We will review only knee braces that can be purchased over-the-counter and cannot comment on treatments or braces that might be prescribed by a doctor for medical reasons.
A knee brace extends above and below the knee joint and is generally worn to support or align the knee. Knee braces are considered as one of three types:
Prophylactic knee braces are often worn by rugby players and competitors in other contact sports in the hope of avoiding injury to the joint or tendons. They may be designed to restrict twisting movements and be heavily padded to resist impacts.
Rehabilitation knee braces are used to restrict movement after injury or surgery and are beyond the scope of this article.
Functional knee braces can help everyday athletes stay active by reducing rotation of the knee joint and enhancing stability. By relieving some of the pressure on the knee during movement, functional braces can also bring some pain relief to sufferers of arthritis and osteoarthritis, as well as possibly limiting additional joint damage. Functional braces, often made from a tough elastic fabric and fastened with velcro straps, are the most common type of knee brace and six examples are reviewed in our list, below:
Best Functional Knee Braces
Bracoo Open-Patella Stabiliser
The Bracoo brace is a popular, one-size-fits-all, wrap around sleeve secured by three velcro tabs. The fabric is 76% neoprene, with 12% each of spandex and nylon, for a tough but slightly elastic sleeve that can be hand-washed in cool water. There is a reinforced circular opening over the patella that is designed to maintain the kneecap in the proper position. Reviewers report that the brace is well-made and performs as expected. If you have some knee discomfort, this is a good brace to try to see if it will make a difference, without spending a lot of money.
Upfist Knee Support Compression Sleeve
A compression sleeve represents an alternative to the more common strapped brace. It offers some advantages: the lack of straps means less bulk and a sleeve fits better under slim-legged trousers. The disadvantages relate to finding a good fit and more difficulty in pulling it into place. The Upfist sleeve is a good example of this type: It is manufactured from a woven elastic fabric that is sweat absorbent and breathable and is offered in three different sizes. The fabric is black with vertical, yellow flashes alongside the collateral ligaments. A silicone band around the thigh helps hold the sleeve in place over the knee. Users have provided excellent reviews and this is a great, low-cost pick for anybody wanting to try a sleeve-style brace.
Exous Support Brace
The Exous is another good adjustable brace, with four velcro straps: above and below the patella and around the femur and tibia, the thigh- and shin-bones. The four straps provide tightness around the entire knee and help prevent slipping. The design features a 1cm slit behind the knee to allow for easier bending. The fabric is the usual neoprene but the Exous brace has a jacquard lycra ‘comfort-lining’ which is said to reduce the risk of rashes and irritation when the sleeve is worn for long periods. Reviewers report generally positive experiences with this brace which is offered at a very reasonable price.
MEDiBrace Knee Support Brace
The MEDiBrace support is a better-quality brace, offered in two sizes for around-the-femur-measurements less than, or more than, 18-inches. Both sizes are constructed with a black shell but the smaller is detailed in blue; the larger has green details. The fully adjustable brace features a standard three-velcro-strap design but has a cushioned inner lining that is perforated for ventilation. A wavy, double silicone ring around its inner top edge helps maintain the brace in position on the thighbone. Users describe this brace as well-made, comfortable and supportive.
Neo G Open Knee Support
The Neo G brand has different designs of brace, including stabilised, side-hinged braces and closed patella designs. This open knee support model is a basic, one-size-fits-all sleeve with three velcro straps; the material is a sturdy, blue, neoprene. It features a padded ‘buttress’ at the patella and, as with other braces of this type, is designed for ‘dynamic support and adjustable compression’. This brace is compatible with Neo G’s hot and cold therapy where a warming or cooling disc is placed within the support to assist with pain-relief or motion at the joint. These therapy discs, which are purchased separately, provide an additional reason for consideration of this brace.
Dr. Arthritis Copper-Lined Knee Support
People have worn copper bracelets for relief from arthritis for hundreds of years and recently fabrics incorporating copper have been sewn into supports for various joints in the belief that they can promote healing. It may be only a placebo effect and we have no opinion on copper’s magical powers but recognize that some people do gain comfort from braces that incorporate the metal. In other respects this is a typical, adjustable knee brace with three velcro straps. It is good quality and manufactured from a strong, black, elastic fabric which is 65% neoprene and 35% nylon. The brace is designed not to slip when in use and users report that it is comfortable and provides good support. The brace is shipped with a companion handbook that offers information on various joint problems, treatment options and exercises that may help. This is great knee brace at a reasonable cost for buyers who hope to access the therapeutic qualities of copper.