Learning to pole dance is a lot of fun. After watching 1 or 2 pole fitness videos years ago, we were hooked. Plus, pole dancing is a fantastic workout for your entire body—without ever getting dull or boring.

The thing is, regular pole dancing is basically an exercise regimen. And you always want to fully prepare before tackling any workout for the first time. If you’ve tried dancing without pole knee pads, you’ve learned this the hard way.

So before you can start pole dancing on the regular, you have to research all the needed safety gear. In this guide, PolePedia provides in-depth answers to “How should pole knee pads fit?”

We’ve also got size and fit tips, plus answers to your FAQs. Feel free to read this article from top to bottom or jump around to sections you’re interested in.

If you aren’t seeing the answers you’re searching for, please let us know in the comments! We’re committed to making this guide even more thorough in future updates

Why Do Dancers Wear Knee Pads?

Dancers wear knee pads because they offer protection from both injuries and long-term knee damage. You see, knee injuries and conditions are among the most common when it comes to dancing. (1) It’s easier to grasp our answer to “How should pole knee pads fit?” once you understand their purpose. 
When you dance, you use every muscle in your lower body—from your hips to your toes. Especially for new dancers, this is more strain than you experience from walking or running. Pain and inflammation related to overuse are the most common by far.  
Of course, you’re also slightly at risk for injuries too. This could be as simple as a bruised knee, or something severe like a stress fracture if you land wrong.  
You may be thinking knee pads are just another way for gear companies to get your money, and we get it. It was very rare to see any pole dancer wearing dance knee pads in past decades. But that was a sign of the times more than anything.  
Pole knee pads are relatively new to the pole dancing scene for several reasons: 

  • Club policy. Even today, dancers in clubs must adhere to dress codes and policies. It should always be an employee’s right to wear any safety gear they choose. But not all clubs have adopted this progressive mentality.  
  • Aesthetic appearance. Just because a dancer is allowed to wear knee pads at work doesn’t mean they will. In this role, you’re creating a fantasy for the customer. That fantasy might not include gear like pole knee pads. If a dancer chooses to forego them, that’s their right.  
  • Availability. You can buy just about anything on the internet in the blink of an eye. But that’s only been true for the past decade or so. Combined with the general public’s often negative view of pole dancers, it’s no surprise that pole knee pads were once hard to find.  

Fortunately, we’re living in modern times. Protecting your body so you can dance for years to come is nothing to be ashamed of! We’re thrilled to see more and more dancers wearing pole knee pads.  

How Should Pole Knee Pads Fit?

Pole knee pads should fit snuggly, and the padding should cover your entire kneecap. This might sound strange if you’re familiar with wearing knee pads for other sports.

It’s true that in other sports, you’ll see people wearing knee pads below their knees or even under their thighs. But you don’t want that with pole knee pads.

Because you’ll be landing directly on your knees and using the backs to grip the pole, your whole kneecap needs to be covered. At the same time, the back of your knee should be uncovered for bending and gripping the pole.

The other important aspect is tightness. Most pole knee pads aren’t designed for compression like other knee sleeves. You don’t necessarily need compression during pole dancing, because compression gear can help improve endurance.

But you probably aren’t trying to pole dance for 5 hours, whereas running a marathon can take that long. So, most pole knee pads aren’t made with fabrics for compression. All of this is just to say, you don’t need a super-tight knee sleeve like you might want for running. Comfortably snug is what you want.

How Do You Know if Knee Pads Fit?

You know your pole knee pads fit if: 

  • You feel no pain, tingling, or numbness below your knees while wearing them 
  • You can walk around and move without the knee pads slipping in any direction 
  • You can gently pull on the bottom of the knee pad without it slipping off 
  • The kneepads feel snug without limiting your range of motion 
  • They fit to the shape of your legs with no gaps or baggy areas

You’re essentially looking for a Goldilocks experience.

The pole knee pads should be just right—not too tight, not too loose. In our experience, certain knee pads will stretch or mold to your body with regular wear.  
High-quality knee pads will just fit better and better once you break them in a bit. But if they’re made from cheap materials, you’ll notice more stretch and looseness with every use. Every time you put on your knee pads, take a moment to evaluate the fit. Using worn-out knee pads won’t offer you any support or protection.  

How to Choose Knee Pads that Fit

Now you know how your pole knee pads should fit, and some easy ways to check for a good fit. The next step is learning how to choose the best knee pads for you.

With the right pair, you’ll be able to practice for much longer. And if you have any pre-existing knee problems, the right knee pads can make pole dancing so much more comfortable. There are 3 big things to look for: knee pads with an open back, made of breathable material, and designed for pole dancing.

Find Knee Pads with an Open Back

One great thing about pole dancing is how much you move. You get a complete full-body workout without thinking about it. But if your pole knee pads don’t allow you to bend, that can be a problem.

