The Definitive Guide to Knee Braces

When it comes to knee braces, there are more options than you can poke a walking stick at! Trying to find the right brace for your needs can be confusing, frustrating and time consuming.

We have created this comprehensive guide to knees so that no matter the issue; whether it’s an injury, disease, or the side effect of something else, we can help you find pain relief. While this goes into a lot of detail, we’ve designed this guide to be easy to use for everyone. 



  1. The Anatomy of the Knee 

  2. Types of Braces

  3. Indication Guide


1. The Anatomy of the Knee 

The knee is made up of four bones with various cartilage areas, four ligaments, the menisci, a group of tendons, muscles and veins as well as the bursae. The knee is the largest joint in your body, responsible for guiding and controlling movement, keeping you upright and more. All these components work together to contribute to each movement.



Ligaments: These four bundles of connective tissue work to stabilise the knee joint, connecting the bones together, preventing your knee from hyper-extending or dislocating.

Meniscus: This part of your knee is made up of two menisci, cartilage discs that sit between your femur and tibia. These act to minimise pressure on the knee, allowing the knee joint to move smoothly.

Tendons and muscles: Your knee has two main tendons, the Patellar tendon (which connects your patella to the rest of your knee) and the Quadriceps tendon (which connects the quadriceps muscle to your knee.


2. Types of Braces

There are a wide range of issues that can affect the knee, including injury, disease, genetic conditions and lifestyle. Some of these can be treated with a full recovery, some are degenerative and can only be managed.

In addition to therapy, medication, surgery and exercise, using a brace or support can often be highly effective in managing and treating an extensive range of knee issues. Depending on the condition of the knee and lifestyle of the person, a different support will be needed to best treat the knee.

Below is a breakdown of each type of knee brace out there and what they’re generally suitable for. It’s worth noting that there are many braces that are a combination of some of these types.


Brace Type: Sleeve

Knee sleeves are usually made from neoprene, polyester or elasticised cotton, and fit around your knee as a single sleeve.

Varying in size and shape, they range from a basic sleeve that provides compression, all the way up to a fitted garment with gel and massaging inserts to target particular parts of the knee.

A sleeve style brace can sometimes have an open or hollow portion in the centre to prevent over-heating due to the type of material used and inability to vent well.

The main purpose of a knee sleeve is to provide compression to the joint, relieving pain and swelling and providing muscular stability to minimise fatigue and strain to the muscles and tendons.

Sleeves are usually good for treating the following indications:

  • Swelling
  • Mild knee pain
  • Mild cases of runners knee and jumpers knee (patellofemoral tendinitis)
  • Mild meniscus strains
  • Mild instability
  • Long-term post-op recovery from ligament and tendon damage
  • Mild arthritis
  • Mild meniscus tear
  • Bursitis (Inflammation of the fluid-filled pads)

When looking for a good knee sleeve, here’s some great tips:

Comfortable anatomic fit: A good sleeve should conform to the shape of your knee, staying flush against the skin without any bulging or loose parts, through all your ranges of movement.

Sizing system: Check to see if there’s an extensive sizing system that caters to your knee and surrounding anatomy. Generic sizing systems offering one size fits all or a simple small/medium/large may not provide the comfort and desired therapeutic benefit.

Medical grade compression: Rather than just being firm fitting, the ideal compression is medical-grade. This provides support to the whole joint while activating the muscle groups surrounding the knee.

Breathable cool material: Wearing a sleeve all day can have great benefits, but if it keeps overheating and getting sweaty, itchy and stuffy then it’s not going to help.

Massaging and soothing: Finding a sleeve with gel support that minimises tension in the muscles and soothes pain is always a bonus

The GenuTrain Knee Support combines a number of feature to provide the best support, combining anatomical fit, breathable weave, gel support and high-quality construction as per the break down below; 

  1. Donning and Doffing Stays: Made of flexible polyurethane material that is durable 
  2. Train Knit: 20% lighter and more breathable, providing better comfort and compliance
  3. Extra Comfort Zone: Softer, more breathable knit in the sensitive popliteal area
  4. Omega+ Pad: Patented pain-relieving pad encases the kneecap and provides targeted massage
  5. Meniscus Wings: Provide targeted massage and pain relief to the joint space
  6. Hoffa Pads: Stimulate the infrapatellar fat pad to promote the body's natural healing mechanism



Brace Type: Wrap

Knee wraps are similar to a sleeve in how they work, but differ in the way they are put on and adjusted. 

