10 Best Hiking Knee Braces, Ankle Supports, Compression Sleeves, and Straps

10 Best Hiking Knee Braces

If you are a hiker or backpacker, you understand the frustration of being sidelined due to a leg injury or pain. However, there are many conditions such as knee pain, ankle instability, iliotibial band syndrome (ITB), plantar fasciitis, tendinitis, or hamstring and quad injuries where a leg brace, ankle stabilizer, compression sleeve, or strap can provide added support to eliminate pain and keep you on the trail. I’ve benefited from many of the products below, due to injuries and the normal wear and tear that comes with age. Most of them are quite inexpensive and definitely worth a try so you can get back on the trail, where you belong!

Make / Model Condition
Med Spec ASO Ankle Stabilzer Sprained ankle recovery, prevention
Cho-Pat Dual Action Strap Runner’s Knee, Jumper’s Knee, Patellar Tendonitis, Illiotibial Band Syndrome
Pro-Tec Patellar Tendon Strap Patellar Tendonitis, Illiotibial Band Syndrome, Chondromalacia Patella
Pro-Tec Illiotibial Band Wrap Illiotibial Band Syndrome (ITB)
Zensah Thigh Compression Sleeve Hamstring, quadriceps, and groin strains
Pro-Tec Gel Force Knee Sleeve Runner’s Knee, Jumper’s Knee, Chondromalacia Patella, Osteoarthritis
Bitly Plantar Fasciitis Compression Socks Plantar Fasciitis, Achilles Tendinitis
Mueller Adjustable Knee Support Runner’s Knee, Jumper’s Knee, Chondromalacia Patella, Osteoarthritis
CEP Compression Socks Achilles Tendinitis, Plantar Fasciitis
Kinesiology Taping Numerous

Be sure to read our guide to hiking leg braces, compression sleeves, straps, and supports below to understand which provide the most targeted relief.  While these products can help alleviate pain while hiking, they can also be useful to prevent injuries or during the physical therapy, strengthening, and recuperation phase. You’ll notice that we’ve left out bulky hinged leg braces (the ones that look like bionic legs), which are usually prescribed by doctors post-surgery. That’s deliberate because you’re probably not going to be hiking and backpacking much while wearing one. If you’re in doubt about the activities you can pursue with leg pain, be sure to consult your physical therapist or physician.

1. Med Spec ASO Ankle Stabilizer

ASO Ankle Stabilizer
The Med Spec ASO Ankle Stabilizer is hands-down the most popular ankle brace recommended by athletic trainers and physical therapists. Designed for the prevention or treatment of ankle injuries, the ASO Ankle Stabilizer will fit into most hiking shoes. It has stabilizing straps that form a figure 8 to prevent ankle rolls, with an elastic cuff and lacing system that provides additional support while still allowing for flexibility. A hiking friend recommended that I try this brace after I sprained an ankle two years ago. I used it as a brace while I recuperated and when I started hiking again for extra support. It’s an outstanding product. Read the SectionHiker review.

Available from:
Amazon

2. Cho-Pat Dual Action Knee Strap

Cho-Pat Dual Action Strap
The Cho-Pat Dual Action Knee Strap provides support above and below the kneecap without restricting movement or putting pressure on the knee.  You can use it to alleviate the pain associated with runner’s knee, jumper’s knee, ITB, patellar tendonitis, and osteoarthritis. It’s designed to reduce the force of the quads on the knees, lessen the potential for misalignment, improve tracking, and stabilizes the kneecap. Personally, I find it helpful to reduce the pain and discomfort of ITB when I have flareups. I have friends that wear two at the same time. Read the SectionHiker Review.

Available from:
Amazon

3. Pro-Tec Patellar Tendon Strap

Patellar Tendon Strap
The Pro-Tec Patellar Tendon Strap is useful for alleviating moderate knee pain, especially in areas under and surrounding the knee cap. It provides compression on the patellar tendon, helping to stabilize it and improve its tracking, reducing discomfort and irritation. Use it to help alleviate symptoms of tendinitis, chondromalacia (runner’s knee), iliotibial band syndrome, and other knee ailments.

