Finding the Right Fit: 8 MTB Knee Pads, Tested

8 pairs of mountain bike knee pads, tested and compared, plus tips for buying knee pads that fit.

For most women, unisex sizing is an absolute nightmare. Items are either far too large or too snug, too boxy or the fit is just off. Knee pad sizing is, unfortunately, no different. Each brand’s sizing guide differs from the next, and when you’ve got thighs and womanly curves, finding knee pads that fit properly — and that will stay in place while riding — can be a struggle. 

So we hoped to take some of the guesswork out of it for you by trying on pads, both soft and hard shells, from some leading brands. While simply sizing down may work for women when it comes to some types of unisex bike gear, that’s not the case when it comes to knee pads.

Based on measurements we received test items in anything from a size small to an XXL! I’ll admit that my body image took a bit of hit; I know I’m not a small woman by any means but a double XL in unisex sizing seems a bit extreme. But more noteworthy here is that all the pads fit… sorta, kinda.

I’ll start with some general tips for buying mountain bike knee pads, and then I’ll go through each pair tested and describe fit, feel, and features.

Tips for buying unisex MTB knee pads

  1. Take your dimensions — 10cm or 4” above and below the knee — and keep your measurements handy whilst shopping.
  2. Read the size chart, every time. Every brand differs in sizing.
  3. Keep in mind your inseam. Especially if you’re short (shorter than 5’4”), the knee pads will likely come up higher on the thigh and lower toward your calf than described.
  4. Knee pads are meant to fit somewhat snug so that they stay in place.
    1. Loose fits can lead to bunched-up fabric which leads to chafing.
    2. A little sausage leg is OK if it means that the pads stay put.

Size recommendations by brand

I created this little graph as a quick, go-to guide for the next time you’re shopping for knee pads from any of the brands tested here. Note: these sizes are based off your thigh / above the knee measurements.

Mountain Bike Knee Pad Comparison Chart by Brand

Knee pads tested

For reference, my measurements are as followed:

  • Tester’s height: 5’5”. 
  • Wears a size medium in clothing. 
  • Tester’s inseam: 78cm or 30.7”
  • Diameter above the knee: 49cm or 19.3″
  • Diameter below the knee: 35cm or 14”

A note on my personal preferences: I like my clothing and protective gear to be nearly invisible so I can ride unrestricted and with complete freedom of movement. As such, I don’t like the pads to feel tight, especially around my thighs — I loathe “sausage legs”— and thus I tend to size up and base my sizing around the “above the knee” measurement. The problem I had across all brands was that the pads would fit okay above the knee, but the bands below the knee were so loose that they offered little to no aid in helping the pads stay in place. My take-away was that a little sausage leg is ok if it means that the pads stay put. Protection over fashion! Plus, bunched-up fabric causes chafing.

Dakine Slayer Pro Knee Pad

  • Size tested: Large
  • Type: Pull up with strap
  • Features:
    • Lightweight, low-profile CE-certified knee protector (EN 1621-1 Level 1)
    • Dual-density DK Impact energy-absorbing foam technology
    • Cordura® abrasion resistance
    • Polygiene® Odor Control technology
    • Seamless calf band and silicone gripper elastic keep pad in place
    • Pre-curved ergonomic patterning for enhanced fit

Fit and Feel 

Unlike the majority of pads in this list, the Slayer Pro is definitely on the more serious and burlier side of protection. It’s a hard shell that offers quite a bit of coverage, including foam padding and a thicker, abrasion-resistant Cordura fabric on the sides. The back is fully covered with a breathable, narrow mesh fabric coverage.

The pads go on and off easily, and the silicone grippers on both the top and bottom cuffs pair with the upper strap to ensure a secure fit. I probably could have sized down on this pad: it is quite roomy overall, the bottom cuff is far too big, and the fabric bunches together while riding. However, thanks to the strap, they do stay in place and are plenty comfortable on the downhill. 

While advertised as “pedal-friendly,” I find the pads too bulky and too warm to wear on the up or on pedally sections. I wouldn’t recommend these for XC riders, but for trail and all-mountain rides, this pad will offer ample protection at a light weight.

Did it stay up? Yes.

Fit: Roomy around the knee, snug around the upper cuff.

Fox Enduro D3O Knee Guard

  • Size tested: Large
  • Type: Pull up 
  • Features:
    • EN1621-1 Level 1 Knee including high and low temperature conditions
    • CE certified and removable D3O® insert for world leading impact protection
    • Moisture wicking, open stretch mesh at back of knee for breathability
    • Cordura® fabric offers higher abrasion resistance in key impact areas
    • Reinforced skid plate reduces friction with the ground in a sliding fall

Fit and Feel

The D3O® inserts are among the smallest in this review yet offer substantial coverage. The thin, lycra-like fabric and wide mesh back make the pads feel more like knee warmers than knee guards, which is certainly a positive for long days of pedaling. 

But while the airflow and comfort are great, the thin fabric doesn’t appear to be very tear- or abrasion-resistant. With that said, the D3O® removable insert and knee coverage are confidence-inspiring despite the thin pad size.

