Protective Gear That Won’t Slow You Down: Review of Gardening Knee Pads and Gloves

by Genevieve on April 20, 2009

Super Soft Knee Pad Many people avoid wearing gloves and knee pads to garden because they see these kinds of protective gear as getting between them and the experience of gardening. Either kneeling pads pinch the backs of your legs uncomfortably, or you can’t feel what you’re doing while wearing gloves.

That’s totally valid, but there are things you can do to ensure you’re choosing protective gear that will fit you well and actually enhance your enjoyment of gardening. I personally find that I lose myself in the act of gardening much more easily when I’m protected; if I can just plunk down and start weeding without hurting my knees on a rock, or reach for a blackberry bramble without worry of thorns, I feel so much more able to enjoy what I’m doing.

Here are some of the features I look for when choosing knee pads and gloves, and my recommendations for the best ones I have found.

Knee pads for gardening

When I am shopping for knee pads, I look for a few qualities:

Firstly, I don’t want the kind that you have to carry around with you – those sheets of foam that you must pick up and move about. It’s just too silly trying to remember to move that pad around the garden with you; much easier to get some that strap on.

Next, the straps need to be flexible. I have tried knee pads with inflexible straps and they are a recipe for unhappy legs – either you get a rash from the strap rubbing the back of your leg, or you lose circulation every time you kneel. Try straps made of neoprene, which feels like a thick wetsuit material. The straps flex with you so that they stay on securely but feel comfortable.

The ideal knee pads have two straps rather than just one. That helps them stay on since they’re attached above and below the knee, and also helps keep soil and grit from slipping between your knee pad and your knee.

The pads with one strap usually attach below the knee, and I find they are prone to slipping down my leg. The single-strap ones also tend to hang away from the knee a bit at the top, so they catch any falling bits of soil and end up pretty dirty on the inside.

Machine washable. Need I say more?

I try for a good balance between thick cushioning and light weight. A heavy knee pad (like many of the gel ones) will often slip down.

A non-slip surface. You don’t think of this as a feature on a kneeling pad until you try to kneel on concrete with a pad with a hard plastic surface. You only have to pull a muscle once from having your knee slide suddenly, to swear off hard plastic-shell knee pads in future.

A few good knee pads:

Tommyco Garden Mini All-Terrain Foam Knee Pads, about $12

Tommyco knee padsI don’t actually recommend these knee pads, but they have a feature that deserves mention: the rubberized plastic shell with an almost-flat surface. Your kneecap area does not actually touch the ground, instead the edges of the shell make contact with the ground. This keeps your kneecap suspended within the padding (gel and foam types are available) and really helps if you have patella pain.

Tommyco knee pads side view of flat surfaceThe other cool thing about the nearly-flat shell on this knee pad is that it keeps your knee pads oriented to the front instead of having them gradually slip sideways, since the flat part wants to stay flat on the ground. It also supports the knee in staying in a healthy, straight position.

The reason I don’t like these particular pads is that they are cheaply made. The foam is easily crushed, the single strap is stretchy, but made of thin materials with a poorly-done velcro closure, and they aren’t machine washable.  But if you want to try out this feature and see if it works for you, these aren’t bad for the price.

I’m on the lookout for a pad that has that flat-shell feature, with two neoprene straps, and quality padding – but isn’t too heavy or hard to walk in.

Garden Works Super Soft Heavy Duty Padded Knee Protectors, about $35

Super Soft Knee PadsThese have the best padding ever! It’s very thick and supportive without being heavy or unwieldy. I love the wide neoprene straps, strong velcro closure, and the fact that the pads are machine washable.

The only problem with these is that they have a single strap which attaches below the knee, so they often want to slip down, and they collect loose soil because there’s no top strap holding the pad’s top close to my leg. I’m having to pull these up every fifteen minutes or so, which makes me only want to wear them for jobs on concrete or gravel, when I really need the extra cushioning.

I’d recommend these for people with knee problems who really need the extra padding. They’re easily the comfiest, squishiest pads I have tried.

Kneelons knee pads, about $28

Kneelons in use These are my favorite knee pads for all-around use. Kneelons have firm, sturdy foam which lasts a long time (I get about two years of 20-hour-a-week use out of them before I start to wear holes in the foam).

