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“You should get a bariatric knee brace…it will change your life….”
Now if only I could find one that fits…
When I was younger I had almost constant pain in my knees. Every time I would run or jump, I developed a sharp ache right under both of my kneecaps. I told my mom about it (and even saw a doctor), but I was told that it was just because I was growing fast and it would go away.
Well, it didn’t.
Even today, I wear knee sleeves when I’m at the gym to make sure my joints stay warm and supported. However, now that I’m older, I have a problem that never occurred to me in my younger days: namely, I can’t easily find a knee brace that is suitable for fat legs that doesn’t slide down!
When I was 15, I headed to a local Walmart and found a knee brace for about 20 bucks. Size large. Now, however, a size large isn’t going to cut it. I need something bigger. Fortunately, with the huge expanse of the web (and the growing number of fat people) I have a much easier time finding plus-size knee braces than I used to.
And I’m not alone. In fact, over 55% of people who qualify as obese suffer from some degree of knee pain.
For many of those people, a bariatric knee brace is a comforting solution. While bariatric knee braces are typically thought to be only a knee brace for morbidly obese people, there are many types of people who need bigger than average braces. Weightlifters, bottom-heavy people, cyclists, and many others often find themselves needing a “knee brace for fat legs.”
Best Plus Size Knee Braces (Comparison Chart)
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How I Knew That I Needed A Bariatric Knee Brace
The truth that most people ignore is that almost everyone would benefit from a knee brace. If your knees are ever sore after an activity or a long day, you’re probably already doing damage to your joints. Even if it’s just from normal use, a build-up of inflammation can lead to long-term problems and even arthritis.
Here are some fun knee facts to scare you and get your mental wheels turning (at least that’s what they did for me)…
- Over 70% of adults in the US are considered to be overweight. Over half of those people are classified as obese. Obesity is the number one destroyer of knee joints.
- Your knees take up to 5x your body weight in force when you jog, trip, or just go down some stairs. So if you have added 200 pounds since high school, your knees are experiencing up to an extra 1,000 pounds of force!
- Full knee replacements are the most common joint replacements in the U.S. with over 700,000 of them being performed every year!
So in other words: if you are overweight, you need a plus-size knee brace. They cannot prevent every type of joint problem, but they can definitely delay the onset of pain, inflammation, and damage! Or at least give you relief and support if there has already been some level of damage.
My Top 3 Best Plus Size Knee Braces
1. BraceAbility Plus Size Hinged Knee Brace – Best Overall
The best bariatric knee brace is the one you will wear most consistently, and for me, this is it!
Most plus-size knee braces come with two (or more problems):
- They slide down or the top rolls down as you walk.
- They are scratchy and uncomfortable.
This brace suffers from neither of those issues, is a great price, and is one of the top-reviewed plus-size braces on Amazon!
What features make it the best knee brace for overweight people?
BraceAbility specializes in making the biggest and most effective heavy-duty knee braces, and they did their job with this one. It is a medical-grade brace that provides a full range of motion – which makes it ideal for walking, standing, sports, post-surgery support, general pain, and more!
If you are a large or heavy person that has ever tried to wrestle your way into a knee brace, you are probably aware of how difficult it can be. Just imagine trying to pull on a pair of extremely thick and tight skinny jeans that don’t stretch and try to rip out any leg hair you might have. Those are the knee sleeves I wear to the gym. This amazing brace, on the other hand, has an easy front closure, so it is easy to put on all by yourself and reach your desired tightness.
The openings on both front and back serve the dual purpose of not stressing sore areas while allowing the brace to flex while you walk. Not much is worse than putting on a brace and finding out that you can no longer use your knee because it’s uncomfortable and pinches you when you move.
While this isn’t the largest knee brace available, it is adequate for the majority of plus-size people. The largest size adjusts up to 25 inches on the top. If you are in need of a larger size, check out the big brother of this brace just below. It adjusts up to 40 inches!
However, if this is available in your size, I firmly believe it is the best knee brace for the price available anywhere.
