Is running bad for your knees? No. Can running actually be beneficial to joint health? Yes!!
We know that healthy joints are important for our everyday lives to simply move through the world with less pain. But we don’t really know what protects our joints, keeps them working well or how joints wear out in the long run.
Running is a high impact sport and not caring for your joints can mean issues with the hips, knees, spine, ankles, and big toes. In fact, 1/3 of adults have reported joint pain…but there is absolutely NO HIGHER rate of joint issues in runners than non-runners.
In fact, we tend to have healthier joints due to continued movement, weight management and healthier lifestyles.
Today we’ll review key ways to care for our joints to enjoy many more years of running and injury prevention. From the best joint supplements for runners, to the key changes to your training that will help.
Joint Health for Runners Tips
Let’s do some quick anatomy that will help us understand why these tips work and why it even matters.
A joint is where two bones meet and in the case of runners, we’re focused largely on the joints that are moveable and many of which have cartilage. Cartilage allows bones to glide over one another, by preventing bones from rubbing against each other.
Not only are we focused on the bone itself, but on protecting that cartilage from wear and literal tears.
#1 Stop Over Striding
Improving your running form is one of the fastest ways to prevent knee pain from running.
- When your foot lands in front of the body that results in a breaking effect absorbed by the knees.
- Landing under the body allows all of your muscles to absorb the impact.
- Try recording yourself with your phone. You’ll be surprised how often you land in front of the body.
Checkout this 30 Day Running Technique program to see how you can easily change your form.
#2 Strengthen Your Muscles
The second most important tool for all runners is strength training.
Glutes, hips and a core that work in coordination will keep your body in proper alignment. Without that strength, when you take a step your knee starts to fall inward as you see in this example below.
Patellofemoral pain syndrome, or runner’s knee, is usually not about the joint, but the running form and lack of strength keeping the body aligned.
Beyond that when your glutes aren’t fully activated it means that other muscles try to compensate for the workload. This means fatigue that again starts to pull your hips, your knees, your ankles all out of their natural alignment.
Resolving this is surprisingly easy!
Checkout my 30 Day Core program – it’s 10 minutes a day that focus on abs, hips and glutes from strength to mobility. Basically these quick workouts are your long term joint health as a runner protection plan.
#4 Vary Your Running Surfaces
Did you know that running on concrete is actually harder on the body than asphalt? It’s why you see so many of us long time runners on the side of the road instead of the sidewalk.
And of course having the opportunity to run on crushed gravel or a new track or a treadmill also provide additional impact reduction that can serve your joints.
Knowing that my knees can get cranky with 1600 miles of running a year, I learned that keeping 1 or 2 of my weekly runs the treadmill keeps everything much happier. The treadmill deck flexibility absorbs some of the impact, which means less for your knees, back and ankles to take on.
#5 Pick the Right Running Shoes
It’s a little about looks and a lot about how the shoe helps your body through the miles.
Foot strike is how your foot hits the ground and moves through a range of motion. If your foot is constantly rolling inward, then the knee is being placed at an angle and rubbing through your cartilage.
Step 1 is always to make sure you are doing the strength mentioned above, but after that a stability shoe or insole could provide the additional support to keep you in line.
- Cushioned shoes can help reduce impact. But overly cushioned shoes can change your form.
- Stability shoes can provide support. But can mask that your hips are weak.
- Look for a neutral, moderately cushioned shoe like the Hoka Clifton or Saucony Ride.
Best Joint Supplements for Runners
What is the best joint supplement for athletes? I get asked this a lot and I’m happy to finally have a recommendation that I feel really strongly about.
Glucosamine supplements are what you might know best, but just a part of the picture.
NEM (natural eggshell membrane) contains glucosamine, chondroitin, collagen, and hyaluronic acid from the actual eggshell membrane, which clinical studies have shown to be more up to 5 times MORE effective at pain relief!
✅Previnex Joint Health is my recommendation for NEM.
I had David start testing it 2 months ago because he does have joint issues from so many broken bones and he’s noticed a reduction in how stiff he feels waking up. But other runners from my group have tried it and said they noticed a big difference in their knees.
The big thing with supplementing is that it’s about LONG term protection and support of the joint.
So while they are noticing benefits now, it’s the ongoing impact that will keep them active for many years that excites me.
If you want to check it out (and why wouldn’t you give it a shot with a money back guarantee) use RTTF15 for a 15% Previnex discount.
Let’s breakdown the parts of NEM a bit more as well as a long term joint health for runners tool:
- Glucosamine supports cartilage and joint lubrication
- Chondrotin helps prevent the breakdown of cartilage
- Collagen supports tissues making them more resilient
- Hyaluronic acid is part of the synovial fluid that lubricates joints
- Boswellin – this is a bonus ingredient in Joint Health that provides immediate pain relief
Omega 3’s from Food or Supplements
Omega 3’s help to inhibit inflammation, which has been shown in studies to help joint health by reducing stiffness and tenderness. You can get them from salmon, ground flaxseeds, chia seeds and walnuts.
Personally, my numbers remained a bit low even with those foods in my diet so I take Previnex Omega Pure Plus daily.
It’s one of the few fish oils that has been tested and shown to contain the actual amounts that is says and no additives that cause those icky fish burps.
The Previnex Joint Health supplement does contain collagen, but I’m also a fan of using a collagen powder like Vital Proteins. It’s an easy way to get in protein and electrolytes.
A recent 24 week study showed that in athletes, there was a reduction in joint pain from utilizing a high quality collagen.
Ways to Manage Joint Pain
Ideally we want to mitigate any injury before it happens, but if you’re already there then sometimes we need additional tools to help bring down the inflammation and get us back to the healthiest state possible.
- Utilize a long term supplement like the Previnex Joint Health
- Take Curcumin to fight current inflammation
- Topical CBD or other creams (find out how they work)
- Cortisone injection – read why you don’t want to get many of these directly in the joint
- Physical therapy – this is where you’ll be told to do all those those exercises in the 30 Day core program
- Sports Medicine Dr – if you are having sharp pains, then it’s time to ask a professional to take a look
My knee pain did lead to knee surgery, which lead to running again. It’s important to not just live with an issue, running doesn’t have to be painful.
If it’s something like torn carilage or a torn meniscus, you need to know. Then you can create a plan to heal!
If it turns out to be knee arthritis then you’ll be more diligent with eating foods that have anti inflammatory properties, doing the warm up and fixing your form. But you DO NOT have to stop running!!
I know a great many runners with varying degrees of arthritis from issues in the big toe to Rheumatoid Arthritis and they can run.
It is not making anything worse. What they choose to do is train smarter. Cross training where needed and paying attention to what their body is telling them.
Joint health for runners is a big topic, but not one that should scare you.
We’ve chosen an amazing sport and with a few very easy choices, we can keep doing it for many, many miles.
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