If you look around at the sea of legs at the start of any race, you’re nearly guaranteed to see a handful of knee braces. Knee pain is unfortunately common, and runners aren’t immune.
From osteoarthritis in an aging body to runner’s knee and IT band syndrome, many runners have found themselves looking for the added stability and compression of a knee sleeve or knee brace at some point.
Knee braces for running can provide support to the patella (kneecap) and the knee ligaments. This helps to maintain alignment of the knee joint, reducing stress and strain on the joint and alleviating pain to allow you to continue running.
Knee braces and knee sleeves for running can also provide compression, which reduces inflammation and can help disperse the forces over a larger area of the knee.
Although you should consult your healthcare provider about chronic or severe knee pain or injuries, buying an over-the-counter knee brace for running can be a viable solution for temporary use or to help manage and train through mild, chronic knee issues.
To help you find the best knee brace for running, we evaluated the top knee braces for runners based on their effectiveness, value, comfort, delivery on their promises, and adjustability.
Let’s dive in.
The 6 Best knee braces for running
#6: Best Light Compression Knee Sleeve: CAMBIVO 2 Pack Knee Compression Sleeve
A compression sleeve knee brace for running can be overly restrictive, especially if the brace incorporates metal stays or is woven from a thick material.
In many ways, in order for the compression to work and alleviate knee pain, the knee brace needs to be snug and robust. However, the more substantial and tight the brace is, the more difficult it will be to run in, as it restricts flexion and extension of your knee during your stride.
Therefore, it’s helpful to think about compression knee braces for running as falling under one of two categories. The first group is light compression knee braces, made for runners with mild pain and whose knee brace should avoid compromising the ability to run as much as possible.
The second category is moderate and robust compression knee braces where alleviating knee pain is the priority and you’ll take whatever sacrifices to your running form that you need in order to achieve pain relief.
The CAMBIVO Knee Compression Sleeves fall under the first category. Made from 65% nylon, 20% latex, 15% spandex, these soft, light compression knee braces provide just enough squeeze that they can warm and support the joints while reducing swelling without encumbering your running stride too much.
There are also anti-slip silicone bands along the top of the brace to prevent the knee brace from slipping or twisting when you run.
#5: Best Moderate Compression Knee Sleeve for Running: NEENCA Knee Compression Sleeve
The NEECA Knee Compression Sleeve is perfect for when you are looking for more moderate support and compression from your knee support for running.
While still being lightweight and relatively flexible like most knee sleeves, this knee brace confers more support and compression than thinner, basic knee sleeves.
While the majority of knee sleeves are simple pull-on wraps with elastic, spandex, or Lycra, the NEENCA Knee Compression Sleeve offers extra support and stability with integrated side stabilizers and a unique gel pad surrounding the patella.
There is a patented gel pad to disperse pressure and align the patella, and metal side stabilizers provide lateral stability, two design features not often found in compression sleeves.
Coupled with the highly-elastic fabric and silicone straps, these features make this a great knee brace for runners who need a little more support and squeeze to reduce inflammation.
The knit pattern keeps the knee brace breathable and moisture-wicking to minimize sweat build-up while exercising, and it can be washed after use.
#4: Best Knee Brace for Runners With Osteoarthritis: Bracoo KS10 Adjustable Knee Compression Brace
If you want a lightweight knee brace that doesn’t provide compression over the patella or inhibit flexion of your knee, we recommend the Bracoo Adjustable Knee Compression Brace. It’s a great option for runners with osteoarthritis and generally achy knees.
The brace is constructed from perforated neoprene to improve airflow and reduce sweating and itchiness while still insulating and keeping the knee warm to increase circulation.
The open patella design helps the knee brace stay in place while running. The entire patella area is reinforced with a stabilizing ring, which lends compression and stability.
A beneficial design feature of this knee brace is the three-strap system on the knee brace, allowing for customization of the fit and even dispersion of the loads and pressures across all the ligaments and structures in the knee joint to reduce pinpoint pain.
Finally, the Bracoo KS10 Adjustable Knee Brace can be worn on either knee and accommodates knees with a 12.5-18 inch circumference.
#3: Best Knee Brace for Instability: DonJoy Performance Bionic Knee Brace
If you need substantial mediolateral stability for your knees, such as for meniscus tears, ACL, MCL, LCL tears, or general knee weakness or instability, you need knee support for running that’s more built-up than basic knee straps or compression knee sleeves.
The DonJoy Performance Bionic Brace has bilateral polycentric hinges with hyperextension stops to ensure your knee is stabilized and guarded against hyperextension, rotation, or lateral movement even if you have damaged ligaments and an inherently weak knee.
Although this knee brace is somewhat restrictive for running, the unique hex-shaped patella opening keeps the patella supported and properly aligned without overly restricting any normal bending. In some ways, flexion and extension are actually more free and unencumbered than with a compression sleeve that has material over the kneecap.
With a stretch webbing closure system and TPR pull tabs, the knee brace can be adjusted exactly as you need it for a precise fit, ensuring you get the exact compression, placement, and alignment you need.
Lastly, there are innovative design features for runners like reflective materials to improve safety and visibility in the dark, little pockets to stash money or keys, and anti-migration silicone bands to ensure the knee brace won’t slip or twist while you run.
#2: Best Knee Strap for Running: IPOW Knee Pain Relief & Patella Stabilizer Strap Brace
If you have runner’s knee, IT band syndrome, or patella tracking issues, a simple knee strap can often be all you need to provide the necessary stability to your knee to alleviate pain.
Knee straps help stabilize and properly align the patella, reducing irritation and restoring the function of the knee.
This is why they are often the best type of knee brace for runner’s knee, a painful condition where the kneecap (patella) tracks abnormally along the femur, causing pain.
The IPOW Knee Pain Relief & Patella Stabilizer Knee Strap Brace can be worn running with little to no stride restriction. The knee straps seem to stay in place better than competitors’ and can be adjusted to accommodate a leg circumference of 10-18 inches.
#1: Best Overall Knee Brace for Running: Bodyprox Dual Patellar Support Strap
When you need a little more support and stability out of your knee brace than a simple knee strap, the BODYPROX Dual Patella Tendon Support Strap is a good option.
It’s still a lightweight knee brace for running, but it builds upon the simple knee strap design by offering structural support both above and below the knee.
This dual strap system provides enhanced support for proper tracking of the quadriceps and kneecap, which many runners find to be more effective at minimizing knee pain while running.
Because the brace is still extremely lightweight and unrestrictive, it’s one of the best knee braces for running – especially when you need a little more support for patella tendinitis, bursitis, or patella tracking issues than a single knee strap can provide, yet don’t want to be encumbered by a compression sleeve or multi-strap knee brace.
This running knee brace comes in two sizes based on the circumference of your leg at the midline of the patella: Small/Medium (22.8-30.4 cm or 9-12 in) or Large (30.4-45.7 cm or 12-18 in)