CrossFit places some stress on the knees, which can lead to nagging aches and pains. One way to keep your knees healthy is to wear a pair of knee sleeves, but this is only effective if you’re choosing the right ones.
Good knee sleeves for CrossFit are around 7 mm thick and provide decent joint support through compression without feeling ‘heavy’ on the knees or impairing mobility. The sleeves should be made of neoprene, which has elastic properties, provides knee stability, improves athletic performance, and keeps the joints warm.
To help you choose the best knee sleeve for Crossfit, I’ll walk you through the 4 criteria that determine the quality and effectiveness of a knee sleeve.
What Is The Purpose Of Knee Sleeves For Crossfit?
The purpose of knee sleeves for CrossFit is to provide moderate joint support and keep the area warm without feeling too ‘heavy’ or restricting the athlete’s range of motion, especially on deep squats.
Because of the intense and fast-paced training, CrossFit athletes can sometimes place more stress on certain joints, including the knees. Over time, that stress can surface as nagging aches that can grow into injuries if trainees don’t take them seriously.
“Whilst CrossFit is extremely popular and enjoyable to do, it places a lot of stress on the knee joints and commonly leads to annoying knee issues making choosing the best knee sleeves for CrossFit an important choice.”
A good pair of knee sleeves will provide joint compression, preventing the knees from moving beyond their natural range of motion and cueing the lifter to engage the muscles that stabilize the knees.
Additionally, because of their elastic properties, knee sleeves stretch and store some potential energy, which can help you spring out of the bottom position of a squat more easily. This can be extremely beneficial when you’re doing a ton of reps as fast as possible.
Lastly, knee sleeves are typically made of neoprene; the same material used to make diving wetsuits. Neoprene is known for its ability to insulate and trap heat, which means good knee sleeves quickly warm up the knees and keep them warm throughout your training session.
Related Article: 6 Things to Look for When Buying Wrist Wraps for Crossfit
What Makes Good Crossfit Knee Sleeves?
The following are features to consider when choosing the best knee sleeves for Crossfit:
The three standard knee sleeve thicknesses are 3, 5, and 7 mm. CrossFit athletes will benefit most from 7 mm thick knee sleeves because these provide more knee support, protecting athletes without impairing joint range of motion.
Thinner knee sleeves don’t provide much support and are primarily used by athletes who want to keep their knees warm.
Knee sleeves that are thicker than 7 mm are also not ideal for Crossfit because while you get more joint support, moving around during a dynamic workout can be challenging and restricting.
Related Article: 3mm Vs 5mm Vs 7mm Knee Sleeves: All The Differences Explained
The length of your knee sleeves is also important to consider so that your sleeves fit comfortably and provide the best support. Knee sleeves should cover the area from your lower thighs to your upper calves, which for most people is a length of 9 to 10”.
The most important thing about knee sleeves that are too short is that they are more likely to move up or down on your legs in the middle of a dynamic set. As a result, you might have to adjust them multiple times during a CrossFit workout.
Most knee sleeves on the market are made of neoprene, which, as mentioned above, is the same material used to make diving wetsuits.
Neoprene is the best material for knee sleeves for four reasons:
- It is strong, which means knee sleeves are likely to last longer.
- It has elastic properties, which means knee sleeves store some potential energy and provide a bit of assistance on specific exercises (i.e. squats).
- It traps heat, which means sleeves warm up the knees more quickly, leading to a more comfortable training experience.
- It sticks to the skin, allowing knee sleeves to stay in place as you train instead of bunching up or sliding down as you move.
Neoprene is a long-lasting material, but the overall durability of your knee sleeves will also depend on the quality of the stitching.
Low-quality sleeves are prone to fraying and overall wear, which can eventually cause them to become less supportive. Low-quality knee sleeves will deteriorate even faster in a sport like Crossfit that involves a higher number of repetitions.
To avoid having to replace your knee sleeves after only a month of use, look for knee sleeves made of neoprene with reinforced stitching. Ideally, the sleeves should also have a warranty if the material or stitching doesn’t hold up.
How Do I Choose The Right Size Knee Sleeves For CrossFit?
Good knee sleeves should fit snugly around your knees and feel tight, but not to the point where you struggle to bend your knees or achieve a deep squat. The right size knee sleeves should feel supportive at the bottom of a squat but never restrictive.
One way to determine what size knee sleeves might be best for you is to borrow a pair from a buddy at the gym. Even if they aren’t the perfect fit, you should get a better idea of what might be a good size for your knees.
