Knee Pads 101

My knees are starting to ache all the time. I’m not getting bruises or anything like that but I’m thinking it’s about time to invest in new knee pads to soften the increasingly frequent falls. The ones I had and reviewed previously are getting worn out. The padding is uneven from where I’ve been falling on them, they are starting to slip down during practice (despite my gaskets), the shell is separating from the pad, and the fabric is fraying where it has stuck to the velcro. In other words, 5 months has been almost too long for this pair of Bern knee pads.

So as I research my future knee pads you can research yours too…

ProTec Street Knee Pads - $19.99 – These pads seem pretty basic. They use EVA cup foam, have a hard outer shell riveted to the pad, and come in sizes Youth-XL. These pads have velcro straps around the leg on top and behind the leg on bottom and have a protective sleeve on the back to guard your leg from velcro rubbing. This means you’ll have to slip the knee pads over your foot when you put them on.

Pro-Tec Drop-In Pads - $74.99 – The Drop-Ins are a heavier duty pad than the Streets. They have a dual-layer EVA foam padding design with a new non-elastic lower strap and a more “anatomical” shaped knee cap. They also have a butterfly behind-the-knee strapping system for good fit and protection from velcro. Pro-Tec claims that the Drop-Ins are low profile. They also claim to have “built in wear indicator(s)” that let you know when to get new pads. These are sold in two sizes: S/M and L/XL.

Rector Protector Knee Pads – $29.95 – It seems like these knee pads have been around for a while. They may have been the standard back in the day, but they definitely weren’t designed with derby in mind. The Rector Protectors are definitely low profile, allowing for comfort and mobility, but in being so low profile they don’t defend your knees against the high impact falls of roller derby. They are made to slide on over your foot and then strap in the standard way. Like the other knee pads we’ve looked at so far, they also have a hard outer shell that is bolted to the pad. Sold in sized S-L. They don’t seem highly recommended, but if you’re a more skilled skater that doesn’t fall as much they may work out for you.

Rector Fat Boy Knee Pads – $58.00 – These pads provide more padding than the Protectors (2″ in total). They also have a wrap around neoprene butterfly setup in the back of the skates in addition to standard elastic straps on the top and bottom of the skate that allow for putting the pads on after your skates are already on. The Fat Boys are also a bit longer and provide some additional protection to your lower knee and upper shin area. They also have the same hard shell as the Protectors. Basically, it sounds like they provide more protection than the Protectors without being as bulky as some of the other pads on the market. They come in size S-XL but they tend to run on the smaller side so take that into consideration. Sin City Skates says that “the bottom strap is across the widest part of the calf muscle, so we found that they tend to slip more often than the wider pads unless they’re snug.”

TSG All Terrain Knee Pads -$30.00- Made of neoprene laminated nylon, these pads come with a polyethylene hard cap, and EVA foam. They are also designed to be slipped over the foot. Like many other knee pads, they have a wrap around strap on top and a velcro strap on the bottom. Supposed to be pretty low profile. They come in sizes S-L

TSG Force III Knee Pads -$69.00 – Unlike the All Terrains, the Force IIIs are designed with an open back to allow for breathability. Even with the open back, there is still some protection from velcro by way of butterfly fastening neoprene behind the knee. The Force IIIs also have more padding than the All Terrain, with padding on the front top and sides of the knee in a horseshoe shape to help prevent slippage. Another slip-prevention feature that these pads have is a clip on the bottom strap that helps fasten and tighten it. The hard outer shell that they come with is also replaceable if it gets too beat up. It is held to the pad with velcro. They come in sizes S-XL (but supposedly their sizes run large). The Force IIIs also come in either black or “old school” coloring . They are supposed to be comparable to 187s, but arguably more durable.

TSG Force IV Knee Pads – $70 – These seem pretty similar to the Force IIIs. The only real difference seems to be that they come up higher on the thigh to ensure upper knee fit. Like the III’s the outer cap is replaceable and is connected to the pad via velcro. They come in size S-XL. Sin City Skates feels the Force IV sizes run large in comparison with other pads.

Triple 8 Street Knee Pads – $21.99 – The Street pads seem to be one of the lowest on Triple 8’s line of pads. They are strap-on pads with a hard outer cap connected to the pad with rivets. They also come with butterfly closures in the back for breathable protection against velcro rubbing. These pads have the standard top and bottom velcro straps and are made with EVA foam. It seem like the Street pads are decent for beginners but if you want some real coverage and durability it’s better to get something a bit more expensive and with more padding. They come in size Jr-L.

Triple 8 KP 22 Pads – $29 – These pads are designed to be strap-ons. They have a hard outer shell connected to the rest of the pad with rivets. The pad itself is made of EVA memory foam and has a neoprene butterfly closure in the back to protect against velcro rub. Sin City Skates recommends the KP 22 over the Pro-Tec pads. They appear to be pretty low profile and may actually need the addition of gaskets to get the proper protection. They come in sizes Jr-XL.

