7 Best Knee Braces of 2023, Tested by Experts


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Aug 28, 2023

7 Best Knee Braces of 2023, Tested by Experts

We've been independently researching and testing products for over 120 years. If you buy through our links, we may earn a commission. Learn more about our review process. Take control of your knee

We've been independently researching and testing products for over 120 years. If you buy through our links, we may earn a commission. Learn more about our review process.

Take control of your knee pain and swelling.

While most experts agree that walking has numerous benefits, sometimes your knee just doesn’t agree. Whether you’re suffering from chronic knee pain, were recently injured or have a condition like osteoarthritis, there are several reasons why you might benefit from a knee brace.

Our recommendations for the best knee braces are based on our Good Housekeeping Institute fitness experts' many years of experience testing and evaluating athletic gear, our interviews with medical experts and scouring online reviews.

Not only are knee braces able to provide benefits like pain and pressure relief, support and protection of the largest and one of the most complex joints in the body, but they can be helpful for athletes and fitness enthusiasts who are eager to start running or return to cardio workouts as they recover from surgery or injury. Some knee braces may even assist in injury prevention, which is why our experts narrowed down the best ones available online.

The experts and product analysts at the Good Housekeeping Institute test everything from joint supplements for knee pain and cartilage support to handy gear for your feet like compression socks and orthotic insoles. While we haven’t formally tested knee braces yet, our pros researched and reviewed each pair featured below for criteria such as materials, design and price. We also teamed up with sports medicine physician Jordan Metzl, M.D., and board-certified orthopedic specialist and physical therapist Hector Lozada, P.T., D.P.T., O.C.S., CMPT, NCPT, who practice at the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York City, to answer your questions about knee braces and help you find the right one for you.

At the end of this guide, continue reading to find out everything you need to know about knee braces, their potential benefits and shopping tips.

You don’t have to be an NBA basketball player to benefit from this knee brace, which helps support the knee and provide stability to the joint no matter what you’re doing. Fitness enthusiasts and athletes who do participate in high-intensity sports that involve jumping, running and more will appreciate the brace’s comfortable design that’s meant to be equal parts flexible and durable. Our experts like that the brace is constructed with a cotton knit fabric with ventilated openings that not only offers compression but is machine washable, lightweight and breathable, according to the brand.

While we haven’t tried this model yet in the Lab, Lozada recommends this pick for most individuals without significant knee injuries. “There’s a piece of silicone surrounding the kneecap that provides different functions in one brace,” he explains. Not only should the patella gel pad help provide some pain relief, but it aids in keeping the knee cap in place when active.

Whether you’re suffering from patellar instability or your kneecap needs support, consider this affordable knee brace with nearly 60,000 positive reviews on Amazon. While we haven’t tested it yet ourselves, we like that it features gel pads that lift the brace’s fabric away from your kneecap to help reduce pressure or pain from that area as well as keep the kneecap in place.

We also like that the brace has built-in metal sides to help improve stability as well as gel strips to help hold the knee brace in place and prevent it from slipping down your leg. While most online reviewers were satisfied with this pick, many do point out to pay close attention to the sizing chart as it can be misleading.

For a simpler brace from the Bauerfeind brand, our pros like this pick featuring silicone bands to keep it in place. It's a great choice for anyone seeking compression benefits that help improve blood flow and limit swelling while being active, and the microfiber fabric should be breathable (as well as machine washable!). Online reviewers rave about how comfortable it is, especially when running or playing sports.

Though it's not our go-to for maximum support and doesn't have stabilizers, it will provide moderate joint support as well as proprioception for those who recently had knee surgery or an injury. While we wish it were available in a larger range of sizes, we love the sleek, clean design with more colors available directly on Bauerfeind's website.

If you’ve ever worn a knee brace, you’re familiar with how frustrating it can be to take it on and off throughout the day. That’s why we like this pick from McDavid, which features a wrap design that’s not only a breeze to put on but allows you to adjust the compression level to your liking as well as the fit.

The open kneecap helps isolate the patella and reduce pressure, while the side stabilizers make you feel supported as you walk, hike, jog and more. Though we haven’t evaluated this model yet in the Lab, online reviewers like that this brace feels supportive without being too stiff, not to mention the flexibility when it comes to sizing.

This brace is built with everything you need to support a vulnerable knee, such as hinges to prevent hyperextension and provide additional support as well as four straps to help protect the ACL. It’s an excellent choice for athletes or anyone who has suffered a knee injury, such as a ligament or tendon sprain and tear, and needs more stability beyond what a standard knee sleeve can provide.

Though we haven’t been hands-on with this brace, our experts have tested similar models and like that the brace's straps are adjustable so you can ensure the most secure fit while staying active. Lozada stands behind DonJoy's quality design and performance, sharing that most knee braces from the brand are for people who need more support, but you’ll find the whole spectrum. If you do opt for this model, our pros warn that it isn’t as easy to clean after workouts as it can’t be thrown in the wash, though it can be rinsed.

