Best mountain bike knee pads 2024 – we review and rate 8 top knee pads for all kinds of MTB

Endura MT500 Lite
(Image credit: Endura)

Protection doesn't always come to mind until you need it the most, but by then it's way too late. Wearing the best mountain bike knee pads can be the difference between riding whenever you fancy or having to sit out days, weeks, or even months after a crash. 

With more riders tackling fast trails and big, technical descents on the best enduro mountain bikes, knee pads have become as essential as wearing the best mountain bike helmets. If you want to go next level, there's also the best MTB body armor. These days, wearing knee pads doesn't mean you have to settle for being sweaty and uncomfortable. Handily, we've tested a whole range of the best knee pad models so you can decide which are best for your style of riding.

While you can still get heavy-duty pads focused solely on downhill, there's a host of light, flexible, and comfortable pads out there developed as much for good pedaling as protection.

In this guide to the best mountain bike knee pads, we take you through all of the features that matter. From high-tech materials to advanced fits and clever breathability, knee pads are the most advanced they've ever been. In our testing, the top performers were Rapha's Trail Knee Pads which offer super-comfortable all-day protection, while the best-value lightweight Endura MT500 Lite will protect your knees without battering your wallet.

So scroll down for the best knee pads on the market, or skip to the bottom for our guide to what's what in the world of mountain bike knee pad design.

Best mountain bike knee pads

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1. Best knee pads overall

Rapha Trail knee pads being worn on a bike

The best-in-test Rapha Trails are comfortable and sturdy with a flexible knee pad (Image credit: Graham Cottingham)
Best knee pads overall

Specifications

Removable protector: Yes
Colors: Black
Sizes: XS, S, M, L, XL

Reasons to buy

+
Supreme fit with no creep or bunching
+
Comfortable when pedaling
+
Flexible knee cup 
+
Well ventilated

Reasons to avoid

-
More trail protection rather than full enduro

Rapha's move to add a set of knee pads to its blossoming MTB range is quite a departure for a brand that is best known for its road bike wear. Despite being the brand's first try at any protection, they have managed to develop one of the best mountain bike knee pads on the market.

The Trail knee pads use a sleeve design to hold the pads in place and house an 'active polymer' insert from Rheon Labs. This insert has non-Newtonian properties which means it's flexible when pedaling but stiffens upon impact.

The combination of the comfortable and secure sleeve with flexible knee protection makes the Rapha Trail knee pads fit and forget even on long trail days. After many intense testing sessions, we never needed to hike them up after a big climb and a good flow of air through the insert helps keep them comfortable on the hottest of days. The pads are very slimline so there are no problems fitting them under the tightest race pants, yet the thin Rheon Labs insert has offered plenty of protection when we have needed it.

These pads have become tester Graham Cottingham's go-to knee pad. He stated in his review, "I found the Rapha Trail knee pads to be some of the best fitting pads I have used, there's no bunching behind the knee, and the pads remained in position with no need to re-adjust, even after big days of climbing and descending."

Want to know more? Head over to our five-star review of the Rapha Trail Knee Pads for more details.

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Scorecard
AttributesNotesRating
ProtectionTrail rather than gravity protection★★★
ComfortFlexible and no rear bunching★★★★★
ValueWorth the high end price★★★

2. Best aggro trail and gravity

Sweet Protection Knee Pad has a removable pad so it can be washed

The Sweet Protection Knee Pad has a removable pad so it can be washed (Image credit: Jim Bland)
Best for aggressive trail and gravity riding

Specifications

Removable protector: Yes
Colors: Black
Sizes: XS, S, M, L and XL

Reasons to buy

+
Comfortable fit
+
Wide and accurate size range for most riders
+
Ample levels of proven protection

Reasons to avoid

-
Nothing really!

At the heart of the Sweet Protection Knee Pad lies a cup made of SAS-TEC SCL 2 viscoelastic foam – aka memory foam – that offers impressive levels of shock impact and absorption. This cup is removable so you can easily wash the fabric sleeve, and we found the lack of additional padding to the sides acceptable in light of the comfort it gains you. They're almost unrivaled for that among the best mountain bike knee pads, in fact.

