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How to Choose: Snowboard Knee Pads and Elbow Pads

Why Do I Need Snowboard Knee Pads or Elbow Pads in the First Place?

You probably already know that you need snowboard knee pads if you're doing any sort of park riding or tricks where you're getting air. But even if you aren't doing tricks, snowboard knee pads and elbow pads are a good idea. Because both of your feet are attached to the snowboard, you will almost always fall forward or backward (i.e., flat on your face or on your backside), not to the side. Without ski poles to help hold you up or balance, it’s likely to be a violent fall, not a gentle tumble. Falling onto a snowboard knee pad hurts a lot less than your kneecap hitting ice, packed snow, or rocks or branches that might be hidden under the snow. Plus, snowboard pads cost a lot less than a trip to the emergency room. If you can minimize or prevent serious damage to your knees or elbows with some comfortable snowboard pads, why not do it?

What Type of Snowboard Knee Pads & Elbow Pads Do You Need?

Knee/Elbow Cap Material: Hard Shell VS. Soft Shell

  • Hard shelled caps are usually made of a tough ABS plastic This shell can be smooth and rounded or be ergonomically molded.

  • Hard-shelled caps are thick and robust, meaning they can take a lot of impact and abrasion--impact and abrasion that you won’t have to. 

  • However, because of their bulk, they tend to offer a little less range of motion. (In our opinion, these types of pads tend to be too robust for snowboarding, unless you happen to wear baggy snow pants and jackets.)
  • Soft shell knee and elbow "caps" are usually made of a soft, dense foam, Kevlar, d3o, VPD or another flexible material that is meant to cushion the force of impact.

  • Soft shell pads are usually lighter in weight, lower profile and therefore offer a bit more range of motion, so they can also be used more easily for both snowboarding and other action sports like skateboarding, BMX, and MTB.

  • However, they do not offer as much protection as their hard shell counterparts.

  • Soft-shell pads are primarily designed to slide on under pants or sleeves, which is great if you'd like to wear your protective gear undercover.

Knee/Elbow Thickness and Cap Size: More Padding VS. Less Padding

Snowboard Knee and Elbow Pad Thickness

Snowboard knee and snowboard elbow pads have soft foam padding on the interior of the sleeve and behind the hard plastic shells to further soften the force of impact. Thicker padding offers more protection, but keep in mind that it also means additional bulk and weight.

Snowboard Knee and Elbow Cap/Pad Size and Shape

Snowboard knee and elbow pads are tailored for different uses and preferences, so both the caps and the padding behind them extend to different widths and lengths, providing more or less coverage below and to the sides of your knee and elbow. More padding adds additional snowboarding safety protection in these areas but adds to the overall bulk and weight.

Need Extra Padding Under your Snowboard Knee Guards?

Try an extra layer of soft protection under your knee pads with knee gaskets. Gaskets are a slim, tubular under layer, with a horseshoe or donut shaped knee pad, that will further protect your joints beneath your hard or soft shell pads. Find them in the collection of snowboard knee pads!.

Do You Care About Having to Remove Your Boots or Gloves to Get Your Snowboard Knee and Elbow Pads On and Off?

sk8-elbow-knee-slipon-vs-butterfly.jpgAn important convenience feature is the ability to easily put on or remove the snowboard knee or elbow pads. There are two basic designs, sleeve style pads that slip on and off or butterfly style pads that are secured to your leg/arm with adjustable straps.

Slip On Snowboard Knee and Elbow Pads

  • The slip-on design is typically found in soft-shell guards, less expensive guards, elbow and knee gaskets and youth-sized pads.
  • Slip-on knee and elbow pads are tubular in design; you slide them up your leg to your kneecap or up your arm to your elbow.
  • Some slip-on pads have additional, exterior, adjustable straps that you then cinch tight to better hold the pads in place

Butterfly Closure Knee and Elbow Pads

  • The butterfly closure design is most often found in the robust knee and elbow pads that include hard-shell protection and more expensive guards.
  • Butterfly pads are designed as wrap-around protection. This means you don’t have to take off your shoes or push up your sleeve to get them on.
  • The term ‘butterfly’ refers to the method of cinching – two pairs of wing flaps wrap around the leg/arm above and below the knee/elbow, each pair held firm by a Velcro or Nylon strap.

Do You Need Integrated Shin or Forearm Protection in your Snowboard Knee or Elbow Guards?

We offer several knee/shin and elbow/forearm guards that integrate a knee or elbow pad with a shin or forearm guard. If you are going to be riding rails or have an existing injury and are looking for extra protection for your limbs, these pads are worth checking out.

Integrated Elbow/Forearm and Knee/Shin guards feature:

  • Seamless protection for your joint (elbow or knee) and limb (forearm or shin)
  • Multiple sets of adjustable straps to keep the guard in place
  • A flexible material between the joint and limb pad hinges to allow for the natural bend of your arm or leg to enhance range of motion
  • Integrated guards are available in the hard shell and soft shell style
Integrated elbow forearm

How Much Should I Spend for Snowboard Knee and Elbow Guards?

You can expect to pay anywhere from $20 to $115 for snowboard knee pads and from $15 to $85 dollars for snowboard elbow pads. That's a wide range, and prices differ depending on features and level of protection. At XSportsProtective we also offer Elbow and Knee Guard combo packs of our most popular elbow and knee guards to keep prices more budget friendly.

What features will I generally find in knee and elbow pads in the $15-$30 range?

  • A beginner to intermediate level of protection
  • Large EVA foam padding to lessen the force impact
  • ABS plastic, hard shell cap
  • Slip on or butterfly closure
  • Youth-sized pads

What features will I generally find in knee and elbow pads in the $30-$70+ range?

  • A professional level of protection
  • Large, dual density EVA foam padding
  • Ergonomically formed caps that are sometimes detachable and replaceable
  • Side padding to protect ligaments
  • Integrated forearm and shin options available
  • Technologically advanced, transitional padding that is normally soft and flexible, but becomes stiff and rigid to absorb the force of impact (VPD, d3o)
  • Sweat-wicking liners to prevent chaffing and keep you cool
  • Slip on or butterfly closure

Shop our collection of Snowboard Knee Pads and Snowboard Elbow Pads today!