Our pick of the very best mountain bike knee pads for everything from trail riding to enduro.

Whether you like flying down steep, technical trails, or you prefer a more sedate pace, some form of knee protection while riding is a good idea. Even the best, or most careful riders, make mistakes and, while not all accidents end up with a trip to A&E, the last thing you want is to curtail a ride because you’ve gashed open your knee.

At the end of the day good knee pads should behave like the best mountain bike helmets, in that you quickly forget you’re wearing them once you start your ride.

Rapha Trail kneepads

The Rapha Trail knee pads are sumptuously comfortable

1. Rapha Trail knee pads

Best overall knee pad for comfort and protection

Weight: 358g | Sizes: XS-XL | Rating: 9/10

Reasons to buy:

  • Stable and doesn’t move
  • Doesn’t restrict pedalling
  • Good coverage
  • Comfortable

Reasons to avoid:

  • There are lighter, cheaper and/or better ventilated pads (although few better in all respects)

For a road brand, Rapha has come into the MTB market all-guns-blazing, with some really solid and impressive products. One of which is are the Trail knee pads, which consist of a Lycra sleeve, with a four-way stretch, and an ergonomic cut. So it holds stable and contours effectively around the leg. And the leg grippers don’t itch or chafe against bare skin like many options on the market.

So they’re about the most comfortable knee pad out there, and they stay put resolutely on the roughest terrain, but they also have ample protection. Using an active polymer from Rheon Labs, the pad hardens on impact. It’s not the lightest or coolest pad around, but it fits superbly, comfort is top notch, and the protection is ideal for most trail riding.

Read our full review of the Rapha Trail kneepads

Scott Mission Evo Knee pads

The Scott Mission Evo pad is so light you’ll soon forget you’re wearing them.

2. Scott Mission Evo

Best lightweight knee pad

Weight: 122g | Sizes: S-XL | Rating: 9/10

Reasons to buy:

  • Superlight and super stable
  • Excellent mobility for pedalling

Reasons to avoid:

  • You may want more protection for more extreme terrain

If you want the peace of mind that comes with wearing knee pads, but not the extra weight, bulk, and impeded pedalling, then your search ends here. The Scott Mission Evo knee pads are so incredibly light and minimal that we instantly forgot we were wearing them. And now they’ve become the knee pad of choice for at least one member of the mbr test team.

While exceptionally light, they still manage to remain stable when pedalling all day, so they don’t end up around your ankles after ten minutes. And while the padding isn’t deep, or a clever harden-on-impact material, it’s enough to save your knees from scrapes and bruises if you lay it down in the dirt.

Read our full test review of the Scott Mission Evo pads

100% Surpass Knee

The 100% Surpass Knee Guard is built for the nastiest of crashes.

3. 100% Surpass Knee Guard

Best knee pad for heavy duty protection

Weight: 482g | Sizes: S-XL | Rating: 10/10

Reasons to buy:

  • Excellent protection from padding and hardshell
  • Rock-solid stability

Reasons to avoid:

  • Expensive
  • Heavy

If you ride regularly in the bike park, live somewhere like the Alps or the Lake District, or simply value your knees, then you want a burly knee pad that will really protect against harsh impacts from rocks and stumps. The best knee pad we have tested for hardcore riding is the 100% Surpass. It’s rated to CE Level 2 and it’s designed to absorb maximum impact force thanks to the hard plastic shell backed by squishy foam.

Every inch of the pad bristles in padding, including the inside of the knee, which can sometimes be overlooked. There’s also extended coverage down the shin and above the knee, and the mix of stretch sleeve and velcro pads keep it totally locked in position. Sure, it’s a heavy pad, but it’s heavy duty, and the price tag reflects the build quality.

Read our full review of the 100% Surpass Knee Guard

7iDP Sam Hill Lite

The 7iDP Sam Hill Lite is low-profile and comfortable.

4. 7iDP Sam Hill Lite

Best for slim-line protection

Weight: 200g | Sizes: S to XL | Rating: 9/10

Reasons to buy:

  • Very supportive
  • Possible to self-tune with removable inserts

Reasons to avoid:

  • Need to remove SAS-TEC inserts before washing
  • Warmer than you might think

When it comes to slim-line protection, it doesn’t get much better than the 7iDP Sam Hill pad. This pad has been round a while, yet it still stands up to scrutiny thanks to its minimal fit and intrusion when pedalling. The main body of the pad uses ripstop spandex and works like a compression sock, while the pad itself is a SAS-TEC insert that acts a bit like memory foam.

With plenty of length, the Sam Hill covers a lot of leg, and stays put thanks to the silicone grippers. Chuck them on for a quick local blast just in case, but you’ll probably need something burlier for a week in the mountains.

Read our full test review of the 7iDP Sam Hill knee pad

Sweet Protection Knee Guards

Sweet Protection Knee Guards have loads of room around the calf.

5. Sweet Protection Knee Guards

Best for big calves

Weight: 226g | Sizes: XS-XL | Rating: 9/10

Reasons to buy:

  • Good fit and flexibility

Reasons to avoid:

  • SAS-TEC pad is not removable, so hand wash only

Sweet Protection’s Knee Guard is the lighter of its two offerings and is essentially a simple sleeve. There’s a viscoelastic pad over the knee cap that remains flexible in normal use but hardens in an impact, and the fit, although strange at first, works well, with a tight cuff around the thigh and looser fit at the calf. The pad isn’t removable, so to retain its properties Sweet Protection recommends hand washing. That’s a pain, but the Knee Guards are a good length and it’s easy to forget you’ve got them on.