There are two neoprene straps which attach securely with velcro above and below the knee, and they flex nicely when I bend. I can attach them tightly enough that they really don’t slip at all – I can totally forget about them.

The padding is about 3/4” thick, as opposed to the Garden Works Super Soft ones which are twice that, but for most knees, it’s more than enough padding given how high-quality the foam is. And Kneelons are fully machine-washable. I wash and dry mine on delicate/ low with my garden gloves.

They’re hard to find, but there are a couple of sources online, Coger’s Sugarhouse and Rosemania.

There are also other brands to try, like Knee Benz, but I haven’t found that any of them last as long as Kneelons. The foam just isn’t as sturdy and tends to crush down with a lot of use, and the Knee Benz brand tends to shift and bunch to the sides, so that your knees aren’t protected. Go with Kneelons, they’re worth the trouble to find.

Garden Gloves

Many people love to feel the soil on their hands, but most gardeners know that the soil really saps moisture from our skin. Cracked, dry hands are no fun to garden with, and it’s even less fun to stumble upon a grouchy insect or thorny plant without any protection for our hands.

The biggest complaint I hear about gloves is the lack of tactile sensation. There are some wonderful premium gloves out there, Bionic for example, that really let you feel what you are doing, but I go through gloves so quickly that I really don’t want to spend $30 on a single pair.

Atlas Nitrile Gloves My favorite type for fussier work like deadheading annuals or planting veggie starts is the Atlas Nitrile Glove. These are super-thin cloth gloves with a light coating on them to make them stronger and better for gripping things. If you hate wearing gloves, try these and see if you can get used to them.

Flex Tuff Glove, like Atlas Fit I prefer using a slightly thicker style of glove so that I can prune roses and grab brambles in between weeding and planting. I use a generic version of the Atlas Fit Glove, and I quickly got used to being able to do any task I wanted with just the one pair of gloves.

The Atlas Fit (Mud Gloves are another similar brand) are much nicer than leather gloves for feeling what you are doing. It’s easy to deadhead and prune, and the rubbery grip is great for holding tools.

Both types of glove are machine washable and cost less than $5 a pair.

What types of gloves and knee pads do you prefer? Tell us about your favorites in the comments below!

{ 11 comments… read them below or add one }

Monica April 20, 2009 at 10:48 am

Gen, I am right there with you 100% on the Atlas Nitrile gloves. They are by far my favorite gloves–I hated wearing gloves til I found these. They’re inexpensive yet sturdy,and thin and flexible yet protective. And they come in purple, too! :)

On the knee pads, I’m afraid I’m across the street and two houses over from you. I prefer the kind you carry with you since I absolutely positively HATE the feel of anything strapped around my knees. And it doesn’t matter if it’s one or two straps, they fall off me or are too “wiggly.” I also garden wearing shorts a lot and I don’t like the sweat around the straps–I’d rather get dirty! I agree that if one weren’t so weird about things that the advantage would be not having to carry them with you, but I just tuck the kneeling kind in my bucket that I carry with me, and I only use it if the ground is wet or prickly.

Monica’s last blog post..Whirlwind Chicago Trip

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Genevieve April 20, 2009 at 11:27 am

Monica, I LOVE how opinionated you are! Such a pleasure to hear what works for you and doesn’t. I always wear pants while gardening, never shorts, and so maybe that’s part of where we differ on the knee pad issue. We’ve got a nice cool climate here…

And yes on the Nitrile gloves – purple!!! Squee!!! If only I could find purple knee pads I’d be a happy camper.

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Frances April 21, 2009 at 3:51 pm

Hi Genevieve, isn’t Monica the best!! I am on board with the Atlas gloves too and buy a pair everytime I see them. I have small hands and their size small fits just right. Lowes carries a similar cheaper version but the fit isn’t as good. Fine for the way I go through gloves though. I don’t do anything without wearing them. Same for long pants, long sleeves and usually muck boots too, even in summer. I wear waterproof ski pants, with long underwear in winter, alone in summer and never knee pads. Occasionally use the foam pads if I will be sitting in one spot for a while. It’s not for the knees, if you get my drift. I have practiced kneeling in a way that keeps too much weight from being on one knee, so good for the thighs! Most of my gardening is done in this position. I am working on doing less weeding, just letting them co exist and planting more plants to shade them out.
Frances

Frances’s last blog post..The Six Degrees Of Favorite Plants-SL Blogathon

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Monica April 24, 2009 at 7:09 am

Gen, A while back I saw some really cute knee pads (my kind, though) at Target–they had wonderful colors and patterns. If I weren’t so cheap, and my old yellow one wasn’t perfectly fine, I’d have snapped one up!

