Wildland Trekking Company has been great about making sure I know that hiking the Grand Canyon from rim to rim is a fairly strenuous undertaking, and that training on the trail is key to getting fit enough for the trek. I spent the winter building my physical and cardiovascular strength so that when the weather warmed up and the days got longer I’d be able to get out there with all due gusto. Imagine my surprise, then, when I finally hit the trail and learned that muscle or lung or heart failure weren’t going to stop me from achieving my goal, but my knees just might.
I know that knee pain is very common in women my age, so this shouldn’t have been an altogether shocking realization. There had even been hints at the gym. I picked up a support at the sporting goods store when my left knee issued a twinge in step class, and used it as a precaution on the stepmill. Still, I was absolutely unprepared for the discomfort that both knees had in store during and after my first long hike of the spring season. I fussed and moaned about it for a few hours after I got back until my solution-oriented sweetie busted out his Google-fu and dug up just the thing I needed: the Cho-Pat Dual Action Knee Strap.
This thing is awesome. It’s a high-quality neoprene-and-velcro getup with a firm but flexible plastic bolster (it reminds me of a thin hot glue stick) above and below the patella. How does it work? Here’s how the marketing people at Cho-Pat see fit to describe it on their website:
The patented Cho-Pat Dual Action Knee Strap provides an extra dimension of relief for painful and weakened knees. The Dual Action Knee Strap applies pressure upon the patellar tendon below the kneecap to stabilize and tighten up the kneecap mechanism. The knee strap adds further strengthening to the kneecap mechanism by applying pressure on the tendon above the kneecap as well. This pressure reduces the forces of the quadriceps on the patella tendon and the erosion of the under-surface of the kneecap due to a possible misalignment of the quadriceps (Q angle).
I’m not an orthopedist or a kinesiologist so I don’t know if any of that is true, but it sure is anatomical! It doesn’t matter anyway. In my anecdotal, non-scientific opinion, no matter what the structural means, this thing does its job. I still experience soreness in my knees in the evening after a long hike, and I have my occasional everyday old-lady knee pain on the stairs, but out on the trail I am nimble and practically pain-free uphill and downhill both. The thing stays put, too. No stopping along the way to tug it back into place.
There are only two drawbacks as far as I can see. First, it’s not breathable. Swaddled in neoprene, the backs of my knees get mighty sweaty. Second, it takes a bit of fidgeting to get the velcro closure precisely aligned to avoid chafing. A few times I thought I had it just right but had to stop to readjust on the trail, which was particularly annoying because not all of my hiking pants can be pulled up over the knee. These are just minor quibbles, though.
Overall. the Cho-Pat Dual Action Knee Brace is absolutely wonderful. I will never, ever hike without them again.