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.
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
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.
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.