Always try to get grippy knee pads with an open back. This way your knees get protection from damage and overextension. But you aren’t sacrificing your range of motion or ability to grip with the back of your knee.

That said, we sometimes use a full sleeve with a closed back for routines that are 100% floor work. We bounce between styles depending on what we have planned for the day.

Make Sure You Get a Breathable Material

Nothing saps the satisfaction from a pole session like being soaked in sweat. Sweaty clothes can stick to the pole and make it hard to maneuver. This is especially true for the backs of your knees, which you’ll often use to grip the pole.

Breathable workout fabrics are made from special fabrics that wick away moisture and allow hot air to escape. These fabrics are made from a looser knit than normal clothes. Tight-knit fabrics trap air close to your body. (3)

There are quite a few synthetic and natural materials that are great for this purpose. Polyester, polypropylene, nylon, and spandex are the most breathable synthetic fabrics. Bamboo is the most popular natural option, those this material is less stretchy than synthetic fabrics.

Steer clear of cotton, though. Cotton is a natural fabric, but it’s one of the most absorbent. You’d never want a soaking wet wad of cotton strapped to your legs while trying to dance.

Get Knee Pads Designed for Dance

The best pole dancing knee pads are tailor-made for the activity. You might be able to use knee pads for another sport in a pinch, but we don’t recommend it long-term.

If you look at volleyball knee pads, you’ll notice visual similarities. But these are often designed to be worn below the knee and around the shin—which you never want for pole dancing. Furthermore, knee pads have different padding amounts and placements for each sport. Pole knee pads have exactly the right amount of padding, in the right place, to protect you.

From an aesthetic point of view, knee pads for other sports usually only come in black and white. Knee pads for pole dancing, however, come in a wide range of skin tones and styles to suit any theme, outfit, or mood.

Size and Fit FAQs

Should My Knee Pads be Tight?

Yes, your knee pads should be tight without restricting movement. You need to have the range of motion to do each pole move, but knee pads that slip off during the routine are useless.

The reason why boils down to pure science. A recent study sought to illustrate how exactly a knee pad protects you. The researchers expected knee pads to act as a damper, meaning it would absorb the energy on impact.

Basically, they thought knee pads would act like a shield, absorbing the brunt so you don’t feel pain. But they found just the opposite.

Knee pads actually protect you by acting as a spring. In plain English, they compress slowly as you land. By slowing your fall, you land softer and can get up more easily.

In a nutshell, your knee pads should be tight so you get the most benefit. Loose knee pads won’t protect you as well. And if they slip too much, you could land on your knee and really hurt yourself. Don’t cut off circulation or restrict movement, but make sure they’re snug.

Where Do You Measure Your Thigh for Knee Pads?

A great spot to measure your thigh for knee pads is around the center of your thigh, 4” up from your kneecap. This rule of thumb usually works if the product doesn’t list a measurement guide.

But always defer to size charts and measurement guides from the brand you’re buying. Because there are so many styles of pole knee pads, there’s no universal “golden rule” for how to measure.

Here’s the thing. Knowing the answer to “How should pole knee pads fit?” isn’t helpful unless you also measure the right way. Because if you get the wrong size, there’s no way to make them fit properly.

For this reason, try to shop smart. Look for satisfaction guarantees and lenient return policies anytime you buy from a brand or site for the first time. Use the 4” above the kneecap rule anytime you don’t see a measurement guide. But also know there’s a chance you’ll need to return them for a different size.

How Should I Wear My Knee Pads?

You should wear your knee pads according to the product’s directions. It’s hard to get more specific because pole knee pads are all very different. We’ve tried out many styles over the years and they have very little in common. You might prefer a long sock style, a thinner knee sleeve option, or a more classic kneepad.

The one common thread we’ve noticed is most pole knee pads are meant to be worn directly over your kneecaps. More than anything, it’s important to know wearing your knee pads correctly is just as crucial as wearing them at all.

A study of 20,000 college athletes found that knee injuries decreased by 56% with properly worn knee pads. (4) The sports studied included softball, basketball, and cheerleading—all of which have motions similar to pole dancing.

Another important detail from this study found choosing not to wear knee pads caused 32% of knee injuries. Wear your knee pads and wear them right!

Best Knee Pads for Pole Dancing

Now you have the detailed answer to “How should pole knee pads fit?” Your next question is probably related to which knee pads are best for pole dancing.

And PolePedia has you covered! Check out our ultimate pole kneepad review to learn more about our favorite products and recommendations.

Do you still have questions about how your pole knee pads should fit? Let us know in the comments so we can answer in a future update!

1. John Hopkins Medicine, Common Dance Injuries and Prevention Tips 
2. CNET, Polyester, Nylon, Wool and More: The Fabrics to Look for in Your Workout Clothes 
3. Nature Scientific Reports, Force, Impulse and Energy During Falling With and Without Knee Protection: An In-Vitro Study 
4. AZ Central, Importance of Knee Pads