Knee pads are often the piece of equipment that truly make a volleyball player look like a volleyball player. You aren’t required to wear knee pads, but wearing them often makes it easier for players to hit the floor, both psychologically and physically.
Why wear knee pads?
A common misconception is that volleyball knee pads are worn so that you can dig from your knees. This is actually not true! Knee pads do help to lessen the impact when you hit the floor, but a good digging technique shouldn’t include dropping down to your knees.
Knee pads do minimize some of the impact when your body hits the floor, and they definitely help with floor burn. I also find that wearing knee pads helps provide a bit of support for my knees. Obviously not as much as a knee brace would, but enough that I notice when I’m not wearing them on the court.
Some players hate wearing knee pads, but for those that do wear them, you definitely notice when you’ve forgotten them!
Types of knee pads
There are two main styles of knee pads. There’s the longer kind that are a bit thinner and with padding that wraps around the sides of your knees, and the kind that are bigger in front but don’t wrap around as much.
My preference is the longer, thinner kind. I find them easier to maneuver in, and I appreciate the extra padding on the sides of my knees. I sometimes find myself passing (bumping) with the side of my knee on the ground, and having that extra padding helps minimize the bruising. As a setter, I also run around the court a lot, so the thinner knee pads are easier to get around the court fast.
Recommendation: Mizuno LR6 Volleyball Knee pad
This is a great, lightweight knee pad, that still provides good coverage on the front and sides of your knee. The elastic that wraps around your knee is snug, but not constricting.
Caring for your Knee Pads
Once you’ve worn your knee pads for a few games, you’ll notice that they really start to get a stink to them. Who would’ve thought your knees could sweat that much!
You can wash your knee pads in the washing machine with the rest of your athletic clothes using a mild detergent, but skip the fabric softener and the bleach (even though it’s tempting to try to bleach out those odors!). Fabric softener and bleach will break down the fabric faster.
It’s always best to air dry anything with elastic in the fabric, including knee pads, as the heat from the dryer can also break down the fabric faster.
In between games, don’t just keep your knee pads in your gym bag. Even if you’re not washing them, you’ll want to let them air dry outside of your gym bag. This helps to minimize the odors for both your knee pads and your gym bag. You can even turn them inside out for maximum drying.
If they’re really stinky, try spraying them with rubbing alcohol right after you take them off. This helps to kill any bacteria, and should reduce the smell.