Available from:
REI | Amazon

4. Pro-Tec Illiotibial Band Wrap

Pro-Tec ITB Wrap
The Pro-Tec Illiotibial Band Wrap is a simple neoprene strap that is positioned above the knee to compress the Illiotibial Band (IT band), a long group of fibers that runs from the outside of your hip to the outside of your thigh to the top of your shin. If your IT band gets too tight, it can lead to pain around your knee. A common cause is too much sitting, resulting in weak or shortened muscles in the proximity of the IT band. The Pro–Tec IT Band Wrap provides targeted compression that stabilizes the IT band, reducing rubbing and irritation on the outside of the knee. This simple product really works! Read the SectionHiker Review. 

Available from:
REI | Amazon

5. Zensah Thigh Compression Sleeve

Zensah Thigh Compression Sleeve
The Zensah Thigh Compression Sleeve helps stabilize injured hamstring, quad, or groin muscles providing support without compromising free range of motion. The sleeve is made with moisture-wicking fabric (nylon and spandex) that is easy to wash and designed for active use. Gripper dots on the inside of the thigh sleeve prevent it from slipping and ensures it stays in place. The compression technology in the thigh sleeve also helps to increase blood flow to injured areas, potentially speeding recovery.

Available from:
Amazon

6. Pro-Tec Gel Force Knee Sleeve

Pro Tec Gel Force Knee Support
The Pro-Tec Gel Force Knee Sleeve is a very supportive knee sleeve that provides moderate support for patellofemoral pain syndrome, patellar tracking, minor ligament/meniscus tears, and overall knee-joint stability. It has a gel donut that fits over the patella to provide enhanced stability, with spiral stitching that provides additional support on the inside and outside of the knee. While the knee is covered, this sleeve is meant for active use including walking and running.

Available from:
REI | Amazon

7. Bitly Plantar Fasciitis Compression Socks

Bitly PF Sleeve 300
Bitly’s Plantar Fasciitis Compression Socks apply compression to your fascia ligament, helping to ease the discomfort of Plantar Fasciitis while increasing blood flow to facilitate rapid healing. They’re thin enough to wear under your regular hiking socks and are best used in conjunction with stretching and corrective insoles to cure Plantar Fasciitis. Read the SectionHiker Review.

Available from:
Amazon

8. Mueller Adjustable Knee Support

Meuller Adjustable Knee Support
Meuller’s Adjustable Knee Support provides firm, adjustable compression with a patella opening that prevents slippage while keeping the kneecap in place. Velcro straps let you adjust the level of compression providing extra support for weak, injured, and arthritic knees. Usable on either knee, the open patella is cooler and more comfortable in hot and humid weather.

Available from:
Amazon

9. CEP Compression Socks

CEP Compression Socks
Compression socks can be used to prevent or treat many foot ailments including Achilles tendinitis which can be very hard to treat while remaining active. Achilles tendinitis is an overuse injury of the Achilles tendon which runs down the back of your leg connecting your calf muscles to your heel bone. In addition to added support, compression socks reduce swelling and increase blood flow to injured or irritated areas which can accelerate healing. CEP’s Run Compression Socks are very high-quality compression socks that have a graduated distribution of compression, tightest around ankles, and gradually loosening higher up the leg. This ensures that excess fluid and waste products do not pool in the foot, but can be removed by your circulatory system. Most no-name compression socks can’t boast the same quality. Read the SectionHiker Review.

Available from:
REI | Amazon

10. Kinesiology Taping

KT Tape Book
Kinesiology Taping is a therapeutic taping technique that relieves pain and promotes healing by reducing inflammation. Kinesiology Tape can be applied in hundreds of ways to reduce pain, promote post-surgical healing, optimize performance, and prevent injury. Unlike the products listed above, you need to learn how to tape each ailment individually, although there are lots of books and videos online that illustrate them. While KT Tape is more expensive than an off-the-shelf brace or support, it can be individualized and sized to an extent impossible with a mass-produced product. Popular tape brands include KT Tape and Rock Tape. Most people are introduced to taping by physical therapists or athletic trainers.

Hiking Brace, Support, Compression, and Strap Guide

There basically two types of braces, supports, compression products, and straps available to hikers and backpackers:

  • Lightweight over-the-counter products that can be used to reduce pain or promote healing, such as those listed above, with a minor impact on your range of motion.
  • Bulkier, protective braces and stabilizers that are prescribed by doctors after accidents, knee surgery, or serious injury, with significant limits on your range of motion.