Ideal for anyone that wants to control everyday knee pain or swelling during low-intensity activities like walking, golfing, yoga and more, this knee brace features a lightweight design and side stabilizers. It helps stabilize the kneecap and knee without weighing you down with heavy materials or straps. It's also a good choice for people recovering from a knee injury who could benefit from light support.

Our pros like that the brace's kneecap is open, providing both comfort and support for the patella. Though we don’t recommend this pick for athletes hoping to prevent injuries while participating in cutting and pivoting sports like basketball or skiing, online reviewers found the stretchy, knit fabric comfortable and easy to slip on.

Dealing with swelling and inflammation around the knee? Our pros like this compression sleeve, which should help improve circulation as well as provide some support. An Amazon best seller with more than 50,000 positive reviews, we like that it’s available in a wide range of sizes and machine washable, though do wish it was offered in more colors and neutral designs.

While our pros warn that you shouldn’t expect as much stability from this knee brace as ones with side stabilizers and gel knee caps, online reviewers rave about how comfortable and helpful the brace was in managing pain. Plus, it comes in a set of two so you can alternate sleeves between washes.

For this story, the product analysts at the Good Housekeeping Institute relied on our decades of expertise testing athletic wear and gear as well as anything sports- or fitness-related, from the best running sneakers and leggings to activity recommendations like strength training exercises to our favorite workout apps. While we haven’t tested each knee brace formally in the Lab, our analysts tried out several knee braces firsthand and we reviewed popular picks among online consumers for factors like materials, design, price and more.

To learn even more about what to look for in the best knee braces and associated benefits, we interviewed sports medicine physician Jordan Metzl, MD, and board-certified orthopedic specialist and physical therapist Hector Lozada, PT, DPT, OCS, CMPT, NCPT, who practice at the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York City.

There are many reasons that warrant investing in a knee brace, but it's important to get the right one for you. “Increasingly, people get knee braces on their own online," says Dr. Metzl. "Though you won’t hurt yourself by putting yourself in a knee brace, make sure you need it and are using it properly." Here are some tips to help you shop for the best knee brace:

✔️ Support: Knee braces can provide varying levels of support. While medical-grade quality knee braces will provide the most, you can still obtain some support from standard knee braces. For instance, “knee braces that have metal on the side, as well as a couple of Velcro straps, are meant to control excessive motion in one of two directions: lateral motion [side to side] and rotational motion," explains Lozada. Braces that do not feature metal pieces or stabilizers, on the other hand, mainly provide compression. "The compression can help either decrease inflammation or provide proprioception, which is the awareness of your brain in relation to where your body is in space. If you put a brace on your knee, communication with the brain is improved because of the sense of touch on the area," he explains.

✔️ Style: Knee braces come in various shapes and styles. “If you’re searching for a brace because you have pain around the knee cap, look for one with an opening in the knee cap," advises Lozada, explaining that if it doesn't feature an opening, the material could put pressure on the knee cap and cause even more pain. “If the brace has a gap then it won’t put pressure on the knee cap; instead, it will support it and keep it in place," he says. You can also consider knee braces that feature a built-in silicone gap that lifts the fabric away from the knee cap.

✔️ Comfort: First and foremost, your knee brace should feel comfortable. “It’s similar to how you would pick the best running shoes," says Metzl. "Choose what feels best! For the majority of knee braces, if you can feel comfortable and if your knee feels better, you can do it.”

✔️ Size: Always check the manufacturers' sizing guide before purchasing a knee brace and measure your leg accordingly. Also, keep in mind that the length of the brace matters. According to Lozada, "A brace that is short will provide less support than a brace that is longer." He advises shoppers to look for a knee brace that's at least four inches below their knee and four above.

✔️ Fit: A knee brace is meant to have a secure fit. “The brace should be snug because if it’s not snug enough or feels loose it will slide down the leg eventually," says Lozada. However, "it shouldn’t be so tight that it’s uncomfortable." Dr. Metzl points out that some patients may even get rashes if their knee braces are too tight, so it's important to find one that fits well.

✔️ Materials: Look for breathability claims when shopping for a knee brace. "In general, it’s best if the brace is breathable because you will be sweating," says Lozada. Typically, you'll find knee braces made from synthetic fibers, such as nylon or polyester. According to our textile experts, these materials stand out for their durability and moisture-wicking properties but are not made equal and can vary in their construction. You'll also oftentimes find braces containing neoprene, which is a type of foam featuring a squishy, non-rigid texture that can provide cushioning. Dr. Metzl advises shoppers to “find a material that feels durable and sturdy" and to avoid those where you get a sense that they're cheaply made. ✔️ Price: Price may be an indicator of the quality of your brace. "A decent brace won’t go for less than $50; better braces are closer to $100," Lozada says. You can find cheaper braces online, but you shouldn't expect the same durability and support.

