The 8 Best Knee Compression Sleeves for Injury Prevention, Recovery, and Support
Up until recently, I was lucky enough to have never experienced any knee issues. I went about my life happily hiking, running, squatting, and jumping, giving no thought to my healthy ligaments and tendons. Then, one day after a multi-peak hike when I came down hard on a rock, that all changed—and now, I have to constantly think about my knee health. As it turns out, I'm not alone. The knees are one of the most easily injured joints in the body, and knee problems can range from mildly inconvenient to completely debilitating. Whether your knee ailments are caused by biomechanics (I, for example, was told I have tilted knee caps), an injury, or natural wear-and-tear over time due to age, it doesn't make the pain, swelling, instability, and stiffness any easier to deal with.
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Depending on where your knee pain is on the spectrum, your course of action will be quite different (and should always be made under the guidance of your doctor). To prevent injury and treat mild to moderate pain, knee compression sleeves are an excellent option. Compression garments, when worn during exercise, have been shown to increase oxygen flow to the muscle tissue and decrease recovery time post-activity, according to a 2019 study published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research.
What's more, knee compression sleeves can be effective in knee rehabilitation after injuries, such as ACL surgery, by helping with everything from balance control to joint stabilization for injury prevention. And, according to a 2017 study in Arthritis Research & Therapy, they've also been reported to help alleviate the pain, stiffness, and joint instability often associated with arthritis. The takeaway? If you've ever had knee problems of any kind or want to prevent the possibility of a knee injury—especially during intense activity—it's a good idea to have a compression sleeve on hand.
These are the best knee compression sleeves in 2021:
- Best Editor-Tested: CW-X Stabilyx Knee Support Sleeve
- Best for Running: UFlex Athletics Knee Compression Sleeve
- Best Rated: Pro-Tec Gel Force Knee Support
- Best High-End: Bauerfeind GenuTrain Active Knee Support
- Best Value: Pro-Tec Athletics Open Patella Knee Support
- Best for Weightlifting: Sling Shot Strong Knee Sleeve
- Best for Arthritis: Cambivo Knee Compression Sleeve
- Best Size Range: Nvorliy Plus Size Knee Brace
Knee compression sleeves vs. braces
While the terms are sometimes used interchangeably, there is a difference between knee sleeves and braces. A sleeve is a piece of fabric that slips over your knee, providing compression and lighter support to increase blood flow and prevent injury. Knee compression sleeves come in a variety of sizes and tend to fit more discreetly and comfortably under your clothing than braces.
A knee brace, on the other hand, will slow and limit movement, and is often used during the recovery process for more serious knee injuries. They tend to be bulkier, with hinges and more mechanical support, to provide optimal stability and protection. The choice of a sleeve versus a brace should always be made in coordination with your doctor.
Open patella vs. closed patella knee compression sleeves
Knee compression sleeves with a hole at the knee cap are known as open patella sleeves. A common source of knee discomfort and injury, the patella is basically another name for the kneecap. An open patella sleeve, like this option from Pro-Tec, is ideal for those with patellar tendonitis or other kneecap injuries to help ensure the patella is tracking in line with the rest of the knee joint. The other option, a closed patella sleeve, provides slightly more support while still allowing the knee to move freely. The extra stability offered by a closed knee sleeve is typically preferred for activities like weightlifting.
Where to buy knee compression sleeves
Thankfully, high-quality knee sleeves are readily available at most fitness gear and activewear retailers, and many are sold online. When making your decision, you'll want to consider your specific needs (injury prevention, rehabilitation, or both) and a variety of other factors, like the style (open vs. closed patella, for example), the fit, and the price you're willing to pay.
To help you get started on your search, we rounded up the eight best knee compression sleeves you can buy online, with options that span various price ranges and types of sleeves. No matter which one you go with, you'll be able to get back to your active lifestyle—without knee pain—in no time.
Keep reading to learn more about these sleeves and why each one is ideal for certain activities and price points.
Best Editor-Tested: CW-X Stabilyx Knee Support Sleeve
After a grueling 17-mile hike a few weeks ago, my patellar tendonitis flared up in a big way. I immediately turned to my CW-X sleeve for relief, and it didn't disappoint. The brand's patented webbed design helps support the knee joint by banding together the ligaments and muscles, providing therapeutic compression for a variety of knee ailments. I also find the webbed design on the front useful in helping me ensure the sleeve is placed properly on my knee. What's more, the addition of spandex in the fabric means you'll still have complete range of motion in your knee and never feel constricted, even with the added stability.
Available at amazon.com, $31
Best for Running: UFlex Athletics Knee Compression Sleeve
It's no secret that running is pretty hard on the body. For this reason, many runners benefit from wearing a knee compression sleeve, whether they're recovering from an injury or want to prevent one. With more than 9,200 perfect five-star reviews, UFlex is one of Amazon's best-selling picks for runners. The budget-friendly compression sleeve provides just the right mix of stability and range of motion to keep you supported without slowing you down. And since the knitted material is breathable with non-slip silicone grips, you won't have to worry about being distracted by a sweaty knee sleeve or one that slips down while you're pounding the pavement.
