I knew it was bad the instant it happened. After going up for a rebound, I got my legs upended. Then I got shoved into the wall. My knees absorbed most of the impact and the right one popped very painfully. For the first few moments afterward, I couldn’t even move the joint.
Thankfully, I didn’t suffer a full tendon or cartilage tear. I did have a bucket-hinge tear, however, and its location made surgery difficult at best. The end result? To this day, I have a knee sleeve on-hand so I can play. The compression keeps my knee stable and warm so I feel less pain on twisting movements.
If your knees ache after a game of basketball and you’re wearing the right shoes, then a knee sleeve could be an easy solution to keep you off of the painkillers. Check it out.
The Best Chart for Knee Sleeves
I’ve worn many different knee sleeves over the years. From the standard Neoprene wrap to one that had full metal braces running along the sides, each has some pros and cons to consider. These are the most consistent performers.
|REACHS Basketball Knee Pads|| 4.4 || $$ |
|McDavid 6446 Hex-Padded Compression Leg Sleeve|| 4.4 || $$ |
|CoolOMG Basketball Knee Sleeve|| 4.0 || $$ |
|Ultra Flex Athletics Knee Compression Sleeve|| 4.8 || $$$ |
|AceList Protective Knee Compression Wear|| 4.0 || $$ |
|Blitzu Knee Compression Sleeves|| 4.1 || $$$ |
|Viper Compression Sleeve for Knees with Padding|| 4.2 || $$ |
|CFR Recovery Full-Length Leg/Knee Sleeves|| 4.6 || $$ |
|HOFAM Knee Brace Compression Sleeve|| 4.9 || $$ |
|Pure Support Compression Knee Sleeve|| 4.6 || $$$ |
What Are Knee Sleeves and Why Should I Wear Them?
Knee injuries are common in basketball. ACL tears happen all the time. You’ll also hear horror stories of MCL tears, PCL tears, and torn cartilage. When an injury occurs, proper care must be taken so the athlete can get back out on the floor again. A knee sleeve is part of that care.
Being an athlete also means that a lot of wear and tear can be put on your knees over time. Younger athletes and those fresh to basketball may not experience the benefits of a knee sleeve immediately because they don’t have the grinding on the joint that veteran players have experienced.
A knee sleeve provides support. It shouldn’t be a substitute for poor fundamentals or proper techniques.
What Are the Benefits of Wearing a Knee Sleeve?
I’m seeing a lot of kids wearing knee braces today without a good reason. Let’s be clear: a knee sleeve is not technically a knee brace. It is a product that is designed to protect the knee from future injury. Kids are getting them confused and it’s not a good thing.
Knee braces provide structure and compression for the joint. If you wear a knee brace without an actual need for one, then you can physically weaken the joint. The knee may become dependent on the brace for strength. If you play basketball, you want your knees to be naturally strong. Knee sleeves provide this element by increasing blood flow to the joint.
Knee sleeves do not prevent an injury or attempt to provide padding to the knee in any way. What they do is attempt to reduce the occurrence or severity of a knee injury when the joint is placed under extreme pressure on a regular basis. It can protect a previous injury without limiting mobility thanks to the compression element it is able to provide.
Here are the advantages that the best knee sleeves should be able to provide.
- Most knee sleeves are made from Neoprene, which provides therapeutic warmth to the joint. This added warmth, along with the increased blood flow, reduces pain and can increase mobility.
- Knee sleeves can provide an increase in proprioception. This allows you to have a greater conscious understanding of what you can do on the basketball court.
- Although knee sleeves are not generally restrictive, they can limit patella movement so that you have more confidence in what your knee can do.
If you feel like you have an unstable knee, then a knee brace is your best option. A knee sleeve just doesn’t have enough structural supports to stabilize an unstable joint. If you’re looking to recover from an injury or protect yourself from a future one, however, a knee sleeve could be the affordable solution you’ve been wanting.
Key Features to Look for in the Best Knee Sleeves for Basketball
If you’re trying to pull up your knee sleeve as you’re running down the court, then you’ve placed yourself at a disadvantage. Fit will always be the most important feature to consider when shopping for a knee sleeve. Many of them are sized as small, medium, or large, so make sure you measure your knee and calf and compare that to the sizing chart for the product so you get a good fit.
