Knee sleeves are supportive pieces of strength equipment that come with a variety of options. Like most pieces of supportive equipment, their use comes with a time and place, so it’s not a bad idea to keep yourself equipped with a pair for times you need them most. Strength athletes typically reach for knee sleeves for joint protection, warmth, and stability.

A sleeve’s benefits will be dependent on your strength sport, preferences, and knee sleeve wants/needs. We’ve been on a mission to find the best knee sleeve for powerlifting, weightlifting, CrossFit®-style workouts, knee warmth, and even heavy squats. Below are our current favorites.

Keep in mind, this list was built off of our judging criteria for each knee sleeve, and you may find that a different fit from our top choices works better for you. At the end of the day, our goal is to connect you with the best sleeves for your lifting preferences, or at least make a knee sleeve’s presence known to you if you had never seen them.

Best Knee Sleeves

To learn more, keep reading for in-depth information about each product category and WHY each has earned their picks at the top of our lists.

Best Knee Sleeves

If you’re wearing knee sleeves, it’s likely you’re squatting. The best knee sleeves for squats need to be supportive, comfortable, and durable, as they’re going to be solely used for protecting the knee joint during heavy sessions.

SBD’s 7mm neoprene provides stability and tends to fit well on a variety of lifters. One of the main reasons SBD is one of our top picks was how you can wear this sleeve in IPF competitions.

This makes them great because you can train and compete in them, so you can build confidence in heavy squats with this sleeve in both training and competition. On top of that, this sleeve is durable and supports performance in both the high-bar and low-bar squat.

SBD Knee Sleeves
SBD Knee Sleeves
SBD Knee Sleeves

These knee sleeves are both IWF and IPF approved and offer a supportive 7mm neoprene construction.

Who Should Buy SBD Knee Sleeves

  • Any lifter that wants additional knee support for heavier training sessions and squats.
  • Athletes that want a pair of knee sleeves that are reinforced and durable to stand the test of time.
  • Lifters that compete or might want to eventually compete in strength sports.

Who Shouldn’t Buy SBD Knee Sleeves

  • The beginner who hasn’t worn knee sleeves once in their life, or has a solid reason for doing so.
  • Lifters that want to be conscious about how much they’re spending on gear.

With a thick 7mm neoprene and reinforced stitching, the SBD Knee Sleeves are one of the best options on the market for supporting heavy squat sessions as well as accessory movements.

Best CrossFit Knee Sleeves

This knee sleeve category entails the best option for functional fitness and dynamic workouts. These are workouts that have strength, power, and cardiovascular asks all in one.

The Bear Komplex knee sleeves have a little bit of every feature you’d want in a versatile sleeve, which we thought was fitting for functional fitness workouts (a little bit of everything). First, these sleeves are composed of a rigid 7mm neoprene but didn’t limit mobility too much.

They were able to provide a little pop out of a squat, but not hinder Olympic lifting performance. Also, we like the four-panel design. If you want a versatile sleeve that’s a little on the thicker slide, then Bear Komplex would be a good option for you.

Bear Komplex 7mm Knee Sleeves
Bear Komplex 7mm Knee Sleeves
Bear Komplex 7mm Knee Sleeves

Four panel constructed knee sleeve that offers a durable and supportive 7mm neoprene.

Who Should Buy Bear Komplex Knee Sleeves

  • The functional fitness athlete that needs a sleeve that can support every type of activity while not limiting functionality.
  • Lifters that want a thicker sleeve and primarily wear their knee sleeves exclusively for heavy lifting.
  • The athlete that likes their sleeves to fit snuggly, but not suffocate the knee joints.

Who Shouldn’t Buy Bear Komplex Knee Sleeves

  • Recreational athletes that never really dabble with heavy or intense training.
  • Lifters and athletes that only want sleeves for a light level of support and warmth.

With a four-panel design and thicker 7mm neoprene, these sleeves are a great option for functional fitness athletes.