The upper cuff and gripper could be wider, and the pads do slowly meander down throughout the ride. Perhaps a factor here is that the pad itself has no contouring and thus moves around a little. But the occasional adjustments are well worth the all-day comfort and breathability. 

Did it stay up? Mostly.

Fit: Overall, good. Form-fitting around thigh and calf, and a tad too roomy around the back of the knee.

Ion K-Traze AMP Knee Pad

  • Size tested: Large
  • Type: Zippered with a top strap
  • Features:
    • Super_Perforator_Neoprene
    • Quick_E zipper
    • Light Impact Protection (EN 1621-1, Level 1)
    • Pre-shaped flexible yet hard-ish SAS-TEC pad, designed to harden up on impact

Fit and Feel

The Ion K-Traze AMP knee pad is built around a SAS-TEC pad with a thin plastic layer on top. The pad is designed to harden upon impact while the plastic wards off sharp rocks or pokey branches. Surrounding perforated neoprene and foam padding offer additional protection, while mesh fabric and a back-of-the-knee cutout provide good airflow. 

These knee pads are the only ones in this review that offer the convenience of a zipper, rather than a pull-on design, meaning you can put these on at any point in the ride without having to take your shoes off. You can just throw them in your bag and put them on after you’re done climbing. 

However, they’re also the shortest in the bunch, and I’d prefer a tad more coverage, especially above the knee. But the nice wide silicone gripper and the velcro strap on the upper cuff ensured that the knee guards stayed in place. There’s a silicone gripper on the bottom cuff as well, however, since the lower cuff was too loose for my legs, it offered no benefit. 

Also note that if you’re wearing shorts on the shorter end or you have a long inseam, there will be an awkward skin gap between the knee protection and your shorts. 

Whilst these pads are more All-Mountain and Enduro oriented, the airflow and ventilation provide enough comfort to wear them while pedaling. And any concerns about chafing or irritation behind the zipper are quickly forgotten; the zippers are completely unobtrusive.

Did it stay up? Yes.

Fit: Too roomy around the knee, loose below the knee. I should have sized down. Relied on strap to keep it in place.

Pearl Izumi Summit Knee Guard

  • Size tested: Small
  • Type: Pull-on
  • Features:
    • Light weight pads for Trail riding
    • D3O® viscoelastic sheet material backed with EVA foam provides CE level 1 protection with minimal bulk
    • Cordura® 4-way stretch woven fabric provides durability in high impact areas
    • Mesh fabric on main sleeve provides breathability
    • Longer knee warmer inspired design with wide elastic grippers and silicone interior print keeps pads in place

Fit and Feel

Pearl Izumi is not a brand that springs to mind when one thinks of mountain bike protection, which is why these knee pads took me by the most pleasant of surprises. 

The Summit Knee Guard was designed around pedal comfort, hoping to eliminate the need to wear your knee pads around your ankles on the climb up. 

Inspired by knee warmer designs, the knee pads offer a lot of fabric above and below the knee, which is made entirely of wide mesh fabric and kept in place with nice, wide cuffs. So much mesh makes them highly breathable and very lightweight, though perhaps also fragile when it comes to tears and scrapes. 

The knee guard itself is a D3O insert inside a lightweight, four-way stretch Cordura® fabric — much like the Fox and Troy Lee pads also mentioned in this review. However, unlike the Fox Enduro pad, this knee guard is pre-shaped to help it stay put.

The back of the knee is kept completely open and fabric-free, which looks a bit odd yet prevents any chafing from bunched-up fabric and certainly added to the pedaling comfort. 

The bands are a bit snug so I think I would prefer a medium. Still, in offering low-impact coverage at minimal weight and restriction-free movement, this pad was my top choice for trail riders who like to pedal and keep their pads on all day.

Did they stay up? Yes.

Fit: Snug, much like a knee warmers. If you’re between sizes, go for the bigger size. 

POC VPD System Lite

  • Size tested: Medium
  • Type: Pull-on
  • Features:
    • 3D-molded VPD protection
    • EN 1621-1, Level 1 certified shock absorption
    • Large ventilation channels which ensures extreme ventilation
    • Mesh fabric on the interior optimizes moisture management
    • Sleeve constructed with a reinforced fabric in the front panel for a precise and secure fit

Fit and Feel

While flexible, the POC’s VPD System Lite knee pads will harden on impact and are said to offer  “extreme impact absorption” suitable for Enduro or aggressive trail riding. As such, they sit somewhere between the thin D3O® insert pads in this review and the Dakine Slayer Pro in terms of protection. 

Comfort-wise however, I could wear these all day. They slip on and off easily —alas, a tad too easily— and sport nice, wide silicone cuffs on the top and bottom. They also feel flexible and soft. 

A durable, abrasion-resistant fabric surrounds the VPD cup and a porous, thin fabric covers the back. Paired with a series of vents in the cup itself, there is a fair bit of breathability. 

I do get a bit sweaty under these pads but the body heat is actually a good thing. According to POC, the 3D-molded VPD cup warms to the body and flexes for a personalized fit.

