With all the diving, sliding, and falling in any given match, you’re bound to make some contact with the floor. That’s why you need the best volleyball knee pads possible to prevent pain and injury. Good knee pads for volleyball can give you the confidence to play your best.
In my practice I often treat injuries, but just as often I advise my athletes and weekend warriors in the ways that they can play smarter and safer. When it comes to volleyball this includes the use of proper volleyball shoes and knee pads. Volleyball might not be a contact sport like football or soccer, but when you’re on the court there’s plenty of contact happening between you and that hard wooden surface. You need protection.
Pads come in a variety of sizes and colors, with different levels of support and padding. While there is no set “best” brand for volleyball knee pads, there are so many choices out there it’s hard to know what will be the best men’s or women’s volleyball knee pads for you.
Based on research-backed evidence and my personal experience, these are the knee pads that I recommend to my own patients:
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The Purpose of Knee Pads In Volleyball
The number one rule of volleyball is to not let the ball hit the floor, no matter what the cost. Consequently, that cost often means taking a deep dive onto that hardwood surface. While contact with the court is inevitable, good quality knee pads can prevent the pain of impact. And, more importantly, they can prevent you from causing any injuries to your knees.
Here are the four main reasons all volleyball players should use knee pads:
Knee pads are designed to protect your patella (kneecap bone), as well as the medial and lateral areas of the knee. As the strongest and largest joints in our bodies, our knees have to handle the pressure of carrying our weight and getting us around. A severe knee injury can mean more than just sitting out of the match, it can mean changing the way you live completely. It can also leave you more susceptible to knee problems like arthritis later in life.
When you’re on the volleyball court, working hard to keep your head in the game, you don’t need bruises, burns, and scrapes (or the fear of them) distracting you. Even if it’s not a serious injury, knee pain is something you don’t want to worry about. Knee pads protect both your knee joint and the skin covering it when you strike the floor. Ones with proper padding can absorb shock to make injuries less severe, whether you’re making an aggressive dive or taking an accidental tumble.
Knee pads can offer stability as well as cushioning. While perhaps not as supportive as a specialized knee brace, volleyball knee pads do have a stretchy sleeve that can offer light support to the entire circumference of your knee.
Volleyball is all about making unconscious, split-second decisions. You don’t have time to consider how much diving for the ball is going to hurt before it hits the floor. Knee pads can give you the confidence to make that tackle. With the proper equipment like knee pads and volleyball ankle braces protecting you, higher confidence can raise your performance level, helping you to become more proficient and reach your goals.
How To Wear Volleyball Knee Pads
You may think that knee pads will weigh you down or hinder your mobility. However, advances in engineering have made today’s knee pads so comfortable that you may not notice that you’re wearing them. And when you consider the potential injury to your knees might suffer, the benefits greatly outweigh any misgiving you may have.
All knee pads should fit comfortably when you run, jump, and dive. When putting on a volleyball knee pad, slide it up your leg so that the largest area padding is facing forward. The padding should be positioned just below your kneecap, barely covering the bottom. Why not over the entire kneecap? Think about when you dive or slide for the ball. Usually, it will be the lower portion of your knee and the top of your shin bone that is making contact with the floor. The best knee pads will also provide padding on the inner and outer parts of your knee.
Test out a new pair of knee pads before you seriously hit the court. Put on your knee pads and assume the position you usually would when diving for the ball. Where do your knees strike the floor? This is where the greatest amount of cushioning should be. If it doesn’t feel right, reposition them and try again until you feel comfortable and confident enough for any save.
Knee Pad Buying Guide
Most volleyball knee pads consist of outer parts made from cotton, nylon, polyester, or neoprene. Comfort is the target here. The inner parts are usually made from gel or memory foam, with shock absorption being the target. Adequate padding should cover the patella, lateral, and medial areas of the knee. Before you make the purchase, it’s a smart idea to try some on at a sporting goods store. Here are three major factors to consider:
It doesn’t matter how high-quality knee pads are if they don’t fit you properly. If a pad is too loose it will slide up or down as you play, both distracting you and leaving you vulnerable for injury. If a pad is too tight it can cut off circulation to your foot, again causing an unnecessary distraction as well as discomfort. You can’t play your best volleyball in ill-fitting pads. Period.
There is no “one size fits all” knee pad. Before selecting, measure above, below, and at the midpart of the knee. Check the manufacturer’s sizing charts, especially if you are buying online. Remember, it’s not your height or weight that matter when it comes to knee pads, it’s the size of your leg. Knee pads should fit snugly without pinching or rubbing.
Consider the position you most commonly play when choosing knee pads for volleyball. This will determine how much padding you’ll need. Front players don’t dive as much but need to move quickly, so they will benefit from a less padded knee pad. Back players dive often, so they should opt for the maximum thickness of padding for maximum protection in times of high impact. Liberos should also opt for a greater amount of padding as well as good lateral coverage. If you’re a beginning player, maximum padding is best if you have not yet learned how to dive without injuring yourself.
