10 Best Knee Braces for Skiing and Snowboarding
Finding the best knee braces for skiing hits closer to home as we have had to personally experience this ourselves. A major knee injury is a huge blow in the moment, but the long recovery back to doing things you love is the hardest part to endure. The physical recovery is grueling, but the mental recovery takes the longest and may not ever heal completely.
Knee braces and supports can be fantastic physical support, but they are HUGE mental supports. The feeling of your knee being secured in position provides overwhelming peace of mind that can free you up to stop worrying about every little knee movement, and start enjoying the freedom of skiing down a mountain with a big, fat smile on your face.
How Do Skiers Hurt Their Knees?
In general, there are some skiing injuries considered fairly common among people who participate regularly in this sport. These include the following:
- Anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injury. The ACL keeps the knee stable and stops you from executing excessive motions, for example, bending your knee the wrong way. When your ACL is torn, instability starts immediately and even worse, you could be in pain for several weeks after the injury. Knee supports protect the knee so that it doesn’t give out on you while you’re healing.
- Posterior cruciate ligament (PCL), medial collateral ligament (MCL), and lateral collateral ligament (LCL) tears, while less frequent than ACL tears, do occur and involve the other three ligaments of the four ligaments that are there to stabilize the knee.
- Meniscus tears. The meniscus is the tough cartilage around the knee. This cartilage is there to absorb shock and help you distribute your body weight evenly across the knee joint. When this cartilage tears, you feel a sharp pain. Sometimes, a meniscus tear happens at the same time an ACL or MCL injury happens.
If you injure your knee skiing, your doctor will tell you what you should do next. If the injury doesn’t require surgery, the doctor may suggest a knee brace instead. Braces are there to give your knee some extra support, help relieve or ease the pain, and help you continue on with your daily activities, so that you can heal without making things worse. Consult with your doctor before determining when it makes sense to return to skiing or snowboarding.
Additionally, knee braces can also be used for prevention of for peace of mind long after an injury. Depending on your situation, there are a variety of types that will work best. Be sure to check out our buying guide at the bottom of this post for more information.
We’ve done some of the work for you by finding the most effective knee braces for skiing. Read on to discover which brace or support will work best for you.
|Product||Type||Style||Support||Best For||Price Range|
|Shock Doctor Hinged Knee Brace||Hinged||Slip-on + Strap||High||Full knee support + protection||$$|
|Shock Doctor Compression Sleeve||Sleeve||Slip-on||Medium||Minor Support / Relief||$|
|Athledict Compression Sleeve||Sleeve||Slip-on||Low||Minor Support / Relief||$|
|TechWare Pro Knee Support||Stabilizer||Wrap around||Medium||Active Stability||$|
|RunForever Patella Strap||Stabilizer||Strap||Low||Minimalistic Support||$|
|Bauerfiend Sports Knee Support||Sleeve/Stabilizer||Slip-on||Medium||Active Stability||$$$|
|Neo G Hinged Knee Brace||Hinged||Wrap around||Medium||Active Stability||$$|
|McDavid Knee Brace||Hinged||Slip-on + Strap||High||Full knee support + Protection||$$|
|RiptGear Compression Sleeve||Sleeve||Slip-on||Low||Relief||$|
|EzyFit Knee Brace Support||Stabilizer||Slip-on + Strap||Medium||Active Stability||$|
Best Knee Braces for Skiers and Snowboarders
Best Heavy Duty Knee Brace for Skiers with ACL, PCL, or Meniscus Problems
For skiers with an existing ligament injury or recently recovering, the Shock Doctor Hinged Knee Brace is one of the most comprehensive knee braces out there. The integrated flexible side stabilizers helps prevent and heal medial and lateral instabilities and other ligament issues.
The four-way stretch mesh and anatomical design fits either knee and it lifts and compresses the knee to support soft tissue, joint alignment, and relief. Meanwhile, “X-fit” straps help to firmly secure the knee brace in place which helps prevent it from shifting while you are skiing. Finger tabs on the side provide easy grips to help pull on the brace when fitting.
Ultimately, this brace is on the more heavy duty side for those seeking a product that provides a fairly high amount of support. The additional bulk will be more noticeable on the hill and may hinder freedom of movement.
It is the best for preventing or healing ACL/PCL injuries, knee instability, hyperextension, patella instability, meniscus issues, or ligament strains.
Best Lightweight Knee Support for Skiers with Minor Ailments
The Shock Doctor compression sleeve is a fantastic choice for providing mild support and helping relieve mild to moderate pain associated with arthritis, bursitis, tendonitis, or patella alignment. It provides just the right amount of peace of mind and confidence, without hindering movement and the ability to comfortably spend all day skiing with it on.
The material and build is high quality and breathable (which prevents it from smelling bad). Like other Shock Doctor braces, there are pull tabs on the side to help easily slide the sleeve into position. While this might not provide the right amount of support in the short term following a major surgery or injury, it is a great and affordable option for ongoing knee care and active use.
The Athledict compression sleeve is a full cover sleeve that comes in seven different sizes so you can really dial in the perfect fit. You have the option of using the compression strap for more customized support and fit enhancement. However, even without the removable strap, the sleeve itself should fit fine, so whether on not you choose to use the X strap is completely up to you.