Triple 8 KP Pro Pads – $59.99 – The KP Pros seem to be a souped up version of the KP 22s with all the same outer cap, velcro, butterfly closure, and foam features. They still claim to be low profile and high-impact and come in sizes S-XL.

Atom Gear Elite Knee Pads 2.0 – $50.00 – These are made by the same makers as the trusted Atom wheels. They are meant to be very sleek and low profile while still providing good protection and impact absorption. The Elites have a hard cap, EVA foam, and perforated nylon for mobility. They come in sizes S-XL and are designed to be slid-on. From what I’ve read it seems like these pads are probably best suited for a very experienced skater that doesn’t fall very often or when they do they fall the right way. It doesn’t seem like these pads are meant for a beginner or anyone that takes big falls frequently (in other words, not me). They have pretty poor reviews from what I’ve seen.

Crown Park Knee Pads – $38 – The Crown pads are made by Smith Scabs (a maker of some reputable derby and skating pads). These pads have a hard outer cap connected with rivets, are strap-on, have longer straps for more adjustable sizing, and memory foam padding. They are labelled as being “junior style” which I assume means smaller than most pads. They come in sizes S-XL.

Smith Scabs Elite Knee Pads – $70 – This is one of the pads I’ve heard some positive things about before. The Elite has more padding than the Crown and is designed to provide a good non-slipping fit. It is a strap-on design. The foam is supposed to form to your knee to allow for maximum protection and coverage. Another cool feature is that these pads come in 3 different colors/styles: black with white cap, hypno black and white stripe pattern, and the leo leopard print pattern. They come in 2 sizes SM/MD & LG/XL.

187 Fly Knee Pads - $35.00 – The Fly pads offer a decent amount of padding while still maintaining a low profile that helps with crossover form. These pads come with the standard hard outer shell attached to the pad with rivets, form fitting foam for absorbing impact, and standard pull-on design. Sizes XS-XL.

187 Pro Knee Pad - $65.00 – Much more padded than the Fly pads, the Pros really can’t be called low profile. I’ve found that a lot of blockers seem to favor these pads and I’ve heard they’re amazing to fall on. However, with these fat pads some skaters have had trouble adjusting to them in their crossover form. The Pros are supposed to be very durable and come with double stitching and specially-poured caps that help prevent them from cracking. The caps are also thicker than most in addition to being replaceable in a multitude of colors (new caps = $20 each). These pads are a strap-on style with butterfly closures and elastic strapping. They come in sizes 2XS-3XL (the widest range of sizes offered in derby pads). But take note that the XS and 2XS pads have riveted caps instead of velcro ones.

187 Derby Pro Knee Pads – $75 – The first pads made by 187 for roller derby, the Derby Pros have all the same features of the 187 Pros in addition to a few new features customized for derby’s needs. Firstly, they’ve been made easy to wash with removable foam and caps to allow for laundering. Secondly, they are a bit slimmer than the 187 Pros which makes them more desirable for crossing over. Thirdly, they are made to have an even better non-slip fit with specially formed foam, strapping that holds the cap in place, and a “fusion groove channel” that keeps the skaters knee in contact with the foam at all times. Not only did 187 take into consideration derby’s physical needs, but they also thought about our aesthetic ones too; the 187 Derby Pro pads come in several color options (black, red, purple, blue, & purple stars). And, like the regular Pros they have replaceable caps in a range of colors. The Derby Pros come in sizes XS-XL but have been known to fit smaller than the 187 Pros. Sin City Skates suggests you go up a size for the Derby Pro pads.

Destroyer Pro Knee Pads – $54.99 – These pads come with a hard outer shell like most other pads we’ve been looking at. They also come with a fair amount of padding both in front and on the sides. The back is open for breathability with some protection against velcro. They are not as bulky as the 187s but are supposed to provide pretty decent padding and good fit. It has been recommended that they not be worn by beginners because they don’t provide unlimited protection when falling is frequent. Even though they lack lots of padding, the Destroyer Pros are a bit longer than most pads so they provide a big of extra protection to your upper shin/lower knee area. Also, these pads come in some cool colors and sizes S-XL.

Pro Design Mini P.D. – $88 – These pads are known for being very low profile with decent padding. They have a hard outer cap held to the pad with rivets and they come standard with the slip-on design. They also have velcro straps. Some people love these for their mobility and feel like their padding is perfect, while others feel like they still need more cushion. I’ve heard of several skaters using gaskets under these to maintain the low profile but add some padding. They come in a standard size or you can get them custom sized for your needs. In addition to custom sizing they also offer custom patterns and colors for an additional fee.

