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Knee, Ankle, and Leg Braces for Hikers

Wearing a Cho-Pat Dual Action Knee Brace
Wearing a Cho-Pat Dual Action Knee Brace

Knock on wood, my knees and ankles have been injury free for the past couple of years. But there was a time when I had to wear knee braces or patella straps to keep my knees from swelling when I hiked. At the time, I relied on Cho-Pat knee braces which were very popular with hikers I knew, and had similar knee problems.

Have you ever worn knee or leg braces while hiking? If so, why do you or did you wear one, and which make and model do you prefer?

Help your fellow hikers and tell us what leg braces you’ve used and how they performed.

Please leave a comment.

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32 comments

  1. Nope, never used them.

  2. I own and occasionally still use a Pro Tech IT band compression strap to avoid knee pain on multi day hikes. I bought the strap when I began experiencing knee pain on descents. At the same time I started doing some simple resistance band exercises to strengthen my hip rotators and abductors. These exercises have eliminated pain on all but extended hikes.

  3. I used to use a Cho-pat knee brace, but switched to this one from Better Braces because it stays on better.
    http://www.betterbraces.com/donjoy-tru-pull-lite

  4. I had multiple fractures in my ankle a few years ago (2012ish). As I worked my way back into hiking I wore an ankle brace supplied by the orthopedic surgeon. It worked well and I wore it for over a year, including the entirety of a 65 mile AT section in MA.

    On a day hike up MT Jefferson the brace started to really irritate my skin and I developed a rash. On the way down I took it off and I never put it back on. Luckily, I haven’t had any problems since, but I still worry about my ankle.

  5. Never, I don’t experience swelling on my hikes

  6. not here (touches wood).

    There WAS a time when I experienced knee pain on steep descents … reducing my personal gravity eliminated that problem.

  7. After my first AT section hike I spent six months in physical therapy rehabbing my knees. I have had knee issues all my life but never while hiking. (Mostly here in Flatorida) Since then I have added a set of exercises to my weekly workouts specifically to strengthen the hips, knees and ankles which are all needed for stability. I have not had a repeat of the issue since. Knock on wood.

    To answer your question, I did hike in two heavy orthopedic sport braces for a year. Ultra light wasn’t really in the physical therapist’s vocabulary.

  8. Currently I wear a hinged support brace, full rotation/movement throughout with a donut hole for patella region. But I had a patella realignment surgery in the fall, I have bone deformities, my meniscus was removed and bone spurs. I have ZERO cartilage in either one of my knees. Gotta Love Genetics! My surgeon said I wouldn’t be hiking again, no I haven’t done anything BIG this year but I have been on trails 2-3 times per week for the last two months and I am doing much better than I was prior to surgery.

  9. Do these over the counter braces help with swelling? I have one knee that has had surgery and its fine but the other one swells bad the day after a hike.

    • Compression will help control swelling (it has no place to go) but elevation after your hike is the BEST way to keep the swelling from growing too large and painful. Even better than drugs….

    • I always prefer the BRICEB method. Beer. Rest. Ice. Compression. Elevation. Beer. (Okay, so the RICE part works really well too)

  10. I was experiencing knee for a while and thought i was heading towards a brace. For a few weeks I was able to roll out my leg, namely the IT band, with a foam roller and avoid it all together. I’d recommend looking into a $10 foam roller from walmart as if that helps its by far the cheapest solution.