Monica’s last blog post..Skywatch Friday: Chicago Skyline

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Genevieve April 24, 2009 at 7:25 am

I have to admit, when I see the carry-around pads with the cute patterns, I almost want one even though I like the kind that straps onto my knees! If only they made my kind as cute.

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leni May 5, 2009 at 9:08 pm

Many years ago I bought some garden pants from Smith & Hawkins. They had lots of pockets, including one for carrying pruning shears and, best of all, knee pockets that held a neoprene pad. The pad could easily be removed to launder the pants. I loved those pants and wore two pair till there was just nothing left. I have tried to find something like them again but the best replacements I’ve found are Carhart pants with a an extra piece of fabric over the knee (I think this is more for making the pants last). I cut a small opening in the bottom of that extra piece, making it into a sort of upside-down pocket, and I put my neoprene pad in there. Nothing to carry around or forget, and no straps. The pants are good and sturdy and I love having the handy spot for my pruning shears.

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Glenn June 27, 2009 at 11:30 am

Disappointed in Kneelon garden kneepads. Based on some favorable commentary on this and other websites, I bought a pair. I found them to be smaller, narrower, and less padded then expected. I can imagine these working only for a petite person, particularly due to the narrowness of the padding itself. With just a few minutes use, they migrate to either side of my knees – not practical as one shifts side to side at the garden border. The cross strap system is sensible, but not strong. The tension on the straps combined with the floppy nature of the materials pull the pad towards the center, so it wants to bunch up. I will be setting these Kneelons aside and looking for a contractor grade kneepad that provides full coverage and stays in place.

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Genevieve June 27, 2009 at 8:41 pm

Hey Glenn, I’m so sorry you’re disappointed with the Kneelons! They’re my favorite, but I admit to being relatively petite. The key for me to have them not shift was to tighten the straps – I find they do shift from side to side if I haven’t tightened them enough. I’m not sure what you mean by a cross strap system – you aren’t crisscrossing the straps in the back of your knee, are you? I just tried that and they did really bunch. I just have the straps go straight across my legs…
Anyway, if you find something that works for you, I’d really love to hear about it!

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Jamie July 14, 2009 at 11:33 am

I absolutely LOVE Kneelons and have used them for years! I don’t know why they’re so hard to find- even Amazon doesn’t carry them. It’s time to order my new pair, after my usual two solid years of LOTS of hard use! I’ve also heard so many good things about the Atlas nitrile gloves that I’m ordering some to try.

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vicki November 17, 2011 at 8:29 pm

I almost love Kneelons too but the velcro has fatigued and won’t say fixed shut. I keep scrapping away the debris that the velcro attracts but they still don’t stay shut. Its very frustrating. I am going to invent an elastic closure with clips and sew it on to the old Kneelons which after several yeas of daily use (I’m a professional), are still good and comfy. Right now I’m tying them on with some string…not so reliable.

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SUZANNE February 9, 2012 at 11:00 pm

I use “Gardeners Knees” which look and sound as though they are the same as the Kneelons. Being hard to find I’ve tried some other types along the way. What a disaster! Stepping into one while balancing with dirt ridden shoes. They were either too hard to put on, moved around too much, fell down around my ankles or were downright uncomfortable.
I’m in my sixties, have crook, swollen knees and a back that’s as stiff as a board. In shorts or long pants the Gardeners Knees are really comfortable. They add extra inches to the knees but what the heck, I take pride in being eccentric now. If that pretty picture is not enough, I also use a kneeling pad with handle bars. This helps to keep the kneepads clean(er) and allows me to get my head closer to heaven again when I’m all tuckered out and a bit stiff, sore and sorry for myself, but seriously… I’ve achieved something at the end of each day that I use them!

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