The SAS-TEC pad warms up as you ride, too, which only makes it more malleable and better when pedaling. Jim Bland was our crash test dummy for the Sweet Protection Knee Pad review and having taken a number of falls in them while testing, said he was impressed with the results. While these are one of our favorite pads for nearly any type of riding, the cheaper Knee Guard versions are worth looking at for comfortable pedaling too.

After testing, Jim Bland, summed up the pads as "great protection for gravity riders that doesn't come at the expense of comfort." Find out why these Sweet Protection Knee Pads have become one of our go-to choice in our full five-star review.  

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Scorecard
AttributesNotesRating
ProtectionIdeal for tough trails and enduro★★★★
ComfortFlexible and no rear bunching★★★★★
ValueQuality protection for the money★★★

3. Best lightweight

Endura MT500 Lite knee pads being worn

The Endura MT500 Lite Protection Pads are ultra-flexible with excellent ventilation (Image credit: Guy Kesteven)
Best lightweight pads for pedaling

Specifications

Removable protector: Yes
Colors: Black
Sizes: S, M, L

Reasons to buy

+
Ultra-flexible
+
High levels of ventilation
+
Light and low bulk
+
Rollable for storage
+
Stable and snug fit

Reasons to avoid

-
No protection from penetrating objects

Endura looked to impact protection specialist D3O and its Ghost pad for protection in the Lite knee pads. According to D30, Ghost is the 'thinnest and most flexible' protection it offers, yet it still exceeds EN 1621-1:2012 (Level 1) impact standards. 

The removable pad has an open grid structure with excellent ventilation, which stops these pads from feeling sweaty even when wearing them under riding pants. Also, the slimline construction means they're less prone to snagging and or dragging on those pants as you move. 

Another neat feature we grew to appreciate while testing is that they roll up easily so can be stashed in a pocket or pack during a long climb. 

In his review, Guy Kesteven summed up the Endura MT500 Lite by saying, "excellent impact protection with super flexible and breathable performance and super compact rollable storage for all-day comfort however hard you pedal"

Check out our review of the Endura MT500 Lite knee pads for the full story on Endura's collaboration with D3O.

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Scorecard
AttributesNotesRating
ProtectionBetter protection than the low profile suggests★★
ComfortFlexible and very well ventilated★★★★★
ValueGreat performance and price★★★★★

4. Best for all-day comfort

Two 7 Protection Sam Hill Knee Pads side by side

Like the Sweet Protection pads, these Sam Hill ones feature an impact-absorbing SAS-TEC foam cup (Image credit: Jim Bland)
Comfortable enduro/gravity protection

Specifications

Removable protector: Yes
Colors: Black
Sizes: S, M, L, XL

Reasons to buy

+
Maximum coverage feels super reassuring on the trail
+
Super secure 100 percent of the time
+
All-day comfort

Reasons to avoid

-
Can be slightly stiff at the start of a cold ride

Designed by multi-time Enduro World Champ and downhill legend Sam Hill, his pro model pad from 7 Protection meets the protection and comfort sweet spot for enduro riding. 

Like the Sweet Protection pads listed above, the Sam Hill knee pads feature the same impact-absorbing SAS-TEC foam cup that stays flexible for pedaling comfort but hardens up upon impact. The removable pad provides plenty of protection over the knee and upper shin, and this pad is definitely one of the longest we've tested. This is a big advantage with Jim Bland remarking in his review that "the additional coverage and locked-in feel has a way of instilling confidence, and not once during testing did we experience any movement or slippage – even during one wash-out crash where I proceeded to slide for several meters on a dry and rough section of trail, the Sam Hill pad stayed perfectly in place." 

Overall, the design is stretchy and lightweight, and a mesh backing is used to encourage airflow and ventilation. The sleeve uses silicone grippers on both the top and bottom openings, which have kept our pads in place 100 percent of the time. 

7 Protection has created a pad that almost exceeds the gravity-riding knee pad dream list. We have a full review of the 7 Protection Sam Hill Knee Pads where we break down why the protection and comfort are deserving of the Sam Hill name. 