  11. Great Topic and one I look forward to reading about especially on new items.. In 1993, the Tuesday after Labor Day, Eastern Sierra’s out of Bishop. heading down the Mountain from a week of visiting Mt. Darwin, Hungry Packer Lake and Blue Lake I was passed by one of those Hiking Club Groups also going down. The last guy in the group bounced into me, whether on purpose or by accident I do not know but he sent me flying and in trying to stop myself on a steep slope my Patella popped out of place damaging the External & Internal Lateral Patellar Ligaments and the Patellar ligament or infra-patellar Tendon and adjoining muscles and ligaments. The leg and knee would not support any weight at all and hurt like heck resulting in me taking a Vicodin and mostly crawling the last mile to my truck. No nobody from the group came back to check on me even as I yelled to them.. I spent a week with the knee tightly wrapped and immobile and gradually it repaired itself to where I could bear weight on it… It was January before I dared walk around the block and could slowly build up to speed again. From that day on when Hiking, if I am going downhill at an angle of more than 15 degrees or climbing a ladder I have to wear an elastic knee brace to keep everything in place. The one my Orthopedist gave me and the only one I have wore since, is made by Ace and I buy them at Wal-Mart. . It is a slip on over and pull up to the knee type. It is made of a comfortable elastic woven type material with two stiffeners on either side of the wrap, with a hole in the middle which supports the Patella.. This works very well in keeping my Patella and ligaments in place and on unstressed, though I am careful to “baby it” coming down hill along with using a Hike Stick or two Poles… I have to replace them about every six months or so as they lose their support due to the natural stretching of the material. Inexpensive to for the work they do.. I keep one in each of my Backpacks and Daypacks as well as one in the house for yard work or ladder climbing.

  12. Best solution for me with my knees is lose weight. :)

    I know when I am below a certain weight I can run/hike confidently but even still I wear at the very least compression sleeves on my knees. I find even if I have no pain they provide some comfort while hiking.

  13. no. one of my knees clicks and has shooting pain on some up-steps, but I’ve figured out if I use the muscles differently and engage my core it prevents it. “Reducing my personal gravity”, as someone above put it, would probably help too.

  14. I’ve started wearing a Cho-Pat at the recommendation of my podiatrist, to deal with what feels like a “sloppy knee” because of improper patella tendon tracking. This has helped me with running, hiking, and crossfit movements.

    Now, if only I can find a good solution for my MPJ on my foot…

  15. The most I have had to wear, thank goodness, is a thigh support after straining a muscle on a hike across Scotland. It — and Ibuprofen gel — did the trick. Oppo brand. Probably not quite what you were asking about.

  16. Slightly off topic, but because of the results I think it’s worth a mention…

    My wife had knee pain from running (not typically from hiking). The doctor recommended a heavy duty brace which was technically effective, but unbearably hot to wear and just downright uncomfortable on chillier days.

    On a whim, I taped her knee with KT tape and the results were downright amazing. The knee pain is effectively gone. We use Rock Tape brand KT tape and some spray adhesive, and the tape typically lasts a 2~4 days even with showering.

    This solution isn’t the cheapest one out there, but it’s far more comfortable than other options and is quite lightweight. It would add almost know weight to your pack to toss in a few strips of KT tape.

    By the way, I know that there’s a bit of controversy around it. Some athletes claim it’s a performance game changer; others say it’s snake oil. I can you for my wife’s knee, it definitely makes a positive difference. YMMV.

    • I looked up KT tape and found out what I thought was a really bad tattoo on James Hardin is actually the tape on his shoulder. It takes some people quite a while to catch on!

      The stuff looks intriguing and really isn’t that expensive. I might give it a try if I can decide which aching joint needs it the most. The older you get…

  17. I wear one on my left knee due to arthritis. Eventually I’ll have a knee replacement ( looks like I’m good for a partial knee rather than full) but the brace allows me to do pretty much what I want, from Telemark ski to hike. I haven’t tried it bicycling (yet) and it won’t fit in my kayaks ( no need anyway). Last year I did both Owls Head and Isolation without a problem.Trying to walk around the block without the brace? I can make it but it won’t be pretty. It is a custom brace, ordered by my orthopedic and crafted by a specialist. I was initially told it might or might not help. It helps. I may be able to complete my NH 4K footer quest this summer on my OEM ( Original Manufacture equipment :-) ) with the braces assist.

  18. I used to wear a brace and get knee swelling after exercise and stiffness with changes in the weather. The neoprene braces with metal side bars worked best – but were really hot and itchy to wear all day.

