9. Nordic Lifting Knee Sleeves
- 10. Blitzu Flex Plus Knee Sleeve
- Knee Compression Sleeves: The Complete Buying Guide
- When to Wear Knee Sleeves
- Wrapping Up
Do I Need Knee Compression Sleeves?
Here’s a fun fact. When you run, each of your knees is subject to a pressure of five times your body weight. Yikes.
With that little factoid in mind, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that knee-related problems are the most common class of injuries for any athlete. The chances of these injuries are further exacerbated in sports like running or weightlifting, where a bulk of the physical effort is exerted by your legs.
Wearing a knee sleeve significantly reduces the chances of injuring your knee or getting a torn ligament by supporting your patella and compressing your muscles. It is for this reason that many athletes and gym instructors recommend getting a good pair of knee sleeves if you intend to push your body hard or work out a lot.
Material is a large factor to consider when purchasing a knee compression sleeve. All knee sleeves are made of stretchable, synthetic fibers, so natural fabrics are out of the picture. Nylon, Spandex, and Neoprene are the most common synthetics that give sleeves strength and compressibility.
Compression and Support
Compression and support are the primary reasons for wearing a knee sleeve. What you are looking for is a sleeve that compresses your muscles and keeps your patella (knee cap) in the proper place without restricting your movements.
Keep in mind that compression does not necessarily mean tightness. While you do want your sleeves to be snug enough not to slip off while working out, you don’t want it being impeding you either.
One of the most important factors in a knee compression sleeve is comfort. Unless you feel comfortable wearing a pair of sleeves, they are of little benefit to you. Look for a pair with soft yet supportive materials that balance softness and support, like neoprene and spandex.
Top 10 Best Compression Sleeves 2021
Affordable and Functional
The Iron Bull strength knee sleeves offer a good balance between affordability and utility. The lower price point does not come at the cost of quality; whether it is materials or stitching, the Iron Bull knee sleeves compare favorably with the very best.
These knee sleeves prove that you don’t have to splurge too much for a knee sleeve that helps you avoid injury and help with your pain.
A sought after feature in knee sleeves, surprisingly few products offer adequate anti-slipping. Any athlete knows how difficult it is to keep your sleeves in place during any strenuous physical activity, as well as how irritating it can be when it keeps slipping. These tightly fitting sleeves are an excellent low-cost alternative to the highly popular UFlex Athletics Knee Sleeve which also add anti-slip properties.
The Iron Bull Strength knee sleeves include anti-slip silicone grippers to help keep your sleeves in place through every range of motion.
You might think that by going for a low-cost alternative, you are losing out on supportive capability. But that is not the case.
The Iron Bull Strength knee sleeves provide the ideal compression for your kneecap and surrounding muscles, stimulating muscle repair and giving pain relief. Although not medical-grade like the Bauerfeind Knee Sleeve, the level of support is sufficient for even exercises like CrossFit and weightlifting without risking an injury on your knees.
The AIRKNIT Design
Bauerfeind’s patented AIRKNIT technology provides medical-standard compression in their knee sleeves. This FDA approved design boosts blood circulation which promotes healing and muscle repair. Athletes with existing injuries or aching knees have reported a detectable improvement after wearing these sleeves.
The best part of these sleeves is the medical-grade level of stability they provide. As a primarily medical sleeve, the Bauerfeind sports knee support helps keep your patella in place during movement, exerting gentle pressure to ensure smooth motion of your joints. This is certified to reduce the risk of injuries, such as ACL tears or muscle pulls.
The Bauerfeind knee support includes an anatomically shaped pad in the front that surrounds your kneecap. The pad evenly distributes pressure, massaging your muscles when you move. This greatly helps with chronic knee pain, letting you focus on your sporting performance rather than that pesky knee ache–although if you’re looking for a more wallet-friendly option, something like the Mava Sports Knee Sleeve might be a better option.
Good for Recovery
The McDavid Knee Sleeves are intended especially for those recovering from injuries or a deteriorating knee. These sleeves have ample support and coverage to ensure that your pain is alleviated and prevented from getting worse.
They also improve blood circulation by warming the affected areas, increasing the rate of muscle repair.
These sleeves boast of a standard of quality matched by very few of its competitors. Most knee sleeves start tearing at their seems after a few months due to flimsy materials or poor stitching.
