Hiking is a great way to stay in shape, connect with nature and give busy brains a break. However, hiking surfaces are uneven. A quick misstep or ankle roll can create unnecessary stress on our knees. Using the best knee braces can greatly reduce that strain over time while strengthening the muscles, tendons, and joints around your knees.
Knee braces can help speed up injury recovery. They’re also effective as a preventative measure. The instant pain relief, stability, and support they generate make them fantastic hiking companions for just about everyone.
My Review Process
I’ve been getting outside for nearly 30 years, and the benefits of hiking are amazing. Over time, however, I’ve noticed a slow decline in my knees and a rising risk of injury. A robust combination of tendinitis, inflammation, and general discomfort convinced me to start looking for the best knee brace for hiking. I’m here to pass that knowledge on to you.
From low-profile to heavy-duty options, the variety of braces out there can be overwhelming. However, that same variety lets you easily match a brace to your symptoms. Even if you don’t have knee pain, braces keep your knees in alignment and prevent strain on ligaments, tendons, and cartilage. In this article, I’ve put together the best options, so you can keep hiking.
This is my choice for the best overall knee brace for hiking. It’s comfortable, provides stable support, and secures your knee for an entire day of hiking. The unobtrusive and simple design relies on three straps. Two straps point in one direction while a third points in the other. This bi-directional design allows for even and stable compression across your knee.
You may have to adjust the brace periodically on long, demanding outdoor activities. Also, because the brace is larger than a simple knee strap, it can increase sweating. However, any adjustments will be small, and with three velcro straps, you can easily tighten the fit.
I love that the brace is lightweight and thin. You can easily layer a pair of hiking pants over top. The non-slip open-patella design also allows for an easy fit. Just place the hole over your kneecap and cinch the straps to get the best fit. If you have mild to moderate knee pain, the Techware Pro Knee Brace is the perfect hiking solution.
If you want knee support but don’t want to wear a larger brace, knee straps like Abco Tech Patella Knee Strap are the perfect solution. It’s the lightest and least visible option for physical activity while keeping your knees happy. The Abco Tech Patella Knee Strap also doesn’t slide and can absorb sweat to stay in the correct position.
The initial placement of the strap is tougher than an open kneecap design like the Techware Pro Knee Brace. You may have to experiment with where it fits best, which may require several adjustments. Additionally, while the neoprene material makes it comfortable to wear against the skin, the adjustable straps don’t tighten as much as other options.
If you have recurring knee pain and want an inexpensive, lightweight, and comfortable solution, the Abco Tech Patella Knee Strap is an excellent choice.
Hiking downhill does a number on everyone's knees. If you find yourself dreading downhill hiking portions, consider the IPOW Stabilize Knee Strap.
Like other knee straps, it’s a small, lightweight design with comfortable neoprene that reduces any itching and rubbing. The IPOW delivers consistent shock-absorbing pain relief for people with mild and moderate knee pain.
Despite being an excellent pain relief and injury prevention solution, the IPOW is not medically rated and shouldn’t be used for knee surgery recovery. Similar to the Abco Knee Strap, it’ll also take a few tries to find the best placement of the strap below your pain area.
However, for those with occasional mild or recurring knee pain, the IPOW Stablize knee strap takes the pain out of hiking downhill.
If you have arthritis or knee inflammation, you know how frustrating it can be to climb stairs - let alone hike trails. The Shock Doctor Maximum Support Compression Knee Brace takes the bite out of chronic knee joint pain, allowing you to hike unhindered. I love the anatomical pre-curved and open knee-cap design, which makes the correct placement of the brace easy while also improving arthritic knee stability.
This is a bulky knee brace that may be too much for mild knee pain. Also, for the best comfort, it’s important to size up because the McDavid knee brace runs small. But with a comfortable latex-free neoprene design, breathable material, and increased arthritic knee stability and support, this is a top-notch option to keep hikes comfortable.
If you’ve experienced a meniscus tear knee injury but still want to hike, the McDavid Maximum Support Knee Brace is a perfect choice. Geared heavy-duty hinges on both sides of the brace give extra support, immobilize the knee and prevent side-to-side movement. The brace is also made with comfortable latex-free neoprene and breathable material to mitigate sweating.
This is a bulky knee brace that may be too much for mild knee pain. Also, for the best comfort, it’s important to size up because this option runs small. But the geared hinge support, irritation-free adjustable straps, and open patella design make it a top-notch knee brace. With this option, you’ll be able to keep hiking comfortably after a meniscus tear.
Hinged and bulky knee braces help with injury recovery but are large and sometimes cumbersome. If you want mild pain relief that increases blood and oxygen flow to the knee while reducing inflammation, the Modvel knee compression sleeve is ideal. It’s designed for physical activities like hiking and provides consistent support for mild knee pain and minor injuries.
Because it is a compression sleeve, this brace is not adjustable. Make sure you get the right size before you buy! However, it’s a fantastic two-pack deal that you can use on either or both of your legs. If you want to help speed up injury recovery while retaining freedom of movement, a Modvel Compression Brace is a surefire way to do so.
If you need extra support for a variety of knee injuries, I highly recommend the Donjoy Performance BIONIC Full Stop. It won’t make your legs bionic, but its burly design guarantees exoskeleton-like support. It takes the pain and pressure away from sensitive areas while supporting soft tissues.
