Knees are the most frequently injured body part for runners, but contrary to popular belief running itself is not actually bad for this particularly susceptible joint. A number of studies have found no evidence that running damages the knee, with regular exercise actually helping to protect the knee joint.
So why is runner’s knee such a common problem? Most knee issues are actually caused by things going wrong elsewhere in the body, particularly the upper and lower parts of the legs, as well as your feet.
Running without damaging your knees is about ensuring that your knees are well supported, and that the rest of your body is working properly. Here are some tips on how to run without damaging your knees:
Wear knee supports
If you’ve struggled with knee problems in the past, wearing a knee brace for running will help to reduce pain and provide a more comfortable experience. Knee supports provide feedback to the brain which helps to keep the muscles that support your knee on high alert.
This eases the pain many runners feel from conditions like jogger’s knee and patella tendonitis, with knee braces for running increasing compression around the knee to lessen inflamation and joint pain.
This type of support is designed to fit perfectly without slipping using thin, high performance material to address the issues associated with runner’s knee.
Knee stretches and strengthening exercises
While knee supports will help to relieve pain and offer greater comfort, they don’t directly address the problem. To improve your knee health long-term, it’s important to strengthen the surrounding areas.
Many knee issues are caused by weaknesses elsewhere, which introduce instability further down the legs. Hips and glutes are particularly guilty of leading to knee issues, while tight hamstrings also shift the impact of running to the knees.
For improved knee health, try focusing strength training on these other parts of the legs. Runner’s knee stretches are also important to keep your knees in good shape, and there are a variety of exercises that will help to strengthen all the relevant muscles.
Wearing the right shoes
Running shoes are also extremely important, with poorly fitting shoes often leading to a variety of knee problems. As your feet absorb most of the impact when you run, if running shoes don't offer the proper support, the impact will be spread up the legs to your knees.
This can be particularly bad for runners who are flat footed, with specialist running shoes recommended for people who overpronate. For runners with higher arches, orthotics can also help to protect the knee by reducing the shock impact up your legs.
Choosing the right shoes can make a huge impact on knee health, and combined with proper strengthening exercises, provides a much better base for you to run on.
Choose where you run
Lastly, the places you choose to run can also have a big impact too. Running on uneven ground can increase the torque in your knees, so try to run in places with level ground such as pavements.
Some studies have also suggested that running against gravity reduces the impact on your knees, making you less prone to injury. This is because you lean forward when running uphill, taking the weight off your knees. Routes with minor inclines can be highly beneficial to improving your knees health.
Running without damaging your knees is about strengthening the muscles around your knees, and ensuring you have the proper support.