The 10 Best OTC Knee Brace | Reviews and Buyer’s Guide

Written by on June 14, 2022 — Medically Reviewed By: Mitch Torres (PT)

Braceability stabilizing brace, Cocoon Knee Flex Pro, and the ArmaJoint Knee Sleeve over a blue background, as the best knee braces for OTC

OTC means “over the counter.” An OTC knee brace means you can get it without a doctor’s prescription. You can buy them in a store or online, for example.

Now, there are several types of knee braces. The best one for you will depend on your specific needs, so you must be clear on what kind of knee support will benefit you the most before buying one.

With that in mind, these are 10 OTC braces our physical therapist recommends:

Our Top Picks

Best Overall: Cocoon Hot and Cold Compression Sleeve

It’s a knee sleeve AND hot/cold pack in one. Perfect for any stage of recovery, easy to use, and you can wear it on other joints.

Best for Daily Use: ArmaJoint Knee Sleeve

Durable, high-quality compression sleeve. Breathable and thin enough to fit under clothes.

Best for Extra Support: Braceability Patella Stabilizing Knee Brace

A slip-up hinged brace that keeps your knee stable. It protects your joint knee at every angle while allowing a full range of movement.

Comparison of 10 over-the-counter knee braces

1. Cocoon Knee Flex Pro Hot and Cold Compression Sleeve

Pros

  • A conventional knee sleeve AND hot/cold therapy.
  • Prevent injuries and promote recovery.
  • Can be used on other joints.
  • Won’t bunch up and will stay in place.
  • Way more durable tha average.

Cons

  • Closed-patella design.
  • More expensive than other knee sleeves.

This is the most versatile sleeve out there.

The Cocoon Knee Flex Pro is a slip-on compression sleeve that doubles as a hot or cold pack. It combines the benefits of compression sleeves with hot/cold therapy, making it extremely versatile and easy to use.

It will save you the wet mess from the ice pack melting. And will apply compression to your knee to reduce pain and inflammation. It can’t get more practical than that.

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This versatility also makes the Cocoons a little more expensive. They’re absolutely worth the price, though – they will save you time and hassle, so you focus on your recovery.

  • Material: Lycra, hydrogel.
  • Size: S, M, L.
  • Color options: Blue.

Learn more: Our full review on the Cocoon Knee Flex Pro.

2. ArmaJoint Knee Compression Sleeve

Pros

  • Easy to put on and take off.
  • Freedom of range of motion.
  • Free shipping worldwide.
  • Thin enough to wear under clothing.
  • Stays in place and doesn’t bunch up.

Cons

  • Best hand-washed to keep elasticity.
  • Closed kneecap design.

This closed-patella sleeve is ideal for your everyday needs.

This sleeve doesn’t restrict your range of motion – you could wear it while playing sports or during your daily activities. It will keep your knee compressed, regardless of what you’re doing.

It’s the best choice if you want to reduce mild to moderate pain and inflammation from daily tasks. Or if you want to prevent knee injuries.

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Yet, if you need specific features like patella tracking, hinges, or straps for stability, this sleeve isn’t for you. Check the other options in this list.

  • Material: Nylon, Spandex.
  • Size: S-XL.
  • Color options: Black, Green.

Know more: Review of the ArmaJoint knee sleeve.

3. Braceability Patella Stabilizing Knee Brace

Pros

  • Compression like a sleeve.
  • Side stays for stability.
  • Open kneecap design.
  • Velcro straps for further customization.
  • No neoprene or latex.

Cons

  • Somewhat bulky.
  • Takes a while to put on.

This brace will help you trust your knee again – no unwanted lateral movements.

It has a bit of everything – compression to reduce pain and swelling, an open kneecap design to reduce symptoms in that area, and side stabilizers.

These features make it the ideal brace for those with chronic knee problems or recovering from meniscal/ligament injuries.

However, it’s not the best option for people with unicompartmental knee osteoarthritis. An unloader brace is best in this case.

4. DonJoy Performance Bionic Fullstop

Pros

  • As much support as you can get while playing sports.
  • Easy to put on and off.
  • Protects ligaments from injury.
  • Open patella design for added support in that area.

Cons

  • Sizing chart is inconsistent for some people.
  • It’s on the expensive side.

This model from DonJoy’s prevents knee hyperextension. This is key after an ACL injury, so the ligament heals properly. It can also help prevent ligament injuries during contact sports.

Comfort and Stability

This knee brace was designed with athletes in mind. It’s an open-kneecap, slip-up brace. Easy to put on and take off.

The bilateral hinges will keep your knee stable. They prevent side movements and stop your knee from hyperextending. Rest assured, your knee will be safe no matter what.