Think about the entire design of the product when it comes to the best volleyball knee pads. You want an adequate amount of padding for the way that you play. How long will you be wearing the knee pads? How intense of a hit will they be taking? And how often?
You also want materials that are soft and breathable. You’re bound to sweat in the knee area while you play, so make sure to look for a knee pad that has ventilation at the back, breathable material, moisture-wicking material, or a combination. You don’t want to end up with a pad rash after a long, hard game.
When you start to shop for the best knee pads for you, try to focus on quality rather than price. Think about it this way: you’ll end up spending a lot more if you have to be treated for an injury. Quality knee pads are a necessary investment.
Top 4 Volleyball Knee Pads
The McDavid knee pad offers a trifecta of support, injury prevention, and healing therapy. Those players who rely on a knee brace for pain management or stability might like this knee pad because it provides both support and protection.
- 100% latex-free neoprene material
- For right or left leg
- Offers therapeutic compression
- Impact-absorbing gel insert
- Five sizes
- One knee pad
Backed by sports medicine experience, McDavid designed this latex-free knee pad for those who have had knee injuries in the past, are healing from an injury, or simply seek maximum protection. With a low-profile design, the padding is minimal though many find it sufficient. Neoprene microcell structure makes for a stretchy, durable, and breathable wearing experience.
The McDavid knee pad is intended to fit tightly for the best support when you’re out there on the court. The compression sleeve aspect helps to keep your knee in alignment while you’re making quick lateral cuts, kneeling, and diving.
Therapeutic warming offers comfort for minor pain and conditions like arthritis, bursitis, tendonitis, and sprains. You can concentrate on your game and not your pain. The confidence this provides is invaluable for players who have sustained knee injuries in the past and may have a fear of being hurt again.
And that’s not mentioning the confidence to slide knowing you won’t get bruised or burned thanks to the Sorbothane viscoelastic gel pad insert.
- Helps with pain relief
- Low profile
- Doesn’t slip
- Can’t be machine washed
- Can get sweaty
- Not enough padding
- Doesn’t last long
Under Armour is a trusted brand when you’re looking for a material that will keep you cool and dry. That’s something that makes these some of the best volleyball knee pads. They are made from a combination of polyester, elastane, and EVA foam for maximum protection from impact during an intense game.
- Moisture-wicking material
- Impact-absorbing EVA foam padding
- Set of two
- Hinged design
- Three sizes
The HeatGear fabric is specially made to wick away moisture as you sweat so that you don’t have to think about hot, sweaty knees while you play. Plus, the material is stretchy and flexible enough to offer a snug fit without sliding down or pinching behind the knee. Sold as a set of two, these knee pads come in three sizes. Many find that they run small so make sure to measure your knee and consider purchasing one size up.
These lightweight knee pads for women and men have a minimalist and low-profile design. They offer optimal freedom of movement, making them great for back row players and those who are mostly making lateral movements. The breathable quality enhances your comfort while you play. However, if you are a no-holds-barred player who often ends up on the ground, you may find that these knee pads don’t offer enough protection. Players who slide and dive often may notice a faster deterioration of the material and padding compression.
- No slipping
- Flexible material
- Good knee support
- Comfortable material
- Runs small
- Not enough padding
- Deteriorate easily
- Padding compresses
Nike volleyball knee pads are some of the best. Offering freedom of motion and sufficient patellar protection, these breathable knee pads are a good choice for most athletes. With this low profile design, Nike put some extra effort into the comfort factor. This is a big deal when you plan to be wearing knee pads for hours at a time.
- Four sizes
- Three colors
- Shock-absorbing foam padding
- Moisture-wicking Dri-FIT fabric
- ID tag
Nike’s Dri-FIT fabric is designed to wick away moisture when you sweat, leaving you feeling cooler and preventing rashes. The interior lining of the knee pad is made with a soft brushed fabric for extra comfort. These lightweight knee pads have a longer sleeve that many find more comfortable than low-rise knee pads.
The padding component of the Nike Streak is composed of EVA foam, which is superior at absorbing shock around the knee. Thick padding over the patella as well as the sides of the knee means greater protection for any motion during the game, whether it’s laterally, in the air, or slamming down on the court surface.
That said, like the Under Armour volleyball knee pad, some may find that the Nike Streak is not durable enough for someone who spends a lot of time on the court floor. If you’re extra hard on your knee pads, you may find that these knee pads break down too quickly.
- Comfortable fit
- Good padding coverage
- Longer sleeve length
- Wear out easily
- Too tight
- Poor quality
When you’re playing back-to-back games you want a knee pad that fits like a second skin. Many find that this Mizuno volleyball knee pad is one that they can wear for an extended period without having to think about it. Similar to the Asics Ace, the low rise D F CUT design prevents the knee pad sleeve from folding or wrinkling while you play the game.
