If you’ve spent some time lifting weights, chances are you have seen people in your gym wearing knee sleeves. Though they might seem like an unnecessary accessory for beginners to weightlifting, as you become more advanced, they can become absolutely essential.
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This support allows you to exert more force during your lifts, alleviating some of the stress on your bones and joints during exercise. When worn properly, they can correct your form and even help you lift more weight.
Knee sleeves also prove popular for activities like running and CrossFit. So, if you’re a fitness enthusiast who puts a lot of stress on your knees, it’s a good idea to check out a pair of sleeves!
Our guide highlights seven of the best pairs of knee sleeves for serious weightlifters. These models provide quality and durability for users across every budget.
After we break down the specifics of each model, we’ll also discuss some features to look out for in knee sleeves and answer a couple of frequently asked questions.
Next on this list, the Stoic Knee Sleeves are an outstanding choice for serious lifters who want a premium pair of knee supports. This pair of neoprene sleeves will help stabilize your joints and warm up your knee area for a better performance when the weight gets heavy.
These sleeves are 7mm thick, which is among the heaviest you’ll find anywhere on the market. They provide more support and compression than thinner sleeves, which are often only 3mm or 5mm thick. The 30cm length means these sleeves also cover more of your legs than shorter competitors.
This pair also features a non-slip interior with triple-reinforced stitching for maximum durability. They are IPF, USAPL, and USPA approved, which is a major bonus for professional powerlifters who need to use these in competition.
This pair of Bear KompleX Compression Knee Sleeves are great for lifters who want a durable pair of thick supports without sacrificing style. There are plenty of different colors on offer, ranging from classic black, blue and red, to a variety of camouflage patterns.
Beyond the aesthetics, these sleeves come in two different thicknesses: 5mm and 7mm. The 7mm sleeves offer more resistance for serious powerlifters. Meanwhile, the 5mm sleeves are a bit thinner, and work better if you plan on doing both weightlifting and cardio with sleeves on.
These sleeves have USPA approval for use in professional events. For all of their features, the Bear KompleX sleeves still offer a good combination of durability and value.
When choosing our favorite knee sleeves, it was hard to look past Rogue’s impressive offering. Sure, you end up paying a little more, but the quality and customization options leave others in the dust.
Notably, these sleeves offer ZEUS customization, meaning you can select your ideal size (between XS and XL), thickness, color and even add your own logo. If you are serious about your image, this customization will certainly appeal.
For those who aren’t interested in aesthetics, these are still worthwhile sleeves. You can choose from thicknesses of 3mm, 5mm and 7mm for the best feel, while the sleeves are always comfortable thanks to the flexible blend of SBR/neoprene. They are also made in America – always a reassuring sign when it comes to quality and durability!
Iron Bull Strength’s Knee Sleeves offer outstanding durability and good performance with a few unique features that set them apart from the rest. Like most of the other sleeves on this list, they are made with 7mm neoprene for maximum resistance during weightlifting and other activities.
One common problem with knee sleeves is slippage – the last thing you want in the middle of a workout is your knee sleeves sagging off of your legs! These sleeves offer silicone strips on the inside of the cuffs to hold them in place, even if your knees get sweaty.
Beyond the anti-slip capability, the Iron Bull Strength sleeves are a full 30cm; a few centimeters longer than many cheaper sleeves. They offer better compression and warm more of your legs than competing sleeves do.
This pair of sleeves from Nordic Lifting delivers outstanding performance and compression in a no-frills package. They’re not the most expensive sleeves on the market, yet they provide more compression than many higher-priced sleeves you’ll find.
The thick 7mm neoprene build is great for powerlifting. This makes them sturdy enough to encourage good form during heavy lifts, while they warm your legs adequately to keep your muscles loose throughout your workout.
While theses sleeves are a little thick for use in cardio or activities like CrossFit, they make a great starter pair for dedicated lifters. They’re durable enough to last for years, but cheap enough to not break the bank. If something does go wrong, the company’s one-year guarantee against any defects gives you peace of mind.