Wraps are usually one flat piece that is placed on the back of the knee, which is then wrapped around the front and fastened, usually with Velcro. 

Knee wraps have a couple of advantages over sleeves, they can be put on without having to move the ankle at all, making them easier for people who aren’t as flexible. And the other advantage is that the compression can be adjusted by wrapping tighter.

However the drawback is that the fit may not be as consistent and there is a higher chance the brace may loosen as strapping slips or catches. 

The purpose of a knee wrap is to provide general compression to the joint, relieve pain, reduce swelling and providing general stability to support the muscles and tendons.

Wraps are usually good for treating the following indications:

  • Mild knee pain
  • Mild cases of runners knee and jumpers knee (patellofemoral tendinitis)
  • Mild meniscus strains
  • Mild instability
  • Long-term post-op recovery from ligament and tendon damage
  • Mild fracture recovery
  • Mild arthritis
  • Mild meniscus tear


When looking for a good knee wrap, here are some tips on what to keep an eye out for:

Firm straps: If the wrap uses Velcro, ensure it’s high quality and sweatproof. If it uses buckles or a cord system, make sure that it won’t catch or press in to your skin.

Breathable cool material: Wearing a wrap all day can have great benefits, but if it keeps overheating and getting sweaty, itchy and stuffy then it’s not going to help.

Wraps are a great alternative to sleeves for people who have limited
mobility, but in general is recommended to stay with a sleeve or consider
a hinged support if you’ve got no issues getting them on.



Brace Type: Hinged

Hinged knee supports are versatile in treating knee injuries as they combine the benefits of a sleeve with the stability of a rigid splint. 

Hinged supports vary widely, sometimes being as simple as two hinged splints that strap across your knee, sometimes being integrated into a sleeve with range-limiting options and adjustable strapping.

These hinged splints are often made of plastic or metal and are best covered in material for comfort and durability. 

When the hinged brace has a rigid structure and strapping, it is designed to provide two key effects: the first is to minimise any lateral or medial movement (side to side), the second is to take pressure off the joint directly.

This is not a true unload effect, instead it helps the knee more quickly transfer force to the rest of the leg.

Hinged knee supports are great for the following indications:

  • Instability in the knee
  • Mild to moderate ligament injuries (ACL, MCL, PCL, LCL)
  • Mild patella issues
  • Mild to moderate meniscus tears
  • Mild to moderate arthritis
  • Recovery from fracture

When you’re looking to get a hinged knee support, here are some top tips:

Lightweight construction: Wearing a heavy support can cause fatigue and discomfort, sometimes causing just as many problems as it solves. Look for lightweight metal alloys or strong plastics.

Anatomical fit: Sometimes the sides of your knee can be quite sensitive to pressure. Make sure the brace fits the shape of your knee in particular, in all ranges of movement.

Stability: The main point of a hinged support is to stabilise your knee mechanically. If you find it’s not keeping your knee steady when you load the knee (put weight on it and move), then it’s not going to help. 

The GenuTrain S Hinged Knee Support is an excellent brace that combines the stability and pressure relief of a great hinged joint, and combines it with the compression of a sleeve and strapping of a wrap to give your knee all round support.




Brace Type: Unloader

Unloader knee braces are one of the best ways to treat more severe injuries and relieve chronic pain. They will always have some kind of rigid components, most of them being primarily rigid. Some of them will incorporate compression to add the extra benefit of swelling management, while some also have extra strapping to provide another level of stability.

There are several different types of unloader braces depending on the nature of the conditions affecting the knee:

  1. Partial unloader: This is when the knee is slightly unloaded to provide initial relief and promote the re-absorption of fluid. This is more suitable for milder issues where there’s general irritation of the joint (stage 1 OA, low-grade meniscus issues and ligament strains).
  2. Compartment unloader: The majority of issues needing unloading affect one particular area of the knee rather than the entire joint. About 80% of meniscus and arthritis conditions that affect the knee are located in the medial compartment. The GenuTrain OA is a perfect example of a compartmental unloading brace, as it targets either the lateral or medial compartment to great effect.
  3. Full unloader: Full unloader braces are larger rigid supports that take most of the pressure directly off the knee joint, allowing for immediate and long-lasting relief from severe OA and other joint issues. The SecuTec OA unloads the knee completely, to protect the joint and relieve pain.

