Run often enough, and you’ll, sooner or later, experience knee pain. Most runners suffer from knee pain at one point or another. This pain can range from annoying aches to debilitating pain that can stop anyone in their tracks.
Research shows that the knee joint is afflicted by roughly 50 percent of all running injuries. In addition, as many as 70 percent of runners report experiencing knee pain at some point.
That’s a lot of runners in pain, and if you happen to be one of them, you’ve more than likely considered using a knee brace in the hope of soothing your pain and speeding up recovery.
In this article, I’ll explain a few things you need to know when considering a knee brace for running. But the most important thing is to consult a doctor or a physical before “fixing” any issue with a knee brace.
More specifically, I’ll look into the following:
- What is a knee brace for runners?
- The benefits of knee braces
- Can you run with a knee brace?
- When to wear a knee brace for running (and when not)
- The different types of running knee braces
- How to choose the right knee braces for runners
- And so much more
Let’s get started.
What is A Knee Brace?
A knee brace is a catch-all term for various devices designed to provide * support to the knee joint and (hopefully) relieve pain and/or speed up recovery post-injury.
Knee braces are usually made from foam, metal, plastic, or elastic straps and materials and come in many colors, designs, and sizes.
There are various knee braces, such as knee sleeves, motion control brace, and several more (explained below), which offer a range of knee joint support levels.
A good knee brace usually applies pressure around various structures of the knee. This, in turn, may provide additional support for knee stability.
But here’s a little caveat. It’s not always easy to tell when your knee requires extra support.
There’s a wide range of braces in the market—so what kind suits you the best?
So do knee braces work?
The best answer I can come up with is a definite maybe.
Companies that make these devices claim—and often exaggerate—the many benefits of their products.
It’s marketing, after all. Who could blame them?
But scientific research is still in the woods.
Check the following studies:
Here’s my best advice.
If you’re considering using a knee brace because of knee pain from running or have a history of a knee injury, consult your doctor about your options.
Don’t let the marketing lure you in.
Only your doctor can decide if and when you should use a knee brace for knee pain while running—and the decision should be made based on your knee condition.
Now that we got the medical warning, let’s get more into the specifics.
Should You Run With Knee Support
I hate to sound like a broken record, but you’ll experience knee pain from running sooner or later. The more miles, the more likely for knee support to follow.
Running is a high-impact activity. For this reason, the sport is notoriously known for many overuse injuries. Knee problems are common.
Don’t take my word for it. Research published in the Miami Orthopedics & Sports Medicine Institute reported that roughly 20 to 40 percent of all knee issues occur at the joint, specifically the patella or the kneecap. This area experiences a lot of wear and tear linked with high-impact exercise for long periods.
So when should you start wearing a knee brace?
A knee brace might be helpful if the pain gradually starts and isn’t an acute injury. You can also use it as a proactive tool against knee injury. This is why many pro athletes wear knee braces during training and competition.
Fortunately, wearing a knee brace, as we’ll see today, may help soothe and prevent knee problems and allow you to keep training comfortably and pain-free for the foreseeable future.
When Should You Use a Knee Brace?
The rule of thumb is to use knee braces when you’re experiencing knee pain or would like to prevent injuries during running.
Knee braces can also be used for rehabilitative goals, for example, following an ACL injury.
When it’s the case, a brace may limit the movement of joints while allowing the patient to slow recovery and regain their range of motion.
Keep in mind: Use a knee brace under the guidance of your doctor or therapist, who can help you pinpoint the exact culprit behind your knee pain.
Don’t fall for the hype.
When Should You NOT Wear a Knee Brace?
Despite the ads, a knee brace won’t answer all of your knee pain prayers
In reality, sometimes, using one can cause more harm than good.
If you’re dealing with a serious injury, such as a sprain or ligament tear, you should rest your knee instead of wearing a brace and pushing through the pain.
Even if you use the best brace worldwide, you risk worsening your injury. So, if you experience stubborn pain or swelling or can’t fully straighten or bend the injured knee, it’s time to visit a doctor.
Once you get the green light from your doctor, then it’s to pick a proper brace and start running slowly against it. The severity of your injury will determine your mileage and the kind of knee brace.
Remember that a knee brace is a temporary tool to fix any underlying problems that lead to knee pain.
Some medical conditions can make you prone to the side effects of using a knee brace. In addition, avoid using a knee brace if you’re experiencing pain in your lower limbs or have diminished sensation.
How To Choose The Right Knee Brace – Based on Brace and Injury Type
There are many types of knee braces, coming in various sizes and shapes and performing different functions.
