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Knee is basically one of the main joints that provides you the ability to walk. There are several ways to prevent or ease the knee pain (see Knee pain when descending a mountain), but I would like to dive deeper into one of the preventive measures, by using knee protectors.

I've noticed that there are different types of knee protectors out there: knee braces, knee sleeves, knee support, etc. Assuming that one does not have any knee problems, which of the knee protectors are best to prevent knee pain in a long distance hike with frequent ascent and descent trails?

Also, in order to maximize the effectiveness of knee protectors, should the user be wearing it in all situation while hiking (uphill, walking, descending, etc.)?

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    I'm voting to close this question as off-topic because it is asking for medical advice, and will result in primarily opinion-based comment. – bob1 Jul 25 at 16:13
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    @Fenophter have a look at our varied questions on "trekking poles" as a lot of people use these as support and some people find they help the knees. Not medical advice though. Are trekking poles proven to be helpful? >outdoors.stackexchange.com/q/4470/3313 – Aravona Jul 25 at 16:21
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    I am voting to leave it open, there are also sorts of questions about gear for injury/sickness prevention such as water purification/helmets/altitude sickness and this seems no different – Reinstate Monica Jul 25 at 19:14
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    I agree with Charlie. I don't see how this is any different from a question about equipment to make hiking and backpacking less tiring or about what materials protect best against the cold or even a Q about protecting against mosquitos or ticks. It's not medical advice, because the OP is not asking about an injured person. As for opinion based, the OP is asking hiking experts for hiking advice. The answers will be experienced based, and because people differ in their joints as in everything else, there will be an element of opinion, but that is true of many questions here. – ab2 ReinstateMonicaNow Jul 25 at 23:05
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    Please add what your want to protect against, or what activities you're talking about. It makes quite a difference whether you want to prevent injury from e.g. long descents or from falls... – user15958 Jul 26 at 7:46
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I'll go for a frame challenge in my answer:

If you don't have any condition (that's being treated by a professional) that requires you to wear any kind of knee protection, the best protection for your knees is using no knee-protectors.

If your knee hurts during/after hiking, this a pointer that you either use some kind of bad technique or simply over-exertion. Adding technical items to reduce this negative outcome will just reinforce the behaviour, i.e. making it worse. The proper counter measure is training - to learn better technique or just to get your (stabilisation) muscles into better shape.

Disclaimer:
If you do follow (and ideally check it by someone else) good hiking practices and do properly train/avoid over-exertion, and still have pain in your knees - do get it checked out. It might be that a/the solution will be some kind of knee-protection, but the crucial difference is that it will be targeted to your specific need by someone that knows what they are doing (hopefully, if not consult someone else - totally serious here, it happens).

  • "Adding technical items ... making it worse." This kind of situation might happen if we didn't use knee protectors correctly, before seeking any professional advice. But I agree with the proper counter measure and the disclaimer. – Fenophter Jul 27 at 1:57
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    @Fenophter As medical advice, I was told by my osteopath that knee protector are or too soft or too hard. If they are too soft, they don't protect you and will fail you the day you encounter a real injury situation. If they are too hard they will prevent you from using a good technique and you will depend on them your whole life. The only knee-protector you need is your muscles. You may devellop them by walking on a soft ground, like sand, on which you will face multi directional sollicitation that will strenghten your protective muscle quickly, and help devellop protective reflex – Cailloumax Jul 31 at 8:10
  • @Cailloumax Thanks for emphasizing the point. After reading suggestions and answers here, it seems that we should seek professional advice before using knee protectors. As you have said, one of the other ways to prevent knee pain is to have a stronger knee muscles. Other than walking on a soft ground, we could also develop muscles that protect our knees by doing squats, seated leg raises (see here), and etc. – Fenophter Jul 31 at 13:07
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Actually, I would use knee protectors only when needed. It could be used to prevent it, but mainly if you suspect you might get an injury.

Instead I would focus on preventing by using a better technique for going up or down a slope, like:

  • Making small steps
  • Not going straight up and down, but zig-zag, so the angle of your feet is low. Of course the distance is higher.
  • Zig-zag with small distances (like 5-20 meters, or less if there is less space).
  • Use walking sticks, very handy for uneven terrain, but also for going up/down, especially when having a heavy backpack.
  • Make sure you don't jump, or make harsh movements like hard heel landings, the force of your feet will be going upwards, directly towards your knee.
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    Looks like knee protectors would help to prevent knee injuries, but not sure how to choose an appropriate one for a person who does not have any knee pain yet. Thank you for the other tips. – Fenophter Jul 25 at 16:56
  • I only wore one when I had a knee injury due to running, but only during running afterwards. Some exercises and some tips like above helped more. – Michel Keijzers Jul 25 at 18:18
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    In my own limited experience, I would avoid zig-zagging as much as possible. The turns add additional load and you do more distance. If it feels too steep/too much force on your knees, I experienced (ridiculously) short steps to be more effective (in me and friends :) ). – imsodin Jul 26 at 12:08
  • @imsodin I was learnt this way (zigzagging) by an alp mountain instructuror; it helped me well. But of course, if small steps are possible, that. Only use zigzagging when the slope is too steep. – Michel Keijzers Jul 26 at 12:25
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In the past when my knees seemed more susceptible to irritation of the cartilage, I carried two elastic sleeves for them (cheap drug store items). Mostly they just were loose around my socks. On downhill sections I would slide them up over my knees.

Now, I did not count on these to of themselves protect my knees. Instead, I used them to remind me not to over bend my knees, and generally just be careful. After several trips that had left my knees achy and swollen, using the sleeves as a reminder worked. Again, the ‘prevention’ of injury was from the feeling of the sleeve tempering my actions.

Does that count?

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    That's an interesting psychological way to prevent knee injuries, good to know! – Fenophter Jul 26 at 1:46

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