Maybe you have mild swelling after working out. Or you’re in an emergency and need some kind of knee support. Can you DIY a knee brace? If so, how to make a knee brace at home?
Well, yes! You can make a homemade knee brace. It’s fairly simple and cheap.
Keep in mind it won’t provide the same benefits as prefabricated knee braces, but it will get you out of trouble.
It can also help if you have a mild knee injury and your joint isn’t at risk of further damage.
Today, you’ll learn several ways to make your own knee brace. Below, we’ll cover:
- DIY knee brace with a sock
- DIY patellar strap
- DIY with elastic bandage
- Can a DIY knee brace help you?
- Pros of DIY knee braces
- Cons of DIY knee braces
Click on any of the titles above to navigate easily throughout the article.
Let’s get started!
1) DIY compression braces with a sock
This is the cheapest option of all. The goal is to have something like a knee sleeve.
The elastic fabric of the sock will apply compression to your knee joint. This will increase the blood flow to the area and can give some knee pain relief.
What do you need?
- A pair of mid-calf or knee-high socks.
- A pair of scissors
- A magic marker or a pen.
- Cut the toes off.
- Put it on as if it was a sleeve. The heel of the sock can go on your kneecap to reduce the pressure in that area.
- Cut the heel off if you don’t want pressure on the patellar section at all. It will be like an open knee sleeve.
If the DIY sleeve goes too high on your leg, make it shorter. To do so, put it on and draw a line with the marker on the height you’d like to have.
Then, remove the DIY sleeve. Cut the top of the sock to the marked length and you’re ready to go!
How will this DIY knee brace help you?
You can wear this DIY sleeve as a quick fix for mild knee swelling after working out.
It can help you keep your store-bought knee brace in place as well.
Or, act as a buffer between your skin and the material of the brace if you’re allergic to it.
This DIY sleeve won’t last as long as a knee sleeve for obvious reasons. But it will get you out of trouble!
This can help: Top 12 list of the best sleeves we’ve tested so far.
2) DIY patellar straps
Patellar straps can help you relieve knee pain at the front of your joint while exercising.
They can also reduce the pressure on the kneecap if it bothers you while walking or climbing stairs, for example.
In this DIY knee support, the goal is to apply pressure on the patellar tendon. That’s the thick band that goes from below your kneecap to the top of your shinbone.
This reduces pressure on the kneecap. You’ll feel less knee pain in the area while keeping your full range of motion.
There are two cheap ways in which you can create a patellar strap – with athletic tape or kinesiotape.
You can buy them almost anywhere. Let’s see how to do a DIY kneecap strap with each one:
Step-by-step with athletic tape
First, sit in a chair. The injured knee will be in front of you, slightly bent. Take a magic marker or pen.
Relax your knee. Then, draw a horizontal line halfway through the bottom of your kneecap and the top of your shinbone.
Grab the athletic tape and:
- Take a length that covers a little more than the entire circumference of your leg. Use the horizontal line as a guide. Don’t cut the tape yet.
- Grab the top of the tape with one hand. Twist the roll of tape with the other.
- Twist as much as you can. You’ll end up with a tight cord of tape.
- Align the cord with the horizontal line below your kneecap. Stick the beginning of the tape on the side of your knee.
- Loop the roll of tape tight around your leg using the horizontal line as a guide. You should feel compression but not knee pain. If so, loose the wrap a little.
- When you unroll more tape, it should be flat. The sticky side should be facing your skin.
- Wrap the flattened tape twice around your knee joint, keeping the tightness. Use the cord as a reference – it should be in the middle of the tape.
- It should be tight, mostly on the area below the kneecap. But, not so much that it cuts off your circulation.
- Finally, cut the tape. Check if you’re feeling any numbness or tingling down the leg. If so, remove the tape and repeat the process with less compression.
Step-by-step with kinesiotape
Kinesiotape (KT) can last a few days longer than athletic tape. You can buy it precut or not – that’s a personal preference.
Keep in mind that some people are allergic to it. If you’re not sure, cut a small piece of KT and put it on your skin. If you don’t feel itch or redness after a while, you’re good to go.
Don’t rip it off if/when you need to remove it. It can hurt your skin. Rub the borders with soap or oil and remove it carefully.
One last thing.
So far, the evidence around KT is inconclusive. Some people feel better after wearing it, others don’t. It’s worth a try if you want to wear it during a particular activity, like playing sports.
This is true not only for KT. Braces, tapes, and garments are aids. They’re not the main strategy of recovery.
A good physical therapy program, stress management, and proper sleep and nutrition are the best treatments for any injury.
Now that that’s out of the way, here’s the step-by-step to create a patellar strap with KT:
Prepare for the application:
- Clean the front of your knee, from the top of the shinbone to the top of the kneecap. Rub some alcohol if possible to remove any cream, oil, or sweat.
- Sit in a chair with the injured knee bent ~90 degrees in front of you.
- If your tape is precut, take 3 strips and move on to the next section.
- If your tape isn’t precut, do the following. Unroll the tape and measure the distance between the top of your shinbone to the top of your kneecap, surrounding the patella.
