Motocross knee braces are pieces of safety gear that protect the knee by offering impact absorption and limiting movement to avoid injury. In the past, knee braces were only worn by riders recovering from an injury, but today, they’re considered by many to be a standard part of protective equipment. They’re designed for that, too – once heavy and meant mainly for medical treatment, today they’re designed with sports performance in mind.
While knee braces aren’t as popular as helmets, goggles or boots, they’re still necessary if you want to stay protected. Not only will they prevent minor knocks and knee pain, but they could also prevent you from having more serious injuries that may even require surgery.
Who Needs a Knee Brace?
Every rider should have a knee brace. Without one, even a minor move or slip-up can lead to an injury.
For example, if your rear wheel drifts a bit following a small jump and you have to put your foot down to stop yourself from falling, that small amount of sideways hyperextension can destroy your Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL). And all because you didn’t wear a simple knee brace. That’s just one example of a basic recurring action that puts a bit of stress on the knee – what about in the case of a crash? You could be in even worse shape.
Knee injuries are common in motocross, and injuring your ACL is a typical knee injury that riders face. Recovering from a ligament tear can take months. The good news is that a high-quality knee brace can reduce the risk of such injuries quite a bit.
What are the Differences Between Knee Braces, Guards and Pads?
While some riders may have to wear knee braces after an injury or operation, they can also be worn preventatively. Knee braces are made to absorb impact and control your knee’s range of motion, both of which will help you avoid injury. Braces also provide lateral support, and you’ll still be able to move your knee freely.
Guards offer coverage and protection for the knee cap and sometimes the shin. They’re lighter and have a simpler design than knee braces, and they’re also adjustable.
Some riders will opt for knee guards in place of knee braces because they cost less and weigh less. However, a knee guard isn’t going to prevent major knee injuries like a brace can.
Knee pads provide some level of impact protection for the knee cap and shin, but they won’t keep you safe from lateral twisting or impact. They won’t protect you nearly as well as braces or even guards.
How to Choose a Good Knee Brace? What to Look For
Ideally, your motocross knee brace will have a high level of protection while being comfortable and still letting you move freely. A gliding hinge will mimic the knee’s natural movement, and thicker straps tend to be more comfortable than thin straps. Sometimes, there’s a tether connecting the brace to the boot so that everything rotates at once, which prevents knee injury.
Make sure to go with a newer brace rather than an old one you may have laying around your garage. Old school, rigid knee braces put the force of the blow on the leg bones, which could lead to ligament tears and broken bones.
New braces, on the other hand, are designed to distribute the force of impact through different parts of the brace, which lessens how much force hits the bone. Also, the longer the knee brace, the more the force will be dispersed before it makes its way to bone.
How Should Knee Braces Fit?
Here’s what to keep in mind when trying out different knee braces:
Most riders want thin, light knee braces. If you have thicker calves, a thin knee brace will be even more important.
The height of the brace has a lot to do with personal preference and the length of your legs. The braces may feel too short or too high tall on your leg length. Read reviews, and plan on trying a few pairs before finding the right ones for you.
Make sure that your boots can close over them. If they can’t, you may need braces with a slimmer profile.
Pay Attention to Sizing Charts
Always read the sizing chart for the knee brace you’re buying. Some of them are fit differently than others, so your size with one brand won’t necessarily be your size with another. For example, some brands will have you measure above the knee, while others need you to measure around the knee.
A knee brace that’s the wrong size won’t offer the maximum amount of protection possible, so you want to measure your leg and select the size based on the manufacturer’s recommendations.
Getting Used to Knee Braces
When riding, don’t be dissuaded if the knee braces feel awkward at first. It takes time to get used to them. There will be less space between your bike and your knees when you’re wearing braces, which can change how everything feels. Eventually, you’ll adapt to the differences, so push through the beginning discomfort.
Best Knee Braces to Buy
The Leatt X-Frame Knee Braces come in at an affordable price point, with a carbon composite chassis, comfortable padding and a four-strap design. The asymmetrical hinge design means that it’s not the same on both sides, which helps mimic the natural anatomy of the knee and offers a proper fit. The inside hinge is slimmer, too, which gives you better contact with the bike while riding.
The POD K4 2.0 Knee Brace and the POD K8 Version 2 Knee Brace have the same hinge design, padding and straps. The main difference between the two is that the K8 has a carbon fibre chassis, which is more rigid and lightweight than the K4, which has a composite chassis. Otherwise, both are well-built, reliable knee braces that will outperform many others on the market. They’re also great for multi-sport use, as the knee cup can be removed. The braces also have human-motion hinge technology to follow the natural motion of the knee.