- Polyester/cotton/spandex material
- Flexible D F CUT design
- Complete VS-1 padding
- Low rise, no fold design
- Set of two
- Three sizes
- Three colors
Both the Asics Ace and the LR6 have a 6″ sleeve length. It’s also designed to provide you greater freedom of movement while still offering maximum protection. Reported to be as easy to clean as they are to wear, these go-to knee pads employ Mizuno’s QuickDry technology that will keep you cool, dry, and rash free.
Another reason people deem the Mizuno LR6 the best volleyball knee pads is their enhanced durability. This means you won’t have to spring for another pair before the season’s up. Both patellar and medial, these knee pads have thick VS-1 padding in areas of high impact. While bulkier than some, that extra layer of protection might be just what you’re looking for, especially if you’re the type who never hesitates to take a dive. Those who have sustained injuries in the past may also feel more confident with that extra bit of protection.
- Thick padding
- Fits well
- Durable construction
- Won’t move on leg
- Smaller than expected
- Too tight
- May break down easily
Knee Brace FAQ’s
How Do I Clean Volleyball Knee Pads?
Nobody wants to be playing in dirty, smelly knee pads. Not only is neglecting to care for your knee pads an opening for bacterial growth, but it can also damage the integrity of your equipment. Knee pads can absorb a lot of sweat and dirt during a game.
Don’t just stuff your knee pads into the bottom of your gym bag after a game or practice and forget about them until next time. Lay them out, preferably inside out, so that the moisture they have absorbed during the game can dry. This is a good way to keep the pad from building up an unfavorable odor.
It’s a good idea to launder knee pads a few times throughout the season. Knee pads aren’t picky, you can toss them in with any load of laundry on the cold cycle. However, make sure to check the manufacturer’s instructions first. Never put them in the dryer, but rather lay them out to dry at least 12 hours before you intend to use them again.
Why Do Some Volleyball Players Wear Their Knee Pads Below Their Knees?
You may have noticed female college or professional volleyballers playing with their knee pads in a low position on their knees. It may seem like they are wearing them below the knee area, canceling out any aid they might offer. However, seasoned players do this because they have learned after their many hours on the court where to best position their knee pads.
After sliding, diving, and kneeling many times you will start to learn where exactly your body tends to make contact with the floor. You may find that it isn’t your kneecap but the top of your shinbone that hits the floor, especially when kneeling for a low pass. Players who wear their knee pads low have taken their playing style into account and made pad adjustments for where they are most likely to hit the floor.
Why Don’t Some Men Volleyball Players Wear Knee Pads?
“What, are there no men’s volleyball knee pads?” You might ask after watching a men’s volleyball game. While there certainly are volleyball knee pads designed for men, some male players choose not to wear them for several reasons:
- They aren’t comfortable. This is an argument shared by both men and women. Men do tend to sweat more when physically active, adding to the discomfort level of hot, moist knee pads. This is why high-quality breathable ones are imperative.
- Knee pads are for women. Men’s bodies are classically assumed to be more durable than women’s, precluding the need for knee protection. Some male players may feel effeminate wearing a knee pad for volleyball.
- Men don’t land on their knees. You will rarely see a female volleyball player making a chest dive, but they are common in men’s games. Men argue that they don’t spend much time on their knees in the course of a game so they don’t need the extra protection.
Do Professional Volleyball Players Wear Knee Pads?
Having knee protection is important for any serious volleyball player. It doesn’t matter if you’re a man or a woman, a professional, a student, or simply someone who likes to hit the court for recreation on the weekends. However, when it comes to the pros, the use of knee pads is a matter of personal preference.
When you watch the Olympics, for example, you may see some players wearing knee pads and some not. In beach volleyball, knee pads are not typically used. And, as discussed above, many male players do not find them necessary. Experienced players will have a good grasp of their playing style and know if they need protection or not. They may have the confidence to play without knee pads. Conversely, they may have sustained previous injuries that warrant the need for a knee pad.
Best Protection For Your Best Performance
If you ask any athlete, the knees are a very valuable part of their performance. They’re also a common joint to get injured. Keeping these valuable and fragile joints in peak condition means protecting them from the get-go. Thinking about knee protection isn’t just about the here-and-now and how much you hurt at this precise moment; it’s about longevity. Do you plan on having a long volleyball career? Along with proper performance strategies, knee pads are the best way to protect the knees from senseless damage in the future.
If you’re someone who’s been hurt before then you know how much confidence factors into your performance. Instead of thinking “How much is this going to hurt?” or “Hold back! You don’t want to tweak that old injury!” you want that extra boost of confidence to go all in. Knee pads can help you to overcome mentally sabotaging yourself. Comfortable knee protection can empower you to play your best volleyball.