Wearing Work Pants with Knee Pads

By Robert Robillard on Remodeling, Safety Gear and Clothing

Protecting Your Knees On the Job Site – work Pants With Built-In Knee Pads

As a carpenter and contractor I can tell you that you get what you pay for. I can also tell you that sometimes it seems that protecting our bodies at work comes secondary to getting the job done.


It took me a long time to realize that the demands of the jobsite quickly beat up my body and also destroy clothing.

As far as protecting my body, the simple fact is I need to be better at wearing personal protection equipment. [PPE].

When it comes to clothing, I look for exceptional durability, comfort, quality of construction, and a fit that you can not only feel in the fabric but see the results in the performance of the clothing.

Many clothing companies seem to follow the “race to the bottom of quality.”  This article / video is about both topics!

Saving Your Knees

Think about how many times you kneel daily or work on your knees without wearing knee pads. We use our knees all the time and we often find ourselves working on our knees for varying amounts of time. Now think about how many times you done knee pads or kneel on a pad.

Knee Injuries

In 2010, there were roughly 10.4 million patient visits to doctors’ offices because of common knee injuries. The kneecap has only a thin layer of skin and muscle over it, and the knee joint has many components, making it vulnerable to injury.

Activities That Stress Your Knee

  1. Kneeling or squatting for long periods of time
  2. Repetitive kneeling or squatting
  3. Contact stress

Kneeling and Squatting

Excessive kneeling or squatting can cause irritation, inflammation, and pain. This type of positioning overstretches the ligaments and squeezes the bursa.

Repetitive Kneeling

Tendonitis, or inflammation of the tendon, is often a result of overuse or overexertion of the knee. Overexerting the muscles around your knee can also lead to tearing and pain.

Contact stress

Using your knee as a hammer or kneeling on a hard floor are both examples of contact stress. Excessive kneeling can cause the bursa to become irritated, leading to pain, inflammation, and limited range of motion

Knee pads or Knee Pad Work Pants?

While I often try to engineer-out kneeing on my job sites, it’s not always avoidable.

Many of the procedures we do at work, require us to kneel.  In these cases, knee pads may be exactly what you need to protect your knees from pain and injury, by protecting the knee joint by reducing damaging pressure from kneeling.

The purpose of knee pads is to protect the thin layer of cartilage and tissue called the meniscus and the patella, or kneecap, while kneeling. There is no debate that optimal knee protection is obtained through knee pads.

As a carpenter and general contractor I typically wear knee pads when I know I’m on my knees for a prolonged period of time; such as tiling.  However, in most cases, I don’t not wear knee pads. I should, BUT don’t!

My work day finds me up and down many times, but it never seems to rise to the level of me actually getting out my knee pads

I find knee pads a hassle to wear, uncomfortable and the straps tend to cut off my circulation. I recognize that when I work for long periods of time on my knees its super important to have maximum cushioning, with knee pads.  What I needed was a solution for all the other times…..

Knee Pad Work Pants

Many manufacturers are creating work pants with built-in knee pads.  If you are occasionally kneeling down then these work pants are the way to go.

Embedded knee pads allow free movement of the leg in the pants without creating strap pinching, sweating, or other pad discomfort. Most importantly there is no lost circulation due to the knee pad and straps.

These knee pads offer some protection when you kneel every once in a while, are generally flexible, and work well at protecting your knees.

We liked the idea of work pants with knee pads but did not like to look of some of the European pants available. Many of these pants have external pockets – and aesthetically, we weren’t fans. So we searched for a more traditional carpenter pant look.

We ended up looking at 2 manufacturers of knee pad work pants, listed below, and wore them to our job sites to compare them.

  1. Armed Work pant $55.00
  2. Thrive Work pant – Carpenter Style 5200-CAR $59.99

Armed Work Pants

Josh Banks, a painter by trade, created Armed knee pad work pants. Josh felt that the market was missing pants that worked well in the trades.

The style and cut on the Armed pants offer a lightweight and easy to move around in work pant. The only thing I noticed was the waste ban fell a bit below my hips. Their pants have an open pocket that allows one or two knee pads to be slipped in. This open top design does allow debris to fall into the knee pad pocket. The pants are a durable design using 12 oz cotton canvas. They feature a hammer loop, tool pockets, built-in knee pads, reinforced stitching, spacious pockets, large belt loops, and a gusseted crotch.

Armed Work Pants

Armed Work Wear provides you with three products in one:

  1. A great pair of work pants.
  2. A built-in tool belt; and a set of built-in.
  3. Removable knee pads.

They feature:

  • Pants priced at $ 54.99 (low density knee pad included)
  • Knee pads price at $ 15.99
  • Material: 12 oz Cotton Canvas
  • Knee pads load: Front top
  • Sizing: True to size
  • Style: Traditional canvas carpenter style pants
  • Hammer loop and ruler pocket
  • Heavy Duty, Double and Triple Stitching at all the Stress Points
  • Gusseted Crotch: Yes

Thrive Work Pants

Thrive is a Colorado based company created in 2007. The company founders were looking for a solution to knee injuries and designed a work pant with built-in kneepads. This lightweight knee pad is permanently installed into the pants, ensuring 100% protection at all times. The pad is laundry proof and temperature resistant to ensure it will not flatten or break down over time.

The 5200 carpenter knee pad pants are made from 12 oz cotton duck canvas fabric. They feature an added layer of anti-abrasion fabric on the most vulnerable wear zones: the thighs, knees, and bottom pant cuffs.

