How to Choose a Knee Brace for Running

Knee sleeves are an essential ingredient for keeping your knees safe and free from injury when running. Whether nursing an injured knee or taking steps to prevent one — here’s how to choose a knee brace for running.

The following guide will help you make the right choice to get the most out of your running and protect your knees.  You will discover the features runners enjoy and depend on along with how to select the best knee brace for your needs and budget. In fact, this post is the companion to my post What is the Best Knee Support for Running? 

How to Choose a Knee Brace for Running?

Knee sleeves are used for many different purposes and each application has its own set of characteristics. The braces (knee sleeves) that work the best for running have their own characteristics.

Qualities to Look for in Knee Sleeves for Running

After a few years of running with knee sleeves these are the qualities I insist on:

  • Flexible
  • Breathes Well
  • Gentle Stretch
  • Firm Compression
  • Doesn’t Slide Down
  • Doesn’t Tend to Roll up
  • Won’t Bunch Up Behind Knee
  • Easy to Clean

Now, let’s go over each of these features to see why each is important.

1.Flexible

When you are running, jogging, or walking you need a lot of flexibility for the entire length of the sleeve. Trying to run in 7mm neoprene sleeves used in gyms and weight lifting competitions is too binding. (I do find Rehband Rx Knee Support 5mm for Running does well if you need even more support)

You want a compression factor that helps to promote circulation, support, and stability in your knee without stabilizing it to the point of losing freedom of movement.

Cloth or knit knee braces are always more flexible than neoprene. However the lighter neoprene sleeves are flexible and serve well for running with more support.

2.Breathes Well

the best knee brace for running
Choose a knee brace that breathes well

Knee sleeves work by providing compression to the joint and areas above and below it. Among other things, the compression stimulates blood flow which warms your knee and leg.

The energized blood flow and warmth that follows often causes perspiration under the sleeve.

With a sleeve that breathes well, airflow is constantly helping to wick off the perspiration as it occurs.

3.Stretches While Maintaining Compression

Akin to staying flexible you will want a product with a slight stretch.

As a runner, I like support on and around my patella while I’m running, but gently stretching as my knee moves, twist, turns and bends.

The stretch is always where the compression factor is, so you want it to fit snug. However, if it’s too tight, you will cut off circulation and cause problems.

Compression sleeves need to feel like a nice hug on your knees.

When I’m running, I don’t really care for something on my knees that feels like a tightly wrapped Ace bandage. I need a knee sleeve that allows for plenty of movement with no interference as it stretches and contracts.

Knee Sleeves are usually pretty tight and snug when you first put them on, but stretch and become more comfortable as you run.

4.Stays in Position

Nothing worse than just about the time my body is getting free, relaxed, and hitting my stride, than a knee sleeve slipping down my leg.

There’s really no way for anyone to tell you how tight a knee sleeve should be because we are all different.

However, you want it to fit tight enough to stay where you put it without cutting off the circulation. Some knee braces now have silicone grips built in to ensure it stays in place.

How to choose a sleeve that stays in place

  • Select a premium sleeve with a good reputation
  • Take the time to accurately read and understand the sizing chart
  • Accurately measure your leg as per the manufacturers’ recommendations

The problem with a new brace staying in place while running is usually because it’s too large or doesn’t fit your leg properly. For running, if you’re in between sizes, opt for the smaller.

5.No Rolling

Some knee sleeves are notorious for rolling down your leg. You definitely want to choose a knee brace for running that doesn’t roll down.

While this is not a catastrophic event while running, it is aggravating. Choosing knee sleeves that don’t stay up winds up being quite a deal when you’re running.

My experience has been that staying away from cheap sleeves and especially brand “knock offs” keeps my knee braces in place and alleviates rolling.

Sometimes the problem is merely that they are merely too large. In that case, you will need to purchase a smaller size and remember that the material will soften and stretch out as you run.

On the other hand, it is always good to read the reviews and select a brand that people aren’t having that problem with.

The best thing about internet shopping is the ability read reviews. Every single product has negative reviews, so take your time and see what a number of people are saying.

6.No Bunching

Bunching up behind my knee is worse than rolling down my leg because when it bunches it tends to pinch and pull out hair behind my knee. A real pain in the knee!

Running knee braces that bunch up behind your knee can be caused by the brand or the sizing?

It’s important to note, that a knee brace may bunch up when you first put it on, but stretch out and be perfect when you’re running.

7.Easy to Clean

an easy to clean knee brace for running
Some knee braces for running are machine washable, some are not

Most knee sleeves tend to get stinky and wet if you aren’t vigilant to keep them clean. And some are easier to clean than others.

Stick to the ones that are washable and have built-in immunity against the microbes and bacteria that cause the odors.

All knee sleeves are washable. Some in the machine, others in the sink by hand. Most should not be in a clothes dryer. Keep your knee brace for running clean to avoid odors and bacteria and you will enjoy it for years.

Summary

Here are the 4 main points to take into consideration when selecting knee sleeves used primarily for running:

  1. Specific to running, jogging or walking. There are plenty of knee sleeves designed for more hardcore physical activities. However, when it comes to runners choosing a lighter and less bulky sleeve will be more satisfactory. 
  2. The correct size makes a difference. Manufacturers always include sizing charts and they can differ from one manufacturer to the other. Even if you aren’t a precise person most of the time, it’s vital that you carefully read the directions and measure precisely where the manufacturer states to measure.
  3. Washing. You’ll find some knee sleeves can’t be washed in a machine, some can’t be washed at all, some fall apart when washed machine or otherwise. Personally, I want a machine washable sleeve. Like any garment you wear over and over, your sleeves will start smelling like a locker room if not washed.
  4. Buy name brand sleeves. I’ve never had any luck with off brands and knock offs. The three sleeves I’ve listed above are my favorites for running, and every time I’ve tried to save money with imitations and knock offs, I wound up spending even more money by quickly replacing them with quality sleeves.

Choosing the best knee sleeve with the right fit will provide compression, support, and blood flow that you need when running. If you haven’t worn them before, you will be delighted with the results. 

Learning How to Choose a Knee Brace for Running may take a few trys, but they’re definitely worth it. Knee braces for running help me run farther with more ease and enjoyment.

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