Neoprene is a synthetic rubber material designed to be flexible, durable, and to resist breakdown by water. Neoprene has been used for over 75 years. In its application to braces and supports, it is very form fitting and resilient to the stresses placed on it.
Neoprene is a very popular material for cold weather sports such as skiing and snowboarding, and is used extensively in water sports.
Neoprene braces are ideal supports to provide uniform compression over an extremity such as the knee or elbow. Neoprene's heat retention properties is preferred by some to help ease the pain of a joint due to arthritis and muscle strain.
The disadvantage of Neoprene is know to many parents who pick up their child's brace, with an odor that is hard to describe and tolerate. Neoprene is not a breathable material, and therefore retains the sweat and perspiration of the skin at the surface. Many people have allergies to Neoprene, causing skin rashes, blistering, itching and more severe allergic reactions.
Elastic material is not a good alternative as it does not stretch like neoprene, nor does it have the compressive qualities and durability of neoprene.
DonJoy developed a material referred to as "Drytex" as an alternative to Neoprene.
Drytex is a material made of a Nylon core and Polyester Lycra fabric, which retains the durability and compressive advantages of Neoprene, but is breathable and non-allergenic.
Drytex braces are more comfortable to wear compared to Neoprene, with the absence of the foul odor usually associated with its counterpart.
So how do I tell the difference between the two materials?
Simply lift the material up to light and stretch the material. If light shines through, it is a breathable material. If there is no light seen, it is probably neoprene.
If you are in a warm weather climate, and participate in sports such as Basketball, Football, Soccer, Tennis and Golf, then Drytex is an alternative to Neoprene. If you have allergies to Latex and Neoprene, Drytex is an excellent choice for support.
This material is only found in select manufacturers like DonJoy. It usually is not found in retail stores.
It is important to consult with your treating doctor prior to purchasing any orthopedic brace. There are many choices to be made when deciding which knee brace to purchase.