Best Weightlifting Knee Sleeves

The best knee sleeves for weightlifting need to provide support and also not limit mobility in exercises like the snatch, clean & jerk, and squat.

The Rehband 7mm Knee Sleeves are a good option for weightlifters for three reasons. First, they’re rigid, but not mobility limiting. This is key for weightlifting because you want to support without compromising mobility.

Second, they form to fit the knee really well. We never experienced air pockets in them or bunching. Lastly, they’re comfortable to wear for long workouts, which is common in weightlifting sessions.

Rehband 7mm Knee Sleeves
Rehband 7mm Knee Sleeves
Rehband 7mm Knee Sleeves

A 7mm knee sleeves that offers support and mobility for weightlifting. These sleeves are IWF approved.

Who Should Buy Rehband Knee Sleeves

  • Weightlifters who are looking to compete or train weightlifting with some level of seriousness.
  • Athletes that want a supportive knee sleeve that also doesn’t hinder mobility or range of motion.
  • Lifters that want a pair of knee sleeves to last with reinforced stitching and a quality build.

Who Shouldn’t Buy Rehband Knee Sleeves

  • The beginner lifter that doesn’t have a specific need for knee sleeves yet in their career.
  • Budget-conscious lifters that want to save money with a cost-efficient pair of knee sleeves.

For the avid weightlifter, it’s really tough to beat the IWF approved Rehband Knee Sleeves. They’ve been worn for years by top weightlifting athletes and that’s not by chance.

Best Knee Sleeves for Warmth

Great knee sleeves for joint warmth will be lightweight in nature and can be worn for long durations of time without discomfort impeding on their functionality.

The MAVA knee sleeves are composed of nylon and spandex and provide very minimal support in heavy strength movements. The reason they made our number one pick was not for their support, but for their ability to specifically keep the joint warm.

If you’re looking for a sleeve that can be worn in virtually every exercise for joint warmth, then these are a good option for you. In addition, these sleeves are friendly on the bank and start at $19.95.

Mava Sports Elastic Knee Supports
Mava Sports Elastic Knee Supports
Mava Sports Elastic Knee Supports

A lightweight knee sleeve that is designed to be both versatile and somewhat supportive while keeping the knee warm.

Who Should Buy Mava Knee Supports

  • Athletes that want a lightweight sleeve that can be worn for daily activities or during long-duration workouts.
  • Lifters that only want a sleeve for very light support that can breathe decently well.
  • Cardiovascular focused athletes that need support during workouts.

Who Shouldn’t Buy Mava Knee Supports

  • Athletes that plan to lift heavy and want adequate knee support in doing so.
  • Lifters that require a sleeve for specific exercises with support.

The Mava Knee Supports are awesome for the individual that wants to increase the proprioception that surrounds the knee to facilitate support in everyday activities.

Best Powerlifting Knee Sleeves

The best knee sleeves for powerlifting need to provide a lot of support in heavy squats, and also have to follow federation guidelines in order to be useful for competitive athletes.

The SBD Knee Sleeve is used by a lot of powerlifters due to their stability, fit, and durability. They utilize a high-grade 7mm neoprene, which provides you with ample stability in the squat.

In addition, they have reinforced stitching, so we never saw issues with durability. That’s a key factor for powerlifters who need a sleeve to remain rigid and stiff. Possibly the best part of this sleeve is that they’re IPF approved, so you can wear them in competition without issue.

SBD Knee Sleeves
SBD Knee Sleeves
SBD Knee Sleeves

These knee sleeves are both IWF and IPF approved and offer a supportive 7mm neoprene construction.

Who Should Buy SBD Knee Sleeves

  • Lifters that compete in the IPF, USPA, USAPL, and many more large federations (always check rules).
  • The lifter that wants their money to go the distance and cares about durability.
  • Athletes that are considering competing in the future and want sleeves to wear in training and competition.