Like other entries on this list, Gymreapers uses 7mm neoprene to construct a rugged, heavyweight knee sleeve at a mid-tier price. These models incorporate reinforced stitching into the design for added durability.
The Gymreapers sleeves are geared towards heavy lifts, which means they incorporate some serious compression into the sizing. If you want to wear knee sleeves for activities outside of the squat rack, you might need to look into a thinner version.
One nice touch with these sleeves is the included branded polyester carrying bag. In addition to the sleeves, it’s roomy enough to carry most of your workout gear. These Gymreapers sleeves also come in three attractive designs to help you stand out on leg day.
If you’re interested in trying knee sleeves but you’re stuck on a tight budget, the Jupiter Knee Sleeves are a good solution. They provide the same 7mm neoprene build as other pairs on our list, but at a much lower price.
This pair features reinforced stitching around the seams to keep the sleeves together through even the most demanding workouts. They’re advertised as non-slip, though it might be a good idea to size down if you want serious compression – budget knee sleeves can loosen with time and use.
Thankfully, the Jupiter Knee Sleeves are fully machine washable, so there’s no need to worry about cleaning these sleeves off. As a bonus, they come in some unique colors, including a gray camo and a dark green with skulls!
Fluctuations in thickness, size and additional features between different knee sleeves can make it difficult for users to compare brands.
If you’re searching for a pair of knee sleeves to add to your gym bag, don’t make the mistake of just buying the first brand you see! With a bit of research, you can find the best pair of knee sleeves tailored to your specific needs.
Here, we’ve explained some of the most common features to help you analyze the differences between pairs. Later, we’ll take a look at some common questions new knee sleeve users often have.
Sleeve thickness is one of the primary factors that separates different options on the market. If you’re looking at knee sleeves for the first time, the thickness measurements will probably be one of the first things you notice.
The vast majority of knee sleeves come in one of three measurements: 3mm, 5mm or 7mm. All of the varying thicknesses have their own purpose, but may struggle to complete different types of activities.
You’ll need to evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of each thickness to determine which is best for you.
Sleeves with a 3mm depth are some of the thinnest you’ll find. The lighter material makes these sleeves more comfortable for first-time users, with less compression and stabilization. They’re far more flexible than thick sleeves, which makes them a good fit for runners and cardio enthusiasts.
However, these sleeves are too light to offer significant benefits while lifting weights. You may feel a bit of compression around your knees when wearing 3mm sleeves, but they won’t help increase your lifts by any considerable amount.
Instead, these are best deployed for lower-intensity exercises where you need consistent support that’s comfortable over a longer timeframe.
At the other end of the spectrum, 7mm sleeves are the thickest of the three standard sizes. Because they’re more than twice as thick as 3mm sleeves, they offer a much different feel.
Because of the compression, these sleeves will stimulate blood flow and stabilize your knee joints to help you lift more weight on exercises like squats, cleans and deadlifts.
The increased thickness of 7mm can prevent your knee from bending normally. The resistance makes it difficult to move your joints for cardio exercises like running or jogging. If you want to wear your sleeves for any workouts beyond heavy lifting, 7mm sleeves may be too restrictive.
In between the 3mm and 7mm sizes, you can also find 5mm knee sleeves. This size offers the best of both worlds, as the sleeves are light enough to use for some cardio activities, yet offer plenty of stabilization to protect your knees when you work on your lifts.
If you’re not sure how you’ll use your new knee sleeves, 5mm models will be the most versatile. You can always switch to a thinner or thicker pair if you’d prefer a different feel.
Because our list is geared towards people who want knee sleeves for weightlifting, we’ve only featured 5mm and 7mm models. Though 3mm models are outstanding for cardio and lighter resistance training, they simply don’t provide enough resistance for heavy lifts.
The vast majority of knee sleeves use one material: neoprene. While there are other materials around, such as fabric, nylon and silicone, neoprene holds a number of advantages – particularly for heavy sleeves.
