In the time I’ve been playing roller derby, I’ve gone through an inordinate number of knee pads. Maybe I’m just picky, but I’m telling you, I’ve had some real stinkers (derby stank pun! I make jokes!).
A good pair of knee pads are an absolutely essential investment. Your knees are kind of important; you’re probably going to want to continue using them after you retire from the ol’ roly poly. And believe you me, once your knees start to ache in day to day life, you’ll have wished you splurged a bit more.
To that end, I’m reviewing a number of different knee pad brands that I have personally owned and used. I’m not including Australian prices, for the simple fact that here in Australia, prices of all things are ABSOLUTELY LUDICROUS, and as such would be in no way indicative of the price you’d pay in the rest of the world.
These were the first knee pads I ever owned, and the hard cap snapped in half after about three months’ use. I’m not anti-Triple 8 – I’m all about their Wristsavers – but seriously, these knee pads are a joke. Triple 8 have since released a “pro” knee pad that a few skaters in my league actually currently use, so this isn’t a comment on those in any way.
For those first three months, I often had bruises on my knees, that I’d acquired through my pads! I paid $34.95 for these bad boys (granted, I knew no things about derby or gear, and had no idea how long I’d be skating for). But knowing what I know now, I implore you – don’t buy these knee pads! When I mentioned investing in your knees earlier, this is what I was talking about. The $40-$60 you’ll save buying these isn’t worth squat since you’ll have to replace them soon anyway, shortly before you’re forced to retire from derby prematurely because your knee caps fell out.
These were the first real pads I owned, after the Triple 8 debacle. My friend Kissy bought them at the same time I did and she summed them up succinctly: it’s like falling on kittens.
Seriously, they’re a great standard pad. They’re comfortable, well-padded, and have an open back design so you can put them on after your skates. The only downside was, initially, they felt very bulky. I had a bit of trouble crossing over until I got used to how far they stuck out from my knee.
At USD$55, they’re so freaking reasonably priced that I don’t know why anyone would choose another, cheaper, pair of pads. If you don’t know what to get or don’t want to spend a ton of cash, buy these.
For me, these are the holy grail of knee pads. I just adore them. Like, if someone offered me the choice between one million pancakes, and these knee pads, I don’t even know which I’d pick (although, financially, I could just buy these myself for less than the cost of one million pancakes. So in monetary terms, the pancakes would be the wiser choice).
What I liked about these over the 187 was that they envelop and surround your knee, rather than just feeling like a bit of padding plonked on top of your kneecap. They feel really stabilising and supportive. They’re super comfortable and protective, without feeling bulky. I am told they help your mum pick you out on the DNN feed.
The downside is that their sizing is kind of funky. There are only two sizes – I had to buy Large/X-Large, and I have a strictly medium leg. Extra medium at most. The other size, Small/Medium, must be made for a large child, or a tiny regular person. So I’m sorry to say that if your legs are bigger than mine, these just won’t work for you.
They cost around USD$75, and last really well. Seven thumbs up.
These are the smaller sister of the Killer Pro pads. I bought them on a whim when I was at Five Stride in New York, because they didn’t have any Smiths Scabs. It wasn’t a great choice.
Here’s the thing. If you’re little, or you rarely fall, these would be great. Neither of these categories apply to me. I’m tall and big and clumsy. These were not sufficient.
The other problem is that they don’t have an open-back design, just a neoprene sleeve that you slip on over your foot. This means that they are an absolute nightmare to get off after training when you’re all sweaty, and that you have to remember to put them on before your skates. A skater in my league wears that style, and many times she will spend 15 minutes painstakingly tying her skates perfectly, realise she forgot to put her knee pads on, then spend the next 15 minutes cursing and taking her skates back off again. So, not great if you’re as absent minded as I am.
They’re a fine knee pad, they just weren’t protective enough for me and I really felt it when I fell. I now use them when I’m just going recreational skating and don’t really need much protection. They’re cheap enough, so if you’re little or want a rec skate knee pad, I’d suggest them.
I bought these to replace the 187 Fly pads and regretted it instantly. I can’t describe the irrational hatred I felt for these knee pads, especially since a great majority of skaters in my league wear them (which I don’t get at all). I wore them about three times then gave them to my team mate.
Remember how I said the 187s felt kind of like padding just plonked on top of your knee? Well, multiply that by one bajillion, and you’ve got these kneepads. They were not comfortable, and did not fit to my knee well at all. They just felt so overstuffed in the front, and provided no protection anywhere else. Every time I fell, I would bounce or roll off the hard cap onto the side of my knee, which I imagine could do some damage if it were to happen at speed, or if someone landed on you. So…that’s all I have to say on these. They cost around the same as Smiths Scabs, and you probably know where I’d put my money.
I bought these in a very literal last ditch attempt to get me some knee pads, as they were the only other brand the skate store stocked. They really remind me of the Smiths Scabs in that they are really supportive and encase your entire knee. The inside is this cool foam stuff, which acts to re-create what shall henceforth be known as “the kitten effect”. They’re comparable in price to the Scabs, too.
I’m a little disappointed, though, that the stitching at the edges of the outer set of Velcro straps has significantly come undone. I could probably sew them up myself, but I mean, I shouldn’t have to – they’re only about nine months old, if that. I also have trouble with them staying up. I once wore them without my gaskets, and couldn’t get them to stay on my knee, but now that they’re older and a bit stretched out, they slide and give even with my gaskets on. I don’t think I’ll get more than another couple of months out of them. So, while longevity may be an issue, I’d definitely pick these over the TSG pads.
And last but not least: BUY KNEE GASKETS! These are essential for getting better mileage out of both your pads, and your knees. Gaskets are basically a neoprene sleeve with a gel cushion to help further stabilise and protect your lil’ knees. I’ve had these Gladiator ones for about two years, which means I should probably replace them when I replace my pads at the end of the season.
So! Do you have a favourite knee pad? A least favourite? Total neutrality to any and all brands? I’d love to hear your thoughts!