Best Knee Sleeves For Squats, Powerlifting, CrossFit and More

Our top picks for knee sleeves cover the best options for joint warmth, compression, and functional fitness training.

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Knee sleeves are an important piece of gear in every gymgoer’s equipment bag. They can help to provide joint protection, warmth, and stability. They can even help to inspire confidence when you know you have the right ones on, which is why we have compiled a list of what we think are the best knee sleeves on the market. 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. 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 sleeves for powerlifting, weightlifting, CrossFit®-style workouts, knee warmth, and even heavy squats. Below are our current favorites. Keep in mind that 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. Overall, our goal is to connect you with the best sleeves for your lifting preferences, or at least to make knee sleeves’ presence known to you if you’ve never seen them before.

Best Knee Sleeves

Editor’s note: The content on BarBend is meant to be informative in nature, but it should not be taken as medical advice. The opinions and articles on this site are not intended for use as diagnosis, prevention, and/or treatment of health problems. We are doing our best to keep this article updated based on what’s currently in stock at various manufacturers.

Best Knee Sleeves

When picking the best knee sleeves, there are a number of factors that go into it. The best sleeves have to serve their purpose, have great construction, be reliable and durable, and accommodate the widest variety of users. That is why we decided to select Gymreapers 7mm Knee Sleeves as our top pick here.

Gymreapers 7mm Knee Sleeves

Utility and longevity are the name of the game when naming something the best, and to be the best, a product has to check off all of the right boxes (and then some).

These knee sleeves from Gymreapers are the real deal. They are made from premium neoprene and designed to provide warmth and joint protection, as well as support throughout even the most grueling leg workouts. They are made with reinforced stitching, and can slip on easily with a full range of sizes to fit even you quadzillas out there.

Gymreapers 7mm Knee Sleeves
Gymreapers 7mm Knee Sleeves
Gymreapers 7mm Knee Sleeves

These neoprene knee sleeves come in three different color combinations, and with your purchase, you'll receive a free gym bag. They are constructed with reinforced stitching, and retain heat.

Who Should Buy Gymreapers 7mm Knee Sleeves

  • Athletes looking for a solid all-around knee sleeve with support, comfort, and durability built into the design. 
  • Trainees who have sensitive skin and appreciate a non-irritating material, such as neoprene.
  • Those looking for maximum support and compression spread evenly around the knee that can stand up to heavy loads.

Who Shouldn’t Buy Gymreapers 7mm Knee Sleeves

  • Those who would prefer a thinner knee sleeve primarily for warmth.
  • Athletes who would prefer a straight sleeve rather than a contoured sleeve.

The Gymreapers 7mm Knee Sleeves are designed with the strength athlete in mind, and if you are going to be moving heavy weights, then these are going to be your friend. They are versatile enough to support a traditional bodybuilding style workout or CrossFit WOD, and accommodate repeated efforts.

Best Knee Sleeves for Squats 

Knee sleeves and squats can go hand in hand. When looking for sleeves to support your knees during the squat they should be supportive, comfortable, and durable since they are supposed to be protecting the knees during heavy loads. These knee sleeves tick all those boxes.

Gymreapers 7mm Knee Sleeves

One big reason we picked Gymreapers 7mm Knee Sleeves as our top choice for squats is their ability to stand up to repeated heavy squat and leg sessions. These are great for both training and competition, so you only have to buy once. They can support those who train in both high-bar and low-bar squat. These sleeves are made of a durable neoprene, and are a great value as they are priced lower than similar competitors. Gymreapers even includes a free carry bag to neatly store the sleeves. Plus, they come in three attractive colors: black/white, black/red, and green/black to match your other Gymreapers gear. The company suggests sizing down one size for those that prefer a more snug, contoured fit. 

Gymreapers 7mm Knee Sleeves
Gymreapers 7mm Knee Sleeves
Gymreapers 7mm Knee Sleeves

These neoprene knee sleeves come in three different color combinations, and with your purchase, you'll receive a free gym bag. They are constructed with reinforced stitching, and retain heat.

Who Should Buy Gymreapers 7mm Knee Sleeves

  • Lifters who want maximum support for their heavy training and squat sessions.
  • Athletes who are looking for a pair of reinforced, high-quality, and durable sleeves able to take abuse for many years to come.
  • Lifters who compete in the USPA as they are approved for use in that Powerlifting Federation (though we recommend you always double-check the rules).

Who Shouldn’t Buy Gymreapers 7mm Knee Sleeves

  • Someone who wants less compression and is just looking for warmth.
  • A beginner who may not have the need for a serious knee sleeve yet.

These are great in terms of function, design, and durability, and if you are looking to get some serious squat sessions in, we are confident these can help.