Neoprene is one of the strongest materials used to manufacture knee sleeves. When compared to other fabrics, it offers a stronger weave that holds up better against movement.
This makes neoprene sleeves a great choice for weightlifters, who need a support that will offer good resistance for their knee joint.
In addition to its strength, neoprene also breathes fairly well. While it’s not the lightest material you’ll find, it’s more than comfortable enough to wear for your entire workout.
In terms of texture, it’s not scratchy and won’t chafe your skin (provided you get the right size!). If your knees do get sweaty, you can always throw neoprene sleeves in the wash to refresh them and remove any odors.
You’ll generally find sleeves made of nylon, spandex, silicone and other fabrics in lighter categories. These fabrics breathe well and don’t offer as much resistance, which makes them good for cardio and lighter exercises.
Unfortunately, the thinner construction of other sleeves (as we mentioned above) makes them less suitable for heavy weightlifting. Because of that reason, all of the sleeves featured on our list are made from neoprene. It’s the most consistent and durable material around for weightlifters.
Though we’ve focused on thickness as the biggest difference, knee sleeves can also vary in length. This won’t affect the functionality of the garment in the same way that thickness does, but variations in length can still change the feel of different sleeves.
In general, the longer your knee sleeves are, the more pronounced the compression will be. This can be a positive or a negative depending on your goals.
If you want the most support possible and want to max out your lifts by promoting better blood flow, a slightly longer sleeve will best serve your goals.
On the other hand, CrossFit enthusiasts and other users who prioritize freedom of movement will do better with a shorter pair of sleeves.
Like many other weightlifting accessories, knee sleeves vary drastically in price. On the low end of the scale, you can find plenty of pairs for less than $20. Premium models may cost you $60 or more.
Navigating the different price points can be an extremely confusing endeavor. If all of the sleeves are made of the same material, why do some cost three times more than others?
At the end of the day, it’s features like quality and comfort that make the difference between cheap and expensive knee sleeves. However, the right option for you depends on your fitness habits, your physical condition and your lifting goals.
Let’s take a closer look at what separates the more costly knee sleeves from the rest.
Though the vast majority of the knee sleeves on our list use neoprene, they’re not all created equally. Many expensive knee sleeves feature reinforced designs along with high-density neoprene fabric to make a tougher, more rugged product. If you opt for a bargain version, you may not get that same level of quality construction.
It naturally follows that more expensive knee sleeves are more durable in the long term. If you’re a seasoned lifter with years of experience under your belt, you’ll need a pair of knee sleeves that can stand up to some heavy abuse for the years to come. Top-end sleeves will do this job much better than cheaper pairs.
Many premium sleeves will retain their compression for longer than basic sleeves do. If you have ever used a pair of low-end sleeves, you may notice that, over time, the material breaks in and loosens. After a while, you’re simply not going to get the same compression that you used to have.
Premium sleeves, while not impervious by any means, are often less susceptible to this wear and tear. They can last much longer while still delivering all of their benefits.
On the other hand, there is something to be said for purchasing a cheap pair of knee sleeves that you’re free to beat up however you want. If you don’t have as much weightlifting experience, but want to experiment with knee sleeves, a cheap pair may work better for you.
If you love using them, you can always upgrade to a higher-end version. If you don’t like them, you won’t have wasted any serious money.
Though thickness, material, and price are the three main factors that most lifters consider when they search for new knee sleeves, the product evaluations don’t stop there.
If you’re struggling to decide between two different options, some secondary factors like these could make the difference.
Serious powerlifters should consider which knee sleeves are approved by the IPF, USPA and/or IWF. These organizations govern the sport of competitive powerlifting in the United States and abroad.
They certify certain brands of knee sleeves for use in their competitions – meaning that, if you’re thinking about competing in any powerlifting event, you should only shop for certified knee sleeves.
Even if you’re not planning on entering any events in the future, it still helps to train with the same type of sleeves that the pros use. If you do change your mind and decide to compete down the line, the you won’t need to purchase any additional gear to do so.
Some, but not all, of the models on our list are certified by these organizations. You can also go to the websites of these federations to find lists of acceptable sleeves.
