Modern mountain bikes perform so well over a variety of terrain types that the riding is becoming more and more technical. Much like wearing a helmet that offers increased coverage and protection, donning the best MTB knee pads before you set off will make a significant difference to your confidence and approach to technical sections of trails with bigger jumps and drops.
With gravity disciplines of downhill mountain biking and enduro mountain biking reaching incredible speeds and even cross-country mountain biking and trail riding tackling increasingly more gnarly features. This inclusion of technical trails combined with an increase in speed is a recipe for more perilous crashes, should things go awry.
Thankfully, our expert testing team here at off.road.cc are as fussy about our knee protection as you are. These are the best MTB knee pads you can buy in 2022 - they have all been reviewed by us and have scored highly during our testing protocols. Scroll down to read the full list, or alternatively, click the links listed below to take you to the knee pads of your choice.
Best MTB knee pads 2022
The 7iDP Sam Hill Knee Pads are designed in part with arguably one of the greatest riders of all time. They are an excellent enduro and trail kneepad for those who like it slimline, but still want plenty of protection. They're super-secure for 'sleeve' style pads, though they can get too stiff in cold weather. These premium-level pads use Sas-Tec foam, a viscoelastic foam that hardens on impact, just like the better-known D3O. This pad sits inside a pocket, so it's removable for washing – a nice touch.
The 100% Surpass knee guards are awarded the higher CE Level 2 protection standard rating and offer huge amounts of protection, with both the hard shell outer cap and the inner padding helping them to shrug off blows. They remain comfortable enough for all-day pedalling thanks to a pre-shaped design. The broad upper strap combined with the inner silicone gripper print does a superb job of preventing them from slipping down in use and the lower calf strap does a great job of stopping them from shifting the other way too. They're expensive, but they've become Jon's go-to knee guards for trail and enduro riding.
661 DBO knee pads offer a lot of comfort and protection for not a lot of cash, combining a removable flexible D3O insert to ward off bumps in a slimline neoprene outer with a reinforced nylon cap. The neoprene body is secured with a single, broad velcro strap at the top with reinforced nylon fabric on the kneecap to help fend off damage. To ensure a perfect fit there is an expansive range of sizes from S-XL, including youth versions. They're good for all-day pedalling but still provide enough protection for the bike park.
Designed with help from the Atherton dynasty and other top riders, the Endura MT500 Hard Shell kneepads offer substantial protection for trail and downhill in a fairly slim package. The pads are locked in place by two burly Velcro straps, with silicone gripper strips at the top and bottom. To ensure both protection and comfort, these pads feature a custom-moulded cap for sharp impact protection over the top of the D3O insert, PU foam to guard against lateral impacts and those glancing blows from the sides and a stretch mesh back for ventilation. Importantly, the pad meets CE EN 1621/1 standards. While this level of protection is great, this can compromise ventilation so you've been warned these pads can get toasty on warmer days.
The Bliss ARG Minimalist+ knee pads are flexible, lightweight and breathable. They offer good protection for everyday trail riding via the Armourgel material, which hardens on impact just like D30. They’re a decent length so the pad's coverage extends over the top of the shin so no danger of "the gap", despite meeting the EN 1621-1 European safety standard for motorcycle impact protectors these pads from Bliss are ultra low profile (about 4mm thick) pad bonded onto the fabric means the Minimalist+ will easily fit under shorts or winter trousers. All this comes in at a decent price too.
The Sweet Protection Knee Guards are super minimalist pads that are lightweight and very comfortable due to the really simple design. They slip on with a silicone strip across the top to keep them in place and no velcro straps in sight. The thin neoprene-like fabric has perforations for increased airflow. The actual protective part of the pad is made with Sweet Protection’s Visco elastic soft foam, which promises high shock absorption values. Perhaps inevitably though, they don't provide downhill or enduro levels of protection but represent good value for money if you mainly ride trails.
2022 kali protectives mission 2.0 knee pads 5ct.jpg, by Liam Mercer
Designed for trail ride adventures, these knee guards offer plenty of flexibility for hours of pedalling. The Kali Mission 2.0 Knee Guards utilise 3D-printed technology and are comfortable, simple and provide enough protection from light falls. The Mission 2.0 knee pads are ideal for warmer riding seasons, where shorts are the choice of kit to allow for that much-needed freedom of movement as they feel a little bulky to wear underneath modern slim-fitting riding pants, but the overall comfort and performance outweigh this.