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Best Weightlifting Knee Sleeves

The best knee sleeves for weightlifting need to provide support, but not limit mobility in exercises like the snatch, clean & jerk, and squat. The Exo Sleeve 7mm Knee Sleeves are a prime option for weightlifting enthusiasts. 

Exo 7mm Knee Sleeves

These sleeves are supportive, but not mobility limiting. This is key for weightlifting because you want to support without compromising mobility. They form to fit the knee really well with their durable 7mm anti-microbial neoprene. We never experienced air pockets, or bunching when we tried them. Plus, they’re comfortable to wear for long workouts — any Olympic lifter knows that sessions can sometimes run quite long, so you need a sleeve that will go the distance.

ExoSleeve 7mm Knee Sleeves
ExoSleeve 7mm Knee Sleeves
ExoSleeve 7mm Knee Sleeves

The Exo Sleeve 7mm Knee Sleeves are built to withstand all kinds of squatting. They’re the perfect thickness and come with the right compression to ensure you perform optimally under the bar.

Who Should Buy Exo Sleeve 7mm Knee Sleeves

  • Weightlifters who are looking to compete or train weightlifting with some level of seriousness will appreciate the high-quality make of these sleeves.
  • Athletes who want a supportive knee sleeve that also doesn’t hinder mobility or range of motion.
  • Lifters who want a pair of knee sleeves to last with reinforced stitching and a high quality build — these are made of 7mm antimicrobial neoprene. 

Who Shouldn’t Buy Exo Sleeve 7mm Knee Sleeves

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

For the avid weightlifter, it’s tough to beat Exo’s offering here. Although some weightlifters may prefer more minimal knee support, Exo’s lean 7mm sleeves bring the ideal amount of joint stabilization without significantly tampering flexibility at the knee itself. 

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Best CrossFit Knee Sleeves

CrossFit® and functional training are chock full of movements that are taxing on the knees and joints. That is why it is important to have gear — like this pick — that you can rely on to provide the much-needed support throughout even the hardest WODs.

Element 26 6mm Knee Sleeves

Since a lot of the movements require a substantial degree of flexibility at the knee and hip, the thicker knee sleeves can sometimes impair that mobility, and many athletes prefer knee sleeves with similar support and compression without the added bulk — that’s why we picked the Element 26 6mm Knee Sleeves as our top choice for CrossFit knee sleeves. 

These heavy-duty neoprene knee sleeves are designed with reinforced stitching and provide compression to the knee evenly all around to provide confidence that they can support you through even the toughest WODs. They do double-duty work as well since they are also great for support for your max effort attempts. Each sleeve is 10 inches long to ensure complete coverage of the knees and at 6mm, these sleeves offer slightly less bulk than traditional 7mm knee sleeves.

Element 26 6MM Knee Sleeves
Element 26 6MM Knee Sleeves
Element 26 6MM Knee Sleeves

These competition-approved, anatomically-contoured knee sleeves are made of 100 percent non-irritating neoprene material. They are six millimeters thick and provide compression alongside their reinforced stitching.

Who Should Buy Element 26 6mm Knee Sleeves

  • Athletes who focus primarily on functional fitness such as CrossFit training since they provide great support for workouts that can be tough on the knees.
  • People who want significant knee support when performing squat variations.
  • Those who want the support of a heavy-duty sleeve without the extra bulk.

Who Shouldn’t Buy Element 26 6mm Knee Sleeves

  • Folks who want knee sleeves that don’t provide as much compression will want to look elsewhere.
  • Those who prefer a thinner knee sleeve should opt for a different pick on this list. 

These sleeves are likely to provide added stability to the knee joint, which athletes who perform single-leg movements like pistol squats and lunges will appreciate. They come with a lifetime warranty and are priced lower than a lot of comparable sleeves which makes these a great value, in our opinion.

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Best Powerlifting Knee Sleeves

Competitive and recreational powerlifters alike know that a good pair of knee sleeves can separate a successful squat session from a bad one — we think these sleeves are great for heavy lifts.

Gymreapers 7mm Knee Sleeves

To perform well in the squat — and even the deadlift, if you prefer — you need a durable pair of sleeves that can handle heavy weights, on top of your own body weight. The Gymreapers 7mm Knee Sleeves can go the distance and then some. Not only are they constructed with reinforced stitching and high-quality neoprene to endure thousands of reps of squats, they’re also USPA compliant, making them a reliable choice for meet day. However, they aren’t the cheapest option on the market, so if you’re looking for a bargain, there are better picks for you on this list. 