Read our full test review of the Sweet Protection Knee Guard

Knee pads are standard apparel these days

Knee pads are light and flexible enough to mean there are no reasons not to wear them all the time

How we tested the best mountain bike knee pads

Comfort is a key consideration when wearing a knee pad, and the only way tp p[ut this to the test is to use alt he pads on all-day trail rides, involving extensive climbing and descending. During test rides we made a note of any chaffing or soreness, and whether the pad stayed in place. We also kept an eye on durability because pulling the pads on and off can put extra stress on the lightweight material, especially at the upper seam. All the sample pads are medium size and the weight listed in the specification is for a pair.

Fully crash tested by professionals (Cotic/Richard Baybutt)

What to look for in best mountain bike knee pads:

When buying your first set of pads you could go for a heavy duty nee/shin, which extends all the way from the knee to the ankle. This offers the most protection, but if you’re pedaling all day, this style of pad can get pretty hot and uncomfortable. For trail riding, we’d recommend a lighter-weight design. Most still have a reinforced pad to shrug gravel rash and small impacts, but they’re more comfortable and don’t get as clammy when you turn up the heat.


Silicone grippers help stop the knee pad sliding down the leg

What stops knee pads from slipping down?

To stop unwanted movement, knee pads use a silicone gripper or an elastic hem, like you’d find in a pair of Lycra shorts. Silicone tape can cause a bit of soreness so what feels comfy in the shop may not after a few hours riding.


Most of the best mountain bike kneepads are left and right specific

Are all knee pads leg-specific?

Knee pads are either left and right specific or can be worn on either leg. There’s often a label inside telling you want pad goes on what knee. If in doubt, go for the configuration that shows the brand logo on the outside of the legs, as that’s often the way they’ve been deliberately designed.


Ventilation is important

Will I get too hot in knee pads?

Cutaways at the back of the knee stop rubbing of the ligaments and also increase air flow. On some designs the kneecap is also left uncovered or has a honeycomb/perforated surface to channel air directly over the knee.


Smart materials, such as D30, help increase protection without impeding movement

What are smart materials and how do they help in a crash?

The protective cap used in most of the knee pads is often an impact-resistant foam, but some use hi-tech materials, such as D30 or Armourgel. These stiffen under impact and reduce the amount of force felt at the knee. Smart material are lighter but they are ore expensive.

What are the pads usually sewn on to?

To reduce weight, the base material for the majority of knee pads is either Lycra or a thin neoprene. A Kevlar cover is often placed over the knee area to increase scuff resistance.

Do I need to look for knee pads with Velcro straps?

To really batten down the hatches some knee pads have an additional Velcro strap, either at the top or bottom. Look for a long strip of of Velcro and a strap that doesn’t bunch up or narrow as you pull it tights, which can cause it to dig in. They’re not strictly necessary though, and some of our favourite and most stable pads don’t use them.

Knee pads featured image

Even trail riders will benefit from lightweight, low-profile knee pads

How much protection do I need?

It’s best to think about knee pads in three different categories: lightweight, trail and heavy duty. The lightest pads are designed to offer abrasion protection at best, they sacrifice extra protection for breathability, low weight and breathability. Trail knee pads are the go-to option for most of us, comfortable enough to ride all day in but tough enough to protect your patellas in a proper crash – at their best they’re lightweight and breathable and offers a good level of protection with malleable pads made from materials like D30 and Sas-Tec. Then there are enduro pads, better able to absorb impacts, they often have extended coverage down your shin, a plastic or TPU shell and offer maximum protection – the tradeoff is they’re often hotter to wear, stick out more and are less comfortable.

Know your riding

Get started by working out which is best for your kind of riding, there’s no point lugging around more material than you need to, pedaling in a pad that’s designed for downhill only. Mountain biking is fun, and we want to keep it that way. In the same vein, if you spend lots of time at the bike park it makes total sense to compromise on breathability and pedaling performance, so if you do hit the deck you’ll be able to bounce back up again without a trip to A&E.

How do I choose the right size knee pads?

The best mountain bike knee pads in the world are useless if they’re not comfortable and you end up leaving them in the car. Plenty of what makes wearing a kneepad a nice experience is the fit, get this right and it’ll stay squarely in place when riding (or crashing), and ideally will be so unobtrusive as to disappear when you’re wearing it. Most brands give you a detailed fit guide based on thigh and calf diameter. Knee pads are available in overlapping (small/medium, medium/large) or single sizes such as small, medium and large. Individual sizes offer a better fit but as always it makes sense to try beforehand because they do vary between manufacturers.

Kali Mission 2.0 knee pad

Sleeve designs are the most popular now, as they are more stable and don’t slip around or chafe. 

Sleeve or wrap-around design?

There are two types of fit, those that slip on via your foot like a sock, and those that fully open to strap around your knee. They both have advantages and disadvantages, slip on designs are generally lighter and less fussy but you do have to take you shoes off to don them. Fitted knee pads can be taken on and off when you need them on a ride, without having to take your shoes off. If your riding consists of one or two big ups lasting over an hour, fitted pads might suit you better, but if you’re constantly gradient hopping then something you fit and forget is the ideal.

Is it worth looking for integrated shin protection?

Kneepads vary in length from very short enough to just cover your knees, like the Sweet Protection, to long enough to slide under your chamois and still reach half way down your shin, like the 7idp Sam Hill Lite Knee. Why is this important? If you’re tall, longer pads are recommended, first to avoid the t@@t gap between your shorts and knee pads, and second so they actually fit your longer limbs.