The first time someone suggested I try a pair of knee sleeves at my local box, the first thing I thought of was the beige knee braces you often see on the elderly or the post-surgical. But as I chased breaking my 315 squat, and I started squatting more frequently, my knees were becoming more and more creaky. A knee injury took me out of swimming a decade prior, and I wasn’t going to let it stop me again.
My first pair of knee sleeves were a used pair of 3mm Rehbands. They kept my knees warm between sets, and I noticed not only a reduction in my knee creaks, but also extra stability during squats and cleans. After that, I was sold.
Knee sleeves won’t automatically add pounds to your lifts, but like a lifting belt, the extra stability will allow you to increase volume and consistency, and therefore, increase your progress overtime. Below are some of the best knee sleeves on the market, so you can pick the best sleeves for your sport.
Best Knee Sleeve For CrossFit
#1- Hookgrip Knee Sleeves 2.0
Hookgrip is traditionally a Weightlifting company. You’ve likely seen their posters if you’ve been in a local Weightlifting gym. These knee sleeves are not designed to replace supportive equipment. They are not meant to provide the support of thicker knee sleeves or knee wraps.
The idea behind Hookgrip’s knee sleeves is to provide a light, mobile sleeve which keeps your knee warm, to improve blood flow during training. While this means they might not be ideal for heavy lifting sessions, the Hookgrip Knee Sleeves are extremely well-suited for general Crossfit WODs.
These sleeves will stay comfortable during bodyweight or high-repetition exercises, as well as during workouts that include running, jumping, rowing, etc. If your knees are getting a little creaky from your Crossfit class, this might be the best sleeve for you.
Hookgrip Knee Sleeves come in black, blue, or pink, and are a comfortable yet durable mix of nylon, rubber, and spandex. These sleeves retail for $14 (USD) for a pair, which also makes them an ideal entry option if you are considering buying knee sleeves for the first time.
#2- Schiek Tommy Kono Knee Sleeves
Accomplished American Weightlifter, Tommy Kono, first developed his “knee bands” in the 1960s. They quickly became popular among strength athletes. These knee sleeves come from Kono’s wealth of knowledge as a Weightlifter and coach, and provide extreme warmth and stability.
These sleeves will keep your knees warm, even after you’ve taken them off! These sleeves retail for $40 (USD) per pair, and come in 3 sizes (small, medium, and large). The medium size is a slightly different construction than the small and large, so be aware that the fit might not be completely the same.
#3- Rehband Knee Sleeves
The OGs of Crossfit knee sleeves, Rehband knee sleeves were as common as Rogue t-shirts in boxes across the globe. Rehband knee sleeves have been the go-to sleeves for legendary Crossfit athletes, including Rich Froning.
These sleeves come in 3mm, 5mm, and 7mm, depending on the level of mobility and stability you’re looking for. You can get them in the classic bright blue, or a number of other styles. The Rehband sleeves are also IPF and IWF approved.
Rehband were insanely popular for a long time, mostly because there used to be a lack of options in the knee sleeve world. But now that we have so many options, the drawbacks to Rehband sleeves become more obvious.
My top complaint about Rehband knee sleeves is how low the top of the sleeve sits. The top of the sleeve is just above the knee. For regular squatting, this might be fine, but during a Crossfit WOD, if you are switching between movements (ex. running and snatches) or you’re doing high-repetition sets of cleans, the sleeves can often fall down your leg.
This is rather annoying, and while not the end of the world, there are definitely better-fitting knee sleeves these days. Another drawback of the Rehband sleeve is that they are sold in singles, so you’re looking at $80 (USD) or more for a pair.
#4- Rogue Knee Sleeves
Rogue, known for high-quality products in the Crossfit and strength sports worlds, carry their knee sleeves in 3 levels of thickness: 3mm, 5mm, and 7mm, depending on how much stability vs mobility you are looking for.