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Scorecard
AttributesNotesRating
ProtectionHigh tech materials that harden on impact★★★★★
ComfortFlexible and comfortable by enduro standards★★★★
ValueNot cheap but you get a lot for your cash★★★

5. Best for big impacts

IXS Carve Race Knee Pads being worn

The 3D-molded piece of ‘Xmatter’ flexible material at their core mean these IXS Carve Race Knee Pads are great for slide and slam protection (Image credit: Guy Kesteven)
Best for taking big hits

Specifications

Removable protector: No
Colors: Black
Sizes: S, M, L, XL

Reasons to buy

+
Slide and slam protection
+
Impressive impact absorption
+
Secure fit in four sizes
+
Removable pad for washing
+
Light and low bulk

Reasons to avoid

-
Sweaty
-
Pricey

The IXS Carve Race Knee Pads feature a 3D-molded piece of ‘Xmatter’ flexible material at its core, wrapping around the knee and extending down the shin. There is an outer hard shell layer and additional padding is located on outer-knee and above-kneecap locations. An abrasion-resistant sleeve holds everything together and features silicone grippers to keep the pad from slipping. 

In testing, Guy Kesteven found that "by combining a thin shell with hi-tech shock-absorbing, the Carve Race pads give a lot of protection in a relatively lightweight, low bulk, mobile and all-day-comfortable format.  Carve Race pads offer a large amount of protection and combine that with a relatively lightweight package that stays comfortable all day." 

We found during testing they do get sweaty quickly on hotter days, but that's true with almost any knee pad that offers similar levels of protection. 

For more details read our IXS Carve Race review to find out what we liked about these lightweight impact-absorbing mountain bike knee pads.

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Scorecard
AttributesNotesRating
ProtectionThe most protective pads we've tested★★★★★
ComfortLightweight but they run pretty warm★★★
ValueA reasonable price for this level of protection★★★

6. Best for freeride

Fasthouse Hooper knee pad on autumn leaves

Fasthouse's Hooper pads are protective but surprisingly light  (Image credit: Graham Cottingham)
Best pads for freeride

Specifications

Removable protector: Yes
Colors: Black
Sizes: S, M, L, and XL

Reasons to buy

+
Good level of protection
+
Comfortable fit
+
Removable pad for cleaning
+
Lightweight
+
Slimline shape fits under pants

Reasons to avoid

-
Knee cup can't match the flexibility of D3O or Rheon Labs alternatives

The Fasthouse Hoopers are a kneepad designed by Tyler McCaul for all riding, whether it's sessioning jumps or backcountry freeriding.

This set of knee pads from Fasthouse uses an injected foam that's designed to get firm upon impact and direct crash forces away from the knee joint. There is an extended foam section down the top of the shin. The pad's sleeve features a perforated mesh back panel along with silicone grippers to keep it in place. The result is a surprisingly light setup which is also slimline enough to fit under riding pants.

We were very impressed that despite its hardcore leanings, the Hooper kneepads were also very comfortable when trail riding. Graham Cottingham put these to the test and concluded they struck a balance between protection and pedaling, stating "good levels of protection should you hit the ground for gravity riding that doesn’t come at the cost of comfort. Initially, I was concerned that the knee cup wouldn't be flexible enough when pedaling, however, it has little effect on the overall comfort and potentially boosts protection a little too." 

Be sure to check out our full review of the Fasthouse Hooper kneepads for more details. 

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Scorecard
AttributesNotesRating
ProtectionIdeal for gravity and freeride★★★★
ComfortSlightly stiff knee cups but good overall★★★
ValueNot cheap but comparable to rivals★★★

7. Best for breathability

A pair of Leatt AirFlex Pro Knee Guards being worn in a jungle-like environment

Extra venting in the Leatt Airflex Pros creates a breathable pad (Image credit: Guy Kesteven)
Best trail/gravity pads for breathability

Specifications

Removable protector: No
Colors: Black, green
Sizes: S-XXL

Reasons to buy

+
Useful ventilation
+
CE-certified protection
+
Light weight
+
Five different sizes
+
Reasonable price

Reasons to avoid

-
Can stick rather than slide
-
No straps
-
Accurate sizing crucial
-
Slightly awkward to pull on

With a pre-curved design, Leatt's AirFlex Pro is made using 3D-molded soft padding, which is heavily perforated for max airflow. The primary protection comes from a highly flexible triangular segmented geodesic AirFlex Gel in that knee piece. Additionally, there is padding at the top of the knee and on either side. 

