Why do I need skateboard knee pads in the first place?
You probably already know that you need skateboard knee pads on vert ramps or bowls. When you fall, you slide down the ramp on your knees. But what if you’re skateboarding on the street? Do you still need skateboard pads? Absolutely. If you’re doing any sort of tricks on your skateboard, you’re going to fall. Falling onto a skateboard knee pad hurts a lot less than your kneecap hitting wood, concrete, or metal, plus, skateboard pads cost a lot less than a trip to the emergency room. If you can minimize or prevent serious damage to your knees with some comfortable skateboard knee pads, why not do it?
The most common skateboard knee injuries are to the anterior cruciate ligament and the meniscus. These injuries happen most frequently when you land after an aerial maneuver or when you change direction quickly. The impact when you land on the skateboard and the twisting motion when you change direction can cause ligaments and cartilage to tear away from the bone. The second most common parts of the knee injured by skateboarders are the posterior cruciate ligament and the medial collateral. These injuries typically occur when you land on your knees during a fall or hit them against an obstacle, like a grinding ledge or metal coping. In extreme cases, an unusually hard impact could even cause a fracture of one of the bones in the knee or the thigh. At best, a serious skateboard knee injury can keep you off the skateboard for a few weeks; at worst, it could require surgery, which will keep you off the skateboard even longer.
What kind of skateboard knee pads do I need?
Skateboard knee pads are kind of like tacos, you can get hard shell
or soft shell
. Both types of skateboard pads have some sort of Neoprene or other soft, flexible sleeve and EVA foam padding to protect the kneecap and the area surrounding it. Hard shell skateboard knee pads are more popular with skateboarders. If you’re doing vert ramps or bowls, you absolutely need hard shell skateboard pads.
A hard shell skateboard knee pad:
A soft shell skateboard knee pad:
- Has an ABS plastic shell riveted or Velcroed to the front of the knee area
- Provides greater protection than a soft shell skateboard pad
- Offers more durability than a soft shell skateboard pad (the ABS plastic shell won’t rip or tear no matter how many times you slide or fall on it)
- May offer slightly less range of motion
- Is bulkier than a soft shell skateboard knee pad, which means it may not fit under a pair of jeans
- Will have some sort of Kevlar or other abrasion-resistant panel over the front of the knee area
- Does not provide as much impact protection as a hard shell skateboard knee pad
- Is smaller and lighter than a hard shell skateboard knee pad, so you can wear it under pants (but bear in mind that when you slide, you can rip the front of your pants)
- The panel covering the knee area is not as durable as the plastic cap on the hard shell skateboard knee pad and can eventually rip or tear
How do you want to put them on?
One of the things to consider before you purchase skateboard knee pads is whether you want to be able to put them on without removing your shoes or not. There are two basic designs: skateboard knee pads that slip on or those that close in the back (often called a butterfly closure). Slip-on knee pads slide up your leg to your knee. This design is more commonly found in soft-shell guards, less expensive knee pads, knee (or elbow) gaskets, and youth-sized pads. Skateboard knee pads with a butterfly closure wrap around your knee so you can put them on and take them off without removing your shoes. The butterfly closure design is typically found in hard shell knee pads and more robust and/or more expensive knee pads.
Do you still have questions about which skateboard knee pads are right for you?
Check out our Skateboard Gear Guide Home Page
article on How to choose skateboard knee and elbow pads
to learn more.