The sleeve is otherwise very thin and lightweight, providing support and relieving aches and pains without taking up much room or being very noticeable. Again, this type of knee support is perfect for those who don’t need anything heavy duty and just need a little extra boost.
This knee brace comes in four different sizes and is made to relieve and support all types of injuries, including ACL, MCL, meniscus tears, and many others. It is open at the knee and is made with neoprene, which is both supportive and comfortable. The adjustable bi-directional straps help get a snug fit, and it is breathable and moisture-wicking so that it never gets too hot or uncomfortable.
Unlike many other braces, this is a wrap around style brace, so you don’t need to pull anything on and you can adjust how tight it is. While the wrap around feature loses the more anatomical design of other braces, it is much quicker and easier to put on, but especially easier to take off.
The RunForever Patella Strap is a cheap and effective support specifically for reducing painful symptoms of patella ailments such as patellar tendonitis or patella tracking alignment issues. However, given the minimal design, this strap doesn’t do much to support or alleviate many other kind of common knee ailments that other braces do.
The Bauerfeind knee brace comes in three colors and six different sizes. It stabilizes your knee so that your injury is less pronounced, and it makes going about your daily activities in a pain-free manner much easier. With a specialized pad for the knee area, the knee gets extra support as you move, and it is made out of a special Air Knit fabric that allows for the ultimate comfort. There is even a 100% money-back guarantee that comes with your purchase, guaranteeing you’ll be very happy with this product. It is also lightweight, washable, and whisks moisture away so that it is always cool and comfortable.
What we really like about the Bauerfiend knee support is that it mixes being a compression sleeve and brace in one. The primary body of the item is similar to a compression sleeve, however an anatomically contoured pad surrounds the knee cap to help disperse pressure. Meanwhile, two pressure points and lateral wings deliver targeted stimuli triggering positive sensory motor feedback.
This brace provides medium level support and relief, but does so without being bulky at all or minimizing movement. These qualities make it a highly supportive product for highly active use.
This knee brace comes in one size and fits almost everyone. It has adjustable compression to accommodate everyone, and it is great for ACL injuries, arthritis, meniscus tears, and basic joint pain. It comes in an attractive blue color and is considered a Class 1 medical device, which means it will even protect future injuries from occurring. You can enjoy physical activity while you heal without all of that pain, and it is even good for wearing on the days you’re not exercising.
McDavid is a well known safety and medical sports manufacturer for athletes, so you can be assured their products do their job well and at a good value. The McDavid hinged knee brace is another more heavy duty option. The open 360 degree padded front supports the patella and provides moderate medial and lateral support to aid in stability. Lightweight hinges have wide arms for additional strength and provide peace of mind for keeping your knee properly aligned.
This knee brace is a high quality product that is best for moderate to major instabilities, proactive injury prevention, and post surgical join and muscle protection.
For any type of knee injury or pain, the RiptGear compression sleeve is ergonomically designed so that you can have the very best comfort regardless of what you’re doing. the sleeve provides flexible knee support for women and men and is designed for active use. Non-slip materials help keep the sleeve in place while skiing or snowboarding.
Breathable knit helps with ventilation, while the consistent compression fit gives you comforting support. The sleeve is countered to seamlessly fit around the knee joint while the material is moisture wicking so that it doesn’t absorb and get soaked in sweat (which would get really cold on the ski lift!).
Best for preventing and relieving mild to moderated pain associated with arthritis, bursitis, tendonitis, and other general common knee pains.
Open at the knee and designed with the support of side stabilizers, the EzyFit knee brace is made out of neoprene and offers extra protection as you heal from injuries such as ACL, MCL, meniscus tears, and even arthritis and general joint pain. The hook-and-loop closure makes for the perfect fit every time, and at a really affordable price point, no one will need to blow the budget for decent knee support. It is also a very well-made knee brace with double stitching, strong Velcro closures, and anti-slip design so that it always stays on your leg the way it’s supposed to.
More Knee Support for Skiing
What to Consider Before Buying Knee Braces and Support for Skiing or Snowboarding
Types of Knee Braces
There are several types of knee braces that provide varying levels of support and mobility. It is important to recognize and match the type of knee brace to the severity of your injury or situation, as you don’t want to wear an overly bulky item if you don’t need it.
Compression Sleeves – compression sleeves don’t provide a ton of support, however they put pressure on the knee and surrounding area. This mild pressure helps stimulate the muscles and blood flow, and can help with minor aches and pains. The feeling of compression can also give you a mental boost of confidence that at least something is protecting the area. These sleeves are also extremely lightweight and have little to no bulk, which makes wearing them under your ski pants easy.
Stabilizers – knee stabilizers fall somewhere in between compression and full support for your knee. These braces are typically a little sturdier and bulkier than compression sleeves. The additional material is used for added stability for the knee. However, this added stability also comes with additional bulk. You will be aware that you are wearing something on your knee all day and can be a bit annoying to fiddle with over/under your long underwear.
