Wearing volleyball knee pads can be a great way to prevent court burns and bruises around your knees.
Knowing that you’re well protected means you can afford to dive for balls with a higher degree of confidence, which will make you a more valuable player.
Exactly how to wear knee pads properly isn’t super obvious and new players will often wear their knee pads incorrectly…
Volleyball knee pads should be worn so that they’re covering your lower knee cap and upper shin bone (tibia).
This is a lot lower than most people would have guessed if they’ve never played volleyball before.
In this article I’m going to explain exactly why volleyballers wear their knee pads really low like this, as well as some other things to keep in mind so that you get the most comfortable experience possible.
The Proper Way To Wear Volleyball Knee Pads
To reiterate, the correct way to put on volleyball knee pads is to ensure they sit slightly below your knees.
Here’s a great example of exactly where you should wear your knee pads.
It’s totally fine for the upper half of your knee to be completely exposed and I’ll explain why shortly.
Here’s another textbook example of knee pads being worn in the correct position, nice and low on the knees/upper shins.
Why Do Volleyball Players Wear Their Knee Pads Below Their Knees?
So why do we do this?
The reason is because, in 99% of instances where you’ll have to get down low or dive, it’s actually your tibia bone (upper shin) that’s making contact with the court, not your knee.
I’m talking about this hard boney part here…
This is the exact area we’re primarily concerned about protecting.
If you manage to bang this part of your shin bone on the court, it can be quite painful and will bruise up nicely.
When you’re sliding on your knees in volleyball, you’re actually sliding on this boney part of your upper shin.
This is also the most common place to get friction/court burns in volleyball.
Other Reasons We Wear Knee Pads Low
When your knee pads are almost completely below your knee joint, it makes walking around easier as your knee pads aren’t interfering with knee flexion.
It you’re wearing your knee pads right in the middle of your knees, every time you flex your knee they’ll move around a little and may end up riding up really high.
By keeping them low, they stay exactly where you need them and they shouldn’t move around at all during the match.
Avoid Pulling Them Too High Up On Your Knees
If you wear your knee pads too high, when your knee hits the court you risk your shin bone being completely exposed and getting bruised/burnt, which completely defeats the purpose of knee pads!
When I first started playing volleyball 15 years ago, I wore my knee pads far too high and would constantly be banging my shins on the court thinking I had faulty knee pads!
Don’t be like me!
Should You Wear Knee Pads At All?
Honestly, this one is entirely a personal choice and there’s no real right or wrong answer.
If we’re being completely honest, wearing knee pads doesn’t make as big of a difference as you might think and you’d probably get by just fine without them…
I’d estimate something like only 75-90% of volleyballers wear knee pads.
Knee pads are also far more prevalent in women’s volleyball than in men’s, which probably has something to do with the average length of rallies being longer in women’s volleyball.
Also it makes a lot more sense for a libero to wear knee pads compared to a middle blocker, who might only play a single rotation of defense when they’re on the court.
For the vast majority of volleyballers, wearing knee pads is a really good idea.
Even if you don’t mind the occasional bruise or burn, knowing it’s almost impossible for you to hurt your knees gives you a bit of a confidence boost psychologically which might make you play better.
They’re not exactly uncomfortable to wear and they shouldn’t restrict your movement at all, so you don’t have much to lose by wearing them!
Check out our full roundup of the best volleyball knee pads of 2022, where we went out and performance tested each of the most popular brands to determine which was the best!
How Tight Should Volleyball Knee Pads Be?
Knee pads should feel pretty comfortable to wear. You should almost not notice that you’re wearing them.
They need to be tight enough that they don’t move around, but definitely not too tight that they cause discomfort while wearing them.
Do You Wear Knee Pads For Sand Volleyball?
There’s no need to wear knee pads for beach volleyball because the sand is soft and isn’t going to bruise or burn your knees.
Seriously, you might be laughed off the court if you try wearing knee pads on the sand!
Of course you can wear knee braces and other protective sleeves to help with injuries, but wearing knee pads on the sad is definitely not a good look!