How to get rid of irritation caused by knee pads

If you’re a do-it-yourselfer, you know the pain of getting down to business only to realize that your knee pads don’t fit right or are causing pain. Some knee pad users find their knees can feel sore and stiff after working in them for a few hours. Fortunately, you can do some simple things to make these knee pads feel better on your legs before considering to buy another pair.

First things first, check the fit

If your current knee pads leave you dissatisfied, make sure to identify what’s wrong before purchasing a new pair.

  • Are they too tight or too loose? Some people with a medical condition might opt for tighter protection as the compression it provides can help with blood circulation issues. However, you’d generally want to avoid a very tight fit as it will almost definitely lead to sweating, rubbing, and itching. Knee pads that are too loose can also cause discomfort as the risk they slide off or move around increases. They could also become tangled in tools or machinery and cause injuries and damage.

  • While repeating certain movements, do you feel any pressure or discomfort where the pads meet your legs? If so, consider buying a larger size that will offer more wiggle room or a shorter model that will create fewer contact points between its edges and your leg. Also, don’t forget to look for a larger pair if you plan to wear your pads over pants or clothing!

  • Are they too high or low on your leg? Aside from not offering optimal protection over your knees, they could also lead to pain as the straps, and rigid parts might not be touching or supporting the intended area on your legs.

Remember that a new pair of knee pads is normal to feel stiff initially. Give yourself the time to break them in, and you’ll find that they become more comfortable with each use. However, if you continue feeling like your knees are trapped in a rigid shell, the padding material might be the problem!

Stretch before and after working with them on

Stretching can help prevent injury, pain, muscle cramps, fatigue, and muscle soreness. When using knee pads, stretching before and after performing the task at hand is essential. Here are three gentle exercises that will increase blood flow in your legs and prepare your body for the work ahead.

  • Warm up with a walk or a light jog around the block for 5 minutes.

  • Prepare your articulations by gently flexing and extending your legs. Starting from an upright position, you can also mimic lifting an object from the ground by bending your knees and keeping your back straight.

  • Place your hands on the ground, shoulder-width apart from each other. Bend at the waist as far down as you can without putting pressure on your knees—you should feel this in your hamstrings and lower back muscles; don’t strain yourself!

Also, consider stretching sessions as a way to take notice of any discomfort or irritation caused by the knee pads. We recommend wearing the knee pads during warm-up (before your activity), and taking them off to stretch (after your activity). This way, you’ll be able to compare and determine the range of motion you can achieve while staying in your comfort zone.

Remember how and why your leg muscles contract

You can think of your leg muscles as the body’s shock absorbers. Your muscles contract and extend with every movement to help you move and stay balanced.

The anatomy of your leg and the role of your muscles play a big part in the level of comfort you can achieve while wearing knee pads. For example, when you bend your knee and your calf naturally puff up by contraction, you can feel it touching the lower back of your thighs (your hamstrings).

This can cause the back of your knee to become irritated as the skin rubs against parts of the knee pad. However, this also means that your calf muscles are the ideal place to secure the straps; their repeated contraction during your activity will prevent the pads from moving.


Keep also in mind that if you don’t wear suitable knee pads, your muscles won’t contract and extend properly, and you’ll be limited in your movements. This means that the piece that covers part of your thigh is just as important as the one covering part of your shin, so avoid models that could dig into your quadriceps when you straighten your leg.

Choose adjustable straps and cross them behind your knees

More often than not, poorly adjusted straps are the source of this discomfort. Opt for a model with more straps to better hold the knee pads, if you can. This will also improve your feeling of stability while performing your tasks.

  • Cross the straps behind your knees. It is how you will get the most support and protection, as two straps cross over the back of your legs. You’ll want to make sure to cross them in a spot where it is comfortable for you, ideally over the thickest part of your calf.

  • Make sure to tighten the straps in uniform tension. This is especially important if you wear different types of protective gear, such as elbow or shoulder pads. If your protective equipment has different tensions on each side, this could lead to injuries because one side will have more tension than the other.

  • Opt for elastic straps that can adjust with a buckle as they naturally stretch during use, following the curve of your thighs are calves. Make sure to tighten them enough to hold the pads in place, but not so much that it hurts!

Reduce skin contact

If you’re experiencing pain in the back of your knees, it’s likely due to skin contact with the protective knee pads. Here are three tips to help save your knees and avoid chafing and friction.

  • Try applying a lubricant such as petroleum jelly to the skin areas where the knee pad touches and see if that helps.

  • Another option is using an adhesive bandage or athletic tape around your knees while performing your task and wearing your knee pads over the taped area. This may help reduce skin contact between your clothes and protective gear because adhesive bandage tends to remain in place longer, and its grip allows the knee pad not to move around as much.

  • If you usually wear shorts while working, consider wearing knee pads over your pants or clothing. You’ll probably feel immediate relief since you’ll have eliminated all exposed skin areas under the pads. If you’re working in an environment with lots of dust or oil, it’s especially important to wear them over clothes. Just remember to wear comfortable clothes with breathable fabric, without opting for anything too baggy or tight. Too many layers of clothing or very thick fabric will lead to sweating and discomfort.

If none of this works for you, try switching to another type of knee pad with less coverage over your leg, limiting the areas that could come in contact with the pads or get scraped by them.

In summary

If you're feeling pain around your knee area, try adjusting your knee cap to better fit your knee. Your current pair might also be too large or long, causing friction on your leg. Make sure to stretch, and secure the knee caps with straps on your calves to reduce the risk of them getting loose. Ideally, aim for elastic straps and without velcro or hook and loop fasteners. Finally, wear your knee caps over your pants, or try lubricant.

And remember that if you're suffering from intense pain or feel symptoms of a medical condition, you should reach out to your doctor.