Among the mid-level knee guards, these POC VPD System Lite pads are the most comfortable, but they do slip down on me quite a bit, meaning that I have to re-adjust them at every break. Perhaps the addition of a top strap would make these standouts. 

Did they stay up? Alas, no.

Fit: Loose. Could have sized down.

SHRED. Flexi Knee Pads Lite

  • Size tested: Large
  • Type: Pull-on
  • Features:
    • SLYTECH™ shock absorption: a proprietary foam is meant to progressively adapt to different forces and impact speeds for thorough protection—even in low energy crashes. 
    • SLYTECH™ Flexi Foam molded with a hexagon structure is especially thin and light while also offering unrivaled flexibility and certified impact energy absorption.
    • ARMORTEX® fabric: tough, elastic fabric on the front panels of the pads enhances durability, offering protection from abrasion and punctures while also stretching to provide comfort and a refined fit.
    • Super Stretch Spandex fabric with Armortex® front panel
    • Meets EN 1621-1 Level 1 (motorbike limb joint protectors), K Type A protection levels
    • Spandex fabric

Fit and Feel 

Out of the bag, these pads felt incredibly lightweight and thin.

This lycra sleeve pad is built around a SLYTECH™Flexi Foam cup, which much like the 3DO inserts mentioned before, is lightweight and flexible to the touch but hardens on impact.

A combination of thin spandex and mesh fabric surrounds the contoured cup, which keeps the weight minimal while offering full stretch and superior ventilation.

To keep everything in place, these pads rely on the pre-shaped cup, a silicone gripper behind the knee, and rather thin silicone cuffs. 

The pads feel very airy and lightweight, however the downside to this exceptionally thin fabric, especially in the back of the leg, is that I worry it doesn’t provide enough protection. The overall fit is too loose for me and the sleeves do not stay up. 

I fear that these will stretch out over time and doubt the lycra will be able to withstand much abrasion. 

Did they stay up? No.

Fit: Too loose.

SHRED. Flexi Knee Pads Enduro

  • Size tested: Large
  • Type: Pull-on with strap
  • Features:
    • SLYTECH™ shock absorption:  Proprietary foam intelligently and progressively adapts to different forces and impact speeds for thorough protection—even in low energy crashes.
    • Slytech™ Foam molded with a hexagon structure is especially thin and light while also offering unrivaled flexibility and certified impact energy absorption.
    • ARMORTEX® fabric: This tough, elastic fabric on the front panels of the pads enhances durability, offering protection from abrasion and punctures while also stretching to provide comfort and a refined fit.
    • Meets| EN 1621-1 Level 1 (motorbike limb joint protectors), K Type A safety standards.
    • Material: SLYTECH™ Foam, Armortex®, Neoprene, Velcro strap

Beefier than the SHRED. Flexi Knee Pads Lite reviewed above, the Enduro version offers an added level of protection for more aggressive trail and enduro riding. These pull-on pads utilize the same SLYTECH foam cup as mentioned above but sport additional foam padding below the knee cap and on the sides. 

Whilst still impressively lightweight, the fabric sleeve used in the Enduro version is a thicker neoprene material that appears to be more abrasion and puncture resistance, and less stretchy.  There’s a silicone gripper behind the knee as well as a velcro strap on the top cuff to keep the pads in place. 

The enduro version is certainly bulkier and less airy than the trail-riding-oriented pads above, and the thicker, less stretchy material actually helped keep the pads in place. They certainly felt more sturdy yet comfortable at the same time. 

Did they stay up: Yes.

Fit: Form-fitting with a good strap on top to adjust size. 

Troy Lee Designs Stage Knee Guards

  • Size tested: XL / XXL
  • Type: Pull-on
  • Features:
    • D3O® lightweight, low profile elbow impact protection
    • Silicone grippers prevent slipping
    • Spacer-prene sleeve combined with breathable mesh panel for all day riding comfort
    • Durable, abrasion-resistant elbow panel
    • Sold in pairs-left/right
    • CE EN1621-1 Certified

Fit and Feel

These are easily the longest sleeves in the bunch, reaching well up the thigh and down to mid-lower calf. They slip on easily and feel soft and flexible. 

The lycra sleeves offer four-way stretch and the entire back is made of a thin, mesh fabric with a silicone gripper at the back of the knee to prevent bunching. The cuffs offer a silicone gripper as well, but I would have liked wider bands. 

The protection comes from the D3O® inserts, which are thin and flexible and will harden on impact. 

The ventilation is good and they felt comfortable enough for pedaling, and because the sleeves come so high up the thigh, they did not slide down much. 

The sizing on these pads are, however, the smallest of the bunch and you will have to size way up, especially if you have thigh muscle. This means that I ended up with a XL/XXL, which fit around the thigh, but the bottom cuff is far too loose. 

Did it stay up: Yes.

Fit: Super snug sizing and quite long. Not ideal for shorter riders.  

My Top Picks

My top choice for trail riders who like to pedal and keep their pads on all day are the Pearl Izumi Summit Knee Guards. For aggressive trail or enduro riding, I like the POC VPD System Lite if you can get a better fit than I did. Otherwise, my second choice is a pair of SHRED. Flexi Enduro pads.