Knee sleeves and other knee supports are designed to be worn against the skin, offering compressive support and stability. Other compression garments such as leggings are commonly worn for exercise performance and enhanced recovery.
With this, can you wear them together? Do you wear knee sleeves under or over leggings? We’ve addressed these important questions below, describing the benefits and potential drawbacks.
Do You Wear Knee Sleeves Under or Over Leggings? – Knee supports can be worn under or over leggings with no differences in benefits if certain considerations are made. The benefits of wearing leggings with knee support may be enhanced. Consider the legging thickness, material, and type of knee support.
What Are Knee Sleeves?
A Knee sleeve consists of a single piece of material that slides up the leg and sits against the knee joint, ligaments, and surrounding structures. During exercise and activity, the knee joint is put under increased pressure when performing different movement patterns at several intensity levels. Knee sleeves provide a host of supportive benefits to the knee joints depending on their design and the materials used.
They are mainly designed to be worn for lower-body gym movements such as squats and deadlifts and impact sports such as running, rugby, and basketball. Most knee sleeves are made from high-quality neoprene or a neoprene blend that stops the sleeves from losing their shape.
Other common materials include nylon and spandex. The support provided by the knee sleeves also depends on the thickness, with thicker knee sleeves offering more support but at the expense of movement freedom.
The different types of knee support and their purported benefits include:
1. Compression Knee Sleeves
Constructed using flexible materials such as neoprene that tightly sit against the knee joint to provide compression. They can help to improve lifting and exercise performance when worn correctly.
2. Daily Use Knee-Sleeves
Constructed from thinner, lightweight materials such as spandex and nylon that provide less compression but offer more movement. Used for added warmth and comfort during everyday activities.
3. Knee Braces
Designed to offer maximum support following injury or surgery. May restrict knee movement and use different support structures to keep the knee joint in place. Different types include hinged, functional, and offloader braces.
4. Rehabilitative Knee Sleeves
Designed for knee rehabilitation rather than performance. Commonly contain side supports and a patella hole to limit knee joint movement during recovery.
Benefits of Knee Sleeves for Athletes
The benefits of wearing knee sleeves for athletes are wide-ranging and are listed below:
✅ Improved Performance
Knee sleeves provide compressive support and stability to the knee joint and surrounding structures. During sporting events and exercises where the knee joint is under increased pressure, the added compression can help to reduce the rating of perceived exertion and improve performance.
The amount of support provided and possible performance benefit will depend on the type of knee support and materials thickness.
✅ Added Joint Support
The added stability provided by knee sleeves helps to keep the knee joints properly aligned, reducing the risk of them moving into unnatural positions when moving. The reduced knee stress provided by wearing knee sleeves can be beneficial for injury recovery, rehabilitation, training quality, and event performance.
✅ Pain Reduction
Compressive knee sleeves that wrap around the knee joint help to increase temperature and improve blood flow and nutrient delivery. These improvements help to keep the knee joint healthier and reduce the risk of injury.
When worn post training, knee sleeves help to reduce swelling and keep the knee joints lubricated.
✅ Added Confidence
When looking for small increases in performance, confidence can play a big role that’s often overlooked. Wearing knee sleeves can help to provide a confidence boost by helping you to feel better about your knee joint movements with some extra support.
This allows you to focus more on exercise and lifting technique rather than worrying about your knee joint. However, care should be taken to avoid over-reliance.
2 Benefits of Wearing Knee Sleeves over Leggings
Alongside the ones described above, wearing knee sleeves over leggings can provide some added benefits:
1. Increased Compression
Wearing knee sleeves over leggings can provide added compression by combining the effects of both compressive garments into one. This may then in turn further improve performance. A thin legging constructed from materials such as elastic will not change the benefits of knee supports when sized and fitted correctly.
2. Increased Comfort
When worn correctly using the guidance below, wearing knee sleeves over leggings may enhance comfort when exercising or performing sports in colder environments.
If you’re outdoors or exercising inside in a colder country, wearing knee sleeves and leggings together can help provide compression whilst keeping your muscles and joints warm.
3 Drawbacks of Wearing Knee Sleeves over Leggings
Wearing knee sleeves over leggings isn’t without potential drawbacks. We’ve listed the main ones below:
❌ Sleeve Movement
As we’ve explained above, the materials of both your leggings and knee supports will influence the amount of possible movement when worn together.
Thicker, more slippery materials will undoubtedly increase the chances of the knee sleeves moving out of place when worn over leggings during exercise.
Make sure to consider the temperature of your environment first before even thinking about wearing your knee supports and leggings together. If you’re exercising in a hot and/ or humid environment, wearing both together may cause you to overheat and possibly even pass out in some situations.
❌ Range of Motion
Wearing knee sleeves over your leggings will decrease your movement freedom even when thinner, non slippery materials are used for both. Consider this trade-off when deciding if to wear them.
If you’re wearing a size down in the knee supports, you may struggle to get the knee sleeves over the leggings. This may further limit your range of motion and become uncomfortable if your blood flow is restricted too much.
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How to Wear Knee Sleeves Correctly?
Follow the tips below on how to wear a knee sleeve with leggings. Avoid the common mistakes when looking to get the most out of wearing them for exercise and sport.
1. Size Them Correctly
Before choosing a suitable pair, you need to size them correctly. Sizing charts aren’t universal between brands meaning different measurement points are used. Measure using the brand guidance and refer to the sizing chart when picking a suitable size.
