Work Pants With Knee Pads

Carpenters Assessment of Work Pants With Built In Knee Pads

We ended up looking at 8 manufacturers of work pants with knee pads and wore them to our job sites to test and compare them. Below are the pant models we compared:

  1. Armed 12 Ounce Cotton Canvas Work Pant
  2. Blaklader 1690 Rip Stop Work Pants
  3. CAT Trademark Work Pant
  4. Helly Hansen Chelsea Evolution Work Pants
  5. Mascot Houston Work Pant
  6. Mascot Advanced Trousers 4-Way-Stretch Kneepad-Pockets $130.00 – knee pads
  7. Snickers 6903 FlexiWork Stretch Kneepad Work
  8. Thrive Carpenter Style 5300-CAR PRO Work pant

Knee Pads Vs Padded Work Pants

As a carpenter, my workday finds me up and down, on my knees, but it never seems to rise to the level of me actually getting out my knee pads.


I typically wear knee pads when I know I’m on my knees for a prolonged period of time, such as tiling. I find knee pads a hassle to wear, uncomfortable and the straps tend to cut off my circulation.

But when I work for long periods of time on my knees, it’s super important to have maximum cushioning, which makes knee pads essential.  What I needed was a solution for all the other times where I kneel for a minute or two. That epiphany brought me to look at work pants with knee pads.


Protecting Your Knees

Think about how many times you kneel daily or work on your knees without wearing knee pads. We often find ourselves working on our knees for varying amounts of time and kneeling on a variety of hard or uneven surfaces. 

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.

Contact injuries from using your knee as a hammer to bump things in place, or kneeling on a hard floor are both examples of contact stress. Additionally, excessive kneeling can cause the bursa in your knee to become irritated, leading to pain, inflammation, and limited range of motion. 

Knee Pad Work Pants

Many manufacturers are creating work pants with 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 another 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 and are generally flexible.

I liked the idea of work pants with knee pads but we’re not fans of the “outer-pocket” European style pants available. Many of these pants have external pockets – and aesthetically, we weren’t fans. We find them too busy and frankly are more geared toward wearing a tool belt. So, we searched for a more traditional carpenter pant look.

Knee Pad Work Pant Comparison Criteria

There is a lot of considerations that go into making a quality work pant, and equally as many items for selecting work pants with knee pads. We looked at the following criteria for comparing these knee pad work pants:

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

Durability  

Some pant materials are more durable than others.  With regard to the knee pad, a super-light foam is likely less durable than a sturdy rubber material.

Functional

We looked for work-pants that feature a hammer loop, spacious and tool-dedicated pockets, built-in knee pads, reinforced stitching, 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. There is a trade-off here though of balancing mobility/flexibility with rigidity/protection. Just make sure it still offers the level of protection you need.

Look for a knee pad that adequately cushions your knee cap and does NOT develop a memory. We noted that many of these clothing companies offer different styles and varying levels of pad quality. 

Breath-ability – Comfort

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

Pants Fit – Kneepad Placement and Coverage

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.

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.

A good knee pad will stay in place both when you are kneeling and when you stand up again. We looked closely at how well the knee pad sits on your knee when keeling. 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.

Testing these Workpants

While all of the pants we tested fit true to size, the European models were a bit snugger.  All of the pants I tested are designed for the job site, and all are made from durable materials and stitching.

We tested pants made from lighter rip-stop material to canvas. The canvas style [Carhartt-like] 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 canvas-style, knee pads lightly touched my knees causing me to sweat in that area.

To test these pants we used them for 5 months on a variety of job sites, here are our thoughts.

Armed Pants 12 Ounce Cotton Canvas Work Pant

The Armed work pants have tool pockets on the front legs [Quadriceps area] which I found uncomfortable to use but sloppy in design. 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 are heavier canvas-style work pants, compared to the thinner European-style work pants, and 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 pad that was supplied with the Armed pants is 3/8″ thin foam and not very durable. A single pad did not offer enough kneeling comfort, soo we doubled up on the pads, which helped.