The lightweight braces, supports, sleeves, and straps that we’ve listed here can work very well for many hikers, but there’s often a trial process involved to find one that works best for you. I’ve benefited from using these products and so have many of my hiking and backpacking friends. This isn’t some junk list I’ve thrown up to get you to buy stuff online, but a carefully qualified list of products that are actually used and recommended by serious hikers.

All of these products provide a certain degree of compression in order to help stabilize internal muscular or skeletal structures so they work more smoothly. Many times, that’s really all you need to reduce pain and promote healing. I also think it’s important that you also seek remedial exercises or physical therapy, when possible, to overcome the underlying condition you need to address. For example, if you have illiotibial band syndrome (ITB), it pays to stretch and strengthen your gluteus medius and tensor fasciae latae muscles, so you can eventually hike without an ITB wrap or brace. On the other hand, if you have a degenerative condition like Osteoarthritis of the Knee, remedial exercises may not be an option.

Frequently asked questions

What is Runner’s Knee?

Runner’s Knee isn’t a specific ailment and may be caused by many different activities other than running. Its symptoms include pain, in front of or around the knee cap; pain from deep knee bends; and pain in your knee when walking downhill. It can be the result of overuse, weak quadriceps, overpronation, or a breakdown of the cartilage under your kneecap, called Chondromalacia Patella.

What is Jumper’s Knee (Patellar Tendonitis)?

Also called Patellar Tendonitis, Jumper’s Knee is an inflammation of your patellar tendon, which connects your kneecap to your shin bone. It is an overuse injury caused by frequent jumping on a hard surface. Its symptoms include pain with jumping, running, or walking; tenderness behind the lower part of the kneecap; or pain when bending or straightening the leg.

What is Iliotibial Band Syndrome (ITB)?

Illiotibial Band Syndrome (ITB) is one of the most common sources of knee pain among hikers and occurs when the band of fibers running down the outside of your leg becomes very tight and begins to rub against the exterior of your knee. The key symptoms are exterior knee pain, hip pain, or clicking sensations such as snap or pop on the outside of your knee. One of the main causes is a muscular imbalance in the muscles that control the hip, often caused by sitting too much. While braces and straps can be used to mitigate ITB pain, physical therapy and a targeted conditioning program can often resolve the condition.

What is Plantar Fasciitis?

Plantar Fasciitis is one of the most frequent causes of heel pain. The Plantar Fascia is a band of tissue that runs along the bottom of the foot between the heel bone and the base of the toes. It can be caused by a sudden increase in your activity level or a lack of arch support in your shoes. Rest, anti-inflammatories and stretching of the Plantar Fascia can help mitigate the condition as can switching to footwear or an insole that provides more arch support.

What is Chondromalacia Patella?

Chondromalacia Patella is the breakdown of the cartilage on the underside of the kneecap. Its primary symptoms include pain underneath, on the sides, or behind the kneecap. Taping, bracing, rest, and taking anti-inflammatories can help mitigate the discomfort of the condition.

What is Achilles Tendinitis?

Achilles tendinitis is an overuse injury the Achilles tendon which runs down the back of your foot connecting your calf muscles to your heel bone is used in walking, running, and jumping. It’s often caused by a sudden increase in activity Symptoms include heel pain, tight calves, and swelling in the ankle and foot. It’s a very stubborn condition that can take months to resolve because cleansing and restorative blood flow to that area of the foot and calf is so poor.

What is Patellar Tendonitis?

Patellar Tendonitis is an inflammation of your patellar tendon, which connects your kneecap to your shin bone. It is an overuse injury caused by frequent jumping on a hard surface. Its symptoms include pain with jumping, running, or walking; tenderness behind the lower part of the kneecap; or pain when bending or straightening the leg. See Jumper’s Knee.

What is Osteoarthritis of the Knee?

Osteoarthritis of the Knee is a condition in which cartilage, which acts as cushioning between your joints, wears away, primarily through wear and tear. It is primarily a function of age, but younger people can also experience it. The key symptoms are pain, swelling, stiffness, and a decreased ability to move. The resulting pain and functional degradation can be managed by losing weight, strengthing the muscles of the leg, taking anti-inflammatories, and the use of a knee brace.

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