No matter how you use your knee sleeves, you will still need to keep them clean. Gym equipment gets filthy easily, and knee sleeves are no exception. Without a proper cleaning routine, you may find that they soon become unusable!
If you don’t want to take separate time out of your day to hand-wash knee sleeves, you should look for machine-washable varieties.
Many neoprene sleeves can go in the wash along with the rest of your clothes, with no special treatment required. It’s a great time-saving feature to keep in mind when you consider your purchase.
Finally, if you care about aesthetics, you might also want to evaluate different knee sleeves based on their colors and designs.
Some of the options on our list come in black – perfect for wearing underneath gym shorts or sweatpants. Others offer vibrant colors and more adventurous designs, from camouflage to skulls to lightning bolts!
These designs can help set you apart in the gym and allow you to express your personality while you lift.
When many lifters first consider using knee sleeves, they may question how much of an impact they can actually make. Because knee sleeves are such a simple piece of gear, we wonder if they can really make a difference?
The answer depends on the types of exercise that you like to do, along with your medical history.
To understand the benefits of knee sleeves, it helps to know how they function. When you lift weights, your body exerts pressure on your joints, and your muscles strain to counteract that load.
Knee sleeves give your joints something to press against, which in turn helps them remain straight and flex harder during your lift. In this regard, knee sleeves work the same way as other lifting accessories such as weightlifting belts and wrist wraps.
The resistance that knee sleeves offer is one of their primary benefits. Many lifters struggle to maintain proper form as they progress to heavier weights.
With an increased load bearing down on your body, it’s more important than ever to keep your posture perfect to avoid injury. By keeping your joints straight and focusing their effort, sleeves can help improve your lifts.
However, there are more advantages of using them. Properly fitted sleeves, especially thicker ones, compress your joints and muscles.
The compression effect stimulates blood flow to the area around your knees, which can be a great benefit for heavy lifts. With better blood flow, your muscles are able to exert more force and, by extension, lift heavier weights.
This also has the side effect of making your knees warmer. The extra heat ‘lubricates’ your joints and loosens them up a bit, which can alleviate pain and prevent repetitive use injuries.
It’s important to note that knee sleeves are not a proper substitute for correct form. Though they may allow you to lift heavier weights without hurting yourself, they are not a silver bullet. Lifting with bad posture can still hurt you.
Before you buy knee sleeves, you should have at least a couple months of experience lifting weights and honing your form. When you finally do purchase knee sleeves, you’ll be able to take full advantage of their benefits and won’t risk serious injury.
If you want to buy knee sleeves, you obviously want to wear them to improve your lower-body workouts. While they may only cover your knees, sleeves can boost the performance of your entire lower body.
You should therefore wear knee sleeves for any moves that involve your legs. Whether that’s low-intensity exercise like walking and cycling, or high-stress activities like squats and cleans, knee sleeves can protect your joints and improve your circulation to keep you functioning for longer.
Beyond clear lower-body exercises, sleeves offer less value. They probably won’t hurt to wear during, say, a bench press, but at the same time you won’t get any benefits from wearing them.
However, if you work out your entire body in one session, you can feel free to leave the sleeves on for every exercise rather than take them off between sets. Wearing them won’t harm.
With that being said, there’s no real reason to wear knee sleeves to the gym if you don’t plan on doing any lower-body moves.
Having the sleeves on while you work on your pull-ups won’t hurt your legs, but the more you wear the sleeves the quicker they will wear out.
No matter how cool they may look, it’s probably better to leave them in your gym bag until leg day. Saving them for lower-body workouts will keep them smelling and feeling new for much longer, and increase their total lifespan to boot.
While knee sleeves offer a host of medical benefits for hardcore lifters, that’s not the reason many users actually wear them.
Chances are, many lifters who wear knee sleeves do so because they believe that the sleeves can improve their lifts.
But is this really true?
There’s no yes-or-no answer, but they may help depending on your individual situation.
