A very common complaint from knee-brace wearers is: “how to keep knee brace from rolling down?”
This is known as knee brace migration or distal migration. It happens because of our leg muscles contracting and gravity. (1)
Apart from being uncomfortable to walk with, the brace won’t provide benefits. It won’t stabilize your joint or reduce pain. Even worse, it can aggravate your knee injury.
But, there are at least 9 things you can do to keep your brace in place. Here are the topics I’ll discuss, tap on any of them to learn about them:
- Wear the brace correctly
- Keep it against your skin
- Keep the straps in place with a special adhesive
- Don’t cut the straps
- Wear something underneath
- Try self-stick bandage
- Take proper care of your brace
- Double-check size
- Make sure it’s the right brace for your needs
- Bonus: How to know which is the right brace for you?
Or keep reading and find out the:
9 ways to stop your knee brace from slipping down
1) Put on your knee brace correctly
This is the most obvious step, I know. But, you can avoid distal migration by making sure you’re wearing the brace properly.
The step-by-step process may vary, depending on the design of the knee brace. In general, it goes like this:
- Sit in a chair. Roll up your pants or wear shorts. The brace should be in contact with the skin.
- With your knee straight, slip your foot into the brace. Slide it up to your injured leg and place it over your knee.
- Fit your knee cap into the center of the patellar hole, if any.
- Fasten the straps tight around your knee.
- Perform the two-finger test: slide two fingers between your skin and the brace. If you can do it easily, the brace is too loose. If you can’t do it, it’s too tight.
- Walk a little. If it’s painful, it’s too tight.
This can help: How to put on a knee brace according to its design
2) It must be in direct contact with your skin
I know some people wear their knee brace on top of the pant leg, but this is a mistake.
The brace must be in contact with your skin to be effective. This is also the easiest way to keep your knee brace from slipping.
For starters, the material of the brace will stick to the skin. If you wear pants under the brace, the friction of the fabric will promote slipping.
But, some people are prone to skin irritation. They may need to have something between their skin and the knee brace. If that’s you, there are some tricks you can try below!
Related: Itchy rash from a knee brace? Here’s what to do
3) Keep the straps in place with a self-adhesive bandage
A worn strap can make the knee brace slide down.
An easy fix is putting some self-adhesive tape under the strap. This will keep the straps of the brace in place, preventing distal migration.
This can be helpful for people that need to wear a knee brace daily.
Knee osteoarthritis patients, for example. For them, the brace can help with pain and provide support. Also, some athletes wear knee braces during practice to prevent injuries.
4) Don’t cut the straps
If you already did and you need additional straps, the manufacturer may offer them.
You see, some knee braces have extra long straps. Like the ones that help you recover after leg surgery. This gives room to secure the brace around the dressing.
Please avoid cutting the strap unless your doctor tells you to!
5) Wear a thin compression sleeve or tights underneath
Follow this tip if you have sensitive skin and you need to wear something under the brace.
Look for the thinnest fabric available for you. Or wear thin knee sleeves, compression tights, or leggings. They will help keep your knee brace in place without irritating your skin.
Of course, it won’t be the same as if you wore the brace in direct contact with the skin. It will slip. But, it’s a better option than wearing pants, for example.
And, please, don’t put the sleeve on top of the brace to keep it in place. You can damage the brace or worsen your knee injury.
6) If it hurts your skin, try wearing a self-stick bandage
If you have sensitive skin, you can wrap your knee with an ace wrap so it acts as a buffer. To wrap your knee with it:
- Sit in a comfortable position with your leg straight and relaxed in front of you.
- Start with the wrap rolled up so it’s easier for you to apply it.
- Take the loose end of the wrap and place it below your knee joint. Hold it with one hand.
- Make one wrap around the first one to anchor it.
- Start wrapping upwards.
- Once you’re finished, secure the bandage with a fastener or tuck it under the twists.
- Walk a little. If it falls or loosens, repeat the process but tighten the bandage.
- If it causes too much discomfort, repeat the process.
- Once the bandage feels secure and comfortable, wear the brace as usual.
Also, remove your knee brace from time to time during the day. This will let your skin breathe and prevent irritation.
7) Take good care of your knee brace
Knee braces need to be cleaned from time to time. They accumulate dirt and sweat, which can cut the life of the brace short.
For example, it’s common to wear sleeves in weight lifting. Here, the brace will accumulate sweat fast, so it’s a good idea to wash the compression sleeve often.
And, what about braces with hinges?
You can clean hinged functional braces with a wet cloth daily. You’ll protect the mechanism from dirt build-up this way. Some of these braces also have an inside pad. You can clean them in the gentle cycle of your washing machine.
