When gliding on mountains is your passion, your knees are needed for controlled movement in all regards. Knee injuries, chronic pain, or weak knees can set you back big time. Or worse yet, end your season or career.
Luckily, innovations in knee brace design have become a saving grace for snow-minded athletes keen on charging the slopes.
So if knee issues are your riding kryptonite- or, if you’re hoping to prevent them- read on. I’ve rounded up the best ski knee braces for skiing and snowboarding for that extra support.
My Review Process
I know what it’s like to deal with a knee injury and its often-long-winded recovery. In my late teens, I had a really bad ACL tear and subsequent surgery in my right knee. It’s nearly twenty years later, and my body still hasn’t forgotten about it.
Lateral instability, delicate tendons, and overall knee pain when my activity level ramps up have become part of my life. Finding the perfect knee brace for skiing and snowboarding has too.
So, what makes for the best ski knee brace? I look for lightweight knee braces made with quality materials that offer extra protection around knee joints. Support and stability is crucial for twisty-turny riding movements, but comfort should also be at the forefront. A brace that helps prevent future injuries is equally vital. I’ll review other important features -like straps, hinges and price- in the Buying Guide below.
If you’re craving some extra knee support to alleviate strain or help prevent a season-ending injury, then the Bauerfeind Sports Knee Support will deliver. All while keeping comfort and mobility at the forefront.
Compression features that reduce pain and swelling? Check. An anatomically contoured built-in knee pad that disperses pressure? You bet. Lightweight, breathable, and moisture-wicking? Indeed!
From overloaded joints and sprains to tendonitis, the Bauerfeind Sports Knee Support holds it all together while looking pretty sleek, too. It won’t provide heavy-duty support for serious injuries, but it’ll keep your confidence high when pushing yourself on the slopes. All in all, a very impressive brace for a relatively affordable price.
When choosing a cross-country skiing knee brace, focus on comprehensive support that targets your entire knee area. Breathable material is also important since chances are you’ll be breaking a sweat quickly.
That’s why the Shock Doctor 865 Knee Compression Sleeve reigns as the best ski knee brace if cruising uphill is just as important as gliding down.
Although rated with an L1 mild support, the sleeve does have flexible side stabilizers. They’ll keep your knee feeling stable when powering through those rhythmic, Nordic-ski strides. The compression is also top-notch, aiding with soft tissue support, joint alignment, and blood flow.
The Shock Doctor 865 will also impress with its moisture-wicking, breathable N-Tex neoprene fabric. That definitely keeps sweat at bay when ramping up your pace. So, if you don’t need heavy-duty support because of a really bad injury, this sleeve will have you covered on cross-country trails.
Skiers and snowboarders often find themselves in variable terrain when charging resort downhills. So having a knee brace that will support tight turns on icy, hard-packed couloirs and open, powdery blues alike is key.
The Neo-G Hinged Knee Brace strikes the ideal balance between comfort, mobility, and protection. Its two-point geared hinge system controls medial / lateral instability, and flexion and extension. That’s vital in helping prevent some of the most common major ski injuries, like ACL, MCL, and meniscus tears.
The one-for-all brace sizing is also super easy to get on and off, and adjust to personal comfort levels. Some larger sizes may find this an issue, but for your average rider, it’ll make putting the brace on feel like second-nature. Whether you need stability in deep snow or on double blacks, the Neo-G is a very reliable choice.
Medial and lateral instability is a big concern for riders with meniscus tears or similar injuries. Having a maximum support brace to secure the knee and surrounding muscles is crucial.
You’d be hard-pressed to find a better solution to your meniscus troubles than the McDavid Knee Max Support 429X. The geared side hinges prevent unwanted movement and overextension, but still allow for plenty of range of motion when carving or traversing chopped-up terrain. The open patella is also great, helping reduce kneecap stress and misalignment.
I found the brace a bit bulky for regular day-to-days, but this isn’t a brace built for those mellow, daily activities. If you’re a focused skier or snowboarder needing a brace to push through the recovery period and return to the mountains, though: the McDavid Knee 429X is worth its weight in gold.
One of the most prevalent -and dreaded- injuries for skiers and boarders is one to the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL). Risk of reinjury weighs heavily on riders’ minds, which is why a solid, targeted knee brace to support you makes all the difference. And none compares to the DonJoy Performance Bionic Full Stop.
Whether you’ve gone the surgical or non-surgical healing route, the brace’s full-stop hinge technology ensures ACL issues are at the forefront. It prevents hyperextension and helps train your muscles to keep your knee at a “safe zone,” making transitions out of the brace smoother.
It’s not the most wallet-friendly price point. But you’re paying for a tried-and-true brace that many snow sports enthusiasts and professionals swear by. For die-hard skiers, it’s the stabilizing exoskeleton you need for both ACL recovery and prevention. Worth every penny.
Looking to alleviate mild knee strain, and give weak knees a boost on those bluebird snow days? The Athledict Sleeve’s ergonomic design and innovative strap system have it leading the pack of compression-style knee braces.
What’s to love? For one, the pain relief and swelling reduction kicks in right away. It distributes pressure effectively, and the no-slip design makes sure it stays in place for long days riding.
The X-Strap system with removable extra straps is a big perk because it lets you take control of the support level. Like most compression sleeves, it’s not intended for maximum knee support after serious ski injuries. But skiers and snowboarders looking for range of motion in their brace will no doubt be pleased.