Gymreapers 7mm Knee Sleeves
Gymreapers 7mm Knee Sleeves
Gymreapers 7mm Knee Sleeves

These neoprene knee sleeves come in three different color combinations, and with your purchase, you'll receive a free gym bag. They are constructed with reinforced stitching, and retain heat.

Who Should Gymreapers 7mm Knee Sleeves

  • Lifters who compete or practice the sport of powerlifting will appreciate the durability of these sleeves.
  • Gymgoers who want significant knee support when performing various types of squats.
  • Athletes who need sleeves that are approved by the USPA.

Who Shouldn’t Gymreapers 7mm Knee Sleeves

  • Lifters who don’t want any restriction in range of motion at the knee.
  • Buyers on a budget who want to get some workable knee compression for cheap. 

Gymreapers has done their homework in developing their entire line of products, and it shows through with these knee sleeves. They can work for powerlifting main lifts such as squat and deadlift, or provide support for the accessory movements, as well. They are even a solid choice for those who just like doing heavy barbell training

[Related: The Untold History of the Back Squat]

Best Knee Sleeves for Warmth

When you’re working out, keeping the joints warm is important to help prevent injury. There are lots of ways to accomplish joint warmth, but the most common is to throw on a pair of sleeves. The sleeves provide some compression and the neoprene material they’re commonly made from helps to keep the area warm. Exo’s 5mm Knee Sleeves provide warmth to the knee joint and surrounding area, with minimal compression-based support — which is their biggest advantage over other competitors on the market.

Exo Sleeve 5mm Knee Sleeves

These sleeves provide some stability to the knee, offering just enough feedback to stay stable during higher-rep sessions, similar to a light wrap. However, they aren’t so stiff that you could only use them for more explosive movements, like hang cleans or snatches. Exo’s 5mm knee sleeves come in a variety of six different designs, colors, and patterns, and are constructed with a soft material blend that is uniquely tailored to enhance comfort and warmth in the joint without inhibiting flexibility whatsoever. 

Exo Sleeve 5mm Knee Sleeves
Exo Sleeve 5mm Knee Sleeves
Exo Sleeve 5mm Knee Sleeves

These sleeves are supportive, but not mobility limiting — they form to fit the knee really well with their durable 5mm antimicrobial neoprene.

Who Should Buy Exo Sleeve 5mm Knee Sleeves

  • Lifters who are looking for added warmth around their knee joint will like this design.
  • Folks who want lightweight and flexible sleeves that allow for easy movement.
  • Anyone who is doing multiple, higher-rep squatting movements in a workout. The thinner design is less likely to cause discomfort over time.

Who Shouldn’t Buy Exo Sleeve 5mm Knee Sleeves

  • Athletes who want knee sleeves that provide significant stability will want to look elsewhere. 
  • People who would prefer having sleeves with more compression. These may not be the most optimal option for you. 
  • Anyone on a tight budget — there are cheaper options on this list.

If you need heavy knee support, you’ll want to opt for a thicker set of sleeves on this list, but when it comes to a light compression sleeve that can keep the knee warm, they are a solid pick. They even come in a few different pattern options —black, camo, lightning bolts, stars, and neon pink.

Best Knee Sleeves for the Money

Budget conscious shoppers are always looking to get the best product for their money, and we get that. Knee sleeves aren’t the most expensive piece of equipment, but saving some money here might mean you can spend it on something else — like a better belt or pair of lifting straps. We recommend the Element 26 6mm Knee Sleeves if you want the most bang for your buck.

Element 26 6mm Knee Sleeves

These are the Goldilocks of knee sleeves. They’re affordable and provide similar stability and compression to a 7mm sleeve, with the improved mobility of a 5mm sleeve. For those of you who are looking for a more stiffer sleeve, but don’t want to go with the thicker 7mm sleeves, the Element 26 6mm Knee Sleeves are our favorite pick — these are made of a durable neoprene with reinforced stitching.

They provide solid stability to the knee, offering just enough bounce to be noticeable but not mess up your groove. They’re versatile enough to support CrossFit, and come at a pretty reasonable price. However, if you’re looking for minimal compression and a less constrictive sleeve, despite the good deal, these sleeves may not be for you. 

Element 26 6MM Knee Sleeves
Element 26 6MM Knee Sleeves
Element 26 6MM Knee Sleeves

These competition-approved, anatomically-contoured knee sleeves are made of 100 percent non-irritating neoprene material. They are six millimeters thick and provide compression alongside their reinforced stitching.

Who Should Buy Element 26 6mm Knee Sleeves

  • Athletes who enjoy an array of different workouts such as CrossFit and Weightlifting, and want the versatility of these sleeves.
  • Trainees who are looking for a high-quality product at an affordable price.
  • Someone who likes the security of a lifetime warranty.