The McDavid knee sleeves make sure that the sleeves stay intact even after a long period of heavy usage, which makes them excellent for high-intensity sports like running or weightlifting.
Great Cost to Value Ratio
For casual runners and people looking to get in shape, the McDavid knee sleeves are a very smart choice. Not only are the sleeves priced much lower than comparable brands, but thanks to their high durability they’ll last you for quite a while before needing to be replaced.
This Rehband sleeve (only one comes with each package) is designed painstakingly to emulate the contours of your knees. This anatomic structure has earned this sleeve a medical classification. In practice, this translates to much better support and blood flow through your knees, with a compression that is applied equally everywhere.
But this kind of design also means that the sleeve is less tolerant of different-sized legs. So to help you get the perfect fit, Rehband offers this sleeve in a wide variety of narrow-ranged sizes.
This Rehband knee sleeve is meant for those who like to push their bodies to the limits. With a thickness of 7mm, the sleeve protects and supports your joints and warms you while running. This makes it especially well-suited to serious athletes who need a dependable sleeve to protect their knees through their strenuous activities.
The thick fabric and the quality stitching make the sleeve long-lasting, while a middle-ground thickness means that it is good for both winters and humid summers.
Many sportspersons and workout enthusiasts find that as the years go by, the capacity for their knees to keep up with their grueling routine drastically goes down. When your normal workout regimen causes pain in your knees, you know that the time has come for a good knee sleeve.
The Rehband 7mm Knee sleeve is an excellent choice for keeping the pain at bay when exercising and bringing down swelling and inflammation. Wearing it daily can also help your knees heal again.
Infused with Copper
The CopperJoint knee sleeves are one of the best knee sleeves that include copper in their composition. While popular wisdom holds that this copper helps in everything from compression support to healing, in truth it plays a smaller but equally vital role – reducing bad odor when you sweat heavily in sporting activities. It achieves this due to its anti-bacterial properties, which don’t allow microbes to build up in the fabric of the sleeves. Beyond that, this sleeve is built for recovery, but lightweight enough that you can wear it just for support and stability as well. It has a double silicon structure for preventing slippage and keeps your knee warm, which is an important consideration when running in winters.
Form Fitting Design
The CopperJoint knee sleeve is form-fitted to the natural contours of your knee. It moves how you move and it still stays in place. So you don’t have to waste time adjusting and readjusting your sleeve every few minutes. And thanks to the double silicone gel grip, it doesn’t slip either, no matter how sweaty your legs get.
Copper inclusion isn’t all that these sleeves boast of. With graduated compression throughout the sleeve, it supports your vulnerable joints while reducing inflammation and pain in the area. It also gives just the right amount of warmth for enhanced blood circulation and accelerated muscle repair and recovery.
Value for Money
Unlike most copper-based knee sleeves out there, the CopperJoint sleeves are priced very reasonably. For a decent budget you get sleeves made with copper-infused fabric that supports your knee muscles and ligaments along with reducing bad odor.
An anti-slip design helps keep the sleeves in place even during the most rigorous exercise regime. Made with a blend of spandex and nylon, the Sable knee braces are stretchable yet firm and give adequate support to your knees and the adjoining muscles.
Distributes Pressure Evenly
The wide coverage of the sleeve means that the compression is applied equally around the kneecap and joints. As a result, any impact on the knee (jarring thuds while running, for example) is minimized. In addition to jogging, they are tough enough to handle very physical sports like football, basketball, and even weightlifting. Despite its tightness, the sleeve is soft on the skin and does not irritate. Even with regular use, you can trust the Sable Knee Brace to last long, as it has been designed not to loosen or wear easily through continuous usage.
Best Medical Sport Hybrid
The Sable Knee Braces are FDA approved for medical applications like recovery from osteoarthritis and other knee ailments just like the Bauerfeind Knee Sleeves. At the same time, the braces are designed to be used during sporting activities as well, aiding athletes recover from their injuries. This makes the Sable knee braces the best hybrid knee sleeves out there.
As an FDA approved brace, you are assured of the finest quality. Added with the fact that it is quite inexpensive when compared to most of its competitors, it is a great buy for anyone looking for sleeves focusing more on recovery than a sporty look.
Comfortable and Stylish
Many knee compression sleeves borrow their looks from their medical counterparts. That is to say, they look drab and boring.