For general Crossfit workouts, where you might be running and lifting, the 3mm or 5mm are ideal. For Powerlifting, or maxing out your back squat, you might want to try the 7mm. Speaking of Powerlifting, Rogue knee sleeves are both IPF and IWF approved, if you’re someone looking to compete in Powerlifting or Weightlifting.
Rogue knee sleeves come in a few different colours. They’re made of neoprene, and are contoured to give you a blend of comfort and stability. Rogue knee sleeves are also made in the USA. The Rogue knee sleeves come in a variety of sizes, and run around $60 (USD) for a pair.
#5- Nike Advantage Knitted Knee Sleeves
A monolith of the fitness industry enters the knee sleeve game. The Advantage Knitted Knee Sleeves are made with a 4-way stretch for enhanced mobility, to increase the types of activities you can use the sleeves for.
These sleeves are longer than some other brands, to improve the fit when you are in motion. To make the sleeves even more mobile, Nike has used a Nylon/Polyester/Rubber/Vinyl Acetate blend to give you more room to move.
The Advantage sleeves also have built-in ventilation, to keep airflow consistent during your workout. This prevents the drenched-in-sweat knees you generally get after taking a pair of knee sleeves off post-workout.
These knee sleeves will break-in considerably, so keep that in mind when purchasing. They are also sold in singles, and a pair will cost $80 (USD) from Rogue.
#6- RockTape Knee Caps with VMO Support, 5mm, Pink Camo, LargeSee latest price
The RockTape Knee Caps are my personal favourite knee sleeves. RockTape Knee Caps come in 5mm or 7mm. 5mm are good for heavy WODs and general lifting. I’ll occasionally use the 7mm for heavy lifting sessions, but the stability I love in the 5mm size, equals a lack of mobility in the 7mm.
Depending on your size, you can pick up a pair of the Knee Caps for $20 (USD), considerably less than most other brands offering the same level of thickness and quality. There are a few different design options (I personally love the skull design).
What I really love in the fit of these sleeves is how far above and below the knee they go. Some knee sleeves are only long enough to just cover your knees. But when you’re in the middle of a WOD, the sleeves are going to move a bit. The extra length in RockTape’s sleeves means that if they do slip a bit, they’ll still keep you protected.
The RockTape sleeves are made of neoprene, so don’t go crazy on the washing and drying. I generally wash mine a few times a week, and only put them in the dryer when they start to get too loose. I’ve been wearing my RockTape sleeves since 2014, and they’re still holding strong!
#7- Strong Knee Sleeves
Legendary Powerlifter, Podcaster, Wrestler, Documentarian, Mark Bell’s company, Super Training, delivers a 7mm thick knee sleeve, ideal for heavy lifting. The STrong Knee Sleeves are a level 3 neoprene, which makes them strong enough to support you during max lifts.
The contoured design and seamless construction will ensure comfort during wearing. These sleeves only come in 7mm, which are great for heavy lifting, but might restrict mobility during WODs where more movement is required.
The makers of the Slingshot, a stability device for bench press and pushups, have put their renowned quality into these sleeves. ST claims these sleeves can add 20-50lbs on your lifts (obviously, this is dependent on how much you currently lift).
One of the biggest benefits of the STrong Knee Sleeves is the variety of sizes they come in. These sleeves go as tiny as XS all the way to 4XL. If you’re a bigger Crossfitter, these might be the sleeves for you. The STrong Knee Sleeves are sold by the pair, at $80 (USD) per pair.
#8- Sling Shot Knee Sleeves
Another pair of knee sleeves from Mark Bell, the Sling Shot Knee Sleeves 2.0 are designed to be more versatile than the STrong Knee Sleeves mentioned earlier. Sling Shot Knee Sleeves are still 7mm thick, so still ideal for heavy lifting, but they’ve improved the fit to hold up while doing activities like box jumps during your WODs. Sling Shot knee sleeves are made of dynamic neoprene and seamless construction to ensure a solid and comfortable fit during activity.
