Best Knee Pads for BJJ in 2020

5/5

Grappling is hard. Hard on your fingers, feet, shoulders, and knees. You can use good bjj finger tape for fingers and feet to remedy this somewhat, but most people take their knees for granted. Until something happens and suddenly they can’t walk without pain, can’t run, can’t kneel down to pick up their kids. The best knee pads for BJJ can help prevent those types of life-altering knee injuries from occurring.

I’ve been grappling a long time and love every minute of it. But nothing is worth sacrificing your health for. Not when there are readily available and easily affordable devices that can prevent pointless injuries. Knee pads are one of those devices. They buttress the knee’s structural integrity, stave off mat burn and absorb impacts.

In this review guide, I’m going to take a look at the best BJJ knee pads, answer some frequently asked questions about them and get into what makes them good and why you should be wearing them.

BEST Knee Pads for BJJ

Venum Kontact Lycra/Gel Knee Pads – Superior joint protection, superior protection from patellar subluxation and overall comfort and stability make these the best BJJ knee pads in my opinion. They’re snug, but never impede natural movement and they’re available at a grappler-friendly price.

Best for Beginners

Asics Unisex Gel Wrestling Knee Pads – If you’re new to grappling, there’s no need to saddle yourself with big bulky knee pads right off the bat. These Gel Wrestling Knee Pads provide plenty of support, promote proper circulation and protect your knee cap from brutal impacts.

Most Protection

Bodyprox Protective Knee Pads – If you’re recovering from a knee injury, you need to take extra measures to protect the knee and prevent a recurrence. These outstanding knee pads from Bodyprox provide 360-degree impact protection for the knee.

The Best BJJ Knee Pads Reviewed

Venum Kontact Lycra/Gel Knee Pads

Review: What I love about these knee pads is that they provide padding for the patella and for the quadriceps tendon above it, and the patellar tendon below it. Believe me, you don’t ever want to experience a ruptured patellar tendon. And these pads can help prevent that from happening.

In addition to the extra padding, they also feature an unusually snug fit. This is part of their design. So unless you feel like they’re actually cutting off circulation, you shouldn’t worry if they feel tighter than some other knee pads. You’ll get used to the fit after wearing them a few times.

I’ve heard some folks complain about the quality of the stitching in these pads. But I’ve worn them on multiple occasions, and never noticed splitting of the seams or anything else that would indicate the stitching isn’t up to snuff. I’d recommend these to anyone from beginners to pros who want to err on the side of caution with their knees. I have actually got multiple thank you emails from people who read best beginner gi article and got these pads as a first thing starting out on their bjj journey. Quality stuff guys!

Pros

  • Bolsters knee integrity.
  • Doesn’t interfere with mobility.
  • Absorbs the most severe shocks.
  • Fashioned from cotton, neoprene, rubber, and gel.
  • Fabric is designed to promote optimal fit.

Bodyprox Protective Knee Pads

Review: Whereas the Venum Kontact knee pads above feature plenty of padding north and south of the patella, the Bodyprox Protective Knee Pads go for extra padding to the east and west too. That is, on both sides of the patella. This can be particularly helpful in preventing patellar subluxation. Subluxation often occurs during grappling when someone comes down on their knee at an awkward angle.

Beyond the patellar protection, they provide these BJJ knee pads feature a handsome, comfortable design and are very easy to get used to. I found that by the end of my first session with them that I was already forgetting that I had them on. And that’s exactly what I want from protective gear.

If you have been grappling without knee pads and experienced an injury, the Bodyprox knee pads can also help prevent a recurrence of your injury. Provided of course that you give it enough time to properly heal before hitting the mat again.

Pros

  • Polyester, rubber and EVA blend.
  • High-density foam absorbs impacts.
  • Won’t stretch out, highly breathable.
  • Protect injured knee joints.
  • Promote proper circulation.

NEVERTAP Knee Guard for BJJ

Review: NeverTap Knee Guards take a slightly different approach to knee pad design. But while they have a unique look, there’s nothing gimmicky about them. They provide excellent support for the entire knee joint and include nylon springs on both sides of the joint to provide a bit of an assist and fend off strained ligaments.