There are several types of knee braces, each serving a distinct purpose. One thing that they share in common, according to Dr. Metzl, is that a knee brace should "give the knee support and make it feel better as well as improve functionality." He explains that one common type of knee brace includes those that provide structural support to a knee that is having structural support problems. This could be due to a torn ligament, which causes the knee to feel loose or unstable, as well as conditions such as arthritic knees, dislocated kneecaps and more. There are also knee braces that are medically prescribed and fitted to an individual for a specific reason, for instance, to support the knee post-surgery. Lastly, you'll find traditional over-the-counter knee braces, including knee sleeves or compression sleeves, that are meant to give a sense of proprioception or help reduce any pain, inflammation or other symptoms.

✔️ Who needs a knee brace? Typically, anyone experiencing pain, inflammation or other symptoms around the knee may want to wear a knee brace. Lozada breaks it down into two distinct categories: “There are the people who want to use a knee brace to prevent injuries [such as athletes] and those who need it because they already have an injury," he says. Additionally, patients that are post-surgery will oftentimes use a medically prescribed knee brace to restrict motion or provide support and protection to the knee as it heals.

✔️ Do knee braces really work? According to medical experts, there's no simple answer when it comes to the benefits of a knee brace. "There is a lot of conflicting data from research," explains Lozada, and it's different for every individual. "The general understanding is that there is some benefit to simple braces without stabilizers, which can help with swelling reduction and proprioception," he says. For those who have experienced an injury, Lozada explains that a knee brace may also be helpful to some degree with the healing process; likewise, athletes can benefit. "Wearing a knee brace [with stabilizers] may help prevent injury for people who are participating in activities that involve jumping, such as volleyball, basketball, etc. There's enough evidence to suggest that wearing a brace has a protective function to the ALC specifically," which is a key ligament that stabilizes the knee joint. Because the anatomy of the knee is so complex, our pros suggest discussing the benefits of knee braces with a professional who can evaluate you firsthand. ✔️ How long should I wear a knee brace? You should always start off slow and only wear your knee brace while moving. “You should not wear a knee brace if you’re not active," suggests Lozada. "If you’re sitting down or watching TV you should not have the brace on as it doesn’t do anything for you and has the potential of putting pressure on blood vessels on the back of your knee.” If you’re flying on an airplane or worried about blood clots and swelling, our pros suggest purchasing compression tights that cover your entire leg and not just your knee. Dr. Metzl also warns against relying on a knee brace for an extended period of time. "The best knee brace we have are the muscles around the knee," he shares. "If you become dependent on the brace, the muscles around the knee can start to atrophy and the natural knee brace diminishes. I suggest using knee braces for short periods of time and always working the muscles around the knee, hips, glutes, quads, etc.” While wearing a knee brace, he recommends working on getting out of it.

Good Housekeeping Institute Product Analyst Olivia Lipski covers gadgets, health and fitness, home, travel and more. She regularly collaborates with GH’s Wellness Lab to test and review the best fitness gear and wearables, including products like the Apple Watch Ultra, the Oura Ring, barefoot shoes and more. Though she hasn’t yet tested each knee brace on this list, she’s road-tested several while recovering from ACL surgery and knows firsthand what's most important to look for.

For this story, she also spoke to Jordan Metzl, M.D., a sports medicine physician at the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York City, and Hector Lozada, PT, DPT, OCS, CMPT, NCPT a board-certified orthopedic specialist and physical therapist at the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York City.

Olivia (she/her) is a media and tech product reviews analyst at the Good Housekeeping Institute, covering tech, home, auto, health and more. She has more than five years of experience writing about tech trends and innovation and, prior to joining GH in 2021, was a writer for Android Central, Lifewire and other media outlets. Olivia is a graduate of George Washington University, with a bachelor's degree in journalism, political science and French, and she holds a master’s degree in communications from Sciences Po Paris.

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best knee bracessupport the knee and provide stability to the joint gel pads that lift the brace’s fabric away from your kneecap to help reduce pressure or painwrap design that’s not only a breeze to put on but allows you to adjust the compression level to your liking as well as the fitexcellent choice for athletes or anyone who has suffered a knee injurycontrol everyday knee pain or swelling Amazon best seller with more than 50,000 positive reviews✔️ Support: ✔️ Style: ✔️ Style: ✔️ Comfort:✔️ Size: ✔️ Fit: ✔️ Materials: ✔️ Price: structural support to a knee medically prescribedtraditional over-the-counter knee braces, Who needs a knee brace? Do knee braces really work? How long should I wear a knee brace? Olivia Lipski