The bulky design of this hiking knee brace is a drawback. The price is also much higher than other models. However, the adjustable support and support hinges on either side help with hyperextension, ACL/MCL tears, sprains, tibia injuries, and arthritis. If you want to hike through rough terrain but have bad knees, it’ll be hard to find something as helpful as this brace.
I really like the Cho-Pat Dual Action Knee Strap. It’s basically two knee straps connected by comfortable neoprene. This setup allows for compression pain relief both above and below the knee while minimizing patella tendon pressure. With a large and spacious gap around your kneecap, the dual action straps won’t limit your range of motion either.
While more supportive than a simple knee strap, the Cho-Pat shouldn’t be used solely for severe injury recovery unless you consult with your doctor. However, for general knee pain, it’s hard to pass up a lightweight, low-profile, and comfortable knee brace that provides stable pressure.
Whether it's a long day hike, trail running, or a multi-day adventure, distance hiking requires consistent support to prevent knee strains. The BLITZU Knee Compression sleeve gives exactly that. With aluminum side stabilizers, breathable fabric for comfort, and a unique gel pad for knee cap support, this knee compression sleeve for hiking can go the distance.
Like other compression sleeves, the ease of use comes without adjustability. Getting a perfect size matters more than it would for an adjustable version. Plus, if you have an IT band injury, the side stabilizers may put uncomfortable pressure on this area.
However, the lightweight and low-profile design means it’s easier to use and carry on long treks than heavier knee braces.
What Are Knee Braces
Knee braces are devices designed to alleviate pressure and pain located on or around your knee. The sources of that pain are widespread, and so are the different types of quality knee braces you can find. From simple knee straps and knee sleeves to medically recommended braces, there’s a solution for your pain out there.
Some benefits of braces include preventing knee joint degradation, providing patellar tendonitis support, and easing the pain of minor ligament sprains. If you've recently experienced severe knee injuries, a knee brace with aluminum hinges, side stabilizers, or patella gel pads may be prescribed by a healthcare professional.
While this article covers the best knee braces for hiking, what physical activities you partake in affects what type of brace will work best. Check out our companion article on the best knee braces for skiing.
Buying Guide Section
Take a minute to review some important factors and attributes of a proper knee brace. A little research now can help you find a quality knee brace.
Fabric knee sleeves and knee straps are not usually recommended for specific injury recovery unless otherwise stated by your doctor. Bigger braces with heavy-duty hinges for stability are more likely to provide extra comfort and support.
The causes of knee injuries are varied, from overuse injuries to acute knee injuries. How you got injured, the duration of the injury and any medical advice you receive should be factored into your decision.
Compression sleeves are non-adjustable, so if you get one, make sure to size yourself correctly. They work by squeezing your leg and providing uniform pressure. However, if you get the wrong size, this type of knee brace won’t be enough to consistently stop chronic pain.
Larger knee braces with straps are much more adjustable. They are also bigger, which means they can contribute to sweaty knees during warm weather hikes. Pay attention to each product and whether or not they run true to size or can be adjusted.
Newer knee braces, like those in this article, rely on neoprene to supply comfort and reduce skin irritation. Velcro straps are great for adjustability but can lose their grip over time. Compression sleeves don’t lose grip but won’t adjust if your body goes through any changes in size. In all cases, stretchy material helps the brace or sleeve sit snugly against your leg.
Another useful material feature is breathable fabric through which you can better regulate temperature. If the brace isn’t made with breathable material, you’ll get sweaty, which will cause the brace to slide down your leg, forcing adjustments.
If you’re worried about lateral movement, look for a brace with stabilizers. These are small metal rods placed on each side of the knee to increase stability and lock it in place. Additional stability comes from side hinges that also restrict lateral movement.
If, however, you have an IT band issue, which is located on the outside of the knee, reinforced stabilizers may increase pain.
How Do You Care For Your Knee Brace?
Many types of braces and compression sleeves are machine washable, but it depends on the particular model. If it is, you can just chuck it in the wash with your favorite hiking pants and hiking socks. However, you should always check the instructions before machine washing.
For extra comfort, the Cho-Pat Dual Action Knee Strap is a winner. And if you want the hardiest design for extra support and injury recovery I heartily suggest the Donjoy Performance BIONIC Full Stop.
You should consider a knee brace if you notice that typical hikes are starting to cause you more discomfort. Also, if you’ve had a recent acute knee injury and notice your knees aren’t as strong as before, a knee brace can help.
If you have any kind of knee pain, I would wear a knee brace. If it’s mild, you can opt for the knee straps, but ignoring knee pain will only increase its severity over time.
Use knee braces and trekking poles to help offset the shock of stepping down. Additionally, when stepping, try to prevent your foot from pointing in a diagonal or sideways direction. Knees operate best with forward movement.When we start to add a bit of a side-to-side sway, it can add uncomfortable pressure on your ligaments, tendons, and joints.
You can strengthen your knees by developing a good stretching routine or practicing squats and lunges. Strengthening the muscles around your knees will help as well, so leg presses, stationary bicycles, stair masters, and calf raises are beneficial.
You shouldn’t wear a knee brace for aquatic activities because most are not waterproof. You also shouldn’t wear certain types of knee braces if the compression or support offered will aggravate an existing injury. It is always best to talk to your doctor if you have injury-related questions.
*The information on this site is based on research and first-hand experience but should not be treated as medical advice. Before beginning any new activity, we recommend consulting with a physician, nutritionist or other relevant professional healthcare provider.