The UFlex athletics sleeve (each package only includes one) does not share this mindset. Made with three-dimensional weaving technology usually seen in the construction of spacecraft and racing cars, these sleeves have a professional finish and a very sporty style.
The level of compression on a knee sleeve is tricky to get right. Too much compression can be restrictive, especially for running, while too little defeats the whole purpose of wearing a sleeve.
The UFlex athletics sleeve strikes the perfect balance between the two extremes, making sure that you don’t get hampered while running, but can recover from aches quickly.
A persistent problem with many knee sleeves is their propensity to slip off your knees in the middle of a run. Not only is it irritating, but it can render the sleeves completely unusable. The UFlex athletics knee sleeve combats this problem with a silicone anti-slip design that fits snugly on your knee and thigh without sliding down with movement.
Value for Money
While not the cheapest option out there, the UFlex knee sleeves offer great value for its price. You would be hard-pressed to find a sleeve at this price range with this kind of attention to quality.
These compression knee sleeves are designed to conform exactly to your anatomy. This means that the fabric hugs every contour of your upper legs, giving a very snug fit. As a result, the effective compression is increased, reducing inflammation and pain caused by injuries in the knee and the surrounding muscles.
Good for Dealing with Inflammation and Swelling
As the Mava knee sleeves follow the contours of the leg and the knee, they can exert sufficient pressure on affected areas to actively combat any inflammation or swelling. At the same time, your mobility is not affected, allowing you to keep up your exercise routine even through mild injuries.
Wearable All Day
The key advantage of the Mava Knee Sleeves is that they are comfortable to wear. Made from a lightweight latex-based, you can easily wear them under your clothes, although those with latex sensitivity should check out a latex-free sleeve like the neoprene McDavid Knee Supports. They do not restrict your movement or make your legs feel stiff, unlike many knee sleeves and braces out there. This makes these sleeves a great option to wear in your everyday life and just forget about it.
The primary function of Mava Knee Sleeves is to provide healing and recovery after a workout. In addition to giving pain relief from common athletes complaints, these sleeves aid in preventing injuries as well. These mid-range sleeves are great for athletes of all ages and skill levels.
While primarily aimed at weightlifters, the Nordic Lifting Sleeves complement any sporting activity or workout routine. These sleeves support your knee joints to reduce the chances of injury, apart from relieving joint and muscle pain through its compression.
Boosts Muscle Repair
The biggest reason why athletes recommend using a knee sleeve is to help your muscles heal. After a serious workout, it takes time for muscles to repair themselves. Putting too much strain on your muscles can lead to muscle pulls or tears. Ergonomically designed with reinforced stitching, the Nordic Knee Sleeve provides the support and flexibility needed to reduce muscle strain and joint stiffness, as well as aiding in faster muscle recovery.
Quality at Low Cost
While not particularly well-known, Nordic is a recent manufacturer who has already established a reputation for giving professional quality at affordable rates. Whether you are an athlete or a fitness nut, the Nordic Lifting knee sleeve gives you the ideal compression and pain relief to keep going on.
A common problem many people face with knee sleeves is getting the right fit. Usually, these sleeves are available in only one standard size, making it hard to get the sleeve that is just right for you without being uncomfortable or loose.
The Blitzu Flex Plus comes in three different sizes, so getting the right fit for your knees is easier.
The Blitzu Flex Plus has been specially designed to hold your patella in the proper position while gently compressing the surrounding tissue to help relieve pain and reduce inflammation. This makes these knee sleeves an excellent choice for anyone looking to recover from injuries or deteriorating knees.
Unlike other options on the market, the focus of this sleeve is more on comfort and pain relief than sporting performance or stylish look. To that end, it uses neoprene as a material, rendering it soft and stretchable, besides a rubber lining inside to make it even easier to wear. Also, the thickness of just 5mm means that you can wear it under a skinny pair of jeans without any problems.
Most knee sleeve brands offer a single sleeve per pack, which means that you have to shell out twice the amount to cover both your legs. The Blitzu Flex Plus knee sleeves include two sleeves per pack which makes them very affordable for the price, not to mention convenient.
Knee Compression Sleeves: The Complete Buying Guide
In a wide category with products made for different athletic disciplines, bodies, and purposes, shopping for the right thing is complex. Read on to help determine exactly what kind of product might best suit your needs.
