How do I Choose the Best ACL Knee Brace?

Dave Slovak

An anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) knee brace is commonly used to support a previously-injured or otherwise weak knee. Tearing an ACL is the one the most common sports injuries, so there is a high demand for knee orthotics. Several companies specialize in the manufacture of high-quality orthopedic equipment. When searching for the best ACL knee brace, you should consider the brace's effectiveness, comfort, quality and, of course, price. Trying a brace on prior to purchase can help you determine the level of comfort and decide whether it is the best one for you.

A person wearing a knee brace.
A person wearing a knee brace.

Choosing an effective ACL knee brace is a top priority because the main goal is to prevent injury. Although there is no scientific evidence to suggest that one brand of ACL knee brace is superior to another, there are some important features to look for in a high-quality brace. The first thing to note is that there is a difference between a wrap and a brace. A wrap is simply a protective sleeve that is often a one-size-fits-all neoprene support. Although wraps are lightweight and flexible, they are fairly ineffective in preventing serious injury such as an ACL tear.

A diagram of the knee, showing the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL).
A diagram of the knee, showing the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL).

The most effective type of ACL knee brace is called a hinged brace, named such because the brace pivots at the knee. This type of brace is particularly effective because it leverages a larger surface area of the leg, extending above the knee to the thigh and below the knee to the middle of the calf. The hinged brace design specifically targets the ligaments and prevents strain on those parts of the knee.

Although hinged braces are effective, they tend to sacrifice comfort for effective support. On a positive note, several companies manufacture custom-fit braces, which can provide more comfort — and typically more support — than a stock brace. People have differently shaped knees and surrounding muscles, so it can be challenging to find a brace that fits properly, and ordering a custom brace can alleviate the issue. A stock brace is also more likely to slip and need frequent readjusting if your leg does not match well with the design of the brace. One last thing to consider about comfort is that hinged braces are rather bulky, which might be a problem or feel uncomfortable.

A hinged brace is often made of better materials than other support devices. High-end braces use titanium or even airplane aluminum for the skeleton, making them very strong and durable. Even the type of plastic and straps used to tighten the brace are important features to consider, and top-of-the-line braces use excellent parts. You can research and review what others have said about particular brands of ACL knee braces, which can help you judge their quality.

Along with the likelihood that a hinged brace will be effective and durable is the likelihood that it will cost significantly more than the alternatives. Hinged braces can cost 10 to 100 times more than a one-size-fits-all brace or wrap, with a custom brace costing the most. Some health insurance companies will defray the cost of a brace that has been prescribed by a doctor.

Knee injuries are common in sports.
Knee injuries are common in sports.

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Discussion Comments


I used to wonder why knee braces have a hole in the center. I thought that it was to allow the knee to move. But it turns out that it's for patella support. The material around that hole applies pressure on the patella to absorb shock and support the bones and ligaments.


@fBoyle-- I'm guessing that your knee brace doesn't actually have a lot of hinges or they are made of softer materials. Because when I wore an ACL knee brace with metal hinges, I had a hard time moving. It restricted movement and made it more difficult to walk.

I think it's great to use right after injury when movement needs to be restricted for healing to occur. But it's definitely not a brace that can be used all the time and for protection.


I use a hinged knee brace and I don't find it uncomfortable. It's actually flexible enough to allow comfortable movement but also provides a lot of support to encourage healing and prevent injury.

I think that having a knee brace on by itself is protective because it reminds one that the knee is sensitive. I find myself avoiding certain harmful movements when I have my brace on.

So I actually think that any ACL knee brace is helpful for reducing the likelihood for injury. I don't believe that the most expensive product on the market has to be purchased for benefits.

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