Knee Braces: Custom Made vs. Off the Shelf

A commonly debated issue is the need for custom made knee braces versus pre-made, or off-the-shelf, versions.  There are two sides to this debate and this post will provide the advantages of each style of knee braces.

Off the Shelf Knee Braces

OTS knee braces are pre-made, typically in sizes small, medium, large, and x-large.  Our experience at Burnaby Orthopaedic is that the most common sizes of knee braces are small, medium and large.  We typically use OTS knee barces as options for less severe injuries, shorter term use, or in cases we are trying to keep costs as economical as possible.  Knee braces are usually fit by taking circumference measurements at the thigh (15cm above mid-patella), mid-patella, and calf (15cm below mid-patella).  Caliper measurements are sometimes taken at mid-patella to capture the width of the knee joint.

Some of the knee braces are available in varying lengths which helps to accommodate clients at heights of 162cm and less (5’4″).


  1. More economical
  2. Immediate or quick fitting
  3. Less severe injuries
  4. Temporary use

Custom Made Knee Braces

There are different methods of making custom knee braces including casts, measurement systems, and more recently iPhone/iPad apps.  Each have their pros and cons and when used properly, produce great fitting knee braces.  For harder to fit legs, or legs with unique features, a cast is always the most reliable method to capture the true anatomical contours.knee braces alignment


  1. True custom fit
    1. Sizing (thigh and calf measurements may be different sizes)
    2. Length of brace (different heights warrant different lengths)
    3. Alignment – varus or valgus alignment (‘bow legged’ or ‘knock kneed’)
  2. More severe injuries
  3. Longer term use – like postponing or avoiding a ligament reconstruction or joint replacement
  4. Better warranties (typically 5 years or more)


At the end of the day, there isn’t one solution that works for everyone.  We pride ourselves on our customer service and each client will get a thorough assessment.  This will help us to achieve the best possible outcome.  To make an informed decision we take into account many different variables including: injury, occupation, activity level, client size, hand dexterity, skin conditions, and previous knee brace history.

Let us help guide you through the purchase of your knee braces.  Our knee braces can be viewed here.