When to Wear Knee Sleeves
Knee sleeves are incredibly valuable for almost any sport, but they’re particularly important for demanding sports that apply a lot of force on the knee (running and weightlifting in particular). They can also be used to aid in recovery.
Surprisingly enough, runners are more prone to developing knee injuries than weightlifters. At the same time, a runner needs plenty of mobility as well, so you cannot go too crazy with knee support.
As a general rule, you should look for thin knee sleeves (3mm to 5mm) made of neoprene or a similar material for flexibility. Also make sure that your sleeve has anti-slip silicone gel to ensure that it doesn’t shift while running.
For CrossFit and Weightlifting
Both CrossFit and weightlifting emphasize sudden, jerky movements that put enormous pressure on your knees. It is for this reason that practitioners of these disciplines go with thick, highly durable knee sleeves with extensive knee support.
Flexibility is not that important here, so prioritize sleeves of 7mm thickness with a tight-fitting for maximum compression and support.
After a lifetime of punishing workout routines, it is only natural for your knees to start showing some wear and tear. If of late you notice your knees aching when you try putting pressure on them, you might need to wear a knee sleeve for recovery.
Ideally, a proper knee brace is needed to be worn to help your knees heal. But such braces can be quite restrictive. If your knee injury is minor in nature, you might be better off with a medical-grade knee sleeve like the Bauerfeind Knee Sleeve.
A good knee sleeve for recovery is built to be exceptionally comfortable. It should be thin and soft enough to be worn under your clothes without chafing and have sufficient coverage and support to help in muscle repair and recovery.
The Copper Factor
If you have done any research on knee sleeves, you must have come across sleeves that contain copper. Many people believe that copper helps reduce pain and increases the efficacy of the sleeve. That is a misconception.
The only thing that copper does in a knee sleeve is to reduce bad odor. This is due to the anti-bacterial properties of the metal. But in no scenario does copper translate to better compression or healing. Only go for copper if you want to minimize the scent of your compression sleeve.
Although most knee sleeves use a combination weave of a structural fabric and a stretchy one, different manufacturers cut costs using cheaper fabrics. Watch out for the following materials.
Latex vs Neoprene
Your choices for the primary material come down to Latex and Neoprene. Latex is similar to natural rubber so it does a very good job at repeated stretching, although some may have an allergy or sensitivity to the material, Neoprene is a synthetic alternative to rubber, and as such has greater durability and compressive strength than latex.
Polyester vs Nylon
Some sleeves use Polyester instead of Nylon. Try to avoid these, as polyester can stretch and irritate skin. Nylon is a better alternative to polyester when it comes to compression sleeves. It’s lighter and thinner, which is what you want, so it doesn’t weigh you down while still giving you the compression and fiber benefits.
Finding a Comfortable Sleeve
The first thing to look for is a comfortable fit. Some people recommend getting a smaller size for better compression, which can end up making the sleeve too tight. Instead, go for an anatomically shaped knee sleeve like the Mava Sports Knee Sleeve or the Rehband Knee Sleeve that can fit your body’s contours perfectly. This gives you optimum compression without sacrificing comfort.
The second thing to pay attention to is the material. Some synthetic materials (like Nylon) can be a little irritating on your skin. Products like the Blitzu Flex Plus Knee Sleeve include a soft rubber lining on the inside to prevent it from strafing against your body. Other than that, neoprene sleeves tend to be comfy as well.
A knee sleeve is not like a t-shirt you wear on a casual day out. Depending on your workout routine, your sleeves are likely going to be put through the paces. Your knee sleeves thus need to be durable to survive the intense stretching and pulling they will have to endure.
Rather than material, the durability of a knee sleeve depends on the production quality and the stitching. Any workout equipment is unlikely to last too long (especially if you are an avid sportsperson) but whether it lasts a couple of weeks or a couple of years is decided by its quality.
Ideally, knee sleeves should last between a year or two with heavy use. Any less than that is a good excuse to change your brand. And by lasting a year we do not mean wearing it with visible wear and tear. If it starts degrading within the first few months, it is not worth it and you should switch brands.
This is the biggest source of negative feedback for any knee sleeve. The problem stems from the fact that there is no sizing standard for knee sleeves; different manufacturers have different size guides.
Usually, studying the accompanying size chart listed by most manufacturers can help, as it lists the length of the sleeve alongside the proper knee measurement. You should take a look at the user reviews as well, for some sleeves tend to run a little smaller (or larger) than they are supposed to be.
