Any equipment that increases performance or prevents injuries is worth looking at for CrossFit athletes.
The best knee sleeves for CrossFit will do both of these things, helping to stabilize your joints and perform better during WODs and heavy lifts.
Like any piece of equipment, the promises only become real when you do your homework first.
You want a set of knee sleeves that will make you better at CrossFit. There are several factors that determine if knee sleeves will do that or not. If you are looking for Knee Sleeves for weightlifting, or powerlifting make sure you understand when to use a Knee Sleeve vs Knee wrap. We cover this in more depth in this related article.
In a hurry? Here are the top picks:
Element 26 Knee Sleeves
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But first, do you even need knee sleeves? Consider:
- Would extra support for your knees during WODS or heavy lifts be helpful?
- Would warmer, more fluid joints help you perform better?
The answer is likely yes to both of these, meaning knee sleeves might be a good idea. Just remember that knee sleeves are not a substitute for a knee brace. Also consider:
- Do you experience knee pain or discomfort during a Crossfit workout?
- Have you had- or do you currently have- tendonitis in your knees?
While CrossFit knee sleeves may help, serious or chronic knee pain, certain issues might warrant alternative solutions for proper knee support. If you have had chronic knee problems, always see your doctor first.
Now, let’s take a look at how (and which kind of) Crossfit knee sleeve can up your CrossFit game.
What Are Knee Sleeves?
Think of knee sleeves as a hug for your knee joint.
They add compression to your knees as you exercise, helping your knees function the way they are meant to.
The right compression knee sleeve pair can provide, warmth and stability during heavy lifts and workouts.
CrossFit exercise requires their athletes to have strong, functioning knees for most movements. You’d be hard-pressed to come up with a good WOD that doesn’t put stress on your knees.
Over time, all of those squats, dips, lunges, and steps can take a toll. One way to decrease the stress on your knees is to wear knee sleeves.
The wrong pair of knee sleeves can get destroyed in only a few workouts.
Worse, they can limit mobility and decrease performance when you use them.
If you are only concerned with finding out the best knee sleeves, skip to the bottom of this article for a review of some of the best.
Why Use Knee Sleeves?
Because of the nature of CrossFit, knee sleeves could be useful to you in one or more settings at your local box.
You might use them during heavy lifts, for certain movements in WODs, or to simply keep your knees warm and fluid when you train.
CrossFit athletes will likely benefit the most from knee sleeves that are both supportive and versatile.
If you plan to use them for WODs, you’ll want a pair that is strong enough to stabilize during heavy squats, but flexible enough to not feel constricting when running or rowing.
But why use them in the first place? For example, consider how often a CrossFit athlete might squat in a week.
In all, that week of programming contains somewhere between 300-500 squats. That’s a lot of work on your knees.
Knee sleeves will keep your knees warm and stable while you work out, limiting injuries and keeping you feeling healthy.
Two benefits of any good pair of knee sleeves include:
The compression that your knee sleeves offer will keep your knees stable when squatting or performing other CrossFit movements.
This will decrease your chance of knee injury during a CrossFit WOD and allow you to perform better when doing heavier, more explosive lifts.
Whether you are performing a 3RM squat or warming up with a PVC pipe, cold joints never feel good.
Good knee sleeves will increase blood flow to your knees and keep them your knees warm throughout your workout, helping you to be more fluid and powerful with your movements.
Is knee warmth a priority for you? Here are a few knee sleeve recommendations that will ensure you’re taken care of:
How are Knee Sleeves for CrossFit Different From Lifting Knee Sleeves?
Although there are various similiarties between knee sleeves designed for CrossFit and those aimed at weight lifters there are certain key differences you should be aware of.
Firstly, Knee sleeves for CrossFit are built to offer more stability to your knee joint and provide support, this is exactly the same of knee seeleves designed for weight lifting.
The main difference is that lifting knee sleeves are created to be even tighter and offer additional compression around the knees.
Quite simply, knee sleeves aimed at CrossFit atheletes are often not as ‘tight’ as those that are choosen to be worn by weight lifters.
CrossFit workouts don’t require the level of lifting that weight lifters will often carry out during their training sessions as a result knee compression isn’t such a high priority for CrossFit.
Weight lifters will oftern choose to where knee wraps to provide an even tighter fit because many knee sleeves, although they offer support, just aren’t going to fit as tightly around the knee joints as a wrap can.