The main focus of an unloader braces is to do exactly that, unload. By targeting the mechanical point of movement on the knee, an unloader will take pressure off the joint itself, acting as a secondary joint and transferring the force to the stronger parts of the leg in the thigh and calf. 

This works to target two main branches of indications:

Injury treatment

  • Moderate to severe tears of the ACL, MCL, PCL and LCL
  • Moderate to severe meniscus tears
  • Proximal tibial fractures, Patellar fractures
  • Tendon rupture

Condition management

  • Osteoarthritis
  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Moderate to severe chondromalacia
  • Weakness due to atrophy
  • Gout
  • Post-op recovery

When you’re looking at an unloading brace, there are some key things to look for to make sure your recovery has the best chance of being successful.

Adequate unloading: Having a brace that doesn't achieve the required level of unloading means you only get a partial recovery and will continue to have pain. Make sure the brace targets the joint itself where you need it and takes the pressure off.

Anatomic fit and feel: Having a brace that shapes to your leg is essential. If it moves over the day or causes irritation from undue pressure, then it’s time to find a brace that won’t. A brace that moves or doesn't fit correctly does not do an adequate job. 

Light construction: Recovering from a severe injury or surgery can take a while and leave you les mobile than before. Having a heavy brace adds a very literal weight that can make everything more difficult. 

Bauerfeind have a number of unloader type braces from compartment unloading through to full unloading. The SofTec Genu Knee Brace is a world-leading unloading brace that’s comfortable, lightweight and incredibly effective at taking pressure directly off the knee joint.


Brace Type: Immobiliser 

While active support and use of the knee is one of the best ways to recover from an injury and manage most issues, sometimes immobilising the joint is the best course of treatment. 

When immobilising the knee, you can either partially or fully lock it in place. The braces designed to do this normally cover the entire knee and a decent part of  the leg to ensure minimal movement to allow for recovery.

Partially immobilising the joint works best for post-op recovery or conservative  treatment of the injury. This is done by completely preventing any lateral or medial movement, and restricting the degree of extension or flexion of the leg (most commonly used in the treatment of ligament injuries in the knee).

Full immobilisation of the knee is done when any movement causes severe pain or distress, if there’s a suspected or confirmed fracture, or there are neurological conditions that cause complete instability in the knee.

Common indications that may require the use of an immobilising brace are:

  • High grade ligament tears (MCL, ACL, LCL, PCL)
  • Suspected fractures or severe trauma at time of injury
  • Confirmed fractures
  • Severe inflammation of the joint
  • Post-op recovery

When looking for an immobilising brace, here are a few tips: 

Comfort: Immobilising the knee means keeping it in place for long periods of time. Having something that is comfortable on the skin and doesn’t press into your flesh anywhere makes the difference between a pleasant few weeks or a very uncomfortable time.

Durable construction: Having a brace that starts to lose its effectiveness after a couple of weeks wear could set you back to square one with your recovery. Look for what is going to last. 

The SecuTec Genu is an excellent partial immobilising brace, while the GenuLoc is a simple and comfortable full immobilisation brace.



Brace Type: Strap

While technically not a knee brace, a knee strap supports the knee for a select set of issues.

Knee straps are designed to sit under the kneecap, with a gel or massage support that targets the front of your leg just beneath the knee. Knee straps are suitable for treatment of a small range of issues, but highly effective at treating them.

The main indications they treat are:

  • Mild runners knee
  • Mild jumpers knee
  • Low grade chondromalacia
  • Mild patella instability

The GenuPoint is a great Knee strap that is simple to use and highly effective at providing targeted pain relief.



3. Indication Guide

There are hundreds of different knee braces on the market, varying wildly in quality, effectiveness and value. 

Bauerfeind have many different knee supports designed to treat virtually every different knee condition there is.

On the following page we have put together an indication guide to find the right support for your condition. 

To use this, just use your device’s search function to find your condition. Each condition has a list of supports suitable depending on the severity.

If you can’t find your condition, or you’d like more help, just give our office a call and one of our trained staff will help you find the right product for you.




If you can’t find your condition, or you’d like more help, call 1300 668 466 or message one of our trained staff members will help you find the right product for you.

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