    I started taking glucosamine, chondroiton, and MSM supplements (the ingredients in Ostio Biflex) every day – and the issues gradually went away. However, if I stop taking the supplements, the issues gradually return over the course of a few weeks.

  19. My left knee required ACL surgery in 1992 following hapless attempt to show a young friend on the football field a move he’d never seen before… and he’d never seen anyone’s knee bend that direction before in his entire life! There was probably a reason I was the only 40 year old on the gridiron that day.

    After the surgery, when I was on the trail, I had to wear a Walmart Ace knee brace with side stabilizers. About ten years ago, my brother and I hiked 47 miles on the CDT and we took turns with the knee brace and our only set of hiking poles while we struggled with insanely heavy 60 lb. packs. While cooking breakfast on the last day of our hike with our gear spread out into a couple adjacent counties, we met a through hiker going from Canada to Mexico with 25 lb. on his back. We grilled him (but didn’t eat him) and changed our hiking procedures.

    After I dumped 35 pounds off my gear weight and shed almost an equal amount off my “personal gravity”, I no longer needed the knee brace.

    I broke my ankle about five years ago and had to wear a lace up figure 8 brace for a few months when I hiked. I was released from PT the day my brother in law and I left for a thirty mile loop hike in Arkansas. The brace fit down into my trail runners nicely. I’ve had to wear it again lately because I severely sprained my ankle playing basketball about a month and a half ago–some folks never learn! That same brace is available at Walmart for about thirty dollars and a similar one there for under ten bucks. I may get one of the cheaper ones to keep on hand since I’ve just about worn the old one out.

  20. I wore a custom knee brace post ACL reconstructive surgery. It helped keep my knee in check during my recovery. I was back hiking 9 months post surgery. I wore the brace for another 3 months and then no longer needed it. Now I can no longer hike in the Whites because of degenerative cartilage loss and numerous full thickness voids in both knees. No brace can help at this point. The only thing I can do is wait for two knee replacements. So take care of your knees everyone!

  21. Luckily no knee brace of any kind.

    Now podiatrist insoles………. they have really screwed with my feet!

  22. I didn’t even think about orthopedic foot inserts. If my feet were any flatter, I’d have webbing between the toes! I’ve had bunion surgery on both feet and paid over $500 for custom orthodics a year and a half ago. The inserts also helped with my plantar fasciitis. After the surgeries and inserts, I no longer experience stabbing pain with each step.

  23. I use an ankle brace. I’ve had a few big surgeries on my right ankle so I like the added protection a good ankle brace provides. I use is an ASO Ankle Stabilizing Orthosis, and it allows my ankle to keep the up and down motion while preventing it from rolling over. It also fits nicely in my hiking boots/shoes, which is a big plus.

  24. Glad I stumbled on this – my fiance injured his knee on our last hike and is trying to decide if he wants a brace/what brace to bring on our upcoming JMT trip. Will definitely forward this to him!

  25. I had a huge amount of issues as a teenager with my ankles, tore my ligaments numerous times, it was horrible, but the support braces have given me helped me recover and now I swear by them when I use them for any exercise! Jogging and hiking.

  26. I wore a Bauerfeind Malleotrain S soft ankle sleeve with a figure-8 style wrap for my 11-day northbound thru-hike of the JMT. I did not twist my bad ankle while wearing this sleeve in combination with a pair of LaSportiva Wildcat and while using a pair of fixed-length Black Diamond Distance Z hiking poles. I heartily recommend these products! I suffered a 3rd degree ankle sprain 1.5 yrs back. My ankle is not weak, but the combination of: loss of proprioception, back to back 20+ mile days, and significant elevation change resulted in several painful ankle inversions early on in the trip (we were also going northbound and so front loaded all of the higher elevation). The poles helped just as much as — if not more than — the sleeve. Next thru-hike, I will start wearing this sleeve right away, and possibly pack a more supportive ASO lace-up brace just in case. Whatever you do, stay away from hiking/trekking boots. Trail runner+sleeve/brace is the way to go. Ankle joint mobility is crucial!

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