Functional knee-braces are widely used to protect injured or reconstructed anterior cruciate ligaments, despite the fact that few scientific data support their efficacy. We studied seven functional braces, representative of both the typical custom-fit and off-the-shelf designs. The braces were tested on subjects who had a normal anterior cruciate ligament and were scheduled for arthroscopic meniscectomy or exploration of the knee under local anesthesia. After the operative procedure, a Hall-effect strain-transducer was applied to the anterior cruciate ligament. Under low anterior shear loads, two braces provided some protective strain-shielding effect compared with no brace, but this strain-shielding effect did not occur at the higher anterior shear loads expected during the high-stress activities common to athletic events. The DonJoy, Townsend, C.Ti., and Lenox Hill braces demonstrated a strain-shielding effect on the anterior cruciate ligament with an internal torque of five newton-meters applied to the tibia. None of the braces had any effect on strain on the anterior cruciate ligament during active range of motion of the knee from 10 to 120 degrees or during isometric contraction of the quadriceps. Wearing of a brace did not produce an increase in the value for strain on the anterior cruciate ligament. For the activities that were evaluated in this study, none of the braces produced adverse effects on the anterior cruciate ligament, and there were no significant differences in the strain on the anterior cruciate ligament between the use of a custom-fit or an off-the-shelf brace design. There were no apparent advantages of the more expensive custom-made braces compared with the off-the-shelf designs.