Pro Design Super Single Cap Knee Pads – $153 – The Super Singles offer a bit more padding (1-1/8″ in total) than the Mini P.D.s. They also come up further on the thigh to prevent slipping. The cap looks bigger as well. Because of the extra padding the Super Singles are not as low profile as their Mini P.D. relatives. In addition to all the features that the Mini P.D. has, the Super Single also has a double row of elastic straps on the bottom to keep the pad up. With this pad there are several customizing options which include custom pattern, optional black cap, optional open-back design, and *free* color options and custom sizing.

Pro Design Q Knee Pads - $133 – The Q is advertised as being the ideal compromise between the Mini P.D. and the Super Single PD pads. The cap is shorter than the Super Single cap and there is more padding than the Mini P.D. but not quite as much as the Super Single. The Qs also come with all the same customizations as the Super Singles.

Deadbolt Knee Pads In General – The company that makes them only just started designing pads for derby. They spent several months talking with derby skaters and figuring out what exactly they were looking for in a knee pad. Then they tried to create the perfect derby kneepad. I haven’t really heard yet if they succeeded. But in theory these knee pads are awesome. Firstly, they  claim to be able to achieve the perfect fit without having the material stretch out over time thanks to their unique strapping system. The strapping system allows for the back of your leg to be open to allow for breathing. It also comes with 6″ of extra strapping to accommodate all sizes (Thighs 16″-26″ and calves 12″-22″). The extra strap can be cut off without worry of fraying. The extra strap will also allow you to adjust your strap length as the materials break down and become stretched out. The outside of the pad is made of cordura denier and the inside liner is made of cool-max to allow for breathability. Not only is their fit superior, but they have also made progress with their removable 1/4″ thick (thickest on the market) outer shell that is attached to the pad via 4 tiny screws. Unlike other pads, you don’t have to rely on velcro to hold your cap on and risk it losing its holding power over time. The removable nature of the outer shell allows you to wash your pads without the cover on. Also, the outer shells are clear so you can stick graphics in your  knee cap if you so desire. Not only can you have custom graphics but you can also customize the pad in a wide variety of colors.

Deadbolt Jammers – Currently retailing for $110, these pads are pretty new.  They come in 1.25″ thickness which is comparable with other pads on the market. They measure 9″ from top to bottom and have a smaller outer shell than the Block Pads. As discussed above they have the unique strapping system, custom color options, graphic options, and removable outer shell. They are also said to be pretty low profile. Unfortunately there aren’t many reviews yet for this pad. But people generally seem excited about them.

Deadbold Blockers – $110 – These pads use the same materials as the Jammer pads, but with 1.75″ of padding consisting of TB20 foam and memory foam for comfort and support. They have the same strapping system and outer shell as the Jammer pads in addition to additional padding below the knee.

Jeeze that’s a lot of information in one post :-/ If you don’t feel like the above summaries were very helpful I’ve also included a bunch of links at the bottom of this page for reviews and other such knee pad discussion. Unfortunately, I’m still on my first pair of kneepads so I’m personally not able to offer much more insight on the pros and cons of certain pads. As I try different pads out I will make sure to review them here but that may take a while.

So now that all the information is laid out about potential derby knee pads I think I’m going to try on some 187 Pros, 187 Derby Pros, Smith Scabs Elites, and the TSG Force IIIs to see how they feel. I’m looking for something that has good padding (to protect my knees from my numerous falls) with good fit (to stop me from falling straight on my knee at practice), and not too much bulk (to allow me to do crossovers properly).

Eventually if I make a team and continue to develop in skill I’ll probably want to look into something more like a Pro-Design, Destroyer Pro or a Deadbolt. For now I can’t really justify the cost of the Deadbolt pads for my skill level, and I don’t think I’m a good enough skater to make the Destroyers a good fit for my needs.

Welp, I hope that at least gave you a place to start in your knee pad search. More to come on knee pads as my search continues.

Derby Gear Advice – Deadbolt Jammer “Review”

Skatelog - Deadbolt Knee Pad Thread

Skatelog - Rector Protector Pad Review

Queen of the Rink – 187 Killer Pro Pad Review

Queen of the Rink – Triple 8 KP 22 Pad Review

Queen of the Rink – TSG Force III Review

alla Poppy – Rector Fatboy & Protector Review

alla Poppy – Pro-Tec Street & Park Pads

alla Poppy – Pads in General

Skatelog – Atom Knee Pads

Skatelog – Destroyer Knee Pads

Derby Dish – Destroyer Pro Review

Derby Dish – 187 Pro Review

Derby Dish – Rector Fat Boy Review

Derby Gear Advice – TSG Force III Pads

Derby Gear Advice – 187 Pro Knee Pads

Derby Gear Advice – 187 Pro Derby vs 187 Pro Bulk/Padding

Derby Gear Advice – Triple 8 Pads

Derby Gear Advice – 187 Pro vs Deadbolt

Derby Gear Advice – Smith Scabs Elite

Derby Gear Advice – Deadbolt Knee Pads

Derby Gear Advice – 187 Pro Review

Skatelog – Pro Design Mini P.D.

Skatelog – General Pad Discussion & Pro Design

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