I tried many knee pads and spend a lot of time researching what type of knee pads offer great protection while still being able to move. From heavy-duty knee pads like TSG Force to cheap no brand pads that break when you sneeze. I use different types of knee pads depending on where I skate.
Not all skaters wear knee pads but if you’re just starting out or are a bit older like me you need them! It’s not only about safety, but safety gear also boosts your confidence. Fear causes accidents and tightens your muscles.
I found the best knee pads for street and bowl/vert which I just love. The most important to me is that I can still move my legs and knees when I’m on the street. Vert and mini ramp knee pads should be able to take a big impact without or hardly feeling the shocks. Some knee pads I had to return as they just didn’t fit so make sure you get the right size.
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Do You Want to Keep Skateboarding?
So there are a couple of questions you should ask yourself if you are on the fence of investing in a good pair.
- Do you have sick pay?
- Do you value your body?
- Do you want to keep skateboarding?
- Do you have health insurance?
Knee pads may seem expensive but it a small price to pay to keep your body intact. A good investment will keep the hospital bills away and if you have a job, you should be able to return to work the next day.
The bills aren’t much of an issue if you live in certain parts of the world but you’ll always need your knees. Also, good knee pads will last for years. Cheap ones can break after just one fall.
Knee Pads I Personally Recommend
I tried many knee pads and probably wasted money on low-quality stuff, but after testing lots of pads these are the ones I can recommend:
- 187 Killer Pads Fly
- 187 Killer Pads pro (heavy duty)
- TSG Force knee pads (heavy duty).
- Smith Elite Scabs
- Pro Designed custom knee pads
187 Killer Pads Fly
My second favorite lightweight pads but not suitable for heavy riders. They are very affordable, stay in place and do what they’re supposed to; protect your knees.
They feel comfortable, not too restrictive, and after a few session they really start to shine. The only downside is that you need to pull them over your knees so putting them on and taking them off is a bit of a hassle.
These are great entry level knee pads for a very decent price (link to Amazon).
Older Skater or Bad Knees?
If you are looking for something sturdy and pads that support your knees, I recommend the TSG Force knee pads. These are expensive but high-end and offer optimal protection. Your second option is the 187 Killer Pads Pro. Also, great quality knee pads that can deal with impacts.
187 Killer Pads Pro
Just as good as TSG, the 187 Killer pads Pro (link to Amazon) offer maximum protection and are used by many pro skaters for good reasons.
These are great for bowl, mini ramp, and vert skating. It’s easy to replace the plastic caps and there’s a thick cup-shaped layer of foam that covers your knee.
At first, they might feel a bit bulky and restrictive but that will go away once you break them in. The materials need some time to adjust and will feel much better after a few hours of skateboarding.
They feel great (not too tight) and don’t move around when skating. Absolutely recommended when you have bad knees, are a bit older, or just want the best protective gear.
TSG Force Kneepads
If you have bad knees you should consider them as they provide maximum support and you don’t feel anything when you fall on your knees. I use these pads when my knees hurt or when I try something new. They feel a bit more restraining than the 187 standard knee pads but you’ll get used to that quickly.
They aren’t always available and if they are sold out, consider the 187 killer pads pro. They offer the same level of protection.
TSG (Technical Safety Gear) is relatively new on the market. A fresh face means new ideas and their designs show they know their stuff. Not only do they focus on the kneecap, but also the sides of your knees are protected.
When it comes to safety and preventing injury I rather not cheap out. The TSG Force pads aren’t for everyone. They are bulky and might feel like it restricts movement but you just have to get used to it. I like to skate bowls and mini ramps but these pads are also great for vert.
They absorb so much impact, every time I fall I thank my knee pads. They have an open back and a plastic buckle and don’t move an inch, but that depends on how well they fit.
Check availability on Amazon.
Smith Elite Scabs
These used to be my favorite knee pads but they are really hard to find these days. They aren’t too bulky or restrictive and deal fairly well with impacts. Most importantly, they stay in place because you don’t want your pads to shift just before a slam.
They didn’t fit great at first but then I realized there’s one for your left knee and one pad for you right knee (check the label). After swapping them they felt perfect. They handle impacts quite well and stay in place while sliding. I experience more sweat so I recommend leaving them to dry after a session.
