Updated May 2022
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BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.Read more 
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Buying guide for Best knee pads

Knees are powerful and essential joints that our bodies depend on for many tasks from crouching to running. Whether you’re an athlete, dancer, construction worker, or office worker, your knees are vital to your well-being and perhaps even your livelihood, and they should be well protected. Wearing knee pads is an excellent way to ensure that your knees stay in good shape no matter what demands your day puts on them.

There are various types of pads built for simple tasks like weeding the garden or the occasional slide on a volleyball court. There are also heavy-duty knee pads designed to be worn for construction work when you’re likely to be kneeling on a hard surface for hours.

In order to choose the best knee pads, it helps to know about their uses, features, and materials so you can pick the most supportive type for your specific needs.

knee pads
Most knee pads are machine washable. This is an easy and effective way to wash light fabric pads that get dirty or sweaty. You can also wash plastic knee pads, but don’t put them in the dryer.

How to buy the best knee pads

Uses

There are many reasons why you might be looking for a pair of knee pads. They’re used for knee support in a variety of situations ranging from everyday tasks to the occasional vigorous activity. The following are some activities that might require the use of knee pads:

  • Gardening
  • Cleaning
  • Plumbing
  • Electrical work
  • Athletic activities like volleyball, basketball, skateboarding, roller skating, and dancing
  • Motorcycling
  • Carpentry
  • Construction or remodeling

Knee pads are designed to provide extra protection, but they’re not the same as knee braces. If you’re looking for knee support after an injury, you need a knee brace that supports your joints and ligaments. Pads are designed to cushion the kneecaps, but they don’t offer the same type of support you’d get from a brace.

The activity will dictate the type of knee pads you need. You don’t need to spend a lot of money if you only need the pads for occasional light use.

Types

There are three main types: soft-shell, hard-shell, and hex-shell knee pads.

Soft-shell: These knee pads have an elastic sleeve that holds a round foam pad over the kneecap. These pads are lightweight and flexible, making them ideal for sports like volleyball and activities like dancing. They also offer enough protection for gardening or other minor household chores.

Hard-shell: These pads are held in place by an elastic sleeve or adjustable straps. They have a thick plastic shell over the kneecap that’s cushioned with foam or gel. The hard shell not only absorbs shock but also protects the knee from sharp objects and hard surfaces. Hard-shell knee pads are ideal for construction work or other types of physical labor that requires users to kneel on hard, uneven surfaces. These pads don’t offer as much mobility as soft-shell pads, but they do a much better job of protecting the knees.

Hex-shell: These knee pads are also held in place by an elastic sleeve. They have a thin rubber, gel, or silicone outer shell with a geometric grippy pattern. Hex-shell pads are useful for many sports because they offer shock absorption for slides or falls while still being lightweight and breathable.

Sizes

Many inexpensive knee pads are designed to be one-size-fits-all or come in general sizes like small, medium, and large. These are mostly slip-on pads that don’t offer much in the way of a custom fit.

Some more expensive and higher-quality knee pads have straps that can be adjusted to fit the user more precisely. These pads might also come in a size range like small to large, and many have sizing charts to help you find the correct fit.

When considering the size, keep in mind that pads that are slightly large are usually better. You can always tighten the pads to fit your legs, but you can’t adjust pads that are too small or tight. Knee pads that are a little large are also better if you want to wear them over pants.

Materials

Knee pads are made of different materials, most commonly fabric blends of polyester, cotton, and nylon with elastic straps and foam or gel cushioning. Heavy-duty knee pads have hard-shell caps made of shatterproof plastic.

If you’re looking for even more protection, you can find motorcycle or football knee pads that fully cover the knees and shins or knees and thighs.

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Features to look for in knee pads

Cushioning

This is one of the most important features because the cushioning is what protects your kneecap.

The padding is usually made of foam of varying thicknesses. Foam padding is most often found in athletic knee pads because it’s lightweight and breathable.

You can also find knee pads with rubber or gel padding, or a combination of foam with gel or rubber reinforcement. You’ll find this type of padding in knee pads designed for construction work.

Straps

Mid-priced and expensive knee pads are likely to have adjustable elastic straps. These are designed to provide a custom fit, a good range of motion, and increased comfort for the wearer. Straps that can be adjusted with metal or plastic buckles or other fasteners are useful because you can change the fit whether you’re wearing the pads over or under your pants.

Vents

Due to the compression of most athletic knee pads, your skin is likely to get hot and sweaty around the knees during vigorous activities. Some pads have mesh vents or panels to improve air circulation.

knee pads
DID YOU KNOW?
To prevent the buildup of odor-causing bacteria from dirt and sweat, spray your knee pads with an antibacterial deodorizing spray, or treat them with a homemade solution of lemon juice, white vinegar, and baking soda.
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How much do knee pads cost?

Inexpensive

The most affordable knee pads are lightweight soft-shell pads made of fabric with simple foam padding. They are ideal for occasional use, athletic activities, or household chores like gardening or cleaning. These pads cost around $7 to $25.

Mid-range

These knee pads are more likely to have adjustable straps, and some might have hard-shell caps. You can find these in various thicknesses. Because of the adjustable straps, these pads can be used for a wider range of activities. They cost $25 to $40.

Expensive

The most expensive knee pads are designed to offer the most protection. They’re more likely to have heavy-duty hard-shell pads and user-friendly adjustable straps. These pads are more durable and should last a long time. They cost from $40 to $70.

You can clean hard-shell knee pads by wiping them with a damp sponge or cloth or hand-washing them in warm water and detergent. Hang them up to air-dry.

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Tips

  • Try on knee pads before using them. This ensures that they’re the correct size and gives you the opportunity to make any necessary adjustments or get a different size if necessary.
  • Wear knee pads over pants or leggings. This protects your skin from potential chafing or pinching and also prevents sweat from soaking into the pads’ straps and material.
  • Don’t tighten the knee pads too much. You want the pads to be secure but not too tight. Straps that are too tight can pinch and cut off the circulation.
knee pads
Store your knee pads in a cool, dry location on a clothes hanger or in a drawer.

FAQ

Q. How long do knee pads last?

A. Depending on the type of knee pads you get and how often you use them, your knee pads should last anywhere from six months to a couple of years. If you only use your knee pads occasionally and for light tasks, you can expect them to last longer. Heavy-duty knee pads made of plastic are also likely to last longer than thin knee pads made of fabric.

Q. How do I choose the right size?

A. You want the pads to cover your entire kneecap plus a couple inches above and below it. You also want the straps to fit snugly around your upper calf and lower thigh, but they shouldn’t be so tight that they’re cutting off the circulation. Measure your leg and match the measurement to the size of the knee pads you’re considering.

Q. What’s the right thickness for knee pads?

A. The thickness depends on the activity you need the pads for. If it’s sports, you’ll want them to be light and flexible, with a thickness of no more than 0.5 inch. If you’re using them for construction work, you want knee pads that protect your kneecap completely, with a thickness from 0.5 inch to 1.5 inches depending on the materials.

 

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