Who Shouldn’t Buy SBD Knee Sleeves

  • The beginner who has not yet began their strength training journey with a serious mindset.
  • Lifters that want to be conscious about how much they’re spending on gear.

Being approved by multiple major powerlifting federations, the SBD Knee Sleeves are an awesome pick for the dedicated and serious powerlifter.

How We Decide What’s Best

Throughout our best knee sleeve search, we looked at multiple aspects that make up a great sleeve. First, we look at the knee sleeve’s stability and material. Secondly, we look for the mobility or rigidness of the sleeve during a variety of movements.

Third, we assess the sleeve’s ability to keep our joints warm during a workout. Lastly, we assess the construction and durability, or actual design of the sleeve and how it will function for certain athletes.

What to Look for In a Knee Sleeve

Knee Sleeve Construction

Knee Sleeve Stability and Material

A knee sleeve’s material will often influence how stable a sleeve is under the bar. The most common material used in knee sleeves is neoprene, which is composed of a family of synthetic rubbers. This material is used for a variety of applications but has gained its popularity in lifting due to its ability to remain flexible and stable over time.

The thickness of neoprene will also add to a sleeve’s stability. Common neoprene thicknesses range from 3-7mm, and the most common thicknesses used by strength athletes are 5mm and 7mm. Other materials used in addition to neoprene are nylon, spandex, and various cotton blends. The mixture of these materials with neoprene is what gives sleeves their soft flexible nature.

Nylon and spandex are often used in lighter sleeves and tend to be more form-fitting to the joint. These materials stretch very well and allow a sleeve to hug the knee tightly without slippage. Cotton is also a common material you’ll find in a sleeve and give them their soft texture on the skin. With our stability assessments, we analyzed a sleeve’s actual make and the activity it was being applied to.

Knee sleeves for weightlifting

Mobility and Rigidity

This assessment shadows the above point and often comes down to a sleeve’s thickness. A thicker sleeve will often limit mobility, and provide more support throughout movements. Conversely, thinner sleeves will work best with mobility focused athletes like Olympic lifters and functional fitness athletes. Material plays a role in this assessment, but so does the actual knee sleeve design.

For this assessment, we analyze how a sleeve follows the joint in different movements. A more mobile sleeve won’t hinder performance due to mobility issues. On the flip side, when we analyzed a sleeve’s rigidity we looked for support in bottom lifting positions. For example, the pop coming out of the hole on a squat.

Joint Warmth

Before sleeves became popular for recreational lifting purposes, they were often used solely for joint warmth. In fact, some athletes use sleeves without even realizing that one of their main purposes is to keep the knee warm. Material, strength sport, and fit will all play a role in this factor, as the level of compression will also influence some of the joint’s warmth under a sleeve.

In our warmth assessments we look at multiple factors that influence a sleeve’s ability to keep the joint warm. For example, we took into consideration how the sleeve fit and what type of material it was made of. The main factor we looked for was plain and simple, which was, how the actual sleeve worked to keep the joint warm.

Construction and Durability

A lot of athletes don’t realize how many knee sleeve designs there are, so we tried to identify as many as we could. For example, some examples of different sleeve designs include: four-panel, tapered, and cylinder. These different forms of construction will influence almost every other factor that will cater a sleeve’s perfect fit to you.

Four panel knee sleeve construction and their benefits

The most common sleeve design is a tapered fit, which is your standard fitting sleeve. This sleeve is versatile and will work for multiple athletes in a variety of sports, an example of this would be the Rehband 7mm Knee Sleeve. The cylinder-esque design is most commonly used in more rigid sleeves like SBD and Slingshot STrong sleeves. The four-panel design is the least common of the three and has multiple pieces of material sewn together into one sleeve. Bear Komplex sleeves utilize this design.

Different sleeve constructions will come with different rates of durability. For example, some sleeves have reinforced stitching, which can range from hooked stitching to quadruple stitching. In addition to a sleeve’s stitching style, the placing of stitching also matters for durability. You don’t want the stitching to be in a place that is making constant contact with knurling, as this will cause them to fray quicker.

