Best Shoulder Braces

Updated December 2021
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Buying guide for Best shoulder braces

Your shoulder joints are in constant motion. Think about how many times you reach for something or stretch out your arms in a single day. It’s no surprise that with so much use a shoulder joint can sustain strain or injury, and an injured shoulder can greatly impact your daily life. Fortunately, with the support and rehabilitation provided by a shoulder brace, you can get back to your normal activities.

Shoulder braces are intended to provide optimal support while allowing for a reasonable range of motion. The materials and features are designed for proper anatomical position and function. Recent surgery patients, athletes, and individuals with chronic shoulder issues can benefit from wearing a shoulder brace so they can continue doing their favorite activities, even if it requires some degree of modification.

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Prevent shoulder injuries by practicing good form when exercising. Check yourself in the mirror during weight training to make adjustments to your stance, posture, and lifting techniques.

Key considerations

Choosing the right shoulder brace depends on why you need one. It also depends on the nature of your injury or condition and how far along you are in the healing process. Speak with your doctor about your activity level to determine what type of shoulder brace you require. You might need more than one if you engage in activities of varying intensity, such as walking and running.

Activity level

Consider how active you expect to be while wearing your shoulder brace.

Sedentary: If you’re going to be sedentary for the most part, a brace that immobilizes your shoulder could work for you. On the other hand, if you have an desk job, such a brace could be too restrictive for comfortable typing or clerical duties.

Moderate: For low-impact activity, either at the gym or routine daily life, a shoulder brace with medium support and a decent range of motion can be effective and comfortable.

Active: If you expect to engage in intense activity like sports, there are braces that are uniquely designed for high-impact support that provide as much range of motion as possible.


Once you decide on your needs, you can focus on selecting the best-fitting brace. Some shoulder braces are somewhat bulky — especially those with gel pack inserts — and can get in the way if you want to be more active. Other brace designs are more streamlined and less restrictive, so one can be worn over or under clothing with minimal distraction. It should be noted that some more streamlined braces have limited adjustability, so the fit might be slightly looser and less tailored.

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Expert Tip
Some shoulder braces are designed to be worn under clothing and others over. Think of your shoulder brace from a practical standpoint to determine which one best suits your daily activities.

Shoulder brace features


Compression: At the most basic level, the materials and fit of all braces provide some compression of the shoulder area. Some braces also include a hand-operated or electric pump to inflate the brace for even more compression. These are used to relieve pain and increase circulation to promote healing in the shoulder area. 

Temperature: Some shoulder braces are equipped with removable gel inserts that can be heated in a microwave or frozen to treat the shoulder with heat or cold. Basic models with this feature have a single gel insert, while premium braces have more. Some shoulder braces even combine hot and cold therapy with compression to aid healing.


The methods and ease of adjustability are where shoulder braces vary the most. Some braces you simply strap in place with hook-and-loop fasteners using your opposite hand. Other braces are more adjustable, combining securing mechanisms so that the fit is as tailored as possible. These require some time to adjust, and with some you’ll need the assistance of another person to correctly fit the brace. 


Shoulder braces are constructed of a combination of durable materials designed to hold up to daily wear and tear. The materials are typically synthetic and specifically engineered to fit comfortably and provide adequate support. Some of the materials include the following:

Neoprene: This is the smooth, stretchy material that’s used to make wetsuits and some fitness accessories. It has an ideal balance of give and support, and braces made of this material are considered some of the more comfortable.

Webbing: Some of the materials, such as those used for the straps, have little to no flexibility or give. These are incorporated into the design of the brace to promote stability in certain areas, while softer, more flexible materials promote range of motion in other areas.

Hook-and loop fasteners: These are among the most reliable methods for securing the brace. Not only do they stay put but it’s also easy to make quick adjustments. More sophisticated braces position these closures strategically to enhance fit and support.

Mesh: Mesh is a breathable material that’s used in some areas of the brace, such as beneath the armpit or across the chest. The mesh increases air circulation to help minimize sweating, which isn’t uncommon when wearing a tight-fitting brace.

"Consider whether your brace requires assistance to put on. Some shoulder braces are simple to wear, but others require complex lacing and tightening that can be awkward to manipulate on your own."

Shoulder brace prices

The shoulder braces we examined, priced between $15 and $60, fit within nearly every budget.

Inexpensive: For braces that cost up to $25, you can expect a simple silhouette. These tend to have only one layer of material and a simple hook-and-loop fastening system.

Mid-range: Braces that cost up to $40 focus on fit with advanced adjustability features. Some of these also have multiple sites to fit gel packs.

Expensive: The braces that cost over $40 have more specialized features to serve specific purposes, such as compression, immobilization, or active sports. 

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Expert Tip
Never apply a cold gel pack directly to skin. Always have a barrier, such as a towel or sleeve, between your skin and the compress.


  • Clean your brace. Sweat and grime can build up on your brace. Some shoulder braces are machine washable, while others cannot be immersed in soap and water and require spot-cleaning. Hook-and loop fasteners attract dirt and fibers, but you can easily clean them with a toothbrush.
  • Store gel packs in the freezer. After icing your shoulder, store the gel packs in the freezer so they’re nice and cold the next time you want to use them.
  • Prevent chafing. Chafing can occur if the brace is too loose or positioned improperly. If the brace chafes even after adjustments, consider exchanging your brace for a more comfortable one with a better fit.
  • Do your research. Many shoulder braces are made of neoprene, a synthetic rubber, but there is a possibility they could contain latex. While some models are labeled as latex-free, if you have a latex allergy, contact the manufacturer to confirm the materials used in the brace.
  • Check your coverage. Some health insurance policies cover the cost of a shoulder brace if it meets specific criteria. Your doctor may be able to order it for you or provide a prescription, or you could be reimbursed if you purchase a brace on your own.
  • Keep the gel inserts away from pets. Pets could be attracted to your scent on the shoulder brace and accidentally could puncture the insert and ingest the gel. While the gel inserts of some shoulder braces are nontoxic, it’s still a good idea to keep them away from pets.
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Wearing a shoulder brace could require you to modify your activity. Ease into any sports or activities to find out how the brace affects your range of motion. If you find the brace is too restrictive, talk to your doctor about finding one that’s more practical.


Q. I have a shoulder brace that used to fit well, but I’ve noticed it’s looser now. What happened?
Some shoulder braces are made of stretchy materials to provide a comfortable fit. As a result, the frequent use of these braces could result in the material stretching out over time. If the brace begins to feel too loose, replace it immediately so you don’t compromise fit or safety.

Q. Should I wear the same shoulder brace for all my activities?
 It depends on how much your activity varies or how specialized certain activities are. Some shoulder braces are suited for high levels of activity and provide a balance of decent range of motion and support. Other braces are intended to immobilize the shoulder and intended to be used while you’re more sedentary.

Q. My shoulder brace has a tear. Can I just repair it instead of buying a new one?
 Patching a shoulder brace together isn’t recommended. If the brace’s integrity is already compromised, attempting to repair it could affect its fit or efficacy and potentially lead to injury. Shoulder braces are generally affordable, and it’s worth spending the money to prevent long-term injury.

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