- Cut three stripes with that measure and round the corners.
Put on the KT:
Keep your knee bent ~90 degrees during the process.
- Tear the tape off on the first square.
- Stick it on the top of your shinbone without any stretch.
- Pull the remaining backing tape free until the last square.
- Stretch it ~50% of its capacity and, keeping that stretch, stick the tape around the kneecap. Go upwards, above the top of the kneecap.
- Stick the last square without any stretch.
- Repeat the same process on the other side of the kneecap.
- Take the last strip and tear it in the middle. Fold the backing tape on itself to expose the middle of the KT.
- Stretch it ~75-100% of its capacity and stick it below the kneecap. Stick the last bit on each side without any stretch.
- Use the backing tape to rub all the KT on your skin. This will help the adhesive stick better and last longer.
How will these DIY knee braces help you?
Both techniques will provide compression to the patellar tendon in different forms. This, in turn, can manage anterior knee pain while playing sports or climbing stairs, for example.
Some research shows that both the athletic tape and KT can provide the same benefits as patellar straps (1):
- Less knee pain during sports and in the short term.
- A sense of support and stability.
Related: Best knee straps to ease your knee pain
3) DIY knee brace with an elastic bandage
Elastic bandages are cheap and reusable. You can buy one in any drug store. Some have velcro, others use metal clips to lock the bandage.
Using an elastic bandage can provide similar results to a knee sleeve. There are two methods you can try, depending on your goal:
Spiral wrapping technique to manage inflammation and knee pain
This method can help reduce the swelling on your knee. The spiral wrapping will assist the blood flow, sort of “pushing” the inflammatory liquid towards your heart.
This makes it easier for your body to reduce swelling. That’s why this method can help reduce pain in a fresh injury as well.
You can also use it to secure a cold pack on your knee. The combination of compression and ice reduces knee pain and swelling even more.
To apply a spiral wrapping:
- Sit near the edge of your seat, with the injured knee in front of you.
- Bend the knee about 20° or 30°.
- Wrap the bandage twice, 4-5 inches below your kneecap. With little to no tension. This will be your starting point.
- Stretch the bandage 20-40% of its capacity and wrap it at an upward angle.
- The top layer should cover half of the bottom layer in each wrap. Remember to keep the stretch in each loop.
- Secure the wrap with the metal clip or velcro.
Try this: Best knee braces for reducing swelling
Figure-8 technique to increase stability
This technique adds more stability to the knee compared to the spiral wrap. It will also help reduce swelling in the joint.
To apply a figure-8 knee wrapping:
- Sit near the edge of your seat.
- The injured knee joint will be in front of you, bent about 20° or 30°.
- The starting point will be the same as the spiral wrap. 4-5 inches below your kneecap with little to no tension. Wrap the bandage twice around that area.
- Stretch the bandage 20-40% of its capacity and wrap it at an upward angle.
- Then, angle the wrap downward. You’ll end up crossing the previous wrap, in a figure-8 fashion.
- Again, angle the bandage upward. Cover the top half of the previous upward wrap.
- Then, angle it downward. Cover the top half of the previous downward wrap as well.
- Repeat this pattern until you reach the end of the elastic bandage. Secure it with velcro or the metal clip.
- If the bandage doesn’t have velcro or a metal clip, secure it with a strip of athletic tape.
How will these DIY knee braces help you?
Both techniques are great for mild knee injuries. They can keep your joint supported and reduce knee pain.
I’d recommend the spiral wrap for swelling and the figure-8 for mild ligament injuries. It’s best to buy a hinged knee brace if you have a moderate or severe injury, though.
Because yes, DIY knee braces can get you out of trouble. But, some people may need something more robust to protect their knees.
How do I know if a DIY knee brace will help me?
There are several types of knee braces. Each one supports the knee in different ways.
Yes, you can substitute some of them with DIY versions depending on your symptoms. But, it’s best to buy them if your injury is moderate or severe.
When to substitute knee sleeves with DIY versions?
Most knee sleeves are made with neoprene. This is a stretchy material that retains heat and compresses the knee joint.
You’ll probably be good to go with a DIY version – like the sock or the elastic bandage – if your injury is mild. For example:
- You have a bit of swelling after working out.
- You did too much physical activity for what you’re used to.
- Your pain levels are low.
But a prefabricated sleeve will be best for a severe injury. Like a ligament or meniscus tear.
This is because the compression will be the same throughout the joint. It will also protect the joint better than a sock or a bandage.
Also, buying a sleeve may be a better option for people that need to wear sleeves daily. Like arthritis patients or people with unstable knees.
What about a DIY hinged brace?
You shouldn’t make a hinged knee brace on your own. Unless you’re an orthotist, of course.
Orthotists specialize in creating knee braces from scratch. They know how to measure your body properly and the best materials for your individual needs.
You need expertise and knowledge of the human body to craft a hinged brace. That’s why you probably won’t find a DIY version of this type of knee support.