Another method to predict a sleeve’s durability is to look at its edges. Most sleeves have hemmed or enclosed edges that will prevent them from ripping or fraying prematurely. Also, the tighter a sleeve’s edges are cared for, then the less chance you have of them stretching out over time.

Possibly the biggest factor of a sleeve’s durability is the material used. A good sleeve will utilize a high-grade neoprene, spandex, nylon, or blend mixture that doesn’t stretch out quickly under constant load.

Before Buying Consider

There are multiple reasons an athlete can utilize a knee sleeve. Below are a few examples of when different specific strength athletes will reach for a sleeve. Also, we’ve created our own knee sleeve that aims to match the criteria we assessed all of the knee sleeves in below and more on that below.

Why Athletes Use Knee Sleeves

  1. Powerlifters will typically use a sleeve to support their knee’s stability in squats/leg training. Often times a stiffer, more rigid sleeve will be this athlete’s go-to, since they’re training with heavier loads frequently. Sleeves can help an athlete build confidence in their heavy movements, and provide the knee with added compression. In addition, there are a few sleeves that are approved for competition, so they’ll offer stability and joint warmth over extended rest periods.
  2. Weightlifters will utilize a sleeve for light joint support and warmth. These athletes will need a sleeve that’s mobile and follows the joint without inhibiting mobility. Since this athlete is often catching weight in the bottom of a squat, a sleeve can’t limit their ability to achieve depth, so thicker, more rigid options are usually not ideal. Also, this athlete will be taking longer rest periods, so a lighter sleeve can be useful remaining comfortable and maintaining joint warmth in-between sets.
  3. CrossFit, functional, and recreational athletes will utilize a sleeve that fits their specific needs best. This athlete performs a variety of movements throughout one workout, so a sleeve that’s versatile is often their best fit. Support, mobility, and design will all play a role in how the sleeve impacts their performance. For example, someone doing CrossFit, or possibly more cardio based movements, may reach for a lighter sleeve so they don’t feel confined/limited by a stiffer neoprene sleeve.

Wrapping Up

There are multiple models of knee sleeves in the supportive strength market. This list may seem daunting at first, but when you consider your sport and needs, then it can become increasingly easier to make your sleeve selection. Also, it’s important to keep in mind that sleeves are great additions to training, but not the end all be all for knee joint health.

If you’re having trouble making a decision on the right knee sleeve for you, then I’d recommend asking yourself three questions. First, what do you need the sleeve for most (sport, health, etc)? Second, how much stability do you want from a sleeve, and do you compete? Third, what sleeve fits comfortably into your budget? These three questions are great to ask yourself when beginning to make your final sleeve decision.

Knee Sleeve FAQs

Are knee sleeves worth it?

Yes and no. The answer really depends on your goals, training style, and overall needs. Since knee sleeves vary so greatly in construction, then they can be used for benefit in a variety of settings.

If you want a sleeve for a lightly level of support, warmth, and mental reinsurance, then they can certainly be worth it. On the other hand, if you’re brand new to training and are just familiarizing yourself with squats and other exercises, then you may want to wait on investing in knee sleeves until you have a more direct goal in mind.

What makes a quality knee sleeve?

A high quality knee sleeve is the combination of multiple attributes. For starters, great construction is the first sign of a quality knee sleeves. Ideally, you want a sleeve with neoprene that is void of excess stretching and you want reinforced stitching to prolong durability. Another sign of quality knee sleeves are a warranty, as this shows a company’s confidence in their product.

What are the benefits of knee sleeves?

Knee sleeves offer multiple benefits for fitness enthusiasts and strength athletes. Their main benefit is providing a light level of support around the knee joint.

Another major benefit is that they provide warmth to the knee joint, which is beneficial for athletes working out in colder settings or want help warming-up. Lastly, they can be a tool for providing mental reassurance under heavy loads.