For improvement, we’d like to see pocket reinforcing, for a tape measure and a stretch gusset in the crotch area added.

NOTE – As of this article Armed no longer makes carpenter pants – they only offer a “painter’s” cotton-canvas version of work pants [with knee pads].

Blaklader 1690 Rip Stop Work Pants

We chose the Blaklader rip-stop pants to test because of the lightweight fabric and lightweight design.  Having worn the canvas-style, heavy work pants for years, we chose the rip-stop pants in the hope to find durable pants that would be easier to work in.

Right off the bat, we appreciated the reinforced tape measure pockets and hammer loop. A gusseted crotch panel made for a lighter, breathable stretch material, as was truly was noticeable when stepping into the van. [no snagging / catching on the leg]

Side/rear-facing reflective strips are a nice touch and the reinforced tool pockets, ruler pockets, leg pockets are plenty.  Like many of the other pants tested, I didn’t use most of the pockets – not needed. I did use the ruler, pen, hammer loop, and Velcro pocket for my cell phone. The open rear pockets are nice too, as I often want a place to put something quick and don’t want to fuss with Velcro closures.

 

One feature that many folks miss is the leg bottom with CORDURA reinforcement, adjustable leg hem with drawstring. While my pants fit true to size, this could potentially allow mid-sized wearers to adjust the hem with the drawstring.

 

My biggest gripe to these pants is seen as a benefit to others. I did not like the bottom loading, overlap flap padded knee insert sleeve. It’s extremely difficult to do once the pants are on and not easy with the off. The pads themselves are designed in a grid section and flex in multiple directions. While I thought that this seemed smart ergonomically – they do not offer the same comfort as the thicker Mascot or Snicker solid rubber style knee pads.

That said, the Blaklader is probably one of the best performing and most comfortable pants in this test.

Note: On cold days, we layered with a thermal base layer of underwear. These pants are fine for the winter weather.

CAT Trademark Work Pant

The CAT work pant fits well with a little room to spare. The pants are constructed with a canvas fabric and thick durable belt loops.  These pants are a heavier material than the Euro-style work pants – similar to Carhartt material. 

CAT designed two tool pockets/holsters that can be stored inside the front pockets.  A side hammer loop is much appreciated, but I couldn’t warm up to all these outer-hanging pockets and opted to continue to wear my tool belt. I did use the Secure cargo pockets and a side tool pocket for my knife, pencils, and my cellphone. The rest of the pockets were overdone with too many Velcro closers.

I did appreciate the diamond-shaped crotch gusset for ease of movement and the top-loading knee pad pockets.

There are a few details worth noting. First, CAT designed in an articulated knee for range of motion and reinforced the cuff of the pant and rear heel section with a more durable type of fabric.  The inner waistband has a rubberized gripper tape to keep shirts in and pants in place which we noticed immediately with our work shirts.

The knee pad pocket is an overlapping flap with Velcro and is incredibly easy to add the pad. The knee pads are designed in a grid section and flex in multiple directions. While I thought that this seemed smart ergonomically – they do not offer the same comfort as the thicker Mascot, solid rubber style knee pads.

 

These pants are heavy, no way around it. For improvement, we’d like to see pocket reinforcing for better tape measure wear and durability and a stretch gusset in the crotch area added.

Helly Hansen Chelsea Evolution Work Pants #77442

The Chelsea Evolution Pant is set up to the other European pants with the outer hanging tool pockets.  Because I’m not a fan, I wore mine with these pockets tucked into the front pockets.


The right-side pockets are set up to easily allow a folding ruler, knife, and pencils.  There is a tight hammer loop there that was a little too small for my hammer to quickly holster. The left side pockets are covered by a Velcro flap and a small opening for a pencil. The leg bottoms are reinforcing at the cuff area for better wearability.

The best feature of these pants is their flexible fabric that runs from the lower quadricep up past the crotch area. This fabric stretches and allows super ease in movement. It’s not a stretch [pun intended] to say that the Chelsea pants were the MOST comfortable pants I wore.  Stepping up into the van or on a ladder was comfortable with no pant leg drag at all.