Sling Shot knee sleeves are IPF approved, if you feel like trying your hand at a Powerlifting competition. These sleeves run $65 (USD), which is cheaper than the STrong sleeves, but they’re also limited to 3 sizes (small, medium and large).
#9- Super Training Extreme “X” Knee Sleeves
The third entry from Mark Bell’s Super Training. The Extreme sleeves are made from Level 4 neoprene, and are designed purposefully to be extremely stiff to give you the most support possible. These sleeves are made for support, not comfort.
They only come in 7mm, and are purported to give a 30-60lb gain on lifts. The Extreme sleeves are both USPA and IPF approved, making them ideal for anyone thinking of trying the sport of Powerlifting.
The Extreme knee sleeves sell for $85 (USD) for a pair. Like the STrong Knee Sleeves, the Extreme X Knee Sleeves come in 7 sizes, another option for bigger athletes.
#10- Grippy X Knee Sleeves
The fourth (and final) Super Training knee sleeves on this list, the Grippy X Knee Sleeves are the predecessor of the Extreme “X” Knee Sleeves. These sleeves come in 6.5mm thickness, and are made for maximum support and stiffness. These sleeves are ideal for anyone coming back from injury, and they provide maximum support for your healing joints.
These sleeves would also be great for maxing out your squat, but the stiffness of the Level 4 neoprene will likely hamper your mobility during movements like running or jumping. The Grippy X sleeves are designed specifically to stay in position, and prevent slipping during your workout.
These sleeves are USPA approved, and are purported to add 30-60lbs to your lifts. The Grippy X sleeves come in black, and 7 sizes, similar to the Extreme “X” sleeves. They retail for $85 (USD) per pair.
#11- Freeze Sleeve
The Freeze Sleeves are cold therapy compression sleeves. They’re filled with gel, so that you can put them in the freezer (minimum 2 hours) and then pull them over your knees to relieve joint or muscle soreness.
The Freeze Sleeve fixes the issues of using cumbersome ice packs after training to reduce swelling. You can simply pull them straight from the freezer and throw them over your knee, recovering while going about your day. The fabric also ensures that you won’t freezer burn your legs!
The Freeze Sleeves come in a variety of sizes, and are not limited to your knees. They can be used for your elbow, your ankle, or any other joints that you can slip it over.
These sleeves are not support sleeves, so they shouldn’t be used during your workout. They’re designed for post-workout recovery.
The Freeze Sleeves sell individually, at $49 (USD) per sleeve (or $98 per pair).
How Do Knee Sleeves Help?
Knee sleeves provide support but not as the same way that a knee brace would. Knee sleeves are designed to protect your knee from any future risk or injury of damage. As your knees are put under daily pressure through running and jumping in crossfit.
They provide a compression element that reduces pain and increases blood flow for not during but also after your lifting session as well.
Knee sleeves add warmths that limits patella movement which results in increasing the proprioception. Meaning you are less likely to get injured as you can feel when you’re getting at the limits of your range of motions.
Knee sleeves are a highly personal piece of workout equipment. There are so many variables that go into choosing the perfect knee sleeve for you. Your activity (Crossfit, running, Weightlifting), your build, your quad size, your calf size, and more, all go into what knee sleeves will be the best for you.
If you want to keep your legs warm during the runs of Murph, maybe check out the Nike Advantage sleeves. If you want to use your sleeves in competition, you’ll also need to look at which sleeves are certified by which organizations.
After establishing the activity you want to use your sleeves for, think about how much mobility versus stability you want. The thicker the sleeve, the more stability, and the less mobility you’ll get.
This is really a personal preference, and you need to think about how much discomfort you can handle for the stability. Not all companies make their sleeves in all styles. Once you have that narrowed down, and depending on your wallet, you can think about the design/colours and price tag.
I highly recommend knee sleeves for any Crossfitter, especially for heavier or higher rep workouts. If you’ve had a knee injury, you know how painful the recovery can be. Put in the investment today, to prevent injuries tomorrow. As we all know, the greatest factor in progress is consistency, and if you can avoid injury, you’re well on your way!