In a fundamental sense, knee sleeves help you generate more force from the muscles in your legs. That should translate to a heavier lift… right?
Proponents of this idea point to weight belts as evidence of the effectiveness of knee sleeves. By giving your core muscles a firm surface to push against, weightlifting belts can help you leverage more power and increase the amount of weight you can lift. Knee sleeves function in nearly the exact same manner.
However, the actual performance boost you get from knee sleeves is a bit more difficult to quantify. Because knee sleeves are much smaller than lifting belts and don’t offer as much resistance, they certainly can’t promise the same amount of gains for your lifts.
While they do offer resistance, much of this goes towards straightening out your knees and keeping your form properly aligned throughout your lifts.
Besides, there are plenty of other factors that affect how much weight you can lift on any given day. Your form, how rested and fueled you are, the other accessories that you use, any supplements you take, and more. Knee sleeves are just one piece of this equation, and often they’re not the most important piece, either.
In the abstract sense – yes, knee sleeves can improve your lifts by keeping your leg muscles straightened and offering them some resistance to flex against. However, the exact improvement you may experience can vary wildly from person to person. There’s no guarantee that you’ll see any changes at all.
Considering that there are many other factors that can enhance or detract from your lifts, there are easier ways to improve your strength than buying knee sleeves.
That doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t buy them at all, though. If you’re lifting heavy weights with your lower body, sleeves will help prevent injury and tighten up your form. Just don’t purchase knee sleeves expecting your lifts to skyrocket by 20lbs immediately, or you’ll be sorely disappointed!
For anyone that hasn’t used them before, properly sizing knee sleeves is a significant challenge. They’re designed to be tight by nature, which means they may be a bit uncomfortable even when they’re fitted correctly!
Go too tight, however, and you risk cutting off circulation. On the other hand, sleeves that are too loose do nothing to protect your knees.
To obtain a correct fit for your knee sleeves, you’ll need to measure the circumference of your knees. Measuring the circumference is fairly easy to do – all you’ll need is a tape measure.
To measure, wrap the tape around the middle of your kneecap and behind the center point of the backside of your knee. Make sure that you bend your knee slightly while measuring to simulate wearing the sleeves during a real workout. Then, record the results to find out your size.
Many brands publish their own sizing guide to help you pick the right choice. If you land between two different sizes, go with the smaller one – over the course of a couple of years, your sleeves will stretch out and loosen up. The smaller sleeves will provide consistent support for your joints.
Even after you measure your proper size, you should still try on different knee sleeves to find out how they feel to wear.
For the best results, you’ll need your knee sleeves to be tight but not restrictive. You want them to stimulate blood flow to your knees, not cut off circulation entirely! You’ll also need to find sleeves that stay in place throughout the course of your lifting session.
In general, smaller knee sleeves will provide more constriction and resistance for lifting heavy weights. They prove great to balance out your form and push harder through your lifts, but you do pay a price: comfort.
Tighter knee sleeves restrict your movement slightly and feel more noticeable against your legs. The extra pressure may not be a fun feature whenever you’re not lifting.
Looser sleeves, on the other hand, are more comfortable but don’t provide quite as much support. If you use your sleeves for activities other than weightlifting, the looser sleeves will hold up better over long periods of use.
However, some users face problems with larger sleeves slipping down their legs once they break in. If you don’t want to end up adjusting your sleeves all the time, go for a size smaller to avoid this problem.
It’s important to note that no matter what type of sleeve you prefer, you should never wear any sleeve that cuts off your blood flow.
If you try on a sleeve and see your lower legs begin to turn red and purple, take off the sleeves immediately. While it may seem harsh, lack of blood flow can destroy your limbs – it’s far better to be conscious than to pay the price.
We evaluated the most popular knee sleeve picks on the market and found some very solid choices for the serious lifter. The top seven list reflects our favorites, but there are many pairs of sleeves out there, all with their own pros and cons. Some may be better suited to your style, needs and budget.
Browse the market, follow the advice in our guide and experiment with a few pairs to find the ones that truly work best for you.