Yes, firefighters can wear knee pads. Most turnout/bunker pants have built-in knee protection, but they are usually soft and provide limited support. In fact, we’re surprised that they don’t make a bigger deal of this in firefighter training. Your knees are important and protecting them is so easy that it really ought to be a matter of second nature.
The best firefighter knee pads: is a guide which includes why you should wear knee pads as a firefighter, what features matter when choosing knee pads for you work and also a range of 4 knee pads that we think are the best in their respective classes to help you get started with.
While most turnout/bunker pants these days have some built-in knee padding, it isn’t enough for many firefighters. You’d be amazed at how much easier life can be with the right pair of knee pads and this is what you should know.
If you just want to see the knee pads I recommend for firefighters, check them out here on Amazon.
Why Would Firefighters Need Knee Pads?
We implore you not to Google this question as you will find yourself subject to an awful lot of sleazy jokes that don’t really answer the question in a useful way.
The truth is that firefighters will often need to spend large amounts of time working on their knees. Crawling under smoke and heat is the name of the game for firefighters.
Staying low allows firefighters to work in conditions that would be otherwise untenable. This is not easy, especially with heavy gear and dragging hose lines through buildings. Pulling hose while on your feet is one thing, but doing it on your knee or knees can be tough and uncomfortable.
Especially as a new firefighter in the academy, you will spend hours crawling through fire conditions as part of your training. Knee pads can make your life a while lot easier. The more comfortable you can be, the more effective you can be.
Knee pads can also come in handy when working medical calls that include CPR compressions or working beside a patient lying on the floor. Also, in many confined space and other rescue scenarios, they can be very useful.
In order to protect you knees and be more efficient in a fire, I recommend you watch this video about how to crawl properly as a firefighter:
However, even with the best crawling technique, knee pads can still be very helpful for firefighters.
What Makes For Good Firefighter Knee Pads?
You want to consider material for the front of the knee pad – we’d advise that you avoid metal for this, as it can conduct heat and even electricity. That leaves plastics, leather and fabrics.
Fabrics and leather tend to fit better to the knee, but plastics often offer more impact protection for your knees. You might want to experiment with which material is most valuable to you.
Then there’s the insulating material against the knee – most people go with foam because it’s cheap and absorbent, but gel formula can be much more comfortable and unlike foam it doesn’t shift around when you’re wearing the knee pads. You may also find fabric padding which can be expensive and doesn’t last as long but it is very comfortable.
Finally, you have to make sure that your knee pad fits you properly. Too tight and it will interfere with the circulation in your legs. Too loose and it will slide around and drive you crazy.
Cheap knee pads tend to be “one size fits all”, it’s better to invest a little more and find a knee pad that really fits you and has multiple available measurements.
Best Budget (Fire Academy) Knee Pads: Pro Jointz Knee Pads
You don’t need to go crazy investing in the best knee pads for the Fire Academy, it’s an expensive time as it is and “good enough” is good enough while you get through your initial training. You don’t have to make too many compromises though and these Pro Jointz Gel filled pads are very comfortable.
They also come with a money back guarantee – so, if you don’t like them, you can just send them back. We don’t think that you will, though.
You can find the Pro Jointz Knee Pads on Amazon here.
Best NFPA Approved Knee Pads: ALTA 50902 AltaSAFETY AltaPRO Fire Retardant Knee Protector
The only NFPA 1977 and 2112 approved knee pads that we could find were these Alta brand ones. There is some debate as to whether knee pads actually need NFPA approval and you might want to consult with your department before shelling out for these.
They may be heat resistant, but they are more expensive than most other brands of knee pad and we don’t think they’re as well-designed either. They’ll definitely get the job done but you may find they’re less comfortable than you’d hoped for.
Best Firefighting Over-Turnout Knee Pads: SKYDEX Flexible Knee Pads
They are not officially approved for firefighters, but they are among the best kneepads on the market. They don’t just cushion your knees, they also prevent slipping and twisting your knees which is easily done in a high-pressure situation.
One thing we really like about these pads is that they spread the weight evenly over the area they cover rather than at the straps and that makes them more comfortable for all day use than most knee pads. Highly recommended.
These are the best outer kneepads for wearing over your turnouts.
You can find the SKYDEX Flexible Knee Pads on Amazon here.
Best Overall Firefighter Knee Pads: Asics Super Sleeve
You’re going to want to check with your fire department as to whether you need NFPA certified kneepads or not. If you do then the ALTA 50902 AltaSAFETY AltaPRO Fire Retardant Knee Protector is the best choice, because it’s the only choice.
If however, you’ve got free rein to choose whatever works best for you then I recommend the Asics Super Sleeves.
These are originally designed for volleyball, but they work really well for extra knee padding when worn under your turnouts. They can be left in your bunker/turnout boots so that they can be quickly slipped on while putting on your boots and pants without slowing down your turnout time.
Note: These are not designed to handle high heat. Many firefighters have used them with no issues, but keep in mind that they may not withstand high temps in a fire and, in theory, could cause issues or injuries. That being said, I would think that if it’s hot enough to melt your knee pads under your turnouts, then it’s most likely too hot for you to be there.
These are the knee pad option that I see used most often by firefighters and have heard the best reviews about. You can find the Asics Super Sleeves on Amazon here. They come as a single sleeve, so you’ll need to order two.
We hope that our guide to “The best firefighter knee pads” has been helpful and that you now have a good idea what to look for in your knee pads – materials are important both for the outer layer and the inner layer. Then the right fit is vital for you to have a comfortable working day, you don’t want them sliding down your legs while you’re in the middle of a job.
Every firefighter should own knee pads. Our knees are constantly being eroded by the job and as you get older, you will come to realize that once your knees are worn out that they cannot be replaced or repaired.