Things To Consider When Buying Knee Sleeves
So now you know what knee sleeves are, and how they’ll help you. You know they should be supportive, but not constricting.
You’re ready to buy, right?
Hold on. There’s a few other factors to consider first to make sure you are buying the right pair of knee sleeves for you and your fitness goals.
When you start shopping around, you’ll learn that you must choose the thickness of your knee sleeves.
Here is a brief description on the three measurements you are most likely to come across.
- 3mm– Ideal for endurance workouts or endurance athletes.
- 5mm– Ideal for mixed activities, like a WOD in CrossFit or any other type of cross training.
- 7mm– Ideal for heavy lifting or any movement that requires heavy stabilization.
For more details, check out this guide for picking the right knee sleeve thickness.
It’s important to consider the material of your knee sleeves, because each material will provide a different feel and different benefits.
For example, if you only need them for heavy squats, you’ll want a pair that offers less flexibility and more stability.
Here is a brief description of the materials you will find:
- Cloth – offers light support and joint warmth. Cloth will likely wear down quicker than others with high volume exercise, but will endure basic lifting.
- Neoprene – versatile, supportive, medium level of thickness. Generally speaking, neoprene material is probably your best bet for CrossFit workouts.
- Knee Wraps – adjustable, supportive, but not always stable during workouts with variety. Good for warming up joints prior to a workout or heavy lifts.
Consider what you’ll need your knee sleeves for. While neoprene sleeves will likely work best, they are usually the most expensive.
If you only need your knee sleeves for lifting, you might not need them!
Gym Pro Tip: Know that neoprene sleeves tend to acquire an almost legendary odor after a few months of use. For your nose, and the noses of other gym-goers, be sure to wash your knee sleeves every few weeks.
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Mobility comes down to personal preference. Some people enjoy the mildly constricting feeling of a thick knee sleeve, ensuring their joints are supported.
Others prefer the joint warming benefits of a light sleeve and don’t like the sensation of limited mobility.
The best way to find your preference is to experiment.
Practice different movements and see what feels good. See what might decrease performance or feel like a pestilence.
Best Knee Sleeves for CrossFit
Element 26 Knee Sleeves
- Competition Approved, non irritating material
- Anatomically contoured, and slip resistant
- 6mm thick that is ideal for keeping it on for all WODs
Element 26's compression knee sleeves only come in 6mm thickness. However, this is not really a detriment to their product design as this really is the sweet spot in thickness that provides comfort and stability at the same time.
They come in different sizes for different heights, simply measured about 4" below the center of your knee. Based on this circumference of that part of your leg, you can pick out the right size for you. See chart below. I found this chart to be very accurate, as my sleeves are perfect for my size.
The sleeves are anatomically contoured which means that when you put them on, you can pretty much tell if they are not facing the right way. The contouring has other benefits - it ensures that your knee is always aligned correctly during your heavy lifting workouts.
These are made for men and women. They are reversible which is pretty unique and cool. The 6mm thickness and compression provides warmth to your joints throughout your workouts, and are functional enough to keep on even for workouts that don't require knee sleeves. The neoprene material with reinforced stitching feels high quality and is breathable. Sometimes I use these even when I am just standing up at my desk working on my day job stuff.
They do not bunch up uncomfortably behind the knees, and also do not slide even when sweaty. This company has done a good job in hitting the right mix of material, and design.
Lastly, Element 26 is a CrossFit partner as their weightlifting belts are approved for CrossFit games.
You can get an additional 10% off the price if you buy directly from their site using this link. It should provide a 10% off discount when in checkout. If it does not you can use the discount code "Athleticmuscle".
Bear KompleX Knee Sleeve
- Priced as a pair, most options in color, design and thickness
- Holds up well after machine wash
- Slip resistant
- At 8.7" length, works well for taller people
Sold at 5mm and 7mm, the Bear KompleX knee sleeves will provide a lot of stabilization. These sleeves are probably best for various types of strength training or heavy lifting instead of metcons.
Bear KompleX does offer many interesting designs, if that is your sorta thing to make the gym a bit more interesting place.
Most users say that while these knee sleeves last a long time, it can take 1-2 months of regular use to break them in properly.
This neoprene sleeve holds up well after machine washing, and do not seem to have durability issues.
At 8.7" length, they do cover the full knee cap area, even for taller people. This is generally a bit taller than some other knee sleeves, but not the tallest.
Lastly, it is slip resistant, and fits snugly making it great for CrossFit, but pretty much any sport.
