“No pain, no gain” is true in fitness, but in CrossFit, the line between pain and bodily harm can easily be blurred. So much so that a study by SAGE Journals found that in CrossFit, your knees are third most likely to be injured, after your back and shoulders. This is why the best knee sleeves for CrossFit are essential.
CrossFit is certainly an effective exercise regimen. The incorporation of various exercises—from weight lifting to rowing and everything in between—makes it challenging, appealing, and enjoyable.
But be careful. CrossFit is an intense sport, and if you fail to protect yourself, you run the risk of serious injury. Once the fitness bug bites, we all get ahead of ourselves and want to jump right in. Enthusiasm is awesome, but it leaves us with a dangerous disregard for safety.
To combat that, I’ve compiled a list of the best knee sleeves for CrossFit on the market. That said, the only way you’ll be able to pick one is if you understand what they are and why you need them.
So let’s go back to basics by covering some simple FAQs.
What’s Special About Knee Sleeves?
If you are imagining an injured athlete or a geriatric guy, it might surprise you to learn that what you’ve pictured are not knee sleeves, they’re braces. It’s not uncommon for people to use them interchangeably, but the two are not at all the same. The difference is in their design.
A brace is worn to prevent further damage to a preexisting injury. They’re cushioned and can be adjusted to fit firmly around the most injured area of your joints. They reduce pain, inflammation, and further damage by providing stability to an injury.
On the other hand, the best knee sleeves for CrossFit are designed to protect you from injury or the risk of it. They’re slips of material—most commonly neoprene—that warm, compress, and limit patella movement. This gives your knees much-needed support.
A simple way to remember the difference is that we wear the best knee sleeves for CrossFit so that we don’t have to wear any knee braces.
If you have twenty minutes to spare, watch this in-depth video all about protective gear and its uses:
Do I Need Knee Sleeves for CrossFit?
It depends on your individual routine, but it’s better to be safe than sorry. Your knees, like your other joints, are susceptible to damage when put under strain, as will happen during CrossFit.
Your joints have three main purposes: to connect your bones, enable movement, and bear weight.
All three of these factor in when you put your joints under pressure. Weight lifting is a good example of this.
The weight of your body plus the extra mass you now hold works against your knees. The pressure forces the bones to grind against each other, weakening the entire joint over time. In a worst case scenario, it can even push the bones out of alignment.
The harder you work them, the weaker they become. Just think about how many senior citizens have trouble with their back and joints. That’s because we tend to take for granted just how much strain we put our bodies through. Too often when we realize it, it’s already too late to undo the damage.
CrossFit is a combination of strenuous schools of exercise and has received negative attention due to the suspected increased risk of injury. We revel in its intensity, but if practiced incorrectly, it can have a permanent ill effect. Look after yourself and you won’t get hurt.
If you want to know more about when to use sleeves, here is another video for you to enjoy:
Are There Drawbacks to Using Knee Sleeves?
Not if you use them wisely. As with all good things, excessive or incorrect use of knee sleeves can have adverse effects.
There is a chance that you could become a bit too dependent on them, and this can undo the benefits of wearing them. Even the best knee sleeves for CrossFit are not a replacement for warm-ups. Likewise, they are not to be worn in place of recovery days.
It’s all too easy to overdo it and push boundaries when wearing protective gear—a risk that is very real when combining knee sleeves with CrossFit.
What to Look for in the Best Knee Sleeves for CrossFit
There are a few things you should keep in mind when hunting for the best knee sleeves for CrossFit.
Flexibility and Thickness
Knee sleeves come in three thickness levels. The highest, 7 mm sleeves are the most rigid and will give you the most support but will also limit your movement. However, 3 mm sleeves are light and best used for low-intensity workouts.
In CrossFit, you want to go for something in between and get 5 mm sleeves. These are flexible enough to accommodate the exercise you do without compromising the stability and support you need.
It’s up to you if you would rather have a tighter, stronger sleeve for extra protection. But keep in mind that the best knee sleeves for CrossFit offer more agility and are designed for your entire workout.
