Finding the Best Goalie Knee Guards

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Despite all of the modern advancements in goalie gear, equipment manufacturers have not yet figured out a way to effectively protect the goalies knees while in the butterfly position.

If goalies didn’t use the butterfly, knee guards actually wouldn’t be required. However, since modern goalies make nearly 100% of their saves in the butterfly position before moving laterally while still in the butterfly, exposed knees is a major safety concern.

Which brings up an interesting question. Do goalies really need to wear knee protection?

100% of goalies currently playing in the NHL wear some form of knee protection. Knee guards not only protect against pucks shot towards this vulnerable area of the body, they also help to alleviate the wear and tear on a goalies knees when entering the butterfly position.

Did you know that wearing knee guards can actually reduce hip injury as well, for goalies? One of the biggest reasons to wear knee guards is so that it reduces the strain on the hips while in the butterfly. Professional goalies will also add a little extra padding to the knee stack area of their pads, but that’s another article.

Editors Note: in this article, we’re taking a look at the best knee guards for goalies who do not play at the youth level. If you’re here for the top youth knee guards, check out the article linked.

The rating system we use to grade goalie knee guards.

For all gear, we follow a system of available points to determine what truly is the best piece of equipment. Knee guards are no different. For knee guards, a total of 60 points are available. Below, we explain each rating and how it contributes to a products overall score.

  • Advantage – the most important factor of all, how much of an advantage does choosing this particular product give an athlete over competitor models
  • Cost – how affordable is the product compared to other products in the category
  • Durability – long term durability of the product compared to other knee guards tested
  • Protection – determining the protection capability of the product
  • Mobility – rating the products impact on a goalies overall mobility
  • Product Improvements – the amount that the manufacturer changed the product from the previous iteration

These are the most protective goalie knee guards on the market right now. 

Best Goalie Knee Guards, for maximum protection and mobility 

Goalie Knee Guard Grade Chart

ProductAdvantageCostDurabilityProtectionMobilityProduct ImprovementsTotal Score
Warrior X3 Pro+ Knee Guards10/107/1010/1010/107/106/1050/60
Bauer Pro Knee Guards8/107/108/109/108/105/1045/60
CCM Knee Guards6/1010/107/109/105/102/1039/60

One of the main reasons why goalies do not wear knee guards is due to the way that they’re believed to impact mobility. In reality, knee guards actually aid a goalies mobility by preventing injury. If you’re a goalie who has ever been hit by a shot in the knee, you’re well aware of how badly it hurts. In fact, getting hit by a puck in the knee area is one of the most common injuries we see in the goalies we train – who do not choose to wear knee guards.

You’ll notice that we’re not listing a long line of knee guards here. That’s intentional for a couple reasons. First off, knee guards are like jock straps. They’re not made by ever manufacturer. Some manufacturers, like Brian’s, only make them for their pro clients upon request. Second, there is no knee guard like the Warrior knee guard. When it comes to knee protection for goalies, Warrior is the clear leader.

Warrior X3 Knee Guards (Pro Level Choice)

The Warrior X3 Knee guards for hockey goalies are far and away the best goalie knee guard on the market. Not only are these popular amongst NHL goalies, they’re favored by the majority of goalies outside of the NHL, in the entire world.

There are three reasons the Warrior X3 should be the knee guard you buy.

  1. Durability – for those who own Warrior knee guards, replacement is few and far between. Out of Warrior, Bauer, and CCM, Warrior is the leader in durability. They simply last longer than any other knee guard on the market.
  2. Mobility – for Bauer and CCM, the knee guard feels like a “we have to make this, so we will” as compared to Warrior, where it feels like they assigned an entire development team to the design of the knee guard. Warrior wins in the mobility department and it’s not even close.
  3. Protection – for essentially the same reason as mobility, when it comes to protection, the most important component of any piece of goalie equipment, Warrior wins again.

The Warrior X3 goalie knee guard is the longest lasting, most protective knee guard that also offers the highest level of mobility of any other knee guard on the market. For a full in depth, on ice test review of the Warrior X3 Pro+ Knee guard check out our deep dive profile.

For this reason, they’re the preferred choice of knee guard by NHL goalies.

Final Product Rating: 50/60. The Warrior X3 Knee Guards scored the highest out of the knee guards we’re considering to be in the top knee guards category. The Warrior X3 Pro+ are an pro level knee guard built for professional hockey. They’re worn by numerous NHL goalies, top NCAA goaltenders, and high level Junior goalies all over the world. The Warrior X3 Pro+ knee guards are the best money can buy this season.