While some knee braces are designed to prevent injury, others are designed to help speed up recovery. This is why you need to know the REASON you need a brace. Applying the right solution starts with understanding the problem. Otherwise, you might do more damage.
For this reason, the best running knee brace for you depends on your specific needs.
Let me explain some of the common types.
Although not technically braces, knee sleeves are the most common type of knee support.
These come in various sizes; you can slip them over your knee under any clothing.
Knee sleeves offer compression to the knee and help soothe swelling and pain in the whole area.
But still, allow you a full range of motion.
Since they’re minimalist braces, these work best for reducing and soothing mild running pain.
For serious cases of knee pain, choose a brace that offers more stability and support, just like the following.
Looking for more support?
Patellar braces, as the name implies, help guide the kneecap—the patella—to track evenly and reduce pressure on the tendon.
This option works very well if your knee pain is caused by Runners Knee or Jumper knee (patellar tendonitis).
These are designed to prevent the patella from moving out of place. They’re usually employed to treat the causes of patellar tendinitis and patella sublocation. You can choose between a sleeve or a hinged design for patellar stabilizers.
If you’re looking for maximum support while keeping somewhat of normal range of motion, look no further than a wraparound brace.
These cover roughly as much of the knee as a sleeve but tend to be thicker, which provides more support and stability.
Wraparound braces work well for runners dealing with mild to moderate knee pain.
Monitor your usage duration and whether your symptoms improve when using such a brace.
Avoid using them on a religious basis. Too much support can be…a little bit too much!
Rehabilitative Knee Brace
Recovering from a knee injury?
A rehabilitative knee brace helps regulate movement to protect the affected ligament from further damage.
This lets the knee recover at its own pace without any rushing. To get the right rehabilitative knee brace, consider going to a professional. For example, bracing services at Reflex Knees can ensure the brace is fitted correctly.
Have a history of knee injuries?
Try functional braces.
These work well for runners who require a higher level of protection and support post-surgery.
This brace helps keep the injured knee properly aligned during bending movements. This, in turn, helps protect the ligament from further damage.
Knee braces work very well for protecting against knee pain while running, but relying on them too much and too often can prove problematic.
As a rule, use knee braces only in pain cases, then stop once your condition improves.
And yes, get the green light from your doctor before you start using one.
If pain persists, or you regularly need a knee brace, consult a doctor or physical therapist to determine the root of your pain.
Tips For Using A Knee Brace
Here are a few things to remember when shopping for a brace for knee pain.
Choose The Right Level Of Protection
So, what’s the proper level of protection for a knee brace?
It depends on what’s ailing you.
As I have already explained, different knee braces offer various levels of support.
It’s up to you and only you to decide which ones make the more sense.
The rest is just details, as the saying goes.
Just like running shoes, your knee brace has to fit properly if you want it to work for you.
As a rule, a knee brace should feel comfortable and snug.
It has to firmly fit your knee without restricting blood flow or clamping on too much.
All in all, the simpler the brace, the easier it fits.
Those made from elastic materials can be simply used as a sleeve over the knee.
You just need to find the right size for you.
The Right Compression
So how tight should the brace be?
As a rule, you should experience a feeling of tightness around your knee when wearing a knee brace.
But it has to feel comfortable and offers the support needed.
Is the brace too tight or cutting circulation? Then go for a larger-sized brace or loosen the straps.
The 2-Finger Trick
Would you like to know how to ensure a proper fit?
Perform the 2-finger trick.
The fit of a knee brace depends on its type.
But performing this trick can help you decide which is best for you.
Here’s how to do it:
- Begin by putting on the brace and securing the straps you normally would.
- Slide two fingers between your leg and the strap.
- It may be too tight if your two fingers hardly fit under the strap.
- When it’s the case, loosen up the strap and try again.
Have your brace examined by your doctor, who can confirm that you’re using the right one correctly.
Remember to wear the brace during running—or any form of physical activity that causes pain in the knee joint.
In other words, you have to be consistent about it, or it won’t help much.
But do not push too hard.
Stop running and review your actions if you feel abnormal pain or tenderness.
Paying attention to your body is the golden rule of staying fit without getting hurt.
Knee Braces For Runners – The Conclusion
Using knee braces while running can relieve pain and protect our knees from further damage and injury.
But as a rule, it’s key to use a brace correctly and stick to your doctor’s advice to get the maximum benefits from it—otherwise. As I repeatedly say, the brace may harm your fitness and well-being.
And you don’t want that.
Please feel free to leave your comments and question in the section below.
In the meantime, thank you for dropping by.
Keep running strong.