Durability and Stitching
A flexible sleeve is great for CrossFit, but that doesn’t mean you should get a flimsy one. Neoprene is the material of choice because it lasts.
Pay attention to the needlework as well. The seams are a dead giveaway for an unworthy sleeve. Don’t buy a sleeve that has loose, uneven, or skewed stitches. Bad stitching makes it more likely to fall apart, tear, or weaken.
If you skimp out on the durability of your sleeves, you’ll end up replacing them sooner than you should, meaning you’ll spend more in the long run.
You want a sleeve to hug your knee tightly, otherwise it’s useless. It must offer support, but in the same way if you wear a shoe two sizes off, you’ll cause more harm than if you just went barefoot.
Too loose and you’ll have no support. Too tight and you will be uncomfortable, sore, and might even cut off your circulation instead of improving it.
Quality shouldn’t be compromised, and you shouldn’t be a penny-pincher when it comes to safety gear. You don’t have to go for the most expensive brands, but at least give your money to someone reputable and trustworthy.
Poor quality merchandise will not be effective as the best knee sleeves for CrossFit and could increase your chance of injury.
The Five Best Knee Sleeves for CrossFit
There are dozens upon dozens of sleeves for you to choose from. Hopefully, the tips above will narrow it down for you. So long as you are comfortable and reap the intended benefits of your sleeves, you won’t waste money investing in them.
In the end, it’s your choice, but here are my picks for the best knee sleeves for CrossFit.
#1 Rehband 5 mm Knee Sleeves
Rehband is possibly the most popular and beloved sleeve brand with very few complaints going around. These 5 mm sleeves are a great place to start if you are new to this. It’s unlikely you will be disappointed.
- Rehband has a reputation for being the best
- Sleeves are designed to contour your leg—a unique feature patented to Rehband
- 5 mm sleeves are perfect for CrossFit
- Sleeves sold individually
- Not as tight as other sleeves
#2 ProFitness 7 mm Knee Sleeves
These sleeves are made for an array of workouts, including CrossFit, and they don’t limit mobility as much as other 7 mm sleeves will. With a near-perfect rating and multitudes of satisfied customers, the reviews speak for themselves.
- All-around sleeves used for different types of exercise, especially lifting and squats
- One of the best in both its flexibility and durability
- Excellent customer reviews
- Might be a little too elastic, depending on your needs
- Only 7 mm sleeves are available
#3 Emerge 7 mm Knee Sleeves
Emerge has started to give Rehband a run for its money and is fast becoming a favorite. Not only are these high-quality sleeves, but Emerge has blended function and comfort into a product that was built to last.
- Reinforced stitching for extra durability
- Good quality neoprene and anti-slip material
- Available in different sizes
- Interior lining adds unnecessary warmth
- 5 mm sleeves are available but seem to only come in bright pink
#4 Powerlix Compression Knee Sleeve
Don’t let the messy product page scare you away. Powerlix has made a great, affordable sleeve that is an excellent budget choice for those with limited funds. Made from breathable material, the Powerlix sleeve is one of the more comfortable ones around.
- Great value for money
- Sleeves are tailored to keep your knees both sweat- and odor-free
- Various sizes available
- Does not seem to have thickness listed
- Tight around the thighs
- Not as reputable as other brands
Last but certainly not least are the HVSKY Fitness sleeves—excellent sleeves that won’t burn a hole in your wallet. These double-stitched neoprene sleeves could be the best midrange products available and were designed with all types of sports and exercise in mind.
- Great value without compromised quality
- Sleeves are engineered to retain heat, reducing stiffness and risk of injury
- Gym bag included
- Fantastic customer reviews
- Only available in 7 mm
- Not as flexible as other brands
My Choice for the Best Knee Sleeves for CrossFit
Every product listed here has its perks, but my personal favorite has got to be Rehband. The 5 mm sleeves are exactly what you need for CrossFit and, in our opinion, are the best knee sleeves for CrossFit.
The Rehband name is a brand to trust. Their product will support all the way around your knee so you can move as needed while being safe.
Their knee sleeves have even been patented because they are designed to fit the specific anatomy of your leg. So it can’t be found anywhere but in my top choice.