Hinged Knee Braces – bilateral hinges provide substantial physical support on the side of your knees to keep the knee positioned properly. This usually comes in addition to more substantial padding and adjustability to achieve a fitted and secure support. These braces are your best bet to prevent and heal ACL and PCL injuries, medial and lateral instability, hyperextension, patella instability, meniscus injuries, and ligament strains.
Full Frame Knee Supports – some more intense braces are large metal frames that conform to your leg from mid-shin all the way up to your upper thigh. These are typically braces required directly after a major surgery or to support against impact. We did NOT list any such knee braces as being good braces for skiing because 1) if you still need this, you probably aren’t quite ready to be skiing and 2) these braces are usually too large and bulky to ski with. Ski boots reach high up your shins and framed knee braces will collide uncomfortably with the tops of your boots.
Open vs Closed Patella
Depending on your injury and consultation with your doctor, it may or may not be helpful to have pressure on your patella tendon on the front of your knee. Hence, some knee braces come with either a hole in the center of the knee (open) or not (closed).
Stability and Protection
Obviously, your knee brace will need to provide some level of stability and protection that makes you comfortable to get back on the mountain. Some supports, like compression sleeves, won’t provide much protection from impact, whereas hinged braces have solid support beams to protect from sideways impacts.
Sleeves are usually comprised of thin material and will feel comforting, but aren’t substantial enough to provide a ton of stability by themselves. Whereas other braces are more made of more significant material that can provide more physical support.
Skiing and snowboarding are very active sports that heavily involve the knees, so you will want adequate support for your injury. If you simply need a little extra confidence, compression sleeves are often all you need. If you feel that you actually need to rely on a brace to provide stability, you should look at stabilizing or hinged knee braces.
Skiing can be a demanding sport. Long durations spent on the mountain will make you value your comfort. When it comes to knee braces, you will definitely want to make sure you are comfortable with it before spending all day out on the snow.
We recommend wearing your brace around the house occasionally, or when you workout, when you first get your knee brace. This lets you break the brace in, get comfortable with it, and understand the little things that you do or don’t like and need to account for before hitting the slopes.
Wearing your brace with ski gear will take some getting used to as well. Decide whether you like it over or under your base layers. Wearing the brace on your bare skin helps hold it in place better, but can cause slight irritations that are annoying when you are skiing. Again, try a few iterations at home to find what you think is the best balance of comfort and staying in place.
Freedom of Movement
In the similar vein as comfort, different knee braces will have varying levels of restriction and freedom of movement. In general, the more heavy duty braces will feel more limiting, while compression sleeves don’t inhibit movement much, if at all.
If you are a skier that really pushes your limits and needs maximum performance, freedom of movement will be important to your ski technique. You will need to do a thorough evaluation of knee braces if you want or need a more heavy duty brace.
Get the Right Size
Having your knee brace or compression sleeve sliding around on your leg, or squeezing too tight and cutting off circulation will be a nightmare to deal with on the snow. The best way to make sure you have a comfortable, secure fit without having to fidget with it all day long is to get the right size to begin with.
This is one of those times you really should look at the manufacturers sizing chart and actually measure your knee to find the right fit. You can get away with not doing that for general clothing, but this is a medical device that you should be a little more picky about.
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Ski Knee Brace Tips and FAQs
Do knee braces help with all knee problems?
Unfortunately, knee braces are not the total solution to any and all knee injuries. Some are for preventative purposes, while others are merely to provide minor pain relief or support. For example, somebody with a fully torn ACL can not just throw a compression sleeve on and expect to be able to ski just fine. Consult with your doctor to determine the severity of your injury and what kind of plan will best suit your ability to return to skiing or snowboarding.
If my knee hurts, is it okay to keep skiing or should I stop?
General soreness is generally okay to ski with, but with any sharp pains or significant discomfort you should probably stop or take a break. Make sure to consult with your doctor on any plan to go skiing with any kind of knee injury.
Can I fly with a knee brace?
According to the TSA, you can pack your knee brace in your baggage, or wear it on the plane if you are going on a ski trip. You may be required to take it off when passing through security, but should be free and clear from there.
How can I keep my knee brace warm while skiing?
Braces with any metal material can quickly get very cold. To keep them warm, you can wear a sleeve over top of the brace, wear the brace over your base layer, or some combination of the two.
Should your knee brace go under or over your ski pants?
Your knee support should go underneath your ski pants, but you can wear over your base layer if it is comfortable and stays in place correctly.
Getting back to the activities you enjoy, like skiing, after an injury is essential. A good knee brace or support will help you get back on the slopes with confidence. Make sure you look for braces that match the level and severity of injury so that your movement isn’t unnecessarily restricted.
At the end of the day, a knee brace for skiing will help with minor physical ailments or mental confidence, but does not repair a significant injury. Take it slow at first to get used to your new equipment. Take a rest when your muscles feel tired or if you start to experience pain. Hopefully you make a smooth transition from injury to enjoyment and you get back to skiing carefree in a hurry.
Best of luck and be safe – see you on the slopes!
So, do you have any experiences skiing with or after a knee injury? What worked for you and what other tips do you have for skiers trying to protect their knees? Let us know in the comments below!