The additional perforation leads to a breezy pad that can be ridden all day long. The CE impact certification provides good peace of mind in the event of harder falls, too. In our testing experience, the pads did well to protect against lower-speed crashes. There are no straps so the pads rely on silicone grippers to stay in place, therefore we'd recommend checking sizing before buying. 

Guy Kesteven found the Leatt Pro Knee Guard to be "light, noticeably breezy with a soft, rubbery knee pad that stays put pretty well." He goes on to say that "the AirFlex Pro are great pads for trail riders who need comfortable protection all day. Gravity riders without uplifts or an electric motor will appreciate the air con effect and easy mobility too and the CE impact certification is definite peace of mind

If the sizing suits you, though, they are a great option. Read about our experiences riding in the Leatt AirFlex Pro in our full review.

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Scorecard
AttributesNotesRating
ProtectionMid range protection levels★★★
ComfortThe coolest feeling knee pad around★★★★
ValueCompetitive with similar rivals★★★

8. Best for smaller knees

A Scott Soldier 2 Knee Guard being worn on a bike

Scott Soldier 2 Knee Guards are small and light enough to be worn under trail pants or jeans (Image credit: Paul Burwell)
Best smaller sized pads

Specifications

Removable insert: Yes
Colors: Black, moss green
Sizes: S, M, L, XL

Reasons to buy

+
Breathable and lightweight 
+
Easy to pull on, sold in individual sizes 
+
Smaller profile can be worn under jeans/trail pants
+
Top quality

Reasons to avoid

-
Lower edge of the D30 insert rubs on the shin
-
Silicone gripper is mildly abrasive
-
Premium price

The Scott Soldier 2 is a lightweight pull-on sleeve with a smart-tech D3O insert (like some other options above) which automatically molds to your knee contours and stiffens on landing. One of the downsides of the D3O insert is it’s wipe clean-only, so it must be removed when you wash the knee pads. Also, during testing, the insert's lower edge caused some shin chafing.

Each pad has two wide elasticated hems to hold it up when you are riding, but the upper hem gets an additional silicone gripper – in a dot matrix design – to stop it sliding. Elsewhere, the area around the back of the knee is made of Lycra with an elasticated printed-on X that helps pull the material in, making it a closer fit.

Lower leg protection is minimal, but the Soldier 2 is slim enough to wear under a pair of trail pants or waterproof trousers and thanks to the mesh front panel and perforated insert, it didn't heat up during rigorous exercise while on test.

This is a nicely designed, high-quality knee pad that comes in individual sizes with a comfortable smart-tech insert offering loads of protection. Breathability is great, and even though a little on the expensive side, the quality and construction are both first-rate. 

Tester Paul Burwell summed up the pads, saying they are "top spec, easy pull-on knee pads with excellent coverage and build quality. D3O smart insert offers crash-specific impact protection and is also heat moldable. Sorted breathability and fit but slight shin chafing and high cost of the insert pegs it back a mark." For more information see our full Scott Soldier 2 Knee Guard review.

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Scorecard
AttributesNotesRating
ProtectionGreat protection for the size and weight★★★★
ComfortBreathable and light, but can chafe★★★
ValueRivals offer better value★★

The best mountain bike knee pads: what you need to know

How much should I spend on mountain bike knee pads?

There's no need to break the bank – between £70 ($89) and £102 ($130) should be fine, although a range of constantly updated offers on big brands throughout the year means you may well end up spending a lot less!

Should I wear knee pads mountain biking?

In short, if you are riding any sort of technical descents in which there is a risk that you could fall off it is worth investing in some of the best mountain bike knee pads. If you are going out on a light trail ride you obviously don't want to wear a heavy-duty pair of downhill pads. Luckily, however, many brands offer a diverse range of products so you can pick the best mountain bike knee pads for your style of riding.

