Using a Knee Brace
For running-related knee pain and injuries, runners need a knee brace that provides stability for the patella, or kneecap. Look for a wraparound brace with a patellar cutout. The cutout gives patellar support while limiting compression, as this can worsen the grinding of the patella against other bones. The wraparound design allows for fine adjustment of the brace's fit, and can be adjusted for weight loss or gain.
Wellgate for Women Knee Brace
The very affordable Wellgate for Women Gel-Comfort Knee Support provides a great starter knee brace. Its low-profile design provides secure support without drawing attention, and it's made of a fabric that's lightweight enough to be comfortable even in the hottest weather. The brace features a gel pad surrounding the patellar cutout, and a breathable mesh covers the cutout as well. The gel pad minimizes patellar compression and helps guide the kneecap into the proper groove. The design supports, but doesn't restrict, freedom of movement. The Wellgate brace fits women who wear pants sizes from 2 to 18, and is reasonably priced, easy-to-use and can be hand-washed and air-dried for cleaning between uses.
West Medics Neoprene Wraparound Brace
The West Medics Wraparound Brace is slightly more expensive than the Wellgate Gel-Comfort, but it's appropriate for both men and women. It also includes a patellar cutout, but does not have padding between the brace and the patella. It does have repositionable buttress pads, which may help with patellar compression if you correctly position the pads. It fits knee circumferences from 13 to 16 inches, which is close to a small or medium in size. Priced in the upper $50 range, the West Medics brace is affordable but still supportive for runners dealing with knee pain or injury.
Genutrain Knee Support with Viscoelastic Insert
The Genutrain Knee Support by Bauerfeind comes in a variety of sizes and three colors. The Genutrain offers more leg coverage, and is made of a lightweight knit that is machine washable. Its edges distribute the pressure evenly around the leg, relieving circulation problems, which can be a problem with a tightly fitting brace. The Genutrain protects the patella from dangerous compression with a viscoelastic pad that has a patellar cutout. The pad is covered by the same knit the brace is made from, which prevents swelling around the kneecap. The Genutrain is priced under $100, and is available in black, natural and titanium. The Supports4Less website (see Resources below) offers a sizing guide for the proper fit.
Benefiting from a Knee Brace
According to a study done by the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, knee braces do not prevent stress-related knee injuries. However, they can help when combined with rehabilitation, therapy and other healing measures. For serious injuries or post-operative knee support, some insurance policies may offer coverage or reimbursement. Talk to your doctor about the best knee brace for your body and your situation, and take care of your knees.