Over the years, we've seen some great innovations - jackets, gloves, shins, and forearms have all received major updates and new players to the market that have made impacts in everything from comfort to mobility. It's been a real pleasure being able to witness all the advances that have been made.
But having said all that, some we've seen little advances in other areas; masks (even with interesting new features, we're just using a basic fencing mask) and joint protection, to be specific. The KP Industries Knee Pro, for instance, has been the de facto knee protection here in the states. Cheap, reliable, and fairly safe. I honestly thought that the only advances we might see would be from KPI itself; HEMA vendors haven't made many updates to joint protection.
Elbows are easy enough; all you need is some side protection and a hard shell, and you're safe. Knees are another - almost none of the knee protection out there has side protection, and your knee protection also needs to overlap your shin guards thoroughly. Otherwise, you run the risk of leaving a small gap that a strike can and will find its way into (The author has personal experience with this and a very annoyed nurse who wanted to go home for the evening).
So imagine my surprise when I tried Neyman's Knee Guards, and ended up finding some of the best knee protection in the world.
Review Experience / Methodology
I purchased the knee guards from Neyman within a bulk club order that we made. They were unaware that I intended on writing a review, or who I was.
The order was delayed about 2 months, but we received everything as ordered.
The knees were worn for 2-3 sparring sessions a week for over 3 months, and were used in two large tournaments. Shots were definitely taken on the knees.
I paid €30 ($37 USD) for them. Shipping was a part of the group order.
Construction & Materials
This may come as a huge shock, but the knee guards are made out of the same styrogum we've seen out of a number of products from poland. The knee guards are no different, and while my first reaction was iffy (do I want to protect my knees with some rubbery stuff?), I got over it fast.
The syrogrum is solid while maintaining its flexibility. For added comfort and safety, there's an additional layer of softer foam glued on at the knee cap. So far even after repeated abuse, it's showing no signs of peeling or coming off.
There are two attachment points - a strap at the top for Neyman pants, and a strap to wrap around the back of the knee. With some slight modification to the main strap, I'm able to wear them without Neyman pants and have zero issues. From the other people I know who wear these without Neyman pants, they've found them to also be just as usable.
Vendors - can we have universal attachment points now?
This happens in almost every industry - proprietary attachment points or interfaces eventually become standardized, and it's both good for consumers as well as the vendors.
I'd really like it if vendors in HEMA started doing the same. I can think of only a handful of vendors who exclusively wear everything from a single vendor. It's just not a thing people do in HEMA. The fact that SPES knees can only match with spes pants, or Neyman knees can only 'properly' attach to neyman pants is one that drives me bonkers. Vendors need to talk, decide on an attachment system, and then go with it. I want my picatinny rail for hema!
The knees are elliptical in shape, allowing the main body to cover the top, cap, and bottom of the knee. It also then smartly scales over a pair of shin guards, making zero gaps for a random leg strike to find. To date, I have yet to see them slip in a negative way.
The sides of the knee are fantastic. Originally I was worried they were too large and would get in the way, but it turns out I was wrong. They cradle the knee in a comfortable fashion, and haven't impeded my footwork or dexterity in any way.
As I stated before, I was skeptical of these - Kneepros are fantastic and reliable. While the straps can be annoying, or a connecting breaking being annoying, they're a pretty serious piece of equipment. I didn't expect to get something that would cause me to abandon them.
The protection is top knotch, thorough, and comfortable. While I've felt the strikes I've received (whereas in the Kneepros, I almost never have), there any pain or bruising in any capacity, and they were awfully hard strikes.
Profile wise, these are definitely the lowest profile knee protection out there. You can see in photos, but you can barely see that I'm wearing any protection at all. I've never had them tangle or rub against each other in a tournament, and I'm never "fighting" them like I have with all other knees I've worn.
Having to constantly adjust straps, scoot things up and down, and any sort of manipulation of equipment can be distracting, anxiety rising, and generally unproductive. But when I'm wearing the Neyman knees, I completely forget about them. It's hard to measure the value in the ability to forget they're there, but as a really competitive person, I'd rather be thinking about my fencing and my art than if my knees slid down and if I need to adjust them.
I was always excited to take my knee pros off when I was done fencing. I forget the Neyman knees to the point where I've worn them back to the hotel. Take from that what you will.
The only issue I had with them was when they first arrived. The strap that goes around the back of the knees wasn't very adjustable - it had just a single point for the velcro to attach to, rather than a length that would allow to them to fit various legs. While my thighs aren't small, my knees are pretty average, and there was no way for them to fit.
It took me about 15 minutes to attach some velcro that I purchased from a store, and it completely fixed my problem. I spoke to Neyman about this, and they took the feedback quite well. Keep in mind that they also allow for an excessively high degree of customization, and will probably work with you on this if you request it.
Lacrosse/field hockey shin guards hands down provide the best shin and ankle protection on the market, and nothing else compares them. More people in the HEMA community should be wearing them.
However, the knee options out there that made lacrosse shins viable were few, if not completely relegated to knee pros. Neyman isn't just getting added to that short list, they're being brought to the top. I honestly doubt I'm going to consider any other kind of knee protection for years, these are that good.
Finally, knees are getting the same treatment as other pieces of kit, and they're getting the attention they deserve at Neyman.