(Last updated on May 18th, 2023)
I told my friend I gave up and walked a quarter mile of a single track. I was just too afraid to even try the rooty, steep trail after my last endo. She laughed and told me maybe I needed a better mountain bike! But her trick for mountain biking terrain when she didn’t feel brave: a full-face helmet, elbow pads, knee pads, goggles, and then just send it. What followed in our lighthearted conversation was a deep discussion on the best MBT knee pads.
There are so many types of pads out there to choose from. So how do you know which ones really are the best mtb knee pads? In this article, I’ll discuss how to determine which mountain bike knee pads you need for your style of mountain biking. Then, I’ll give you the top 5 knee pads and the criteria I used to determine the best ones.
And finally, I’ll let you know which ones I will use for my next (hopefully endo-free) mountain bike adventure and which I think are the best knee pads for mountain biking.
After analyzing and researching the best mountain bike knee pads, I’ve uncovered the following five best knee pads for your next mountain bike ride:
- POC Joint VPD 2.0 Knee Pads
- 7iDP Project Knee Pads
- Sweet Protection Pro Hard Shell Knee Pads
- Leatt Airflex Pro
- Endura MT500 Hard Shell
- Best All Around Mountain Bike Knee Pads
- Best Mountain Bike Knee Pads for Larger Riders
- Best Downhill Mountain Bike Knee Pads
- Best Budget Friendly MTB Knee Pads
- Best Mountain Bike Knee Pads for Smaller Riders
- How to Choose the Best MTB Knee Pads
- Final Thoughts on the Best MTB Knee Pads
- Frequently Asked Questions
The Five Best Mountain Bike Knee Pads
Best All Around Mountain Bike Knee Pads
1. POC Joint VPD 2.0 Knee Pads
|Protection Type||Sewn-in insert|
|Sizes||S, M, L, XL|
- It offers plenty of protection that wraps around the knee
- Small but beefy
- These pads are not as pedal friendly with the extra protection
- The Velcro strap sits on the back of the knee
I love the POC Joint VPD pads because they look cool and sleek but offer a very high level of protection for a reasonable price.
First, these pads aren’t as long as some of the other mtb knee pads on this list. So if you don’t want your whole leg covered, these are a good choice. Also, they cover just a little below and above the knee, which means you won’t get as hot when you wear them.
However, despite the smaller size, their protection is quite full. The knee pad is an insert sewn into the knee pad, so it won’t slip, get lost, or fall off. It also wraps around the knee, giving extra protection on the sides and the back. The POC Joint VPD pads look more like a traditional knee pad and less like an exoskeleton. They look sleek and aerodynamic.
All that extra knee coverage makes these pads rather beefy, bulky, and a bit heavy because protection comes with a price. Also, when you first put the pads on, they feel stiff but become slightly more flexible as you warm up the pads with your body heat.
The problem with these pads is that it is much harder to pedal with all that padding around the knee. The Velcro strap sits on the back of the knee, too, which means it might just be in your way when you’re trying to pedal. You might have trouble tightening the strap around your calf if you’re on the smaller side.
I give these knee pads a 4.8/5. They’re reasonably priced, breathable, and provide lots of protection for the price. Although you give up a little maneuverability for protection, that’s a worthwhile tradeoff.
Best Mountain Bike Knee Pads for Larger Riders
2. 7iDP Project Knee Pads
|Protection Type||Front knee plate over padding|
|Sizes||S, M, L, XL|
- Extra-long coverage protects your shins and your knees
- Extra skid-plate over the padding gives more protection without affecting pedaling style
- Can slip down on thinner riders
- Back cut-outs might not fit correctly
7iDP Project Knee Pads shape the padding right around the knee, where it’s most needed. The pad has an exterior skid plate over the top for extra protection. It’s attached to a compressive, extra-comfy sleeve on longer rides. It also features a rear cut-out to make it cooler and more comfortable. The sleeve is long – from calf to mid-thigh – to help it stay in place and to protect you from those pedaling mishaps.
The sleeve is held in place with two silicone grippers and a double hook and loop strap.
The sizing on these knee pads tends to run a bit large, so you might need to size down just a bit. If you’re very thin, though, these might not stay put. The gripper at the top needs to squeeze pretty tight to keep the pad from rolling or slipping down, especially when you are sweaty from the trail.
Another thing to note about these pads is that although they are lightweight and breathable, the cut-outs in the back can gap a little bit, making them look odd from behind.
The pad protection is extra-long, giving you extra coverage for your shins and knees. It may be a little tough to squirm your way into them, but once they’re in place (provided you have the right size), they should stay put really well.
