Studies say that off-the-shelf knee sleeves provide 20-30% extra protection to the knee.(1) However, their effects are also dependent on you wearing the right size. So, let’s talk about how to measure knee sleeves and why they matter.
- If it’s too small, it will affect your performance and even cause some serious health issues on your legs.
- If it’s too loose, it won’t provide the stability, support, and compression you’re looking for.
That being said, a properly fitted sleeve will have tons of other benefits for athletes, people with knee pathologies, and the general population. So, how do you measure knee sleeves in the first place?
3 steps for measuring your knee sleeve
Before measuring, make sure you:
- Wear shorts instead of pants to get an accurate measure of your knee size.
- Have a flexible tape measure.
- Keep at hand the size chart of the knee sleeve you’re planning to buy.
Step 1: Kneecap
Extend your knee and relax your leg muscles. Then, measure the circumference around the center of your kneecap.
Step 2: Calves
Bend your knee around 30° and measure the circumference of the widest part of the calves.
This is mostly around 10 cm (4 in) below the middle of the kneecap.
Step 3: Select the size
If you’ve already had a brand in mind, refer to their size chart.
Take a look at the knee sleeve chart and select your size.
If you don’t have a size chart with you, below is a generic version you could use. However, bear in mind that different brands represent different sizes.
For example, a size S of a pair of Rehband knee sleeves is 3 cm bigger than an SBD sleeve of the same size category. So, double-check before buying.
Generic size chart
- XXS: 29-31 cm / 11.4-12.2 in
- XS: 31-33 cm / 12.2-13 in
- S: 33-35 cm / 13-13.8 in
- M: 35-37 cm / 13.8-14.6 in
- L: 37-40 cm / 14.6-15.7 in
- XL: 40-43 cm / 15.7-16.9 in
- XXL: 43-46 cm / 17-18.1 in
To make sure you have the proper knee sleeve size:
- Adjust one size up if your calves have +4 cm (1.6 in) more than the knee joint.
- Adjust one size down for a tighter fit, as sleeves loosen up with time.
- If you’re between sizes, select one size down.
Importance of taking proper measurements
Knee sleeves are designed to compress and provide knee stability.
This can be a blessing with the right size, and a curse with the wrong one.
If it’s too loose, the sleeve won’t compress or support your knee and you will miss all the benefits:
- It won’t help you reduce your pain or swelling.
- It won’t reduce your risk of injury.
- It won’t support or stabilize the knee.
If it’s too tight, it can restrict your range of motion, affecting your workout. In the worst-case scenario:
- It will be painful to wear.
- It could cause tingling, numbing, and other symptoms down your knee.
Related topic: How Tight A Compression Sleeve Should Be
What to look for in a knee sleeve?
First, be clear on why you want a knee sleeve. Your purpose will also determine the best characteristics to look for.
- A 5mm neoprene sleeve without padding is better for reducing pain and swelling after working out
- A sleeve with padding at the front is ideal for protecting your knee during contact sports
- A thicker sleeve (usually 7mm) can help support your knee during lifts at the gym
Other things to consider before buying include:
- Material: Most of them are made with neoprene, but others have a blend of nylon, spandex, and latex.
- Padding: It offers extra protection to the knee during intense activities.
- Kneecap hole: This helps relieve tension/pressure on the patellar tendon or on your kneecap.
- Rigidity: Thicker sleeves (7mm) tend to limit mobility; thinner sleeves (5mm) usually don’t.
- Lateral braces: Bars along the side help minimize sprains and tears because they prevent the knee from caving in and out.
Should I buy online or in-store?
Due to the global pandemic, it’s best to buy online. It’s safer for everybody.
But, in-store purchases may be better for your first pair because you can try different sizes, brands, and materials.
Purchasing your first knee sleeves online can work, too. Just make sure the website offers returns in case what you get isn’t the right fit.
Is it OK to wear a knee compression sleeve all day?
Yes, it’s okay to wear knee sleeves all day but only if they’re the right size. Make sure to take them off before you sleep.
Remove it immediately and check with your physician if you feel any of the following:
- Your feet/calves are numb or tingling
- Your feet/calves are colder or warmer than usual
- Impaired sensation below the knee sleeve
- Pain on your feet/calves that increases while wearing the sleeve
What’s the difference between knee sleeves, wraps, and braces?
- Knee sleeves are for athletes of almost any sport, gym-goers, and the general public. They give constant compression which keeps your joints warm, improves circulation, reduces pain, and helps prevent injuries.
- Knee wraps are typically for powerlifters, bodybuilders, and similar disciplines. Their elasticity may help lifters exercise with more weight.
- Knee braces are for already injured knees or those that are healing from injury and/or surgery. Their rigidity helps prevent excessive movement which then prevents injuries from getting worse.
Conclusion: How to measure knee sleeves
Whether you’re a fitness fanatic or not, a properly sized knee sleeve can be your best asset.
To measure what’s right for you:
- Extend your knee and measure the circumference around the kneecap.
- Then, bend it 30° and measure around the widest point of your calves.
- Refer to the size chart of your preferred brand.
In case of doubt, choose one size less or go to the store and try them on.
Be clear on why you want them to choose the best material and design for you!
- Mortaza, Niyousha, et al. “The Effects of a Prophylactic Knee Brace and Two Neoprene Knee Sleeves on the Performance of Healthy Athletes: A Crossover Randomized Controlled Trial.” PLoS ONE, edited by Alejandro Lucia, vol. 7, no. 11, 2012, p. e50110. Crossref, doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0050110.
- Size chart of SBD knee sleeves. Retrieved on April 13, 2021 from https://sbdapparel.s3.eu-west-2.amazonaws.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/08/27220802/KneeSize.png
- Size chart of Rehband knee sleeves. Retrieved on April 13, 2021 from https://cdn02.plentymarkets.com/t0uqnrskoniu/frontend/rehband/size_guide/knee_sleeve-Rehband_size_guide.png