Who Shouldn’t Buy Element 26 6mm Knee Sleeves

  • People who would prefer having sleeves with less compression will want to select a thinner option from this list, like the 5mm sleeves.
  • Trainees who are just looking for warmth from their sleeves can find a better option. 

If you are looking for some warmth and not much compression or support, these are unlikely to be your best option. For those who like the durability to take abuse, and the slightly thinner design of these sleeves, they are an easy choice to pick up. 

Best Knee Sleeves for Mobility

For us, these are the sleeves we grab at the beginning of a training cycle when we are doing higher-rep workouts (and as competition gets closer, the reps get lower, and the weights get heavier, we opt for something with more support and compression).

Exo Sleeve 5mm Knee Sleeves

The Exo 5mm Knee sleeves are designed to provide warmth, and a little bit of support to the knee joint while not adding much of any compression-based support. Their design allows full mobility of the knee joint without the bunching behind the knee when it’s bent (which can arise from thicker knee sleeves). These will allow you to sit comfortably deep in a squat without any pinching or bunching while still giving the feeling that something is there for support. The Exo 5mm Sleeves come in five patterns or colors, and are made with a soft material blend to enhance comfort. 

Exo Sleeve Light Knee Sleeves
Exo Sleeve Light Knee Sleeves
Exo Sleeve Light Knee Sleeves

Exo Sleeve’s Light Knee Sleeves can keep your joints warm and insulated so you can focus on what matters — performing well in the gym. They're a solid option if you want light support. 

Who Should Buy Exo Sleeve 5mm Knee Sleeves

  • Lifters who are looking for added warmth without a thick design that gets in the way.
  • Folks who want lightweight and flexible sleeves that allow for easy movement.
  • Anyone who is doing workouts that require squatting a lot — thicker sleeves might cause discomfort over time. These are just right for that movement.

Who Shouldn’t Buy Exo Sleeve 5mm Knee Sleeves

  • Athletes who want knee sleeves that provide significant stability should opt for a thicker option. 
  • People who would prefer having sleeves with more compression can find a better option on this list. 

Some people don’t need or want compression from their sleeves — those are the lifters these sleeves are designed for. The act of adding a knee sleeve and the warmth it provides is enough for some people to inspire confidence and get them feeling right. We think the Exo Sleeve 5mm Knee Sleeves do just that.

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How We Decided Our Picks

Knee sleeves may look simple, but they’re not as straightforward as they seem. Throughout our best knee sleeve search, we looked at multiple aspects that make up a great sleeve. First, we considered the knee sleeve’s stability, thickness, and material. Neoprene and cotton are the most commonly used materials. Next, we looked for the mobility or rigidity of the sleeve during a variety of movements. After that, we assessed the sleeve’s ability to keep our joints warm during a workout. Finally, we looked at the construction and durability, or actual design of the sleeve, and how it may function for certain athletes.
Knee Sleeve Infographic
Other design features for consideration are the stitching placement and quality, as well as whether the edges are contoured or not. If you plan on competing, you’ll want to check if the sleeves are approved for competition by your chosen federation’s governing body. We expand on these considerations below.

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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 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 three to seven millimeters, and the most common thicknesses used by strength athletes are five millimeters and seven millimeters. Competitive Weightlifters can be seen using a variety of knee coverings from sleeves 3mm thick, knee wraps, and oftentimes 7mm thick sleeves. 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 another 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.

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Mobility and Rigidity

This measure has a lot to do with 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 bounce coming out of the hole on a squat.

[Related: How To Choose The Perfect Knee Sleeve]

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 primary functions 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 simple: how the actual sleeve worked to keep the joint warm.

Construction and Durability

There are a lot of ways that knee sleeves can be designed, so we tried to identify as many as we could. For example, 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.

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 Gymreapers 7mm Knee Sleeve. The cylinder-esque design is most commonly used in more rigid sleeves like Exo and Gymreapers sleeves. The four-panel design is the least common of the three and has multiple pieces of material sewn together into one sleeve.

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, thus reducing their durability and longevity.

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.

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What To Consider Before Buying

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

Here are three primary reasons why athletes across a variety of strength sports take advantage of the benefits knee sleeves offer.

  1. Powerlifters will typically use a sleeve to support their knee’s stability in squats, quad, and hamstring training. Oftentimes 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. Thicker knee sleeves also tend to offer a bit of assistance at the bottom of a squat with getting out of the hole. 
  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 the 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 for 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 starting 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.

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Final Word

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 — this will be informed by whether or not you compete. Third, what sleeve fits comfortably into your budget? Confidently answer these three questions and you will be happy with your final sleeve decision.

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.