Some grapplers I’ve talked to about these have expressed a concern that the springs might actually impede natural movement somehow. I never found that to be the case. The only reason I wouldn’t wear these all the time is that they extend a bit farther up into the hamstring area than I’m comfortable with. But I think if you have thinner legs, you’ll really appreciate that extra coverage.

Pros

  • Conforms to natural human contours.
  • Integrated nylon springs bolster knee strength.
  • Protects against twisting, scraping, and shocks.
  • Innovative fiber knee padding.
  • Prevents common wear and tear issues.

McDavid Knee Pad with Thick Gel Insert

Review: This is a lean, well-considered knee pad that provides lots of support all around and has a nice big gel insert over your patella. The support is particularly noticeable on the sides of the joint when you’re engaged in some funky positions that bring lateral stress on the knee. The compression is firm, not constricting, and helps keep the blood flowing, so that you can get full activation out of your hamstrings and calf muscles.

I’ve noticed with these that when I take them off, my knees feel a little vulnerable. That to me is a sign that these suckers really do an effective job bolstering the integrity of the joint and permitting fearless grappling. If they have a weakness, it’s that they don’t breathe as well as some other BJJ knee pads for whatever reason. As a result, you’ll probably find yourself washing them pretty often and that might cause them to break down faster than they otherwise would.

Pros

  • Lightweight and effective.
  • Highly breathable latex-free fabric.
  • Outstanding job absorbing shocks.
  • Promotes blood circulation through the knee.
  • 100% money-back guarantee.

ASICS Unisex Gel Wrestling Knee Pad

Review: The last of our best BJJ knee pads are these simple, but very effective Unisex Gel Wrestling Knee Pads from Asics. These are classic knee pads in the sense that they’re fashioned from neoprene, which gives them a really snug hold that’s not going to loosen much over time. That firm hold means they do a good job promoting circulation, which is so important for your Jiu-Jitsu performance.

The overall appearance of these pads is sleek and minimalist. They’re certainly not going to get in your way while you’re grappling. Some people may even find them too minimalist. Personally, I think they’re a good choice for people just starting out whose knees are in good shape. They’ll provide the protection you need to keep your knees safe, without saddling you with anything too substantial that could alter your technique before you’ve even mastered it.

Pros

  • Neoprene with gel padding.
  • Completely latex-free.
  • Reversible should you want to change colors.
  • Fully machine washable.
  • Outstanding shock absorption.

 

Jiu-Jitsu Knee Pads Buying Guide and FAQs

What are the Best BJJ Knee Pads?

What constitutes the best BJJ knee pads is a matter of opinion. Any and all of the 5 knee pads I’ve listed above have wound up at the top of different “best knee pad” lists. So it really comes down to which knee pads are best for you. And that will be determined by which one feels the most comfortable to you, provides the level of protection you’re after and represents the best value.

Do Knee Pads Help?

Of course knee pads help and, in my opinion, everyone should wear them. Most grapplers I’ve known that don’t use pads believe that wearing them detracts from their tough-as-nails image. Which is pretty silly. Ever watch NFL football? If you have, you’ve noticed that those 6′ 6″, 280-pound linebackers are padded up from head to toe. Not because they’re forced to, but because they’re smart. So leave your ego at the edge of the mat and wear your knee pads.

What Should I Look For When Buying Jiu-Jitsu Pads?

Keep the following things in mind in order to ensure you get BJJ knee pads that will perform the way you want and expect them to:

  • Comfort – Yes, protection is crucial and we’ll get to that in a moment. But the fact is, if the knee pads don’t feel comfortable, you’re going to be aware of them all the time and will likely find it hard to focus on more important things like technique. Also, if a particular knee pad impedes your ability to move naturally or bend or straighten your knees, it’s likely to do more harm than good. Comfort is crucial. Don’t overlook it.
  • Protection – Are you coming off a serious knee injury? Did you tear an ACL or tear cartilage inside the joint? If so, you should not set foot back on the mat without knee pads. When you do, you should consider picking up some NeverTap Knee Guards. That’s because they combine the support and impact absorption of other knee pads. And the integrated nylon springs on each side also act as a kind of discreet knee brace.
  • Sizing – The knee pads need to be comfortable, yes. But that comfort shouldn’t come at the expense of a proper fit. Your BJJ knee pads won’t be much use if they keep sliding down your leg while you’re in the throes of competition. Essentially, they need to be snug without cutting off circulation, but loose enough that they don’t interfere with the natural movement of the knee.
  • Cost – How much is your long term health worth? The fact is, even the most expensive BJJ knee pads aren’t going to break your bank. But years of surgery and expensive rehab just might. That said, all Jiu-Jitsu pads are not created equal. And, as with a lot of other things, you pretty much get what you pay for with knee pads. I’ll always spend a few bucks more to get a quantifiably better product. Because I want to be able to walk like a normal person 20 years from now.

