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How to Choose: Ski Knee & Elbow Pads

Why Do I Need Ski Knee Pads or Elbow Pads in the First Place?

Knee injuries are the most common ski injury, accounting for an estimated 25-45% of all ski injuries. A study in the American Journal of Sports Medicine noted that injuries to the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) alone composed 17.2% of all skiing injuries. If you’ve ever had a knee injury, you’ll know that they’re exceptionally painful and take a long time to heal. Ski knee pads can help support and stabilize your knee and prevent or minimize knee injury.

What Type of Ski Knee Pads & Elbow Pads Do You Need?

Knee/Elbow Cap Material: Hard Shell VS. Soft Shell

  • Hard shelled caps are usually made of a tough ABS plastic This shell can be smooth and rounded or ergonomically molded.

  • Hard-shelled caps are thick and robust, meaning they can take a lot of impact and abrasion--impact and abrasion that you won’t have to.

  • Because of their bulk, they tend to offer a little less range of motion. (In our opinion, these types of pads tend to be too robust for skiing, unless you happen to wear baggy snow pants and jackets.)
  • Soft shell knee and elbow "caps" are usually made of a soft, dense foam, Kevlar, d3o, VPD or another flexible material that is meant to cushion the force of impact.

  • Soft shell pads are usually lighter weight and lower profile and therefore offer a bit more range of motion. They can be used more easily for both skiing and other action sports like skateboarding, BMX, and MTB.

  • Soft-shell pads do not offer as much protection as their hard shell counterparts.

  • Soft-shell pads are primarily designed to slide on under pants or sleeves, which is great if you'd like to wear your protective gear undercover.

Knee/Elbow Thickness and Cap Size: More Padding VS. Less Padding

Ski Knee and Elbow Pad Thickness

Ski knee pads and ski elbow pads have soft foam padding on the interior of the sleeve and behind the hard plastic shells to further soften the force of impact. Thicker padding means more protection, but keep in mind that it also means additional bulk and weight.

Ski Knee and Elbow Cap/Pad Size and Shape

Elbow and knee pads for skiing are tailored for different uses and preferences, so both the caps and the padding behind them extend to different widths and lengths, providing more or less coverage below and to the sides of your knee and elbow. More padding adds additional ski safety protection in these areas but adds to the overall bulk and weight.

Need Extra Padding under Your Ski Knee Pads?

Try an extra layer of soft protection under your ski knee pads with knee gaskets. Gaskets are a slim, tubular under layer with a horseshoe or donut shaped knee pad that will further protect your joints beneath your hard or soft shell pads. Find them in the Ski Knee Pad section!.

Do You Care About Having to Remove Your Boots or Gloves to Get Your Ski Knee and Elbow Pads On and Off?

An important convenience feature is the ability to put on or remove the ski knee or elbow pads easily. There are two basic designs, sleeve style pads that slip on and off or butterfly style pads that are secured to your leg/arm with adjustable straps.

Slip-On Ski Knee and Elbow Pads

  • The slip-on design is typically found in soft-shell guards, less expensive guards, elbow and knee gaskets, and youth-sized pads.
  • Slip-on knee and elbow pads are tubular in design; you slide them up your leg to your kneecap or up your arm to your elbow.
  • Some slip-on pads have additional, exterior, adjustable straps that you then cinch tight to better hold the pads in place

Butterfly Closure Knee and Elbow Pads

  • The butterfly closure design is most often found in the more robust knee and elbow pads that include hard-shell protection and more expensive guards.
  • Butterfly pads are designed as wrap-around protection. This means you don’t have to take off your shoes or push up your sleeve to get them on.
  • The term ‘butterfly’ refers to the method of cinching – two pairs of wing flaps wrap around the leg/arm above and below the knee/elbow, each pair held firm by a Velcro or Nylon strap.

Do You Need Integrated Shin or Forearm Protection in your Ski Knee or Elbow Guards?

We offer several knee/shin and elbow/forearm guards that integrate a knee or elbow pad with a shin or forearm guard. If you are going to be doing any sort of jumping or have an existing injury and are looking for extra protection for your joints, these pads are worth checking out!


Integrated Elbow/Forearm and Knee/Shin guards feature:

  • Seamless protection for your joint (elbow or knee) and limb (forearm or shin)
  • Multiple sets of adjustable straps to keep the guard in place
  • A flexible material between the joint and limb pad hinges to allow for the natural bend of your arm or leg to enhance range of motion
  • Integrated guards are available in the hard shell and soft shell style

How Much Should I Spend for Ski Knee and Elbow Guards?

You can expect to pay anywhere from $20 to $115 for ski knee pads and from $15 to $85 dollars for ski elbow pads. That's a wide range, and prices differ depending on features and level of protection. At XSportsProtective we also offer Elbow and Knee Guard combo packs of our most popular elbow and knee guards to keep prices more budget friendly.

What features will I generally find in knee and elbow pads in the $15-$30 range?

  • A beginner to intermediate level of protection
  • Large EVA foam padding to lessen the force impact
  • ABS plastic, hard shell cap
  • Slip on or butterfly closure
  • Youth-sized pads

    What features will I generally find in knee and elbow pads in the $30-$70+ range?

    • A professional level of protection
    • Large, dual density EVA foam padding
    • Ergonomically formed caps that are sometimes detachable and replaceable
    • Side padding to protect ligaments
    • Integrated forearm and shin options available
    • Technologically advanced, transitional padding that is normally soft and flexible, but becomes stiff and rigid to absorb the force of impact (VPD, d3o)
    • Sweat-wicking liners to prevent chaffing and keep you cool
    • Slip on or butterfly closure

    Shop our collection of ski knee pads and ski elbow pads today!