This will help: The finest hinged braces we’ve tested
Benefits of a DIY knee brace
Most of us have unused socks at home. And if you want to get crafty, tapes or elastic bands are very cheap. DIY knee braces offer a big bang for your buck.
Easy to customize
If you’re doing a knee sleeve with a sock, you can decide how long or short you want it. Or whether to open a kneecap hole or not.
With tapes and bandages, you can also control the amount of compression. This is particularly helpful while you’re recovering from a mild injury.
Also, some days you may have more swelling, others less. You can easily adapt to those changes with bandages or tapes.
A mild injury may not need an expensive knee brace
You may not need a knee brace if your injury is mild. Or if you have some swelling after a particularly active day. Like when you move to a new place or walk more than you’re used to during vacation.
In these scenarios, any of the 3 DIY options above can help. You may not need to buy an expensive knee brace or sleeve for one-time-only activities.
But a DIY knee brace has some limitations and risks
It won’t help in moderate or severe injuries
DIY braces won’t provide the protection and stability your knee needs after certain injuries. Like a moderate or severe ACL tear, or after knee surgery.
Prefabricated hinged braces or sleeves are best for that. They protect your knee, compress it, and keep it stable. This enhances the recovery process. (2, 3)
For example, your doctor may recommend wearing a hinged brace after an ACL repair. The bulkiness of this type of brace will protect the knee better than any DIY brace can.
Related: Best braces for an ACL tear.
It won’t be as effective as off-the-shelf braces
Braces bought over-the-counter can provide 20 to 30% more protection. (4)
This means you don’t need an expensive customized brace to protect your knee. Buying a prefabricated brace is better than a DIY brace for these people (2, 3):
- Athletes with a history of ligament injuries. Braces can help prevent further damage.
- People with chronic conditions like arthritis or wear and tear of the knees.
- During the initial recovery from a moderate or severe knee injury.
Further reading: Top 10 over-the-counter knee braces.
It can make your injury worse if you’re not careful
DIY knee supports won’t protect your knee as much as prefabricated braces.
Wearing a homemade knee brace when you need more protection can be risky. It can worsen your injury, increase pain and swelling, and prolong your recovery process.
You also need to be aware of how you feel while wearing the DIY brace.
These are signs that you must remove the DIY brace immediately:
Tingling or numbness below the area of the brace.
This means the brace is reducing the blood supply below the area. Or constricting nerves.
Working out feeling tingling or numbness in the area increases your risk of injury. You can also cause other injuries. Like nerve issues, circulation problems, or skin lesions.
In this case, remove the brace immediately. Your leg should feel normal a few minutes after.
Increased pain and/or swelling.
Excessive compression or lack thereof can worsen your symptoms. Putting the homemade brace wrong can also do that.
You have to pay attention to how you put the DIY brace, the level of compression, and the technique. More so if you don’t have medical training.
A physical therapist can provide professional medical advice about it. They can teach you how to put on taping or a bandage to aid your symptoms.
We can help you find a physical therapist in your area in case you need one.
Redness in and/or around the area of the brace.
This is a sign that you’re having an allergic reaction. Or that the brace is way too tight. In both cases, you should remove the DIY brace immediately.
If the redness is due to an allergic reaction, clean the area with mild soap. Then, let the skin breathe and try another DIY technique.
If it’s due to excessive compression, walk a little to help the blood flow get back to normal. Then, try the DIY method again with less tension.
How to make a knee support at home?
You can make one with a sock, athletic tape, kinesiotape, or an elastic bandage. Follow the instructions above to do it safely.
Do knee support bandages work?
Yes, for mild injuries. They are also great for securing an ice pack on your knee.
They’re not the best for moderate or severe injuries, though. You may need something sturdier for that, like a hinged knee brace. It will protect your knee joint better during recovery.
Does wrapping your knee help with pain?
Yes, if it’s not too tight or too loose.
The compression provides additional stability and helps reduce swelling. This combination can help with the pain.
Conclusion: How to make a homemade knee brace?
Now you know how to make a knee brace at home!
Yes, the effectiveness of these DIY options can’t compare to prefabricated knee braces. But, most mild injuries don’t need expensive braces to get better.
You’ll probably be fine with one of the homemade knee brace options above.
And remember that braces are one little part of the treatment. Don’t rely on them for your recovery.
- De Vries, A et al. “Effect of patellar strap and sports tape on knee 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
- Paluska, S A, and D B Mc Keag. “Knee braces: current evidence and clinical recommendations for their use.” American family physician vol. 61, 2 (2000): 411-8, 423-4
- Chuang, Shih-Hung et al. “Effect of knee sleeve on static and dynamic balance in patients with knee osteoarthritis.” The Kaohsiung journal of medical sciences vol. 23, 8 (2007): 405-11. doi: 10.1016/S0257-5655(07)70004-4
- Mortaza, Niyousha et al. “The effects of a prophylactic knee brace and two neoprene knee sleeves on the performance of healthy athletes: a cross-over randomized controlled trial.” PloS one vol. 7, 11 (2012): e 5 0110. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0050110