How Do You Know What Size Knee Pads to Get?

There are a few different ways to find out what size BJJ knee pads you need:

  • Use a tape measure – Some companies use a standard measuring system to size their knee pads. In which case, you’ll need to get a cloth tape measure and physically wrap it around your knee to see how big it is. Typically, if your knee measures 10 – 12 inches around, you’ll want an extra-small knee pad. 12-14 inches will qualify for a small knee pad. 14-16 inches for a medium. 15-17 inches for a large and 17-20 inches will get you extra-large knee pads. Keep in mind, some companies will want you to measure the circumference of the area just above the knee.
  • Record your weight – Other manufacturers use your overall physical size to determine knee pad size. For instance: people who weigh between 100 and 140 pounds will typically qualify for a small size knee pad. Those who weigh between 140 and 180 pounds will need a medium size pad. Those weighing anywhere from 180 to 220 pounds will want a large knee pad. And people over 220 pounds will want an extra-large. Height may come into play as well. Particularly if you’re over 6’ 2”.

Do Knee Pads Help With Knee Pain?

In the vast majority of cases, knee pads won’t alleviate any pain you’re feeling as the result of an injury. What they can do though is prevent an injury from occurring, thereby saving you potentially years of pain and aggravation. If you have already injured the knee somehow and have decided to wear a knee pad to protect it, they can reduce the amount of pain you might feel if, for instance, you jam your injured patella into the mat. But they’re not meant to be painkillers. They’re there to prevent injuries from occurring or re-occurring. If you haven’t incurred any specific injury, but are still experiencing some pain around the knee joint watch the video below.

Does it Take Long to Get Used to Wearing Knee Pads?

When you start wearing pads, you’ll feel weird. There’s no doubt about that. And that’s true whether you bought a big bulky pair or a pair that claims they are lightweight or offer a slim fit. In most cases though, it shouldn’t take you more than a couple of times wearing them before you become physically acclimated to having them on.

Most of the time it’s a matter of wearing them regularly. By that, I mean if you only wear them on certain occasions when your knee is acting up, then each time you put them on you’ll have to get used to them all over again. By getting used to wearing them regularly early in your grappling career, you can avoid potentially life-altering injuries. They can also help fend off osteoarthritis, which might eventually force you to undergo knee replacement surgery. So wear your pads every time out. Your knees will thank you.

It is Difficult to Maintain Knee Pads?

Not really. Some are machine washable, so you can just slip them off and pop them in the washing machine whenever you like. Be aware, however, that washing them too often may cause them to lose their structural integrity. For instance, if you wash them after every use, they may start to loosen up on you.

Of course, they’re going to loosen up eventually whether you wash them every day or not. But washing them too much will hasten the loosening process. For the most part, you can’t lose by simply following the care instructions on the label or on the package they came in. If you don’t see any care instructions, contact the manufacturer.

Conclusion

The best knee pads for BJJ aren’t necessarily the biggest. Nor are they going to require you to take out a second mortgage to pay for them. They’re light, snug, flexible, promote circulation(like good bjj spats), provide lots of lateral support and protect the patella and the joint behind it from sudden impacts.

With all those criteria in mind, my choice for the best grappling knee pads are the Venum Kontact Lycra/Gel Knee Pads. They have everything I want to see in BJJ knee pads, and they provide outstanding protection from patellar tendon tears as well. To top it off, they don’t extend so far up my thigh as to get in the way, and sizing is usually dependable and simple to determine.

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