Knee Support

Should You Wear Knee Sleeves Over Leggings? 4 Considerations

Should You Wear Knee Sleeves Over Leggings? 4 Considerations

If you don’t like wearing shorts in the gym, then you are probably wondering whether you can wear knee sleeves over leggings without affecting your performance.

So, can you wear knee sleeves over leggings?

You absolutely can wear your knee sleeves over leggings. Knee sleeves provide many benefits, such as added compression, more power, warmth, and reduced aches and pains. Wearing leggings under your knee sleeves does not limit these benefits, and in some cases can even enhance them. 

That said, there are some factors to consider before you decide whether wearing knee sleeves over leggings is worth it.

Key Takeaways

  • The material and thickness of your leggings and the fit of your knee sleeves will affect whether your sleeves stay in play and fit comfortably over your leggings.

  • Most federations do not allow you to wear leggings under your knee sleeves, so if you plan to compete then you should train without leggings under your sleeves.

  • Putting on a sock that covers the bottom of your legging will help knee sleeves slide up your leg over your leggings without bunching.

  • Benefits Of Knee Sleeves

    benefits of knee sleeves

    To analyze how leggings will affect your knee sleeves, it’s important to understand the benefits that knee sleeves have to offer.

    These benefits include:

    1. Knee Compression, Stability, and Alignment

    One of the main benefits that lifters reap from knee sleeves is the compression that they provide to the knee joint.

    A good knee sleeve made of elastic and neoprene material will provide nice compression around the knees, which then boosts the joint’s stability and promotes proper alignment when squatting. 

    2. Potential Performance Boost

    Knee sleeves have been reported to help boost performance by providing lifters with a sense of security that allows them to lift heavier weights with more confidence. 

    Additionally, knee sleeves' elastic properties allow them to store potential energy as you descend into movements like the squat, which could provide a slight “bounce” out of the bottom position and help you complete the rep more easily.

    While this stance may lack scientific backing (see this article for more information), there is plenty of anecdotal evidence from every category of lifter that report greater comfort, confidence, and an improved strength ability when squatting with knee sleeves as opposed to without. 

    The main theory is that the mix of positive impact on knee stability, comfort, ability to stay warm, the “bounce” effect, and better perception of a lifter’s knee positioning all work together to provide these performance benefits. 

    3. Relief from Nagging Aches and Pains

    Many people wear knee sleeves primarily to relieve the nagging aches and pains in their knees and surrounding muscles that they experience when squatting. 

    Knee sleeves can relieve aches and pains because they warm up the joint and encourage better blood flow, which helps to keep the joints lubricated and reduce friction.

    Additionally, the compressive benefits of knee sleeves can also serve to ease these pains by assisting the supportive tissues of the knee (i.e. ligaments) and reducing strain.

    4. Keeping your Joints Warm

    In addition to helping relieve aches and pains, the warmth that knee sleeves provide can help reduce injury and improve your performance by keeping your joints in a state of preparedness. This is incredibly beneficial for those taking longer rest between sets or those training in a colder environment.

    High-quality knee sleeves are made out of neoprene, which insulates and traps heat, and thereby allows lifters to warm their knees up more quickly and feel more comfortable during training. 

    Will Wearing Knee Sleeves Over Leggings Affect Their Benefits?

    Will wearing knee sleeves over leggings affect their benefits?

    No, leggings will not affect the benefit of knee sleeves; in fact, knee sleeves can elevate the performance-enhancing benefits of knee sleeves by increasing compression and adding warmth.

    While most lifters choose to wear their knee sleeve directly against their skin, having a very thin layer of elastic legging material will not impact the benefits of knee sleeves as long as the knee sleeve is properly sized to allow for legging to fit comfortably underneath.

    4 Considerations For Wearing Knee Sleeves Over Leggings

    Whether you train with or without leggings under your knee sleeves is entirely up to you and your preferences, but there are some factors to consider when making this decision.

    1. Material

    The material of both the knee sleeves and your leggings is an important factor to consider so that your knee sleeves stay in place and don’t cause any discomfort.

    If you are worrying about the sleeves sliding out of place, you need to ensure that the two materials are compatible. 

    In my experience, slippage is not a huge issue if the sleeves are tight enough but if your sleeves are on the looser side and your leggings are made out of a smooth shiny fabric then your sleeves could slide out of place.

    2. Level of Comfort 

    Your level of comfort is another consideration when deciding whether or not to wear knee sleeves over your leggings. 

    If your leggings are looser, or made of a thicker material, you could experience bunching underneath the sleeve. This issue can become particularly uncomfortable, which could throw off your movement pattern and cause you to lose focus while you’re lifting. 

    In contrast, maybe your knee sleeves cause slight abrasions or bruising on your skin. This is more common with the stiffer knee sleeves that have become popular as of late. 

    In this circumstance, wearing leggings under your knee sleeves may actually enhance your level of comfort and would solve this problem for you by providing a barrier that reduces friction and pinching.

