Which knee pads are best?

Whether you’re an expert skateboarder or a beginner roller skater, knee pads are an essential piece of equipment to staying safe. This protective gear is important for all ages and can help prevent serious injury when participating in extreme or action sports. With so many different kinds out there, it can be hard to know which kind is best for you and your sport. 

If you’re looking for a good all-around pair of knee pads, the best is 187 Killer Pads Skateboarding Knee Pads, Elbow Pads, and Wrist Guards, Six-Pack Pad Set

What to know before you buy knee pads

What are knee pads?

Knee pads are safety accessories that protect your knees. Sold in pairs, they’re designed to slip on or secure to your legs with straps. They either have a hard or soft shell that covers your kneecap, and additional padding for comfort. 

When worn correctly, knee pads can help prevent skinned knees as well as impact damage to your patella, which is a particularly vulnerable, floating bone. In addition, knee pads can help lessen the risk of major ligament damage by adding a supportive brace around this sensitive area.

What sports are knee pads used for?

Athletes use knee pads for all sorts of indoor and outdoor sports. The most popular are extreme sports such as skateboarding; rollerblading or skating; snowboarding and biking. But knee pads can also be worn for sports such as volleyball, handball, wrestling and other activities that risk high-impact injuries. Football, for example, even integrates pads into their pants

Other protective gear

Depending on your activity, you’ll want to consider adding a few other pieces of protective equipment for maximum protection: 

  • Elbow pads: Like knee pads, elbow pads help protect the bones and ligaments in your elbows.
  • Wrist pads: Designed so that they cover the base of your palm, these pads not only protect from scrapes, but also brace against severe impacts that can break your wrists or the hard-to-heal bones in your hand.
  • Helmet: A helmet is perhaps the most important safety gear you can get and is crucial for action sports. These can help prevent head trauma, which can be a serious, potentially fatal injury. 
  • Back protector: Cyclists, big-ramp skaters and other extreme sports participants use padded back braces to support their spine. This armor is another vital piece of equipment that protects your vertebrae from compression, fracturing and severing. 

What to look for in quality knee pads

Size

Sizing knee pads requires taking a couple of measurements. This can be difficult as every brand will differ, but there are two generic criteria that can help get a sense of what will fit. 

  • Overall size: This is the sizing of the entire knee pad and is typically matched to the user’s weight.  
    • Small: Under 125 pounds. 
    • Medium: 125-150 pounds
    • Large: 150-180 pounds
    • Extra-large: Over 180 pounds
  • Center circumference: To get your center circumference, measure the diameter of your leg at the center of your kneecap using a soft tape measure or a piece of string. 
    • Junior: Universal sizing for under 12 inches
    • Small: 12-14 inches
    • Medium: 14-16 inches
    • Large: 15-17 inches
    • Extra-large: 17-20 inches

Hard vs. soft shell 

Which you choose between these two kinds of padding depends on the level of protection you want. Soft-shell pads provide less than hard shells. But with enough foam padding, and a tight enough strap, these can still take a beating. Their lightweight makes them a good choice for sports such as volleyball or snowboarding where impacts are less severe or further cushioned by the snow. 

Hard shells are made from ergonomically molded, smooth plastic. These offer maximum protection, but can be bulky and uncomfortable. You’ll definitely need them for skateboarding and hardcore cycling. 

Slip-on vs. straps

Slip-on knee pads have the protective barrier sewn into a sleeve made of stretchy fabric such as spandex. They’re more comfortable and lightweight than strap-on pads and are popular for indoor sports or work. Though they stretch, slip-ons don’t accommodate growing legs as well as adjustable-straps. 

Adjustable-strap knee pads, meanwhile, use either velcro or clips and bands, and they are the best solution for over-the-pants protection. Adjustable straps not only allow for a more flexible fit, but also make for easy removal to cool off between sessions. The straps can move around, requiring frequent adjustment, and the various enclosure designs can be uncomfortable if worn improperly. 

How much you can expect to spend on knee pads

Slip-on, soft shell pads run cheaper than hard shells at around $10-$30 a pair. More durable pairs can run as much as $25-$85. 

Knee pads FAQ

So many pro athletes don’t use knee pads. Why do I need them?

A. Pro athletes aren’t always the best role models, especially when it comes to safety. It’s no secret that pads aren’t considered cool in the action sports community. But looking cool won’t prevent a trip to the hospital. As with any sport, your risk of injury is always a matter of personal boundaries and assessment. Be sure to supervise and pad-up any kids who participate in these sports. And if you’re an adult action-sports enthusiast — seasoned or novice — err on the side of caution. Your bones and joints will thank you later in life.

What happens if my hard shells become damaged?

A. Many hard-shell knee pad brands let you replace the kneecap pads if they become scuffed or cracked from a major fall. You should be sure to replace the caps if they are damaged — any major deformations beyond normal wear and tear can compromise the protective capacity of your pads.

What are the best knee pads to buy?

Top knee pads

187 Killer Pads Skateboarding Knee Pads, Elbow Pads, and Wrist Guards, Six Pack Pad Set

187 Killer Pads Skateboarding Knee Pads, Elbow Pads, and Wrist Guards, Six Pack Pad Set

What you need to know: A hardcore set of pads, these are perfect for roller skaters, bladers and skateboarders who like to go all out.

What you’ll love: With edgy branding on all black padding, you’ll look cool while staying safe. Not only do you get two hard-shell, adjustable knee pads, but you also get matching wrist and elbow pads, making this set a great value. If black isn’t your thing, there are a ton of colorful options for retro and extreme-sport styling. You have the full range of size options from junior to extra large.

What you should consider: These come in size ranges so go with the smaller option — you want them to be snug, and they’ll stretch the more you use them.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

Top knee pads for the money

BoneShieldz Youth Cruiser 3000 Multisport Protective Set

BoneShieldz Youth Cruiser 3000 Multisport Protective Set

What you need to know: These are the perfect pads for adventurous little ones.  

What you’ll love: Featuring a striking red, black and steel-gray color scheme, the BoneShield pads will have younger skaters feeling like superheroes. They’re hard-shelled and adjustable, meaning they’ll offer maximum support for big spills, and their Velcro straps enable no-fuss adjustments for little fingers.

What you should consider: Some users report that these can break from big falls.

Where to buy: Sold by Dick’s Sporting Goods

Worth checking out

Asics Ace Low-Profile Knee Pads

Asics Ace Low-Profile Knee Pads

What you need to know: Made for total free-range movement, these unisex knee pads are great for indoor sports, work or even snowboarding.

What you’ll love: Lightweight and small, these soft-shelled Asics pads are spandex and slip-on, allowing for maximum flexibility. They’re one-size-fits-all with a pretty broad range of satisfied users from volleyball to work around the house. The foam padding is comfortable and thin enough that it doesn’t feel bulky.

What you should consider: Because they’re one-size-fits-all, these pads are a little too big for kids younger than high school age. 

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

 

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Karl Daum writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.

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