Another special thing about this brace is its anti-migration technology. The brace won’t slip down so you can focus on your game.

  • Size options: S, M, L, XL.
  • Color options: Black.

Durability and Quality

The heavy-duty hinges are designed to last. The straps may loosen up after constant or aggressive use.

Who this knee brace is for

For athletes recovering from moderate or severe ligament sprains. Also, for preventing ligament injuries during sports.

This brace may protect the ligaments post-surgery as well. This is if the orthopedic surgeon allows knee movement. Talk to them first before wearing this brace after surgery.

Who this knee brace isn’t for

People with a mild knee injury. This brace is excessive in that case.

5. IPOW Knee Strap

Pros

  • Easy to use.
  • Minimalist design.
  • Comfortable on the front and back of your joint.
  • Less pain on the patellar tendon.

Cons

  • Doesn’t provide ligament support.
  • It can get stretchy over time.

The IPOW strap provides compression on the patellar tendon. This can reduce knee pain in people with patellar tendinopathy, runner’s knee, and other kneecap issues.

Comfort and Stability

IPOW knee straps are made of velcro and cushion material. Wrap it below your kneecap to put pressure on the tendon and reduce pain.

The material is soft to the touch. This is key to prevent skin irritation while running or doing other physical activities.

One thing we love about it is that their velcro straps are soft on the back as well. This will keep the velcro away from your skin to avoid pinching.

  • Size options: One size. Fits for 10-18 inches in knee circumference.
  • Color options: Black, blue, pink, white.

Durability and Quality

IPOW’s quality materials and stitching make sure the cushioning will last a long time. But, it can become stretchy after constant use.

Who this strap is for

For almost any type of patellar tendon issue. They improve function around the kneecap and reduce pain in that area.

IPOW straps will be particularly helpful for people with patellar tendonitis, runner’s knee, or Osgood-Schlatter’s disease.

For further reading: 

Who this strap isn’t for

It won’t reduce swelling or promote knee stability. If you need more support on your joint, wear a knee sleeve or a hinged brace instead.

6. NEENCA Professional Knee Compression Sleeve

Pros

  • More breathable than neoprene.
  • Easy to take on and off.
  • No straps.
  • More supportive than other sleeves while keeping mobility.

Cons

  • The silicone can leave welts in sensitive skins.
  • Best to wash by hand to protect the silicone.

This is a crossover between a sleeve and a hinged brace, with a patella gel pad. It’s an affordable option for athletes and people that want as much as they can get from a single sleeve.

Comfort and Stability

The NEENCA Knee Sleeve has a closed-kneecap design. The fabric is extremely comfortable and elastic to keep your knee joint warm and reduce inflammation.

It has metal hinges on each side. This gives moderate support to your knee, making it a great sleeve for mild instability.

The medical-grade silicone strips keep the sleeve in place. And, its patella gel pad will reduce pressure in the kneecap area.

Also, it’s more breathable than neoprene. The backside of the sleeve has a fabric that keeps your knee ventilated during exercise and won’t accumulate sweat.

  • Size options: S, M, L, XL, 2XL, 3XL.
  • Color options: Black, blue, gray, pink, beige.

Durability and Quality

The stitching is made to last. Its 3D woven fabric and hinges will provide support for a long time. The silicone strips may break down if washed with a machine, though.

Who this sleeve is for

For people wanting the benefits from standard sleeves with added support. This is a great knee brace for arthritis and mild instability, for example.

It’s an amazing choice for mild or moderate knee sprains. The soft tissue will need extra support to heal while allowing knee range of motion.

Who this sleeve isn’t for

For people that don’t need ligament or kneecap support. This sleeve can be excessive in that case.

7. EzyFit Knee Brace

Pros

  • 3.5mm of neoprene and straps for tons of support.
  • Extremely comfortable.
  • Open-kneecap design.
  • Several sizing options.

Cons

  • The velcro may wear off over time.
  • Not as much freedom of range of motion.

This is an open-patella, wraparound knee brace with hinges. Your knee will feel safe while wearing this. It can take some time to put on, but once you do, it stays there no matter what.

Comfort and Stability

The EzyFit’s blend of neoprene, nylon, and polyester makes it an extremely comfortable brace. Its 3.5mm thickness provides a feeling of security on your knee like any other.

It has three velcro straps to customize the level of compression. They also keep the brace in place, and the silicon strips prevent it from slipping down.

The hinges are flexible, allowing movement while keeping your knee safe. And, the double-stitched edges will keep the velcro from scratching your skin.