They do press a little on the shins at first but this will go away once you break them in. So far I think these are the best pads I ever had. There is one con that might be a deal breaker. If you land hard on the pads, you will feel it. They aren’t as forgiving as TSG or 187 pro pads, but they feel way more comfortable. That’s something I can live with, and it isn’t that bad at all but noticeable.
- Comfortable knee pads
- Not too restrictive
- Easy to put on and off
- They don’t shift too much
- Open back and butterfly straps
- Sweaty knees after a session but you can wash them
- Deal well with impacts though TSG and 187 pro pads handle impacts even better
- Can’t remove the plastic caps like the Elite Scabs 2
- Hard impacts might feel uncomfortable depending on your weight, but your knees will be fine.
You can easily adjust the fit by tightening or loosening the straps which only takes a few seconds. Buy them when you want optimal protection and pads that don’t feel too constraining. Great pads for mini ramps, pools, and street/parks.
I would recommend getting a size bigger when the fit is right between two sizes, the straps will compensate for that. Click here to check for prices (link to Amazon)
|8″ – 11″
|17″ – 24″
Pro Designed Knee Pads
Update: unfortunately “Wild Bill” Walker left us, may he rest in peace.
Last on this list are the Pro Designed knee pads. These are rather exclusive knee pads because they are custom designed. I was lucky enough to get a pair that fit me well so I didn’t have to go through the measuring process. My upper legs are rather developed because I trained them all my life (not fun when fitting new pants).
Pro Designed knee pads offer a snug fit and stay in place. When ordering you have to measure your upper and lower legs near your knee caps which results in a custom fit. I love them so much that I have two pairs, one for my local mini ramp and one for my local indoor bowl.
Pro designed offers all-around light weight knee pads designed for a diverse range of styles, but also knee pads for specific disciplines. It will also require you to put in some work yourself, the whole process takes some time but is worth it for those that want the best knee pads.
Their website looks like something from the nineties but their knee pads are one of a kind. Make sure to find your thigh circumference by measuring 4″ above the top of your kneecap. Find your calf circumference by measuring 4″ below your knee cap. Their website will guide you through the process and if anything is unclear they gladly help you out.
Pro Designed offers lots of customization option like:
- Custom fabrics
- Buckle systems
- Open back systems
- Black caps
They start at $140 USD and customizing will cost extra. It’s a lot but you get a high quality product which fit right from the very beginning, there is no need to break them in.
Optimal Protection vs Comfort
If you’re looking for heavy-duty knee pads you should be aware that they take some time before you get used to them. Pads like the TSG Force III or the 187 Killer pads pro offer protection from hard impacts but are also bulky.
You can’t wear them under your pants but they feel like landing on clouds (especially the TSG’s). So it’s a trade-off between optimal protection and comfort.
If you’re older I would go for big bulky pads. I used to be able to take a beating in my 20’s but those days are over, the Elite Scabs seem to do the job just fine though and aren’t too bulky.
What Size Should You Get?
Take a look at the chart below to find out the size you need. They need to fit properly or they will slide off and you end up with a busted knee.
Knee pads shouldn’t restrict your range of motion. Too tight means you’ll be less comfortable and restrict you from bending the knees. Too lose will make them come off when you take a hit. Measure before you buy:
- Wrap a measuring tape around the center of your knee.
- Stretch your leg and measure around the center of your knee. You can measure at the middle, top or bottom of your leg where the knee pad will rest when worn.
If you don’t have a measuring tape just use string or a rope and hold it against a ruler.
|under 125 lbs.
|125 – 150 lbs.
|150 – 180 lbs.
|180 lbs. +
|Center (C) Measurement
|12″ – 14″
|14″ – 16″
|15″ – 17″
|17″ – 20″
Features to look for
- Open back pad. You shouldn’t have to take off your shoes before putting them on.
- Preferably made of neoprene with Velcro. Elastic straps with Velcro and a plastic buckle to secure them tight (not too tight though).
- Knee pads should absorb sweat.
Don’t forget a helmet, check out the ones I tested and recommend.