The knee pad pocket brought me frustration. It took me a bit to learn that you have to pull the pants inside out to insert the knee pad. You can’t be wearing the pants and change in or out the knee pad. When kneeling throughout the day I was “just missing” the knee pad. It needed to be higher by 2 maybe 3 inches. As a result, I had to hike up my pant leg every time I wanted to kneel, which was frustrating and made these pants an overall failure.

Mascot Houston Model Work Pant

The Houston pants are heavier material but are lightweight enough to wear in the summer-time. They are constructed out of 65% polyester/35% cotton materials. MASCOT uses fabric brands such as; CORDURA® and Kevlar®, for their wear resistance and pierce resistance but I did manage to tear them.

The pants feature a contrast color, durable stitching. The leg seams and crotch seam area have triple stitching for durability.

The Houston pants had the best pocket layout for what I do. There is an adjustable hammer loop that snaps to reduce the size to get it out of the way or carry a smaller tool like a nail puller. Unsnapped and the hammer loop was perfectly sized for one-handed hammer holstering.

On the left side of the Houston, pants are a thigh pocket with a flap and hidden press studs. The right side has a reinforced ruler, cell phone, or tool pocket, and two narrower pockets, perfect for penlights, markers, pens, or voltage testers. There are 5-inch reflective strips on the rear of the pants, back knee area. These Hi-visibility strips are highly reflective and provide some visibility protection from vehicles approaching behind you. The rear pockets and side pockets were best suited for my cellphone.

The knee pads are excellent, they are made of  ½” thick dense rubber material that works excellent at shielding the knee when kneeling. Adding the knee pads to these pants is incredibly easy with a simple flip-over cover. The pant knee pocket also has two pad placement locations which are ice for customizing how the knee pad falls on the knee when kneeling.

There’s not a lot to improve on these pants other than I would suggest that MASCOT consider adding reinforcing material to the side, rear cuff area of these pants. The knees and cuffs are usually the first areas to wear or tear. I’d also like to see pocket reinforcing, for a tape measure and a stretch gusset in the crotch area.

Mascot Advanced Trousers 4-Way-Stretch Kneepad-Pockets

This pair of pants is unlike any pants I’ve ever worn, it’s like wearing what I would guess wearing yoga pants would feel like.

The pants have form-fitting [think skinny jeans], lightweight, and very flexible. The pants are constructed out of stretch material provides unique freedom of movement and comfort in a lightweight pant which is great for summer.

The kneepad pockets of durable CORDURA and the rubber kneepads are easily inserted from the sides via a zipper, even while wearing them. The knee pocket has excellent ventilation – compared to other pants that sweat at the knee pad. The knee pad slides through a side zippered compartment and is a little snug but doable.

The rear pockets are wide open and fit my cell phone well. There is no hammer loop, something I’d like to see added.

I would suggest that MASCOT consider adding reinforcing material to the side, rear cuff area of these pants. The knees and cuffs are usually the first areas to wear or tear. I’d also like to see pocket reinforcing, for a tape measure.

I love the pants and how they’re made but I could not get used to the tight fit – it’s entirely possible that the EU sizing runs small – but either way – they fit tight and are NOT the first pair of pants I reach for in the morning.

Snickers 6903 FlexiWork Stretch Kneepad Work Pant

We chose the Snickers FlexiWork work pants 6903 over the 6902 model because we DID NOT want the outer holster pockets.

We liked the lightweight material of these pants which combining ventilating stretch fabric with Cordura® reinforcements and a range of pockets for excellent freedom of movement and functionality.

Snickers sent us two styles of knee pads; a neoprene style and more durable rubberized pads which were super comfortable and on par or maybe slightly better than the Mascot pads.

The knee pad pocket is a flap-over style with Velcro and was really easy to install the knee pad.  The knee pads have “wings” on the lower end that allow you to adjust the knee pad position above or below a built-in section of the pants. If you’re going to utilize the “wings” then I suggest you do it with the pants off. The knee pads have score/grooves to allow flexibility in movement and were comfortable for kneeling.


