How to Choose a Knee Brace for Running

Knee sleeves are an essential ingredient for keeping your knees safe and free from injury when running. Whether you are nursing an injured knee or taking steps to prevent one, here’s how to choose a knee brace for running.

The following guide will help you make the right choice to get the most out of your running and protect your knees.  You will discover the features runners enjoy and depend on, along with how to select the best knee brace for your needs and budget. 

How to Choose a Knee Brace for Running

Before we continue, I should make it clear that what we’re talking about here are knee sleeves. Even though, technically speaking, a knee brace is not a knee sleeve, the term knee brace is widely used to refer to sleeves.

Knee sleeves are used for many different purposes, and each application has its own set of characteristics. The braces (knee sleeves) that work best for running have their own characteristics.

Qualities to Look for in Knee Sleeves for Running

After a few years of running with knee sleeves, these are the qualities I insist on:

  • Flexible
  • Breathes Well
  • Gentle Stretch
  • Firm Compression
  • Doesn’t Slide Down
  • Doesn’t Tend to Roll up
  • Won’t bundle Up Behind Knee
  • Easy to Clean

Now, let’s go over each of these features to see why each is important.


When you are running, jogging, or walking, you need a lot of flexibility for the entire length of the sleeve. Trying to run in 7-mm neoprene sleeves used in gyms and weightlifting competitions is too binding. (I do find Rehband Rx Knee Support 5mm for Running does well if you need even more support.)

You want a compression factor that helps promote circulation, support, and stability in your knee without stabilizing it to the point of losing freedom of movement.

Cloth or knit knee braces are always more flexible than neoprene. However, the lighter neoprene sleeves are flexible and serve well for running with more support.

Breathes Well

Knee sleeves work by providing compression to the joint and areas above and below it. Among other things, the compression stimulates blood flow, which warms your knee and leg.

The energized blood flow and warmth that follow often cause perspiration under the sleeve.

With a sleeve that breathes well, airflow is constantly helping to wick off the perspiration as it occurs.

Stretches While Maintaining Compression

As with staying flexible, you will want a product with a slight stretch.

As a runner, I like support on and around my patella while I’m running, while gently stretching as my knee moves, twists, turns, and bends.

The stretch is always where the compression factor is, so you want it to fit snugly. However, if it’s too tight, you will cut off circulation and cause problems.

Compression sleeves need to feel like a nice hug on your knees.

When I’m running, I don’t really care for something on my knees that feels like a tightly wrapped Ace bandage. I need a knee sleeve that allows for plenty of movement with no interference as it stretches and contracts.

Knee Sleeves are usually pretty tight and snug when you first put them on, but they stretch and become more comfortable as you run.

Stays in Position

Nothing is worse than a knee sleeve slipping down my leg just as my body is getting free, relaxed, and hitting my stride.

There’s really no way for anyone to tell you how tight a knee sleeve should be because we are all different.

However, you want it to fit tight enough to stay where you put it without cutting off circulation. Some knee braces now have silicone grips built in to ensure they stay in place.

How to choose a sleeve that stays in place

  • Select a premium sleeve with a good reputation
  • Take the time to accurately read and understand the sizing chart
  • Accurately measure your leg as per the manufacturers’ recommendations

The problem with a new brace staying in place while running is usually because it’s too large or doesn’t fit your leg properly. For running, if you’re in between sizes, opt for the smaller.

No Rolling

Some knee sleeves are notorious for rolling down your leg. You definitely want to choose a knee brace for running that doesn’t roll down.

While this is not a catastrophic event while running, it is aggravating. Choosing knee sleeves that don’t stay up winds up being quite a deal when you’re running.

My experience has been that staying away from cheap sleeves and especially brand “knockoffs” keeps my knee braces in place and alleviates rolling.

Sometimes the problem is simply that they are too large. In that case, you will need to purchase a smaller size, and remember that the material will soften and stretch out as you run.

On the other hand, it is always good to read the reviews and select a brand that people aren’t having problems with.

The best thing about internet shopping is the ability read reviews. Every single product has negative reviews, so take your time and see what a number of people are saying.

No Bunching

Bunching up behind my knee is worse than rolling down my leg because when it bunches, it tends to pinch and pull out hair behind my knee. A real pain in the knee!

Running knee braces that bunch up behind your knee can be caused by the brand or the sizing?

It’s important to note, that a knee brace may bunch up when you first put it on, but stretch out and be perfect when you’re running.

Easy to Clean

Most knee sleeves tend to get stinky and wet if you aren’t vigilant about keeping them clean. And some are easier to clean than others.

Stick to the ones that are washable and have built-in immunity against the microbes and bacteria that cause the odors.

All knee sleeves are washable. Some in the machine, others in the sink by hand. Most should not be in a clothes dryer. Keep your knee brace for running clean to avoid odors and bacteria and you will enjoy it for years.


Here are the four main points to take into consideration when selecting knee sleeves used primarily for running:

  1. Specific to running, jogging, or walking. There are plenty of knee sleeves designed for more hard-core physical activities. However, when it comes to runners, choosing a lighter and less bulky sleeve will be more satisfactory.
  2. The correct size makes a difference. Manufacturers always include sizing charts, which can differ from one manufacturer to the next. Even if you aren’t a precise person most of the time, it’s vital that you carefully read the directions and measure precisely where the manufacturer states to measure.
  3. Washing. You’ll find some knee sleeves can’t be washed in a machine, some can’t be washed at all, and some fall apart when washed in a machine or otherwise. Personally, I want a machine washable sleeve. Like any garment you wear over and over, your sleeves will start smelling like a locker room if not washed.
  4. Buy name brand sleeves. I’ve never had any luck with off brands and knockoffs. The three sleeves I’ve listed above are my favorites for running, and every time I’ve tried to save money with imitations and knockoffs, I wound up spending even more money by quickly replacing them with quality sleeves.

Choosing the best knee sleeve with the right fit will provide the compression, support, and blood flow that you need when running. If you haven’t worn them before, you will be delighted with the results. 

Learning How to Choose a Knee Brace for Running may take a few tries, but it’s definitely worth it. Knee braces for running help me run farther with more ease and enjoyment.

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