Protection comes down to two things: coverage and the protective padding itself. The protective padding should encapsulate the entire knee cap, as that's why you are wearing the pads in the first place. The sleeves of the pads should also cover the areas both above and below the actual knee cap. 

Protective paddings come in several forms, the most common of which are hard-shells and soft-shells. Hard-shells offer the most protection from sharp objects and hard impacts, but they are often not as comfortable. Soft-shells use technology that allows for a flexible pad that hardens on impact. This seems to be quickly taking over as the industry standard. 

Some pads only have protective padding over the knee cap, and others will also feature padding on the sides and in other locations. It's up to you as to what you prefer. 

How do you fit the best mountain bike knee pads?

All of the best mountain bike knee pads use a sleeve design with the protective padding stitched inside or on top. Many of the fabrics used to make the sleeves are designed to be breathable and stretchy in order to enhance comfort. Another measure to enhance comfort is pre-bent pads. In theory, this is done to help the pad better form to a rider's body, but everyone's knees and legs are different. 

Other factors such as straps and zippers could impact comfort and fit. Some riders prefer knee pads with straps, while others may prefer minimalistic pads that rely on silicone grippers to stay over the knee area. 

If possible it's best to try on a knee pad before buying to make sure the fit and comfort are okay. Mountain bike knee pads should be snug and secure, and you should also have full freedom of movement without the pad bunching, digging into the back of your knee or slipping out of place when you move.

Another thing that impacts comfort is breathability and ventilation, which will be discussed later. 

Do you get hot wearing mountain bike knee pads?

The hard truth is that wearing a pair of knee pads is always going to be hotter than having bare knees. If you have decided to buy a pair of the best mountain bike knee pads, however, you have probably decided that the safety benefits of pads outweigh the drawbacks of a hotter ride. 

It all comes down to both the material of the sleeve and whether it features any perforation or other ventilation. Pads with more ventilation features will generally be more breathable, and therefore comfortable.  

If you don't want to ride with mountain knee pads on but still want the protection, some pads offer neat features such as the ability to roll up and stash in a pack or pocket. Some riders also simply slide the pads down to rest just above their shoes when climbing or doing a lot of pedaling. 

What is D3O?

D3O is a material in a wide range of protective applications from phone cases to F1 cars. It's a popular option in MTB and Moto protection as it's a soft material that hardens upon impact and so doesn't restrict movement like hard shell protection and needs less bulk than many other methods.

The downsides are that it's a pretty dense material so is relatively heavy. D3O is not cheap and it's less malleable in the cold.

How we test the best mountain bike knee pads

We've ridden in these knee pads in a range of weather and trail conditions over many months. We've also put in plenty of pedaling as well as hurtling downhill in them. The pads have been put through the washing machine many times too. For more info on our testing procedures and scoring system, see our how we test page.

Meet the testers

A man washing himself in a muddy puddle
Guy Kesteven

Guy Kesteven is Bike Perfect’s tech editor. He spent a few years working in bike shops before starting writing and testing for bike mags in 1996. Since then he’s written several million words about several thousand test bikes and a ridiculous amount of bike components and riding gear.

Graham Cottingham riding at Dyfi bike park
Graham Cottingham

Graham's based in Scotland. With almost 20 years of riding experience, he has dabbled in downhill, enduro and worn many a knee pad.

Jim Bland
Jim Bland

Jim Bland is a product tester and World Cup downhill mechanic. He loves gravity blasts and makes sure he's fully protected.

Paul Burwell bio
Paul Burwell

Paul has been testing mountain bikes and products for the best part of 30 years. During that time he's tested hundreds of knee pads.

Rich Owen
Editor, BikePerfect

Rich Owen is the editor of the Bikeperfect.com team. He's worked as a journalist and editor for over 24 years, with 12 years specializing in cycling media. Rich bought his first mountain bike (a rigid Scott Tampico) in 1995 and has been riding MTB for almost 30 years.

Current rides: Merida One-Forty 6000, Banshee Paradox, YT Jeffsy Core 3, Saracen Ariel 30 Pro

Height: 175cm

Weight: 69kg

With contributions from