Run often enough, and you’ll, sooner or later, experience knee pain.
Research shows that the knee joint is afflicted by roughly 50 percent of all running injuries.
As many as 70 percent of runners report experiencing knee pain at some point or the other.
Here’s the downside, though: There’s a lot of misinformation regarding the use of knee braces for knee pain.
Everyone is tiring to sell their products, making bold, often unsupported, claims in the process.
The science is still in the woods, with some experts recommend using a brace for knee pain, while others believe that braces might do more harm than good.
So do you make the right decision?
By being well informed.
In today’s post, I’m going to explain whether you should use a knee brace while running, how to choose the right one, and when your knee pain may require a visit to the doctor.
What is A Knee Brace?
A knee brace is a catch-all term for a variety of specific devices designed to provide extra support to the knee joint and (hopefully) relieve pain and/or speed up recovery post-injury.
Knee braces are usually made from a mix of foam, metal, plastic, or elastic straps and materials and come in many colors, designs, and sizes.
There are various types of knee braces, such as knee sleeves, motion control brace, and several more (explained below), which offer a range of knee joint support levels.
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 overexaggerate—the many benefits of their products.
It’s marketing, after all. Who could blame them?
But scientific research is still in the woods.
Here’s my best advice.
If you’re thinking about using a knee brace either 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 and 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 the condition of your knee.
Now that we got the medical warning out of the way, let’s get more into the specifics.
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 movement of joint 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 actually cause more harm than good.
If you experience stubborn pain or swelling or can’t fully straighten or bend the injured knee, it’s time to visit a doctor.
For example, if you have a traumatic or acute knee injury, like a knee sprain or a fall, consult your doctor.
Some medical conditions can make you prone to the side effects of using a knee brace.
You should also 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.
They’re also made from materials just as varied.
Some types are designed for preventing injuries, while others help the healing of the knee following injury or surgery.
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, and you can slip them right over your knee under any clothing.
Knee sleeves offer compression to the knee as a whole 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.
That’s why this option works very well if your knee pain is caused by Runners Knee or Jumper knee (patellar tendonitis).
If you’re looking for maximum support while keeping some 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, providing more support and stability as a result.
Wraparound braces work well for runners dealing with mild to moderate knee pain.
When using this type of brace, keep track of your usage duration, and whether your symptoms are improving.
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 knee movement in order to protect the affected ligament from further damage.
This lets the knee recover at its own pace without any sense of rushing.
Have a history of knee injuries?
Try functional braces.
These work well for runners who required a higher level of protection and support post-surgery.
Functional knee braces help keep the affected knee in the proper alignment during the bending motion, which helps protect the ligament from further injury.
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 cases of pain, 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 find yourself in need of 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 keep in mind when shopping for a brace for your knee pain.
Choose The Right Level Of Protection
So, what’s a proper level of protection for a knee brace?
It really depends on what’s ailing you.
As I have already explained, different types of knee braces offer various levels of support.
It’s up to you and only you to decide which ones make the more sense to use.
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.
In fact, 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 should also feel comfortable and offer the level of support needed based on your personal needs.
If the brace is too tight and you’re losing circulation, you should either choose 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 one is the 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.
- If your two fingers can hardly fit under the strap, then it may be too tight.
- When it’s the case, loose up the strap and try again.
Have your brace examined by your doctor, who can confirm that you’re using the right one the right way.
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 else, they won’t help much.
But do not push too hard.
If you feel any abnormal pain or tenderness, stop running and review what you’re doing.
The golden rule of staying fit without getting hurt is paying attention to your body.
Using knee braces while running can provide relief from pain and protect our knees from further damage and injury.
But as a rule, it’s key to use a brace the right way and that you stick to your doctor advice and recommendation so you can get the maximum benefits from it—otherwise, and as I keep saying over and over, the brace may prove detrimental to 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.