2. Follow the Fitting Guide
Once you’ve got the correct size, placing them around the knee joint correctly should be the next consideration.
Whether you’re wearing them under or over leggings, fold the knee sleeves in half. This makes them easier to slide up and over the leggings and skin if needed. Extend your legs out and slide them upwards. Once at calf level, unfold the knee sleeves onto your knee joints. Check that the top of the sleeves are above the knee joints by a few inches.
Adjust your leggings and knee sleeves/ supports as needed, making sure to get rid of any creases or wrinkles before moving.
3. Consider the Materials
The material of your leggings and knee supports is important to consider to ensure both stay in place and don’t cause any unwanted discomfort.
Ensure that your leggings are not made of smooth, slippery fabric before wearing knee supports on the top. If they are, it’s best to wear them underneath. Make sure that the knee sleeves are fitted firmly against the knee joint to limit any possible movement.
Wearing socks at the bottom of your leggings will help to keep them from bunching up when sliding the knee supports over them.
How to Correctly Choose High-quality Knee Sleeves for Athletes
Whether you wear the knee sleeves under or over your leggings, here are the main considerations to bare in mind:
1. Material and Stitching
Most high-quality knee sleeves are typically made out of durable neoprene or a neoprene blend which are the best options in terms of durability. Other decent material options include spandex and nylon.
Better knee sleeves will have reinforced stitching around the edges which further enhances the durability. Consider both the placement and type of stitching when purchasing.
2. Support vs Movement Freedom
When choosing the correct knee sleeve, the amount of support offered vs movement freedom should be one of the main considerations.
As the amount of knee support goes up, the amount of movement freedom offered goes down. Thicker knee sleeves offer more support whilst thinner ones offer move movement. Consider the amount of support and movement needed for the movement you are performing before deciding the best option.
Different types of knee support offer varying levels of stability and movement which changes their most suitable uses. Consider the type of support offered (lateral, medial), knee support materials (soft materials vs hard plastic) and closure mechanisms used.
Different types of knee supports include knee compression sleeves, functional knee supports, and knee braces. Read the guidance above to learn more about the different types of knee supports.
4. Type of Exercise/ Sporting Event
Consider the characteristics of the exercise and sporting events you are performing when choosing the best knee support.
Dynamic, functional exercises such as snatches and jerks are better suited to a knee sleeve that offers more movement freedom with some added support whilst power-based movements such as deadlifts and squats require more support with less movement.
The Best Knee Sleeves
When choosing the best knee sleeve over leggings, consider the points stated above as the most important factors to focus on.
Once you’ve worked out which type of knee sleeve is best for your sporting activity or exercise, it’s time to choose from several options available on the market.
We’ve chosen our weightlifting knee sleeves below as they are high-quality, compressive knee sleeves that perform as stated. Take a look at them in more detail:
Our Recommended – Weightlifting Knee Sleeves
With the help of Olympic gold medalist Oleksiy Torokhtiy, we’ve designed our weightlifting knee sleeves using 0.25” thick neoprene material that provides good compression, comfort, and support.
This also prevents moisture from building up when exercising and keeps the knee sleeves from stretching out of place. We’ve designed them with an anti-slip system around the sides to keep them against your knee joints during powerlifting, weightlifting, and sporting activities. We offer them in three colors and from S to XXXL.
Do You Wear Knee Support Under or Over Leggings?
Wearing a knee support with leggings may reduce the amount of compression and make them move around more depending on the legging and knee sleeve materials used.
If you wear tight leggings that are made from non-slippery material, wearing knee sleeves over them is fine and may enhance compression to further improve performance.
How Long Should You Wear a Compression Sleeve on Your Knee?
The most appropriate length of time to wear compression sleeves depends on the type of sleeve and exercise you’re performing.
For regular workout use, compression sleeves can be worn during and inbetween sets with little issue. If you’re wearing them for pain relief or following injury then you may need to use them for several hours. Make sure to also consider the material thickness and type, with thicker knee sleeves being harder to wear for longer periods.
How to Keep the Knee Sleeves From Slipping?
To keep sleeves from slipping during exercise, make sure they are sized and fitted correctly first. Ensure they are tight enough to provide compression without being painful. Use high-quality knee sleeves constructed from good materials with built-in anti-slip systems.
Can You Wear a Knee Brace Over Pants?
Wearing a knee brace over leggings is much easier due to the closure mechanisms and materials used. Compared to compressive materials that sit against the knee joint and tend to move against slippery legging materials, knee braces stay firmly against the joint and surrounding structures when fitted correctly.
Knee supports provide compression, support, and stability. They help to increase knee health, reduce injury risk, and improve performance. The benefits of wearing knee supports over leggings depends on the type of support and materials used.
Wearing them over leggings is totally fine as long as you consider factors such as the materials used and competition rules. Thicker, slippery legging materials may cause the knee supports to come out of place, reducing their effectiveness when worn together.
Do you wear a knee sleeve over or under leggings? Have you found them to move around more when worn over? Tell us about your experiences below!
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Sergii Putsov is a professional weightlifter with over 20 years of experience and multiple national medals. He was a member of the National weightlifting team, competing in the 94 kg weight class. Sergii holds a master’s degree in Olympic & Professional Sport Training and a Ph.D. in Sport Science. After his athletic career, Sergii transitioned into coaching and is now responsible for designing training programs, writing blog articles, providing live commentary for international weightlifting competitions, and hosting sport and fitness seminars worldwide.