Another feature you’ll want to look at is how easy the knee sleeve is to clean. Trust me on this one. After an hour at basketball practice, those knee sleeves are going to be soaked with sweat. Give them a day and they’re going to smell pretty ripe. I like machine washable knee sleeves so I can toss them in on the gentle cycle and then let them air dry.
Many knee sleeves tend to wear out over time as well. They’re super tight when you first get them, but then they expand to the size of your knee. That expansion reduces its compression value. Look for knee sleeves that stay true to their fit with consistency to get the best possible investment.
One new feature that has started to come into this product category is padding. It might be called “floor padding” or “impact resistance,” marketed toward aggressive players who dive on the floor to get a ball. From a knee sleeve perspective, that stuff is nonsense. Get a leg sleeve with padding if you wish, but focus on what the knee sleeve is supposed to do so you can get the results you deserve.
How Much do Basketball Knee Sleeves Cost?
Knee sleeves are reasonably affordable. Most players will be able to find a pair in the $20 range. Advanced designs or sleeves for larger joints can cost more, sometimes reaching the $50 per sleeve price point. Most expensive sleeves are designed to protect a specific medical condition, however, so they are not needed by the average player.
Best Knee Sleeves & Pads For Basketball
- REACHS Basketball Knee Pads (More Stability)
- McDavid 6446 Hex-Padded Compression Leg Sleeve (Enhanced Fit)
- Ultra Flex Athletics Knee Compression Sleeve (Stable Compression)
- AceList Protective Knee Compression Wear (Anti-Bacterial Material)
- Blitzu Knee Compression Sleeves (More Balance)
See below to read more on why we recommend these products:
Let’s Have A Closer Look At Some Basketball Knee Sleeves
This is the padded knee sleeve to use for those players who tend to hit the floor a lot. The extra padding, which comes in a hexagonal honeycomb design, helps to reduce leg pain symptoms from previous knee injuries. It also limits swelling while giving the legs some extra cushioning against a future acute event. These knee sleeves also sit up higher on the thigh and lower on the calf so you have some added stability. Give these a try in your preferred color and you may notice an immediate benefit.
This is another Hex technology knee sleeve that has an extended length fit so you’re not stuck adjusting the sleeve throughout your practice or game. It’s a machine washable product as well, which keeps care and maintenance down. It does a good job of wicking moisture away from the skin, but if you’re a heavy sweater, it will feel wet after a long game. The knee feels much warmer while wearing it and the extra padding gives the player confidence, which are two definite bonuses that shouldn’t be ignored.This knee sleeve is a good solution for players who don’t like wearing an entire leg sleeve to protect the knee. This sleeve focuses solely on the knee, giving you an effective way to control stiffness and soreness within the joint. The heating effect is very noticeable with this particular knee sleeve. You’ll feel it almost immediately after you slip it on. It works thanks to an anti-slip silicone, allowing you to worry about your shot instead of whether or not your brace is where it should be. Consult the sizing chart to make sure you’re getting the correct size.This knee sleeve is a solid option for those who have a bit of a lingering injury that just aches when you start to move. The padded knee is helpful to prevent future injuries, while the tightness of the sleeve on the legs encourages you to keep moving. These sleeves are also made from an anti-bacterial material so odor issues are less of a problem if you need to wear them on a regular basis. These won’t stabilize the need much, but for therapeutic warmth and compression? They’re a winner.
These knee compression sleeves keep a low profile. They’re also one of the few sleeves that offers a graduated compression technique, giving you more balance with that problematic knee. It also does a great job for those that experience all-day soreness from a chronic basketball injury. The fabric is UPF 50, is breathable and washable, and has moisture wicking to keep it dry during practice and play. If you want the best, you’ll need to give these sleeves a solid look.
The best knee sleeves for basketball will give you heat and compression without limiting your movement. Find the size and shape that works best for you and you’ll finally be able to bring some comfort back into your game.
When you’re searching for the very best basketball knee sleeves there are plenty of options, however overall we recommend the Reachs, for the extra support they give the calf and thigh as well as the knee.