2. BraceAbility Obesity Hinged Knee Pain Brace – Largest Knee Brace
If you are morbidly obese, losing weight is a daunting prospect. Not only do you have a large amount of weight to lose, but it is also often difficult to stand for long, let alone walk or exercise. Using a knee brace is often an integral item for weight loss. So which knee brace? How about the largest knee brace for morbidly obese people? This brace can fit a thigh up to 40″ in circumference (measuring 6″ above the knee), making it usable for almost anyone.
The material of this brace is extremely comfortable (it’s a neoprene alternative). It is lightweight and breathable, so you won’t have sweat running out from underneath your knee brace.
If you have any sort of knee issues such as degenerative joint disease, weakness in your knees or tendons due to injury, osteoarthritis, a tear in your meniscus, general obesity joint pain, or medial/lateral instability, then this is the brace for you! It goes on easily and almost everyone that tried it loves it! Not to mention that this is the only brace on the market that will fit some people.
3. Crucial Compression Knee Sleeve – Best Sleeves For Fat Legs
Do you have large or oddly shaped knees? Perhaps you have some extra skin or fat on the side of your leg right where a brace would sit? If that is the case, it may surprise you to know that the best knee brace for fat knees is not really a knee brace at all. In fact, it’s a sleeve!
Don’t be put off by how small these look in the picture. While they do come in extra small versions, you can get them in sizes all the way up to 2XL! They are stretchy enough that, at that size, they will comfortably fit a thigh up to 28.5″ around (measure 3″ above the knee).
If you have experienced any pain, swelling, or soreness in your knees, then you will notice instant relief as soon as you get these on. Many people use sleeves during physical activity, not only because they’re more comfortable, but because they increase blood flow and keep your muscles warm. This speeds up recovery and keeps your joints doing what they’re supposed to be doing: functioning pain-free.
For the many people who have had trouble getting a knee brace that doesn’t slip down, this is one I would suggest. It has a double anti-slip grip which will keep you from needing to pull it up several times a day (or every few minutes). Just be aware that you have to pull this on over your feet like a sock, so if you have trouble putting on your socks, you may need some help to get this pulled up properly over your knee.
And if this one doesn’t fit you? Well don’t worry, they have a perfect fit guarantee, so you can simply drop it in the mail and get a replacement or your money back! Risk-free buying!
How to Measure Fat Legs For A Knee Brace
If you read any reviews about knee braces, you’ve probably noticed that people tend to have extremely strong, but polar opposite opinions. One person will rave about how amazing a brace is, and another person will say it’s the worst one they’ve ever tried. One will say they got instant pain relief, one will say that their brace always slides down. So who is right?
Well, some of this variance is explained by the fact that people have differently shaped legs, but the majority of it is simply because people buy the wrong size. So how do you properly measure for a bariatric knee brace?
Take a measurement 4″ above the knee and 4″ below the knee. Knee brace manufacturers include a top and bottom measurement to ensure fit.
Don’t just pretend you know your leg size or simply order a 4XL because you wear a 4X in everything. Knee braces are often sized in Asian sizes or other totally proprietary sizes that are nothing like you’ve tried on. So measure yourself!
If you order a brace and find out that it doesn’t fit your leg quite right, don’t go write a crappy review, just return it!
Now that we know what size you need, let’s talk about the best options!
Braces vs. Sleeves
What type of brace you want really comes down to personal preference and the needs of your knees.
- More comfortable
- Stay in place better
- Fits better under skinny/tight clothing
- Provides a better range of motion
- Typically cheaper
- More supportive
- Easier to put on
- More adjustability
- Last longer without losing compression
I personally have both types of braces and wear them as needed. I wear the sleeve on typical days just to keep my knees supported and the blood flowing but switch to a brace if my knees are getting sore or I know I’ll be doing a lot of standing/lifting/etc. during the day. For most people, a high-quality sleeve will be all they need so try that first and figure out what works for you!
Is Using A Knee Brace Every Day Bad For Your Knees?
There is a significant disagreement in the health and medical worlds about the advisability of consistent or long-term use of a knee brace.
The old idea is that using a brace every day causes the ligaments supporting your knee to go without use. They start to atrophy and are less able to support the knee joint without a brace. While there is some anecdotal evidence that agrees with this camp, the body of scientific evidence has, so far, disagreed.
In a study published in the Journal of Sports Medicine, scientists noted no detrimental results in knee stability or leg strength when participants wore braces for four weeks.