If you don’t have the opportunity to try them on ahead of time, refer to the sizing guidelines provided for the product and use a tape measure to pick the perfect fit.
To measure correctly, extend your leg, wrap the tape around the knee joint, and write the value down to 0.1 of an inch or centimeter. From there, refer to the guidelines to see which size is the most comparable.
For example, here are the ones for the Gymreapers knee sleeves:
- 11.8 to 13” (30 to 33 cm) - small (S)
- 13 to 14.2” (33 to 36 cm) - medium (M)
- 14.2 to 15.7” (36 to 40 cm) - large (L)
- 15.7 to 17” (40 to 44 cm) - extra large (XL)
- 17 to 18.3” (44 to 47 cm) - extra extra large (XXL)
As a CrossFitter, it would be best to get sleeves in your size, for the ideal balance between knee support and range of motion.
Sizing down to increase compression would provide more joint stability, but it could affect your mobility. Additionally, they wouldn’t be as comfortable and you would likely have to take them off frequently to avoid cutting off circulation.
Best Knee Sleeves For Crossfit
Gymreapers 7 mm Knee Sleeves
- Price: $59.99
- Thickness: 7 mm
- Material: premium neoprene
- Stitching: reinforced
- Length: 10” (25.4 cm)
- Sizes: S, M, L, XL, and XXL
- Warranty: a 1-year replacement guarantee
- Reviews: 4.9/5 stars
The Gymreapers knee sleeves are a fantastic option for CrossFit because they offer the perfect balance between support and mobility. With a thickness of 7 mm and a contoured fit, these sleeves keep your knees in a strong and healthy position without creating restrictions.
As a result, you can go through CrossFit workouts feeling safe and supported while also being able to do dynamic exercises at a faster pace.
The neoprene material sticks to your skin to keep the sleeves in position during your workouts, even when doing quick repetitions and moving from one activity to the next.
Plus, these sleeves trap heat to keep your knees warm during training and promote blood flow to the area, which reduces joint stress and keeps nagging aches at bay.
As an added benefit, the Gymreapers knee sleeves have reinforced stitching, which ensures durability so you don’t have to worry about them falling apart. To top it off, Gymreapers offers a 1-year replacement guarantee in case an issue arises.
- The ideal knee sleeves for adequate joint support and range of motion
- Quality material with reinforced stitching to ensure excellent durability
- Three color combinations: black with white, black with red, and ranger green with black
- Five size options from 11.8” to 18.3” (30 to 47 cm)
- They can be hard to put on once you start to sweat
When Should You Wear Knee Sleeves In Crossfit?
When You Need Extra Knee Support
There are no set rules for when to wear knee sleeves in Crossfit. You should put them on if you need extra knee support and leave them in your training bag if your joints feel great. Use your best judgment.
You’re more likely to need them if you’re doing any sort of squat, clean, snatch, or lunge but that’s not to say that you can’t wear them at other times just to keep your knees warm and ready.
When Training In a Cold Gym
Training in a cold gym generally means it's going to take you longer to warm up for training, which is why I recommend wearing your knee sleeves as soon as you start to move around.
The neoprene will trap heat more effectively, allowing you to warm up your knees more quickly and possibly experience less wear and tear by properly lubricating the joint before getting into your workout.
Aside from using them while training, you can wear knee sleeves following WODs (workout of the day) to speed up recovery and keep your knees feeling comfortable.
Knee sleeves provide compression and stimulate blood flow to the area, which can limit inflammation and promote quicker healing.
For best results, wear your sleeves for at least three to four hours following the workout, but take them off if they feel too uncomfortable. Thinner sleeves that don’t offer as much support or compression can stay on your knees for the entire day, especially if you don’t feel any local discomfort or bruising.
It’s worth noting that knee sleeves should not be used as a substitute for knee braces, and you should seek medical attention if you’re experiencing significant and persistent knee pain.
Frequently Asked Questions
Do Knee Sleeves In Crossfit Prevent Injury?
Since knee sleeves provide joint support and warmth, it’s not a stretch to assume they can also reduce the injury risk. However, you must still train with proper form, warm-up adequately before workouts, and listen to your body to minimize your risk of injury.
Why Do Crossfitters Wear Knee Sleeves?
CrossFit athletes wear knee sleeves to promote knee stability during heavy and intense training, to keep their knees warm and prevent wear and tear, and to support the recovery process following a workout.