7iDP pads give you great protection for the trail, especially if you are a larger rider. However, if you are on the smaller side, you might need to find something with some extra adjustability.
I give the 71DP pads a 4.6 out of 5. Although they’re great value, they might not work well for smaller riders like myself.
Best Downhill Mountain Bike Knee Pads
3. Sweet Protection Pro Hard Shell Knee Pads
|Protection Type||Removable Level 1 3S Visco-elastic pad (hardens on impact) and Hard-shell in front, additional pads|
|Closure||Double Fit Adjustment Hook and Loop Closure|
|Sizes||S, M, L, XL|
- Offers breathable protection
- Gives extra knee protection without limiting mobility
- Very expensive and may not fit all budgets
- Elastic bands may pull at leg hairs
One of the hardest parts of creating a knee guard for mountain biking is finding the perfect balance between pedal friendly and offering as much protection as possible. The Sweet Protection Pro Hard Shell knee pads do this well. This is the most expensive and protective set in their lineup, but it protects your knees without limiting your mobility.
If you’re into aggressive downhill riding or serious enduro, then you’ll want to consider these. These knee pads are highly ventilated and use lighter materials, making them more comfortable and not wasting your precious energy. The visco-elastic pad hardens on impact, giving you as much comfort as possible and protection. A hard shell in the front and additional pads on each side securely protect your knees without limiting your mobility.
The double hook and loop tape closure means you get an adjustable fit that stays in place while allowing your knee to move without restriction.
The inside of the pad contains gripper elastic, which is comfortable and helps the pad to stay put. So although these pads are a little expensive, you will want the level of protection they offer if you are doing seriously fast, technical mountain biking.
The pads are hand washable, but make sure you remove the pad first.
I really like the level of protection on these mtb knee pads and the fact that they don’t limit your mobility.
I give this mountain bike knee pads a 4.6/5. They’re mostly very comfortable, and although they may feel warm, they have excellent breathability. You have great motion through the leg, making them pedal-friendly. They’re just a bit expensive for the average mountain biker.
Best Budget Friendly MTB Knee Pads
4. Leatt AirFlex Pro Knee Guard
|Protection Type||Shell with side padding|
|Sizes||S/M, M/L, L/XL|
- No bulky straps to get in the way
- Very breathable, lightweight, and pedal-friendly
- These pads offer less protection than other brands
- Cut-outs in the back for breathability have an awkward appearance
Skip the Velcro fasteners – Leatt AirFlex Pro Knee Guards are simple to slip on and go, so you don’t have to fuss too much when gathering your other mountain bike gear. Instead, you can focus on other aspects of preparing your ride – like your tire pressure. In addition, these knee guards are surprisingly easy to slip on your legs and offer extra knee protection.
They are impressively lightweight and easy to pedal in, and there are no bulky hook and loop closures to get in the way. There are silicone grippers on the top of the thigh and around the knee cutout to help keep these pads in place. They stay surprisingly well, are extra breathable, and are very comfortable.
So if you’re looking for lightweight and breathable, the Leatt Knee Guards might be your go-to. But don’t go too crazy just yet. Although they have extra padding around the knee, they offer less protection than other knee guards.
However, if you aren’t into crazy downhill riding, just like some enduro trail runs or a good time with your pals, these are a very budget-friendly option.
I like that these knee guards are available in basic black and a soothing, grey-blue flint color. Rarely do I see knee guards in interesting colors, but this at least gives you some options to coordinate your color with your favorite MTB tech shirt or at least your bike.
Just because they offer ‘less protection’ doesn’t mean they aren’t good enough. They just aren’t the MOST protective guards out there. But you’ll pay much more for good protection, so just get the level you need.
I love the simplicity of these knee pads. You just slide them on and go and don’t have to worry about adjusting bulky straps. They aren’t quite as protective as some other brands, but they do cost less – giving you a good amount of comfort and protection for the price. I give these a 4.8/5 for comfort, ease of use, and price.
Best Mountain Bike Knee Pads for Smaller Riders
5. Endura MT500 Hard Shell
|Protection Type||D30 shell for shock absorption and side padding|
|Sizes||S/M, M/L, L/XL|
- Excellent protection, with added padding on the sides
- Very movable and pedal-friendly
- These are not the lightest pads
- Pads tend to be a bit on the warm side
The Endura MT500 Hard Shell is a great choice if your key considerations are movability and protection. It offers a D30 shell over the knee to deflect shock on the trail. It also offers extra soft foam protection on the sides of your knees for even more protection.
These knee pads definitely stay put on your leg, no matter how sweaty you get. It can be a bit tricky getting them on and fitted to just the right spot, but once they’re in place, they are comfortable and very pedal friendly. You won’t have to worry about them going anywhere with the silicon grippers, hook, and loop tape closures.
