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Exercising is a key part of a healthy lifestyle, and cardiovascular movement is an essential part of a well-balanced fitness routine. Whether you’re cycling on a spin bike, rowing on a rowing machine or taking a HIIT class on your fitness mirror — high-intensity movement that gets your heart rate up not only releases endorphins, but can improve your sex life, decrease chronic pain and benefit your joint and heart health as well.
Speaking of joints, not all cardio exercise is created equal when it comes to impact on your joints. Running is the preferred method of cardio for upwards of 15% of Americans, but it can take a serious toll on your ankles, hips and knees most of all. A knee brace designed for running can help you recover from a knee injury or prevent one to begin with, by stabilizing the joint, taking pressure off or holding it in place.
Make sure you consult your physician before using one, as in the wrong circumstances they can do more harm than good. However, in the right scenario they can be effective at improving pain level and making it easier to return to the activities you love faster.
Here’s your guide to the best knee braces for running and exercising in 2022. In this piece we’re going to cover:
- The different types of knee braces
- When you should wear a knee brace
- How a knee brace can help with a knee injury, or prevent one in the first place
- The best knee braces for running you can order online easily
As always, before adding any sort of health regimen or tool to your routine, you should consult your doctor and make sure it’s the right choice for you.
What Are Knee Braces?
Knee braces are rehabilitative devices used to treat or prevent knee injuries during exercise and daily movement. A knee brace is typically a stabilizing, supporting device you slide onto your knee before, during or after movement. They can be made of metal, plastic, foam and elastic material, and a variety of sizes and designs.
There are four main types of knee braces worth highlighting, that all differ in terms of their level of support. Overall, a knee brace should be selected by your doctor for your individual situation, and should help dispel pressure around the knee during movement.
- Prophylactic: A prophylactic knee brace is basically a knee pad you can wear in a high-risk-injury situation, like a contact sport or intense activity like skiing. These can be worn by those who have experienced knee injury as well as those who haven’t.
- Unloader: An unloader knee brace is made to control pain and take pressure off your knee joint. These are typically worn by folks who have tendonitis in their knees, osteoarthritis, iliotibial band stress syndrome and other pain disorders.
- Functional: Functional knee braces are made to stabilize knee joints and prevent injury. They can be especially effective for folks with weaker ligaments who are more prone to knee dislocation and similar injuries. An example of this type of knee brace is a motion control brace, like a neoprene sleeve, which can be worn while running to prevent overstretched ligaments from becoming injured once again.
- Rehabilitative: After a knee injury like an ACL tear, a meniscus repair or other acute damage a more intense knee brace like an immobilizing Bledsoe brace may be worn for a certain period of time. These typically aren’t worn while running or moving.
When Should You Wear a Knee Brace?
A knee brace can be worn as little as just during exercise or brief periods of intense movement during the day, or as much as all day depending on what your doctor has ordered. Knee braces for running tend to be designed to be more flexible and less supportive than intense post-injury braces, and are typically worn only during exercise to prevent injury.
Wearing a knee brace for running while you run, cycle, play tennis, hike or take a HIIT class can help prevent post-exercise pain or over-exertion if you’re recovering from an injury.
Wearing a knee brace that doesn’t fit or wearing one too much can hinder your recovery progress or cause new complications, depending on the situation. Ask your doctor before wearing a knee brace during the following activities:
The Best Knee Braces for Running
The best knee braces for running tend to be more flexible than the ones for recovery, and can be easily slipped on and off when you need it. We chose the following knee braces because of their great support, quality materials and user-friendly construction that gives you the stability you need without restricting movement or causing discomfort in users.
CAMBIVO Knee Brace 2-Pack
CAMBIVO makes a super affordable knee brace that’s designed to be worn by users of all body types and fitness levels. It’s made with 3D knitting technology that stabilizes the knee during movement and keeps it warm while reducing stiffness. It incorporates compression and comfort so pressure gets dispersed while keeping circulation around the knee from being cut off. It’s made with anti-slip silicone up top for keeping the brace in place as well as elastic for maintaining ergonomic movement.
NEENCA Compression Knee Brace
This is another compression sleeve-style knee brace that’s popular for running. NEENCA makes theirs with metal spring stabilizers and patella del pads around the knee that are designed to not fall off easily. The functional elements of the knee brace help support stability, disperse pressure and keep the knee warm and ready for movement. The fabric is high-compression, breathable, sweat-wicking and quick-drying as well, so you stay as comfortable as possible.
IPOW 2 Knee Strap Brace
This is a supportive knee strap as opposed to a sleeve, made to provide shock-absorption during exercise and hopefully some relief from knee pain as well. It has a segmented fix design that can adjust to individual knee’s curves in order to better protect the patella. It’s completely adjustable and made to be one-size-fits-all. It also has a fully adjustable strap so you can tighten and loosen based on your pain level, and its construction helps it stay in place once fitted.
TechWare Pro Knee Brace
This knee brace is made with an open patella design for supporting the tendons and ligaments around the knee cap, with four flexible stabilizers for knee cap protection. It has alternating closures so your patella stays in place during healing, and the breathable, moisture-wicking neoprene fabric has no-slip silicone strips so the compression stays comfortable. This brace is made for those recovering from an ACL, LCL, MCL or meniscus tear. It can also be helpful to those with arthritis and tendonitis.