There is stretch fabric above the knees, which seemed to help keep the kneepads in the right position. And ventilating fabric behind the knee area for ventilation. Snickers used Cordura fabric to reinforce the knee area as well as the leg cuff-ends and pockets for enhanced durability.

Snickers like many of these work pans have pockets, loops, Velcro, and slits in material that I had no idea what to do with them. Maybe it’s a European thing – but I found I only used a few of the pockets. The best pocket was the left side open pocket which I found worked great for my cellphone and still allowed access to it with a tool belt.

The right-side access knife and pen pockets worked great. Stretch material in the crotch was a nice feature and well appreciated when stepping up into the Sprinter van.

Keeping these pants on my hips will NOT be a problem considering that Snickers offers a Velcro, snap, and adjustable belt clip – in addition to traditional belt loops. At first, the plastic belt clip annoyed me under my traditional leather belt – later in the day, I didn’t notice it.

Lastly, the bottom pant cuffs are reinforced – this is an area that wears fast on most work pants. While the pockets do not have a reinforced area for a tape measure there is a heavy-duty strap on the right leg below the pocket that, when NOT wearing a tool belt, I found myself clipping my tape to. The Snicker pants were light and super comfortable to wear. The reason I know this is at the end of the day I can’t wait to get out of my work pants – not the Snickers. 

Thrive Carpenter Style 5200-CAR PRO Work pant

The Thrive carpenter pants have more traditional carpenter-like pockets. They are lighter canvas-style work pants with a flex Canvas fabric and a crotch gusset panel.

The best feature of the Thrive pants is that the knee pad tended to land better for me when kneeling.

Occasionally the pad does roll to the side and my knee cap hit the floor harder than I would have. The Thrive pants have their hammer loop has an interior rigid lining to keep the loop open for one-handed use.

One interesting thing about the Thrive pants is that the knee pad is internal and NOT removable. It seems gel-like and of good quality, is comfortable, but we were unable to inspect it.

Like the Armed and CAT pants, the Thrive pants are canvas-like material – but are lighter in weight and better suited for warmer weather. For improvement, I’d like to see pocket reinforcing, for a tape measure and a stretch gusset in the crotch area added.

One thing to note is that the Thrive work pants are the only maker on our list made in the USA and that uses USA fabrics and components.

What Do These Pants Cost?

The prices for these pants seem to range from $45 to $150.  Below is a table detailing pricing.

Best Pair of Work Pants with Built-in Knee Pad

Many of these pant manufacturers overuse the outer-pocket and outer-hanging pockets design to the point that you have too many pockets and they just don’t get used. It also makes the work pants with knee pads look busy and to be honest, things get lost in double-layered pockets and pockets within pockets.  Less is more here and I think all of the manufacturers could take a lesson from the Mascot Houston work pants. This pair of pants has just enough pockets to let me work without my tool belt sometimes but not too many pockets to make it goofy.

After the testing was complete I leaned toward the lighter material work pants, without all the pocket fanfare, and outer hanging style pockets.

 

The best pair of pants we tested based on our 7-criteria and pricing were the Blaklader pants, followed closely by the Mascot and Snicker pants.

Final Thoughts – Protecting Our Knees

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 work pants with knee pads to your uniform. They’re traditional looking, durable, have utility pockets, and save your knees!

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

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

 

About the author

Rob Robillard

Robert Robillard is a remodeler, general contractor, and principal of a carpentry and renovation business located in Concord, Massachusetts, and serves as the Editor of Tool Box Buzz and founding editor of A Concord Carpenter . Rob is in charge of our Tool and Product Review - Tool and Product Review - Video Channel, , where we post all of our tool reviews and video tutorials. Rob enjoys using his knowledge and experience to help and educate building professionals as well as DIYers on best practices in the remodeling industry. The Concord Carpenter's motto: "Well done is better than well said!" : Read more about Rob

http://www.aconcordcarpenter.com/@https://twitter.com/robertrobillardRob Robillard

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