In fact, consistent use of a brace can reduce inflammation and protect your knees from unnecessary injury. Extremely long-term use (as in – every day for a year) may cause problems, but occasional or semi-consistent use is not a problem.
Reasons That You Should Avoid A Knee Brace
Even though knee braces are a great option for many heavy people there are a few scenarios where it would be advisable not to use a brace.
Here are some of the more common concerns that you should think through if you’re on the fence:
- Potential Dependency: One of the main reasons against knee brace use in overweight individuals is the potential for dependency. While braces can provide short-term relief from pain, they may not address the root causes of knee pain, such as excess body weight. Over-reliance on a knee brace may reduce the incentive to make necessary lifestyle changes, like losing weight or strengthening muscles, which could help mitigate knee problems in the long term.
- Impeded Muscle Development: A knee brace can limit the natural movements of the knee joint, which could lead to muscle weakening over time. The surrounding muscles might not engage as they should, thus reducing their strength and resilience. This could potentially lead to a higher risk of injury in the future.
- Misalignment Risks: Wearing a knee brace might cause more harm than good if it’s not fitted properly. In overweight individuals, due to the anatomical differences and varying distribution of fat, finding a well-fitted brace might be challenging. A misaligned brace could exacerbate the existing knee problems and potentially lead to additional injuries.
- False Sense of Security: A knee brace can give a false sense of security, leading individuals to overuse or misuse their knees. For overweight individuals, this could result in an increased risk of injury as they may engage in activities that their knee cannot safely handle without the brace.
- Addressing Symptoms, Not Causes: While a knee brace might temporarily ease knee pain, it doesn’t address the underlying issues, particularly in overweight individuals. Knee pain in such individuals is often due to the excess pressure placed on the joints because of the additional weight. A more effective and sustainable approach would be to focus on weight loss and strengthening the muscles around the knee.
In other words, while knee braces might provide immediate relief from knee pain, their long-term use should be carefully considered.
Most people will have better outcomes by addressing the root cause (including promoting weight loss and muscle strengthening) as more effective and sustainable solutions for managing knee pain.
How To Care For Your Joints When Obese
While bariatric knee braces are wonderfully effective, they are not a miracle cure. If you continue to abuse or neglect your joints in other ways, they will not last long. Your knees are the most fragile, weight-bearing joints in your body (which is why they’re the most commonly replaced) and need intentional care if you don’t want to live out your final days crippled.
Luckily, there are a few non-invasive choices you can make which will reduce your current knee pain and either delay or avoid the need for a joint replacement.
- Strengthen your leg muscles. Strengthening your leg muscles helps stabilize your knee joint and absorb impacts that your knee would otherwise take the brunt of. If you struggle to walk, your knees are often subjected to heavier impacts and unusual angles.
Using Low Impact Step-Ups to Increase Knee Strength
“Stand and face a staircase, and then rotate your body 90 degrees,” he explains. “Hold on to the banister. Place the leg closest to the stairs onto the first step, and straighten that leg so that your other leg is off the ground. Lower yourself back down. Repeat that exercise 10 times, and then do the exercise with your other leg.”Dr. Lars Richardson, Massachusetts General Hospital
- Increase your ROM and flexibility. Having a limited range of motion can be very detrimental to your joints. The old adage, “use it or lose it” applies here. People who can maintain a full range of motion as they age are more likely to have healthy ligaments and joints.
- Choose low-impact activities. If you had plans to jog down a hill anytime soon…rethink it. Whether you are exercising or just having fun, try to choose activities that do not jar or cause excessive impact to your knees.
- Get insoles meant for heavy people. Insoles perform two very important functions when it comes to your knees. They cushion impact which lessens the shock on your knee joint, and they help correct your gait which can twist or stress your knee in ways it is not meant to handle. Get help finding the perfect insole here.
- Take a high-quality joint support supplement. As we age, our bodies naturally produce a few of the things that protect and maintain our joints. A high-quality supplement will provide your joints with what they need to stay healthy as well as decrease inflammation.
If you have been living a lesser life because of your knees, those days are over! Take steps to support and care for your knees and reclaim your life and activity. A bariatric knee brace coupled with quality knee support will make a world of difference. So get out there and enjoy yourself!