The pants have triple stitching, rivets at the ends of each stitch point and an extra reinforcement for the tape measure on the right front pocket. The pants feature a hammer loop, tool pockets, built-in knee pads, reinforced stitching, spacious pockets, large belt loops, and a gusseted crotch.

They feature:

  • Pants priced at $ 59.99 (SQUISH® gel knee pad built-in]
  • Material: 12 oz Cotton Canvas
  • 5200 style, sizing: True to size
  • Hammer loop and ruler pocket
  • Style: Traditional canvas carpenter style pants
  • Heavy Duty, Double and Triple Stitching at all the Stress Points
  • Gusseted Crotch: Yes

Which Pants Did We Like BEST?

Both pants fit true to size and were made from durable materials and stitching. Both pants are heavy and uncomfortable in the summer heat, but we knew that going into this. I did notice that when driving, with bent knees, the knee pads lightly touched my knees causing me to sweat in that area. With both pants, I found myself pulling up my pant legs slightly prior to kneeling.

One feature I’d like to see both pant companies consider is adding a “metal-clip” for a tape measure. Currently the pants have reinforced material on the pant pocket to protect from a tape measure. This material is thick and sometimes you need a second hand to make the tape clip-on. A metal tape clip would solve this issue.

The Armed pants had additional tool pockets on the front legs [Quadriceps area] which I found uncomfortable to use. As a carpenter, most of my tools are heavy and are in a tool belt. These pockets are best suited for a painter of lighter tools like a utility knife or putty knife. The Armed pants featured the BEST hammer loop!

Sometimes when kneeling, my knee cap would land or roll off the Armed pants knee pad toward the side seam stitching. While this was slightly annoying, a simple adjustment corrected this.

The Thrive carpenter pants have more traditional carpenter like pockets. The best feature of the Thrive pants is that the knee pad tended to land better for me when kneeling. The problem with this is that I became comfortable dropping to my knees, false security, while working. Occasionally the pad does roll to the side and my knee cap hit the floor harder than I would have. the worst part of the Thrive pants is their hammer loop – it’s far from easy to use and awkward.

Bottom line – both pants worked well but at the end of the day, I preferred the Thrive work pants, with the built-in knee pad. I also liked their pocket orientation better.

At the end of the day, after wearing these pants, I had more energy, and less aches. They make sense and are a no-brainer to our knee longevity and health!

Considerations When Purchasing Padded Work Pants

There are a lot of things that go into making a quality work pant, and equally as many items for selecting Knee pad work pants.

We looked at the following criteria for choosing knee pad work pants:

  1. Durability
  2. Functional
  3. Mobility
  4. Breathable
  5. Shock Absorption
  6. Fit
  7. Cost

Durability  

Some materials are more durable than others. A super-light foam is likely less durable than a sturdy rubber material.

Functional

Look for work-pants that feature a hammer loop, tool pockets, built-in knee pads, reinforced stitching, spacious pockets, large belt loops, added fabric in heavy wear locations and a gusseted crotch.

Mobility

A flexible knee pad is more comfortable to work in, because it adjusts to the position you’re in. Just make sure it still offers the level of protection you need

Breath-ability

Working with knee pads can be hot, so ventilating channels, or lighter weight pants, can have a big effect on your working comfort.

Shock Absorption

Look for a knee pad that adequately cushions your knee cap and does NOT develop a memory.

Fit

If you notice you have to pull or tug on your trouser leg to move the knee pad to the right position it is an indication that either the size of your trousers is not quite right or that the knee pad needs to be in a different position.

The perfect fit for your knees requires that the knee pad covers the center of your knee, and also around the sides of your kneecap. Look for knee pads that have a slightly curved design with curved sides. A well designed knee pad will close around the sides of your knee and prevent your knee from sliding off the pad. Additionally, look for a knee pad that can be properly secured in your knee pad pocket and not float around.

Although often overlooked, one of the most important aspects of perfectly fitting knee pads, is the proper size of your work pants. If the legs of your trousers are too long or too short your knee pad pockets won’t be in the right position.

Not only size matters. The cut of your work trousers matters as well. When you kneel in straight leg trousers the fabric on the knee often moves to the sides. So when you put a knee pad into the mix, this too will move to the side.

A good knee pad will stay in place both when you are kneeling and when you stand up again.

Conclusion

Unfortunately, suffering a knee injury can have many negative consequences in addition to physical pain. A knee injury can keep you away from work and can cause you to incur expensive medical bills. The combination of these factors can result in financial difficulties for injured workers.

If you work in the trades, you need to seriously consider adding these pants to your uniform. They’re traditional looking, durable, have utility pockets and save your knees!

Just like respirators, ear plugs and safety glasses we need to pay more attention to, and protect, our knees!

Wearing Work Pants with Knee Pads Video Review

 

 

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About the author

Robert Robillard

Robert Robillard

Carpenter / Remodeler / Editor / Writer / Video Talent

Robert Robillard is a general contractor, carpenter and operates a remodeling company located in Concord, MA. He is the editor of ConcordCarpenter.com and ToolBoxBuzz, and a has a weekly column in the Sunday Boston Globe. Rob is a recognized leader in tool and how-to information for building professionals, he hosts the Concord Carpenter Cable TV Show, offering advice on home repairs and maintenance. On his website, Rob uses his knowledge and experience to help and educate on best practices in the remodeling industry. His motto: “Well done is better than well said!”. Contact Rob at: info@aconcordcarpenter.com

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