The precise cleaning instructions will depend on the manufacturer. Follow them to keep your knee brace for as long as you can!
Related: How to clean a knee brace properly?
8) Double-check it’s the right size
There’s nothing worse for an injured knee than the wrong size of knee brace.
If it’s too loose, it won’t provide any benefits. Not to mention, it will keep sliding down. It won’t matter if you wear compression pants underneath it.
But, if it’s too tight, it can make your knee injury worse. Also, it will be uncomfortable and leave pressure ridges.
You can avoid this with the two-finger test
Once you have your knee brace on, slip your index and middle finger between the brace and your skin. If you can do it easily, it’s too loose. If you can’t do it, it’s too tight.
Learn more: Step-by-step to measure a knee brace correctly
9) Make sure it’s the right knee brace for you
Is your knee brace adequate for the activities you need it for?
A knee brace that’s meant for walking short distances will slip down your ankle if you play sports with it.
You see, there’s a wide variety of knee supports
Some let your knee bend freely and protect it at the same time. These are perfect for athletic performance. But others can limit the range of motion. These are best for recovering from moderate or serious injuries.
Also, you may need different knee braces during your recovery process.
Maybe a bulky, hinged brace after surgery. And, once you can bear your full weight on your leg, your doctor or physical therapist may suggest a new brace.
How do you know which one is the right brace for you?
There’s a wide variety of knee supports, each one with its own benefits. It’s easy to get overwhelmed! A physical therapist can help you out.
First, we can figure out whether you need a knee brace or not. Also, which one will be best for your current needs.
But, remember that a knee brace is one part of your whole treatment plan. It can make it easier, but it won’t heal your knee. Rest, sleep, nutrition, and rehabilitation will.
With that in mind, let’s talk about how to choose the right knee brace for you.
First, in physical therapy, we assess your injury and symptoms. That will help us determine the benefits we’re looking for in a knee brace.
A knee sleeve can be a good option for recent and mild injuries
The compression can enhance the recovery process. It may reduce pain and swelling as well.
Some people also feel a sense of stability from the compression. This can give you more confidence during your rehabilitation exercises.
Further reading: 5 scientifically proven benefits of knee sleeves
For moderate or severe injuries, a hinged brace may be the way to go
It will provide support and protect the knee while it heals.
Now, hinged braces have their own classification. They provide different levels of support and protection, depending on what you want it for. Your physical therapist can help you with the decision.
Learn more: Differences between sleeves and braces
Make your choice process easier by going to physical therapy
As you can see, there are many factors involved in choosing a knee brace. A physical therapist can give you the best advice on this topic!
Is it bad to wear a knee brace all day?
This depends on what type of brace you’re wearing.
If you had knee surgery, your doctor may recommend wearing a brace all day. This will protect the joint while it heals.
Other braces are meant for certain activities, like playing sports or walking. You may not need it outside those activities unless your doctor tells you otherwise.
Can a knee brace be worn over your pants?
You shouldn’t. The brace won’t be as effective. It will also keep sliding down. It’s best if the brace is in direct contact with your skin.
But, if you’re prone to skin irritation, try wearing a thin fabric like compression pants or sleeves.
Where should a knee brace sit?
Most braces sit at the top of the calves. Also, if you have an open patella brace, make sure the kneecap is visible through the hole.
Conclusion: Why does my leg brace keep falling down?
The best way to keep a knee brace from slipping is by making sure you’re wearing it properly.
It should be in direct contact with your skin to prevent distal migration. Your kneecap should be visible through the small hole at the front of your brace.
Also, wearing a brace daily takes a toll on the straps. Use some adhesive under the strap to keep it in place. Some manufacturers offer extra straps too.
If nothing can keep your brace from slipping, maybe it’s not the right style for you. Consider buying a different one that adapts to your needs. Talk to your doctor or physical therapist to determine which brace will be best for you!
- Esrafilian, Amir et al. “Design and evaluation of a new type of knee orthosis to align the mediolateral angle of the knee joint with osteoarthritis.” Advances in orthopedics vol. 2012 (2012): 104927. doi:10.1155/2012/104927
- Paluska, S A, and D B McKeag. “Knee brace: current evidence and clinical recommendations for their use.” American family physician vol. 61,2 (2000): 411-8, 423-4
- Kalra, Mayank et al. “The effect of unloader knee brace on medial meniscal strain.” Prosthetics and orthotics international vol. 43,2 (2019): 132-139. doi:10.1177/0309364618798173
- De Vries, A et al. “Effect of patellar strap and sports tape on pain in patellar tendinopathy: A randomized controlled trial.” Scandinavian journal of medicine & science in sports vol. 26,10 (2016): 1217-24. doi:10.1111/sms.12556