    Additionally, some lifters are not comfortable enough to wear shorts to the gym, so wearing leggings under their knee sleeves may be the most comfortable option.

    3. Range of Motion 

    The effect leggings could have on your range of motion should also affect your decision as to whether or not you will benefit from wearing them under your knee sleeves. 

    People that size down in knee sleeves to get a tighter fit may struggle to fit leggings under their knee sleeves and may cut off their circulation.

    This is because the knee sleeves are already smaller and tighter than intended by the manufacturer, and adding in leggings as an added layer results in the sleeves being too tight, offering too much compression, and therefore limiting mobility. 

    An example of a negative impact would be reducing a powerlifter’s range of motion so much that they can no longer hit competition depth. Though leggings aren’t allowed in competition, if you’re wearing them in training it would teach you not to squat to full depth when you squat.

    If wearing leggings under your knee sleeves restricts your movement or causes you to lose circulation, then you should ditch the leggings or size up in knee sleeves.

    If the leggings don’t affect your range of motion and you can move comfortably, then there is no issue with wearing leggings under your knee sleeves.

    4. Temperature of Your Environment

    Lastly, you also need to consider the temperature of your environment. If you’re training in a warmer environment then wearing leggings under your sleeves could cause you to overheat but if you’re training in a colder environment, they could help regulate your temperature.

    When Should You Not Wear Knee Sleeves Over Leggings?

    When should you not wear knee sleeves over leggings?

    If you decide that you want to try wearing leggings under your knee sleeves, then it’s important to be aware that there are times when you can not or should not wear them.

    In Competition (Or in Prep)

    If you are competing in powerlifting or plan to compete, then you should know that most federations do not allow leggings to be worn in competition under your knee sleeves.

    So if you plan to compete, then you need to get used to lifting without leggings under your sleeves while you’re training.

    When it is Very Hot

    Wearing leggings under your knee sleeves isn’t the best idea when you’re lifting in a hot environment because it can cause you to overheat and negatively impact your performance.

    While everyone’s tolerance to the heat will differ, I prefer to allow my legs and joints to breathe as much as possible to avoid cramping and dehydration that can stem from excessive sweating. 

    When the Sleeves are Too Small

    If your knee sleeves are already quite snug without leggings underneath then you may not be able to get your sleeves on when you’re wearing leggings. Even if you do manage to pull them up, you’ll probably notice that they’re too tight and restrict your movement.

    When the Material Bunches Up 

    If you are wearing loose leggings with material that is prone to catching and bunching, you should not wear those leggings under your knee sleeves. 

    The material bunching up will cause discomfort, impact your range of motion, and will likely affect your focus and ability to express your strength due to the discomfort. 

    How To Put On Knee Sleeves Over Leggings

    The main goal when putting on knee sleeves over leggings is to avoid bunching up the leggings under the sleeve. 

    To do this, follow the tips in this video:

    The video explains that you should start by pulling a crew sock (or any longer sock that does not go to the top of the knee) overtop of the bottom of your legging to hold it in place.

    Next, fold the knee sleeve in half (from the top down) and then grab the bottom of your sleeve with both hands. 

    At this point, the knee sleeve should slide right up your leg if your leggings are tight enough and locked into place by the crew sock. 

    Another tip, coming from world-record-holder powerlifter Stefi Cohen is to pull your leggings down over your foot, then slide the sleeve over that. 

    She states that pulling the legging over your foot creates an anchor for your pants on your heel, which keeps them from getting bunched up when pulling on the sleeve.

    The Best Knee Sleeves To Wear Over Leggings

    The Gymreapers 7MM Knee Sleeve is a great sleeve to wear over your leggings because it’s made of high-quality neoprene that provides the perfect amount of compression to keep your joints stable and warm as you lift heavy.

    The material of these sleeves should slide nicely over the majority of performance/athletic leggings on the market. These sleeves are also IPF and USPA approved so they can be worn in competition.

    Click For Best Price

    Should You Wear Knee Sleeves Under Leggings?

    I would generally advise against wearing knee sleeves under leggings. If your leggings are tight and form-fitting, this will likely just overstretch them out and will be fairly uncomfortable. It will also require you to put your knee sleeves on first and then your leggings, which is a peculiar order of operations. 

    The main caveat to this is if your leggings are loose, not very elastic, and not very form-fitting. If your leggings fit these criteria and thus fit closer to a sweatpant, then you are fine to wear your knee sleeves under them to avoid bunching them up (which would happen if you put the knee sleeves on top).

    Frequently Asked Questions

    Can You Wear Knee Sleeves Over Pants?

    I don’t typically recommend wearing knee sleeves over pants because pants are usually looser, and it will be very difficult to keep the material from bunching under the sleeves. This may also result in slippage, or the knee sleeves fitting too tight, which will be uncomfortable and reduce range of motion. 

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