Are you a skier or snowboarder dealing with the onset of arthritis or bone-on-bone issues? Bauerfeind’s GenuTrain A3 Knee Support is the most advanced orthopedic brace for chronic knee pain on the market.
The magic is in the brace’s design. It features a special massaging pad built into the elastic knit which gives a targeted compression. Engineered specifically for degenerative knee conditions, it provides near-instant relief for everything from chronic osteoarthritis to irritated knee joints, delicate tendons, and patellar misalignment.
Yes, it’s on the pricier end of snowboard / ski knee braces. But if knee pain has been keeping you off the slopes, Bauerfeind’s GenuTrain A3 will reconnect you with your skis and board. And that’s priceless.
In the world of budget skiing knee braces, none compares with the quality and medium-level support of the EzyFit Knee Stabilizer. The brace design provides a grab-bag of stability for various knee issues, from joint pain to aches from previous ACL injuries. The dual stabilizers at the sides are particularly helpful in securing the knee when turning in variable snow conditions.
An alternating wrap system with sturdy velcro closures ensures a tight fit that’s easy to adjust, too. And the lightweight, neoprene blend material doesn’t irritate the skin on those longer snow days.
Be forewarned: it takes some time to get the fit precise, especially for those with larger knees and kneecaps. It also may not be the best choice for major knee injuries. But for the price, the confidence this brace gives riders is definitely worth the time invested in getting the fit right.
Types Of Knee Braces For Skiing
The type of knee brace you should look for mainly depends on if you need a knee brace to help prevent a major ski injury, support an already-injured knee, or alleviate pain and strain from knee issues like arthritis.
Here are some of the most common types of knee braces available on the market:
Compression Braces / Knee Sleeves
Offer mild support. They put pressure on the knee which often helps alleviate pain by stimulating muscles and blood flow. Usually not intended for more serious knee injuries.
Stabilizing Knee Brace
Similar qualities as the compression knee sleeve, but with a bit more stabilizing support. Knee stabilizers usually have a side band made of metal (or another rigid material).
Hinged Knee Braces
Offer medial and lateral support that limits knee movement and improves alignment. Some have dual hinges, while others have polycentric hinges to increase mobility. A bit heavier and bulkier than other knee braces, but the extra support is worth it.
Full Frame Knee Braces
Provide maximum protection and structural support, and are mainly used after a knee injury to aid in recovery. Often customized. Definitely the most injury-specific and costly, too.
Knee Brace Buying Guide
Intention: Injury Recovery or Prevention?
Do you want extra support and something to help prevent an injury? Or do you already have a knee issue or injury that needs to be addressed?
If you’re already contending with a specific knee injury, it’s simple: buy one that addresses that specific injury. Compression level, patella design and hinges vary from model to model, and can make a big difference. If you’re looking for an all-around ski knee brace, choose a versatile, medium-support option that doesn’t restrict too much movement.
Open vs Closed Patella Design
Knee braces are designed in a range of ways to aid in recovery or prevention of specific issues. One of the key differences in an open vs closed patella design.
- An open patella design keeps the kneecap exposed and aligned. It reduces pressure when bending the knee, and prevents the kneecap from moving.
- A closed patella design covers the entire kneecap with material, hence, compressing it evenly across. They often help control swelling and alleviate pain for milder knee issues.
Most soft, “frameless” compression models are made with a neoprene or neoprene-blend materials. Others feature bamboo or synthetic blends like nylon, elastic and polyester. Hinged and framed models usually incorporate plastic, foam or metal in their frames and design, too.
If you are prone to sensitive skin, choose a latex-free knee brace, or one made with materials that won’t cause skin irritation or chafing. Or, one that can be worn over a thin base layer!
Stability & Protection
Most snowboard and ski knee braces will be rated in the type of support they provide. Mild, medium and maximum, or L1, L2 and L3 can be terms used to note the different levels.
- Mild support (L1): lightweight, and often a compression sleeve design.
- Medium support (L2): versatile, with a mix of fabric and a bit of rigid material for extra stability. Still allow plenty of range of motion, and usually include hinged and stabilizing knee braces.
- Maximum support (L3 or L3+): usually feature a full-frame design. Nearly all have bilateral hinges to keep a knee aligned, restrict unwanted movement, and prevent overextended knee positions. Used when recovering from a major knee injury.
Knee braces range anywhere from a $20 price tag for a budget-friendly model to $1000 for a customized full frame.
If skiing or snowboarding is a significant part of your life or profession, invest in a high-quality brace that provides maximum support to prevent further injury. While premium braces can be expensive, they are worth the cost in the long run.
On the other hand, if you experience occasional knee flare-ups as a casual skier or snowboarder, you can choose a mid-range brace that is more affordable.
Skiers and snowboards: you need healthy, strong knees in order to charge those slopes. And so, it’s worth finding the best ski knee brace that will give you that extra support.
If you have a serious ski injury to contend with or really want to prevent one, I recommend a maximum support brace. The DonJoy Performance Bionic Full Stop is the real deal for ACL tears and meniscus injuries, but if you want a more wallet-friendly option, try the McDavid Knee Max Support 429X.
If pain-relief, medium support and a confidence boost is what you need, I’d go with our Best Overall Pick, the Bauerfeind Sports Knee Support. It strikes a perfect balance between a compression sleeve and a stabilizing knee brace.
*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.