The 7iDP Sam Hill Lite knee pads offer trail-focused fit-and-forget, lightweight protection that passes a CE level. They're a great fit with a well-designed shape and good construction with the ripstop fabric to minimise damage. The longer length helps them stay put, and they remain comfortable on long rides - an excellent choice for when you want pads on all-day rides. These features and the well-thought-out design place the 7iDP Sam Hill Lite knee pads at the premium end of the market.
The Fox Enduro D30 knee guards are lightweight, offer excellent coverage, and a decent level of impact protection and coverage for trail riding while remaining comfortable on full days out. Featuring removable inserts constructed using non-Newtonian material from D30 these pads wash up well once mucky. Despite the name, if you are riding or racing proper enduro gnar, you may want to consider burlier guards that offer more side protection.
How to choose the best MTB knee pads
Ultimately the best MTB new pads will come down to personal preference, what type of riding you do and how much protection versus ventilation you might require. The cost of the best mountain bike knee pads doesn't need to be high, as some of the best knee pads start at £60. But depending on the level of protection desired, the design features and materials used could see that price rise to almost double that amount.
For the best possible fit, we recommend that you try the knee pads on for size and comfort before you buy. We have compiled some of the most frequently asked questions below along with answers that will help you to understand the differences and explain the importance of wearing knee pads.
This section will be useful for choosing what would best suit your needs before you decide on your purchase.
Should I wear mountain bike knee pads?
Protection is a worthy investment if you are riding or racing technical trails. With trails frequently hosting a fair smattering of rocks and rooty sections in steep terrain or riding off drops and jumps, the risk of crashing begins to increase exponentially.
The level of protection required depends on the type of riding and how much pedalling you will be doing. Heading out for a trail ride with your mates might not warrant the level of protection for your knees as if you were lapping the bike parks of the Alps. There are a vast array of products on offer to cover every discipline of mountain biking giving you the choice to pick the best mountain bike knee pads for you. Just wearing body armour like knee pads can give you the confidence to push yourself while still remaining comfortable to wear all day.
How should MTB knee pads fit?
Gone are the days of huge pads that covered the knee and shin. Modern options no longer dig into the top of your feet or slip and spin around your legs during pedalling. The best knee protection - as seen with the products listed above - is a sleeve-type design that surrounds your knee. To lock the guards in place they will feature either a silicone band or a velcro strap and occasionally a combination of both for added peace of mind. Some riders prefer to be able to adjust the fit using velcro straps but this is down to personal preference and trying each before you buy is recommended.
Fit is the most crucial aspect of knee protection. You want your knee pads to fit and be comfortable to wear. Too tight and you will risk them restricting your movement during pedalling. They might cause discomfort, irritate your skin and the material could bunch up. If they fit too loose they simply won't do their job when you really need them most.
How important is ventilation in MTB knee pads?
Riding without pads will always be cooler than riding with them. As such, ventilation is very important. The material choice, length and thickness will determine how hot you will be wearing knee protection. The best mountain bike knee pads are designed to be flexible enough to use during trail riding and usually have some form of venting to allow your legs to breathe. This is also helpful if you intend to wear the pads underneath trousers.
Pads that offer the ultimate level of protection might not breathe quite as well but can be loosened and moved down to your ankles area or removed and stashed away until you need them.
Do I wear knee pads over or under trousers/pants?
Ideally, if you intend to wear knee protection and full-length trousers or pants as is the fashion right now, you need to ensure that the knee pad has a low enough profile to play nicely with trousers. Wearing pads over your riding trousers will cause uncomfortable bunching of your trouser material, particularly behind the knee and possibly cause your pads to move about in a crash.
Do knee pads vary in protection levels?
The best mountain bike knee pads come in a range of designs, from slimmer leg sleeves that protect from brushes with trail features rather than the bigger knocks. These lighter-weight options relinquish some outright protection for more flexibility and enhanced breathing, meaning they are better for long days in the saddle with more pedalling. At the opposite end of the scale, some offerings wouldn't look out of place in freestyle BMX or motocross events and look bulletproof and would be ideal for gravity and freestyle disciplines with less focus on pedalling and flexibility.