Rogue Fitness Knee Sleeve
- Priced as a pair
- Available in 3mm, 5mm and 7mm thickness
- Slip resistant
- Made in the USA
Rogue Fitness is a brand that is well established in the CrossFit space, so no need to reintroduce them here. One great thing about this brand is that they are known for their quality, and most of their products made in the USA.
In addition, these sleeves are made in three thicknesses - 3mm, 5mm, and 7mm. If you are wanting to just have them on all the time, say after surgery or just for support, the 3mm might be better since it is light thickness and you may not feel it after a few hours.
The 7mm knee sleeve is meant to be used for the workout itself, and may not be suitable for compression all day long. If you are just starting to use knee sleeves, you may want to start with the 5mm sleeve and see how the compression feels and decide if you want more or less of it.
Rogue also has various colors and some designs to choose from. These are sold in pairs and the pricing is in line to the market. So overall they do provide a good product at market pricing with a solid brand. The 5mm knee sleeve appears to be the most popular one.
ProFitness Compression Knee Sleeves
- Priced as a Pair
- 7mm sleeve
- Various color options
This neoprene compression sleeve offers a 7mm thick offering for weightlifting or other heavy lifting workouts.
This is a non slip neoprene material similar to the E26 sleeves, and provides durability for the roughest of athletes. Most reviewers have identified it as a long lasting product.
They come in four different colors and generally look nice and stylish. The product also comes with a bag like all other products above.
Rehband Knee Sleeve
- Priced as a single; comfortable and breathable material
- Various color and design options
- Strong brand in knee support products
If you spend a lot of time in CrossFit gyms, there’s a good chance that you’ve seen the Rehband Rx knee compression sleeve.
These are perhaps the most popular pair of knee sleeves for CrossFit athletes out there.
Users boast about the stability, knee joint warmth, and versatility of the Rehband sleeves.
They may take some time to wear in (limiting flexibility initially), but they are durable and will hold up during longer CrossFit workouts.
A bonus is that they are designed to slide up and down the knee easily, so athletes can take them off in the middle of a WOD if needed.
The reason this product is not higher on our list is purely because of pricing. They are sold as a single, so watch out and don't be surprised you only get one in the mail. So purchase two of them if you choose this brand.
The reason for the single is that Rehband has a patent, and their claim is that this provides it a different medical classification. Which means that they can be used on just one leg for support for medical reasons, and not just for intense exercises.
The “Bee’s Knees” for CrossFit Athletes
CrossFit athletes will increase their performance and reduce the risk of injury with the right pair of knee sleeves.
Look for a pair that offers versatility, support, and the durability to hold up during longer workouts.
Consider thickness, material, and mobility of the sleeve. Practice knee-dominant movements while wearing different pairs if possible, to see what might work best for you.
And when it’s all said and done, you can probably get the right pair of knee sleeves for under $60.
Maybe even spring for two pairs, if you aren’t the type to wash your gym gear often. Your lifting partners will thank you.
Good knee sleeves will offer stability and knee joint warmth as you work through barbell movements and WODs. A bad pair will constrict movement or feel bulky, limiting performance in the process, so do your homework. We hope our review of the best knee sleeves for CrossFit helps!
Knee Sleeve FAQs
- Do I need knee sleeves for CrossFit?
Not all CrossFit athletes require knee sleeves. However, if you do have a history of knee pain or injuries then it is recommended you invest in sleeves to help reduce the chances of recurring injuries.
- Are knee sleeves good for squatting?
Knee sleeves for squats can help you take your workout to another level. As mentioned above, many CrossFit athletes won’t require knee sleeves however sometimes the peace of mind they provide can be a great help next time you go for a PR.
- Is a knee brace and knee wrap the same?
No. A knee brace is worn when by someone with an existing injury who is currently in rehab or recovery. Knee wraps and knee sleeves are worn for support and additional knee compression to prevent future injuries.
- Are RockTape knee sleeves worth it?
RockTape knee sleeves are gaining popularity within the CrossFit world. Once we have a chance to carry out further testing we will create our own review of RockTape knee sleeves and how effective they are for CrossFit athletes.
- Should I get 5mm or 7mm knee sleeves?
This really depends on the level of lifting you’re doing as part of your training. For most CrossFit athletes 5mm knee sleeves will be absolutely fine. If you’re looking for extra support, which is often the case for weight lifters then 7mm may be more desirable.