Knee sleeves are an excellent fitness accessory that can elevate your training by providing compression and warmth around the knee.
This compression can improve blood flow, increase proprioceptive input, stabilize the knee joint, and possibly help you lift heavier weights.
When buying knee sleeves, you must measure for the right size to realize the benefits.
Unfortunately, knee sleeve sizing isn’t standardized, making it confusing when narrowing down your options.
In this article, I’ll tell you everything you need to know about how to measure for knee sleeves. Don’t worry – All you need is a flexible tape measure.
How to Measure for Knee Sleeves in 4 Steps
Step 1: Find Out Where to Measure
While nearly every knee sleeve is sized based on leg circumference, the area of the leg can vary. There are three primary places to measure:
- Below the Knee
- On the Knee
- Above the Knee
Most lifting knee sleeves are measured below or on the kneecap, while most general-purpose sleeves are measured above.
Refer to the manufacturer’s guidance on where to measure.
Step 2: Position the Leg
Depending on the sleeve, you will need to position your leg before measuring. This often entails bending the knee at a 30-degree angle, although you can measure some with a relaxed, straight leg.
Step 3: Take the Measurement
Once you know where to measure, grab a flexible tape measure and wrap it around the area.
Aim for a snug fit, but don’t pull it too tight.
Record the measurement.
For peace of mind, you can take the measurement 2-3 times and average out any variances. You should also measure both legs to see if there are any meaningful differences.
If you don’t have access to a flexible tape measure, wrap any type of string around your leg and mark where it meets. Then, use a ruler or standard tape measure to find the length of that section of the string.
Step 4: Refer to Size Charts
The final step is to use your measurement on the manufacturer’s size chart to find the right size.
Examples of Knee Sleeve Size Charts
Almost every manufacturer has a unique size chart with different options and measurement ranges. While it would be too much to include them all here, I’ve provided an example of each measurement method.
Below the Knee Measurement
I recommend the Rogue knee sleeves to most people because they’re versatile, well-made, and available in several thicknesses. You can use these sleeves for CrossFit, powerlifting, Olympic weightlifting, and more.
As it relates to sizing, the Rogue sleeves use a measurement approximately 4″ below the kneecap. Their size chart includes tight ranges for each size, which typically results in a great fit. In my experience, these sleeves fit better than most others, especially those with wider ranges.
On the Knee Measurement
The Stoic knee sleeves are my top recommendation for powerlifters. In addition to their 7mm thickness, these sleeves fit tightly. One of the biggest reasons is that these sleeves are straight and not contoured.
Sizing the Stoic sleeves starts directly on the kneecap with a straight leg. However, if your calf is much smaller or larger, you should go with your calf size. These sleeves have seven size options with tight ranges, making them some of the best-fitting on the market.
Above the Knee Measurement
The PowerLix knee sleeves are a more breathable option made of nylon and spandex (vs. neoprene). These are better for everyday activities, injury recovery, running, etc.
These sleeves use a measurement approximately 5″ above the kneecap. I’ve found that this method is less accurate than the other two, usually resulting in a looser fit than expected. With wider size ranges, I recommend most people size down for sleeves that use an above-the-knee measurement.
What About Thickness?
The most common knee sleeve thicknesses are 3mm, 5mm, and 7mm. Although size ranges remain the same, thicker sleeves provide more compression and typically fit tighter than thinner sleeves. They also tend to maintain their fit better over time.
I recommend 5mm sleeves for most people since they’re the most versatile. 7mm sleeves are better for heavy weightlifting, while 3mm is better for conditioning.
More Tips for Finding the Right Knee Sleeve Size
- Size down if you’re between sizes: It’s almost always better to size down if you’re in between sizes. For example, look at the Rogue size chart above. If you measure 35cm, you can pick a small or medium. I recommend buying the small because you guarantee great compression and limit the risk of the sleeve sliding down. Going with the medium may fit too loosely and cause the sleeve to bunch up behind the kneecap or slide down.
- Know your calf size: Sometimes, people have calves that are bigger or smaller than their knee joints. If the sleeves you’re looking at require a kneecap measurement, it’s also a good idea to measure your calves. If there’s a big difference between the two, I recommend using the calf measurement instead. For smaller calves, buying a smaller size will reduce slippage. For larger calves, buying larger ones will ensure you can get the sleeves into the proper position.
- Be aware of the materials: Different materials fit differently on the knee. For example, a neoprene sleeve will fit tighter than others. If you prefer a fabric-based sleeve, I recommend sizing down, even if you’re not between sizes. Materials also impact durability, breathability, and how to clean your knee sleeves.
How Tight Should Knee Sleeves Be?
Knee sleeves are supposed to be compressive, but you don't want them so tight that they inhibit range of motion or your ability to put them on. They should be tight enough to avoid slippage and material bunching up behind the kneecap. If you experience either of those, you likely need a smaller size.
When Should I Wear Knee Sleeves?
Knee sleeves are ideal for lower body weight training, including powerlifting, CrossFit, Strongman, Olympic weightlifting, and more. They're also great for injury recovery, rehab, and providing warmth while running in colder environments.
Do Knee Sleeves Have a Break-In Period?
Knee sleeves are typically ready to use out of the box. However, for some thicker sleeves, there may be a small break-in period for the material to relax and conform to your knee.
It’s essential that you understand how to measure for knee sleeves before making a purchase.
Use a flexible tape measure and refer to size charts to find the right size.
Sleeves that use on or below-the-knee measurements typically fit the best.
If you’re on the fence or confused about which size you should pick, I recommend sizing down. It’s better to have more compression than less.