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Choosing Knee Sleeves: A Comparison of 3mm, 5mm and 7mm Knee Sleeves

Man lifting a Barbell

One of the most common problems shared by both weightlifters, powerlifters and cross-training enthusiasts is knee pain. If left untreated these pains can develop into serious injuries that are difficult and expensive to treat. If you’re already suffering from a knee-related injury, sleeves allow you to recuperate better and return to the gym quicker.

An excellent way of avoiding these potential problems is wearing knee sleeves while working out. Unfortunately these days it’s getting harder and harder to choose the right option. There are hundreds of brands out there and they make a wide variety of knee sleeves. But there is 1 attribute that is crucial when selecting a pair of sleeves and that is thickness. They usually come in 3mm, 5mm or 7mm options and without prior knowledge it can be hard to choose which one is right for you.

Luckily, I’m here to help. Let’s dig right in!

3mm Knee Sleeves

The thinnest option on our list, the 3mm thick option has a few specific purposes. Firstly, it’s the most lightweight and flexible option. Thin sleeves provide a more loose range of motion and not a lot of actual joint support for your knees. They keep your knees mildly warm and are usually comfortable and barely noticeable. This makes them perfect for endurance athletes like long-distance runners.

Because of these reasons, 3mm thick sleeves are not a very common choice for weightlifters or cross-training athletes. They do not offer enough support for lifting and are don’t really “feel” stable enough.

While we do not have a 3mm Neoprene sleeve option available on our store, we do sell a very high-quality alternative – Nylon Knee Compression Sleeves. They are great for long-distance running as well as active and cardio-heavy sports such as Baseball and Basketball. They keep your knees warm and provide compression throughout your workouts. 

They are also available for other problematic and injury-prone regions of the body. We sell Elbow Compression Sleeves as well as Ankle Compression Sleeves.

Nordic Lifting Knee Compression Sleeves

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5mm Knee Sleeves

Medium-Thickness 5mm knee sleeves are an intermediate option that is in-between lightweight, flexible 3mm ones and high-performance 7mm sleeves. They are widely applicable and perfect for beginner lifters as well as people who enjoy a wide variety of different physical activities and only lift weights occasionally.

5mm sleeves are not as flexible as the thinner alternative, they are stiffer and more rigid. This definitely makes a difference when lifting, you feel safer and more stable when squatting or deadlifting.

The problem, however, is that 5mm thick sleeves are a very temporary solution if you’re looking to lift more than once or twice a week. While they are better at lifting support and stability, they are still not as good as their “older, more successful brother” – the 7mm Neoprene Knee Sleeves. When lifting heavier weights, your knees feel a tremendous amount of pressure and the thicker the sleeve – the warmer and more supported your knees will feel.

Nordic Lifting Elbow Sleeves 5mm

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We actually sell a 5mm sleeve on our store, but it is a pair of sleeves for your elbows. Since the elbow is a smaller & thinner joint than your knees, 5mm sleeves are more than enough to provide adequate support and stability. They help alleviate muscle & joint pain and provide a lot of warmth and compression.

7mm Neoprene Knee Sleeves

The thickest option of the 3, the 7mm Knee Sleeves are a staple in the worlds of Weightlifting and Powerlifting. They are a strong, thick fit and usually require a bit of strength to even put on, if sized correctly. That being said, once you have them on, you will definitely feel a difference from both the 3mm and the 5mm variations. They engulf your knees in a thick layer of Neoprene, making your knees stiffer and provide support as well as stability. Wearing a well-made 7mm knee sleeve has a unique feeling to it. You feel safer and more confident when performing deadlifts, snatches and good knee sleeves make a deeper squat safer & more comfortable. Your knees will feel stiffer & more rigid and together with a pair of Powerlifting Shoes you should definitely be able to max out your PRs.

They are the most expensive option, but they also provide the most bang for your buck. People who are serious about Weightlifting, Powerlifting and even high-level Cross-Training should really only be considering the 7mm Neoprene Sleeves.

We’ve got a fantastic pair of sleeves for sale on our website. They are a great mix of premium quality and an affordable price tag. They’ve even been selected as the best knee sleeves for weightlifting in 2017 by! 

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Final Thoughts

Selecting the right pair of knee sleeves is all about knowing what you’ll be using it for and evaluating your options. It’s important to understand what different thicknesses are good and bad for before making your decision. 3mm sleeves will be of little use for a 350lbs squat, while 7mm thick sleeves will be cumbersome and inefficient on a 5 mile run.

You can check out our full line of compression accessories by clicking HERE!


Šarūnas G.

Creative Director at Nordic Lifting