  • Size options: M, L, XL.
  • Color options: Black

Durability and Quality

Apart from its high-quality blend of neoprene, polyester, and nylon, the EzyFit knee brace has reinforced double-stitching. This makes the brace highly resistant to constant use.

Who this knee brace is for

This brace will be life-changing for people with chronic instability. Also for people with arthritis pain, as it will keep the joint in place while providing a feeling of security.

It can help people with kneecap-related pain as well.

Who this knee brace isn’t for

If you need to wear it fast or you have little patience, this brace won’t be the best choice. It takes some time to put it on.

8. Shock Doctor 875 Knee Brace

Pros

  • Provides extreme stability while allowing full range of motion.
  • The fabric molds to your knee.
  • Removable hinges.
  • Open kneecap, slip-up design.
  • Great price.

Cons

  • It can feel very tight at first.
  • Hinges can put too much pressure on the sides for some people.

This knee brace keeps your knee joint stable with its bilateral hinges and snug fit. Once the velcro breaks in, it will stay on all day.

Comfort and Stability

The Shock Doctor 875 is an open patella knee brace. The latex-free fabric is very breathable and fits tightly around your knee.

It’s very easy to put on – just slip it on like a sock. Align the patella hole with your kneecap, fasten the straps to secure it, and you’re done.

This knee brace also has heavy-duty hinges on each side. They’re removable, so take them off when you don’t need the extra stability anymore.

It feels small at first but it stretches out. The manufacturer wants to provide a close fit, they recommend following their sizing instructions before buying.

  • Size options: S, M, L, XL, 2XL, 3XL.
  • Color options: Black.

Durability and Quality

The fabric is durable, comfortable, and provides tons of stability. Make sure to follow the washing instructions to prolong the quality of the threads, though.

Who this knee brace is for

For anyone with chronic instability or arthritis pain. This brace is meant to be worn for the long run, as the fabric molds to your knee shape after wearing it a few times.

Who this knee brace isn’t for

This may be excessive for people with mild instability. A hinged knee sleeve may be enough.

9. McDavid Bionic Knee Brace with Compression Sleeve

Pros

  • Fitting wedges make it highly customizable.
  • Extremely easy to clean.
  • Includes a knee sleeve. Wear the brace with or without it.
  • As breathable as a hinged brace can be.

Cons

  • Hard to get it right at first.
  • Doesn’t prevent knee hyperextension.

This hinged knee brace is open on the front and back. You can’t get more breathable than that. It keeps your knee extremely stable and includes a sleeve.

Comfort and Stability

This slip-up knee brace has two straps – at the top and the bottom. Combined with the bilateral hinges, the brace will stay in place easily.

The thing we love the most about it is how customizable it is. It has little wedges inside, between the frame and the padding. You can move them to contour your knee.

This means you’ll have to spend some time at first to get the fit right, though. But once you do, you practically won’t notice the brace anymore.

  • Size options: XS, S, M, L, XL, 2XL. Left or right knee.
  • Color options: Black.

Durability and Quality

It’s one of the most durable hinged braces we’ve seen. The structure is made with aluminum, so it will last a long time. No need to worry about fabric loosening up or unthreading either.

Who this knee brace is for

Anyone with some kind of knee instability. Also to prevent ligament injuries during sports, as it’s lightweight and stays in place.

We’d strongly recommend it for any recovery process as well. The additional sleeve can help you reduce swelling too.

Who this knee brace isn’t for

It takes some trial and error to get it right. If you don’t have the patience for it, this won’t be a good choice for you.

Factors to consider when choosing the best over-the-counter knee brace

Comfort and Stability

If you need it after knee surgery, it should provide additional support. Your surgeon will give you specific details to look for in an OTC brace.

In general, braces should provide firm compression evenly. But, too much compression can restrict your blood flow. Avoid this by checking the size chart of the manufacturer before buying.

Durability and Quality

Make sure the brace fits your needs. If you want it for playing sports or for daily use, choose a heavy-duty knee brace, for example.

Also, follow the washing instructions. Some braces aren’t machine washable, so you will have to clean them by hand. Ask yourself if that’s something you’re willing to do.

Related: How to wash a knee brace?

Value for Money

The affordability of knee braces is subjective. But, we tried our best to get a rough average and compared the prices of all the products we tested to that value.

In any case, rest assured that all the knee braces mentioned above will fit different budgets.

Final Thoughts

Wearing a knee brace can help with several knee issues – from mild knee pain to severe instability. They provide pain relief and security in different ways.

OTC braces won’t be as ideal as a custom knee brace, but they’re certainly cheaper and there are thousands of options to choose from.

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