Then there is the sizing down phenomenon. Many athletes recommend wearing a size smaller than your actual measurements. The reason for this is twofold: tighter sleeves translate into more compression and support, and the fabric of the sleeves tends to loosen up after a few months.
But if it is your first sleeve, we wouldn’t advise sizing down yet, as you are yet to get used to wearing sleeves while working out, and making them too tight can be detrimental. Once you have a better idea of how much support you need, you can look toward sizing down or switching products.
Knee sleeves come in various protection levels. Basically, each extra level increases the extent of knee support offered by the sleeve.
Level 1 sleeves provide the least amount of support, but are the most flexible, making them suitable for running. Most knee sleeves have a protection level of 1. This is your ideal choice for most sporting activities.
Level 2 is mostly for wraparound braces and knee straps that provide mild-to-moderate knee support associated with ligament instabilities and tendonitis. While rare in knee sleeves, a few medically rated sleeves do offer level 2 protection. Go for them if you are recovering from an injury.
Level 3 is not a rating found in knee sleeves at all. It includes hinged braces that support your knees strongly but severely limit your mobility. Such braces are thus unsuitable for day-to-day life or exercising.
Degree of Support
How much support you want depends a lot on your physical condition and expected usage. Runners and athletes at the peak of their health only need the minimum compression to prevent injury and help with muscle repair. On the other hand, if your knees or ligaments are already injured, you are going to require a sleeve that supports you extensively to prevent pain and aid in healing. Your doctor or physical therapist can help guide your decision.
A secondary benefit of wearing knee sleeves is that it warms your muscles, improving blood circulation through your legs. It may seem like a minor point, but an active blood circulation is the key to muscle health and faster recovery.
Apart from that, a measure of warmth can also help if you live in colder climes, or during the winter. This factor depends on the heat sensitivity of your skin and your personal preference. Some athletes find warm sleeves to be comfy, while others dislike the heat.
Thick sleeves with inner padding tend to be the warmest, making them the perfect choice for those looking for sleeves that ease blood circulation. For those who prefer something cooler, thinner sleeves with lightweight materials like nylon are preferable.
There are three standard thicknesses that knee sleeves come in. There is no one ‘best’ thickness; each has its own advantages and use case.
3mm knee sleeves are the thinnest and lightest, and consequently offer less support than others. But this also makes them far more flexible and comfortable, making them the optimum choice for everyday use. Go for 3mm sleeves if you are a runner or looking to wear knee sleeves under your clothes.
5mm knee sleeves are the middle ground. By not being too thick, they retain enough flexibility to be worn through any sport or workout routine, while also giving excellent support to your knees and muscles, This thickness is for the serious athletes and fitness enthusiasts.
The thickest knee sleeves are 7mm. Primarily intended for weightlifting, these sleeves offer the best support and compression. The tradeoff is reduced flexibility, which makes them unsuitable for sports that demand a lot of knee movement. Still, many athletes still go for 7mm sleeves, as they protect your knees from injuries and alleviate pain like none other.
There is an important point to remember when comparing prices of knee sleeves: some sleeves come in pairs, while some include only a single sleeve per package. This means that you should look not only at the stated price, but also the number of sleeves included before deciding on what to buy.
Also keep in mind that a more expensive product does not necessarily translate into a better knee sleeve. A product like Iron Bull Strength Knee Sleeves offers many of the same features of more expensive sleeves but are much cheaper in comparison.
As someone trying knee sleeves for the first time, selecting a low cost (but good quality) knee sleeve is a better choice than splurging on a high-end knee sleeve you do not really need. Go for the expensive options only if you know you need a more expensive or medical grade sleeve, getting a heavy-duty knee sleeve for weightlifting or physical therapy.
Knee sleeves are a simple and convenient way to ensure stability for your knees. From runners to weightlifters, fitness enthusiasts to casual joggers, there is a right knee sleeve for everyone.
Not only does wearing a knee sleeve alleviate pain during a workout, but it also helps in preventing injuries down the line and increase the longevity of your knees. Many sleeves are so comfortable that they can even be worn under your clothes, helping in muscle repair and boosting blood circulation.
Whether you want a knee sleeve to help you meet your workout goals or keep you in tip-top shape for that sporting tournament you are preparing for, you cannot go wrong with any of the sleeves we have reviewed.