Bauer Pro Knee Guards

Bauer consolidated their knee guard, skate, and goalie pant offering into what they’re now calling the Bauer Pro series. The Bauer Pro Knee guard is essentially the exact same thing as the Bauer Vapor Knee Guard and the Bauer Supreme knee guard. The only difference between all three is that Bauer now only has to print one logo, instead of two. Much easier for maintaining inventory.

All that said, however, the Bauer Pro Knee guard still pales in comparison to the mobility and protection offered by anything made by Warrior.

Final Product Rating: 45/60. While the Bauer Pro knee guards did come in at just 5 points less than Warrior’s offering this season, they’re light years behind the model manufactured by Warrior. The Bauer Pro knee guards are a professional level knee guard that are worn at the NHL level, however, in terms of protection, overall mobility and longevity, they’re only the 2nd best option on the market right now.

Goalie Knee Guard Grade Chart

ProductAdvantageCostDurabilityProtectionMobilityProduct ImprovementsTotal Score
Warrior X3 Pro+ Knee Guards10/107/1010/1010/107/106/1050/60
Bauer Pro Knee Guards8/107/108/109/108/105/1045/60
CCM Knee Guards6/1010/107/109/105/102/1039/60

CCM Knee Guards

CCM Knee Guards are an area where this manufacturer could massively improve. They’re highly protective and worn by a number of current NHL goalies, but when you compare the mobility of these to Warrior, it’s not close. CCM is less mobile and in my opinion and our testing, less comfortable than Warrior.

Final Product Rating: 39/60. CCM loses most of it’s points in this category for lack of product improvements in recent years, so take the final rating with a grain of salt. These are a highly protective set of knee guards, currently priced the best out of the three we consider to be the best options for goalies. Still worn by a number of professional goalies, CCM is one of the top goalie equipment manufacturers in the world for good reason.

Goalie Knee Guard Grade Chart

ProductAdvantageCostDurabilityProtectionMobilityProduct ImprovementsTotal Score
Warrior X3 Pro+ Knee Guards10/107/1010/1010/107/106/1050/60
Bauer Pro Knee Guards8/107/108/109/108/105/1045/60
CCM Knee Guards6/1010/107/109/105/102/1039/60

Should Youth Goalies Wear Knee Guards?

One of the questions we get asked frequently is, should youth goalies wear knee guards?

The answer to that is yes. Not only do youth goalies get the same protection from knee guards as those more advanced, but wearing knee guards from a young age is the single best way to become accustomed to wearing them as an adult goalie.

One of the main reasons I see adult goalies not wearing knee guards is because they’re unable to adapt to the bulky feeling they can give off, especially after so many years of not wearing them. If you’re a parent of a youth goalie, I highly recommend enforcing the decision to wear knee guards.

Knee Guards for a Goalie Who Doesn’t Wear Them

If you’re a goalie who doesn’t currently wear knee guards, it can be difficulty adjusting to the feeling of additional, bulky feeling gear around your knees. It affects the way you land in your butterfly, how your pads fit when standing up and you wouldn’t be the first to ditch the knee guards after just a few minutes on the ice.

For goalies who have never worn knee guards, the Warrior X3 knee guards are going to be the least intrusive of the group.

Additionally, here’s a couple ways to get used to wearing knee guards under your goalie pads. 

  • Start off by wearing volleyball knee guards (they’re much less bulky) for a few skates
  • Wear your knee guards around the house, without goalie pads
  • Give yourself no other option, force it

Getting used to wearing knee guards under your goalie gear is actually easier than you’d think. Of the goalies we work with, I’ve had just one in my entire career who used knee guards and went back to skating without them. Yes, they can feel bulky. However, the advantages to wearing knee guards, from increased protection on an exposed area of the body to reducing hip injuries, far outweigh the cons.

Should goalies wear knee guards or thigh boards?

The question of, “Can I use thigh boards instead of knee guards?” get’s asked quite a bit and it’s only fair, as thigh boards were popular in years past. Thigh boards are not a substitute for knee guards. Many professional goalies wear thigh boards in addition to multiple pairs of knee guards. Some goalies may experience less mobility when using knee guards as well as thigh boards. In some cases of youth goalies, thigh boards are acceptable.

Most common, however, is knee guards without the use of thigh boards. The thigh board, while it comes standard on lots of goalie pads, is a mediocre replacement to wearing an actual knee guard.