On the other hand, all that extra padding makes those knee pads feel a bit warm. So even with the extra mesh in the back for ventilation, your leg is still going to get a bit warm and sweaty due to the extra padding.
The sleeve is long, going from mid-calf to mid-thigh, giving some compression to your muscles and a little protection from thorns and briars.
Another noteworthy point is that these knee pads run on the small side. You might feel like they’re squeezing your leg just a bit too much. So when purchasing these pads, just take extra care to get the right size for your leg. The pads aren’t the lightest weight, but the extra weight comes from the extra protection you get.
These pads offer great protection on rough and gnarly trails – especially if you are a smaller rider.
As a smaller rider who is always concerned about fit, these are my go-to pads. The price is mid-range, and although they feel a bit warm on your leg, the extra protection is worthwhile, so I give them a 4.4/5.
How to Choose the Best MTB Knee Pads
When it comes to choosing mountain bike knee pads, I looked at fit, pricing, color, pedal friendliness, and breathability. Then, of course, it comes down to the pads that feel best to you when riding, but here are a few things to consider.
First, you’ll want to find a pair of knee pads that fit your body shape well. Some people have larger thighs and smaller calves, while others have thinner thigs and equally-sized calves. You just have to find the right balance.
You also want to ensure the pads fit comfortably but firmly enough to stay in place. They need to stay put so that if you fall or crash, the pad is in the right spot to protect your knee. Some pads run large; some run small. You may need to try on a few different pairs to figure out what works for your body shape and make sure you measure your legs and compare them to any size charts offered by the manufacturer.
Part of the fit is how the knee pads stay on your leg. You might find that although a sleeve-only closure is the most comfortable, they don’t stay in place for you. On the other hand, you might find that hook and loop closures work best, and silicone grippers just aren’t enough.
If the pads are too tight, they’ll be uncomfortable and restrict movement. But if they are too loose, they won’t be in the right spot when you need them.
Pedal friendliness is also an essential factor. There is no point in wearing knee pads if they are too thick to pedal in. On the other hand, if you are downhill racing, you may not need to pedal as much as XC, but you’ll need more protection for faster speeds and more gnarly terrain.
Ventilation is how much airflow you can get from your knee pads. If there is no airflow, you’ll get very hot and sweaty. In addition, the trapped moisture can cause chafing and skin breakdown. It can also cause your pads to slip off.
Good ventilation will help keep you cool even when riding in the heat.
I don’t advocate spending money that you don’t need to spend – but you also don’t want to skimp too much when it comes to protecting your knees. An injury could easily end your season early. All knee pads on this list are a good balance of price and protection.
Final Thoughts on the Best MTB Knee Pads
Honestly, you’ll have to find a pair of knee pads that you feel are comfortable, breathable, and pedal-friendly but offer the coverage you need for your riding type. So while I’m definitely partial to the Endura MT500 knee pads, for most riders, I have to lean towards the POC Joint VPD 2.0 Knee Pads.
They look good, feel comfortable, and offer excellent protection at a reasonable price. I love that these mtb knee pads are small yet beefy regarding protection. And while you do lose a little bit of mobility, overall, they look sleek and protect your knee.
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Frequently Asked Questions
Your best bet is to wear your knee pads with mountain bike shorts so they don’t interfere with your clothing. If you wear them over your pants, they may cause bulkiness and poor fitting. If you wear them under your pants, they may be too tight to pedal efficiently.
Your mtb knee pads shouldn’t get in the way of your riding style. However, they may take a little time to get used to if you haven’t worn them before.
Rollerblading knee pads don’t typically have as much protection as thicker, heavier mtb pads.
Not necessarily. Some pads are designed to be worn without the need for straps and are held in place with the compression sleeve and silicone grippers. However, mtb knee pads with straps will give you additional adjustability if you need it.
For mountain biking, you should always wear a helmet and potentially a full-face helmet. You may also need gloves and elbow pads, too.
Amanda Whittington is an expert writer, impassioned cyclist, and musician. Coming from a diverse educational background, Amanda discovered a deep-rooted passion for encouraging others through her love of all things cycling, writing, and inspiring hope.
You’ll likely find Amanda pouring over bike specs, comparing the hottest cycling tech, and sporting the latest jerseys while juggling the demands of her editorial calendar, training schedule, tiny homestead, and 6 busy kids.
She spends her free time absorbed in her own gardening and fitness, cycling, and reading, all while encouraging adoption and foster care, championing the underdog, and of course, working with her chickens and goats.