"Couldn't run 3 miles, now I run 10-plus," one reviewer shared. "While a lot of this success has to do with the proper strength training I directly attribute a large portion of my success to this knee brace. I feel like it helped me bridge the gap with my really weak knee. Without it I may have struggled even more, not achieved my goals, and been discouraged from pushing myself to the next level, or even given up."
Available at amazon.com, $15 (was $17)
Most Supportive: Pro-Tec Gel Force Knee Support
Ideal for both recovery and injury prevention, this top-rated knee sleeve from Pro-Tec has an anatomically-placed gel pad that helps stabilize the kneecap, while the rest of the sleeve provides extra support on both sides of the knee. It's great to wear during workouts of any kind because the soft, breathable material won't feel uncomfortable or distracting and is stretchy enough to move with you. Tons of shoppers rave about this multi-use compression sleeve and specifically call out its durability and the minimal restriction of movement it offers. One runner even credits it with helping them get back into a normal routine after they started experiencing knee pain on longer routes. It's an all-around solid pick that's also moderately priced at just $30.
"I needed a knee brace for support during activity, and for compression/alignment after my workouts are done," explained one Amazon shopper. "I bought this brace four years ago, and it blew me away. It compresses like the sleeve braces, but the side splints also give structural support to your knee. Finally, the knee pad in the middle keeps my knee cap on track and really helps with pain."
Available at amazon.com, $30
Best High-End: Bauerfeind GenuTrain Active Knee Support
Healthcare equipment brand Bauerfeind makes a number of compression and support products that are known for their durability and excellent quality—and the GenuTrain Active Knee Support sleeve is no exception. This top-of-the-line knee sleeve features medical-grade compression, meaning it'll give optimal support and stability whether you're using it for injury rehabilitation or prevention. Made with a soft, breathable knit material, it also includes a silicone pad over the kneecap for added comfort and protection on this sensitive area. The excellent compression and secure fit on this option means it can even help prevent swelling.
One reviewer, who said they had a torn meniscus, wrote: "My knee immediately feels better with this brace on, the support it provides is fantastic. It feels like there are springs helping to power my knee." While this heavy-duty sleeve is pricier than most, reviewers say it's well worth the cost because it really works.
Available at amazon.com, from $80
Best Value: Pro-Tec Athletics Open Patella Knee Support
Pro-Tec's Open Patella Knee Sleeve is the best inexpensive option on this list, providing slight compression and warmth to the joint without limiting range of motion. This open patella version has an opening over the knee for enhanced patella tracking during movement, making it ideal for those with kneecap pain or injuries. Reviewers report that this affordable compression sleeve is supportive, comfortable to wear while running or doing other activities, and stays in place during movement. One customer even said their knee pain "was completely gone" after wearing it for a week.
"Very happy with the support and stability this gives," raved one customer. "Looks to be made of good material. I am standing most of the working day and it is comfortable to wear."
Available at amazon.com, $15
Best for Weightlifting: Sling Shot Strong Knee Sleeve
For both serious weightlifters and strength-training newbies, a knee sleeve is a helpful tool for protecting the sensitive ligaments in your knees, as well as increasing blood flow to the area when performing exercises like squatting, lunging, and pressing weight overhead. These knee sleeves from Sling Shot come in a two-pack and are stiffer than typical compression sleeves, providing complete support and rebound during heavy sets. The neoprene sleeves are seamless and easy to slip on and off, so you won't mind wearing them throughout your workout for the added protection.
"I have not found any that really helped me during weightlifting...until now," one user said. "I tried another brand designed for lifting but was disappointed. Now I have these and I can do squats and lunges without knee pain! They keep my knees tight and warm, giving me [the] confidence to lift."
Available at amazon.com, $83
Best for Arthritis: Cambivo Knee Compression Sleeve
Each knee compression sleeve in this set of two by Cambivo uses a knit, four-way stretch material for a seamless fit that moves with you. Its slightly compressive design evenly distributes pressure and improves circulation around the knee area. For added support, it incorporates anti-slip silicone gel waves along the top, and the fabric is highly breathable and moisture-wicking.
"They work for me," shared one Amazon customer. "I'm a 65-year-old man with severe arthritis in my left knee and less in my right knee. There were times when I was walking and my knee would collapse on me with terrible pain, with these braces I wear them all day and they really do help without slipping down."
Available at amazon.com, from $15
Best Size Range: Nvorliy Plus Size Knee Brace
With a size range of XL to 4XL, the Nvorliy knee brace accommodates a variety of leg sizes without sacrificing quality or comfort. Inside, six flexible metal springs support the knee's ligaments, while a shock-absorbing EVA pad reduces pressure on the kneecap. Made with a sweat-wicking neoprene material, it features four adjustable straps for a customized and secure fit. While this is technically a brace rather than a sleeve, it's a great option if you're recovering from an injury or require more targeted support.
"This knee brace is amazing," one reviewer wrote. "I bought it for my mom who suffers from arthritis. She said it really helped her and worked great. The bars and side support really stabilize the knee and help her get up., walk, and keep that knee straight and strong. Very good brace and is adjustable to accommodate regular and large size knees."
Available at amazon.com, $35
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