When I took up running in 2002, the first thing I heard was “it’s bad for your knees“.
At the time, I didn’t have any information to dispute that, but I was 20 and like “hey I’m invincible!”
Luckily in the years and 20,000+ miles that followed, I found all kinds of research to show that running (with good form and strong hips) is actually great for joint lubrication! My orthopedic surgeon even confirmed there is NO great appearance of arthritis in runners than non-runners AND more importantly, the runners had better overall mobility keeping them injury free.
Why do we hear about so many running knee injuries?
- You’re more likely to get injured doing anything than you are sitting on the couch.
- We neglect to learn a little about our bodies when going from a few miles to attempting a marathon.
Indeed, runners do suffer from knee injuries, but you can’t blame just the run.
Let’s dig in to what you can do to prevent knee injuries or recovery from runner’s knee if you’re already there!
Don’t get overwhelmed with the massive amount of different information out there on running form. There are a few things that truly matter for injury prevent and the rest seems to fall under do what feels good to you!
Focus on your foot strike and your arm swing for maximum knee protection. I’ve created a whole video for you to demonstrate these things! Check that out and you’ll cross the first big thing off your running knee pain list.
- Review running form video
- Fix knee drift (how to tell if you need orthotics)
- Learn How to Run Downhill without Trashing Your Knees
Find out why the image on the left is soooo cringe worthy for running form and could be part of your knee issues!!
Hip Strength for Knee Strength
Nearly ever runner who finds themselves waiting on that crinkly white paper for a diagnosis tends to hear these words “you kneed to strengthen your hips“.
We then scratch our heads, not understanding why our hips matter so much. There are two reasons it matters:
- If your hips are out of alignment it changes your gait and causes muscles to pull or work incorrectly.
- If your hips are weak then your knee begins to fall inward due to the lack of stability. (more pronounced in women due to the Q angle that provides child bearing hips)
Here are some tips to check your hips, along with tips for strength and stretching. Pick a few of them to do prior to or after each run and you’ll find it makes a big difference. If you can make them just a quick part of your routine, rather than trying to fit in a whole different workout, you’re likely to stick with it and reap the benefits.
- How to Tell if Your Hips are Out of Alignment
- Stability Workout for Hip Extension
- Glute Activation Exercises (yes they’re tied in to your hips)
- Exercises to Prevent Runner’s Knee (video at bottom)
- Best Post Run Stretches (remember static stretches only AFTER a workout)
- Mini Band Workout for Hip Strength
- Loosen Tight Hip Flexors (needed if you sit a lot)
- 3D Movements to Relax Tight Hips
Of course you’ve heard that you should cross train, but do you even know why?
Running moves us only in one direction…forward. Ok you knew that, but do you realize that means you aren’t using your muscles in all directions. That makes you more susceptible to non-running injuries, like twisting quickly to catch something that’s falling off the counter and suddenly you’ve got a sprain.
It’s also the easiest way to stay on top of those hip strengthening exercises because many of them are built in to other workouts, like yoga.
- 5 Knee Strengthening Exercises
- Best Strength Training Moves for Runners
- Best Cross Training for Runners
- How Yoga Benefits Runners (beyond the hips)
- Cardio Machines With Biggest Running Benefit (great if you are injured)
How to Treat Runner’s Knee Pain
If you get to the point of surgery or even a long recovery, here are some great tools to help. Though I was unlucky enough to tear a meniscus on the trails, I am back to 100% post surgery and fully credit my hard core focus on physical therapy…and determination.
Part of recovery was certainly the movement, but it was also mental! How to get over the “will I hurt myself again” fear, which comes awhile after the “will I ever run again” sniffles.
- Knee Exercises for Recovery
- Uncommon Knee Pain Relief Techniques
- Understanding the Limitations of Cortisone Shots
- How to Mentally Recover from a Injury
- Why We Run Through Pain
- How to Recover Like A Pro Athlete
Runner’s knee recovery time is going to vary by person, but usually if you’re willing to stick with the exercises mentioned above, you’ll be back on the road pretty quickly.
Even though I had knee surgery, I was back over 100 miles a month by the 4th month because I gave my all to physical therapy and I focused on all the things I could control. The doctors agreed part of my quick recovery was due to all the time I spent on strength training prior to surgery when I just couldn’t run.
Don’t let your injury put completely off your goals. Find out how you can use that time! Can you swim to work on your lung capacity? Can you lift upper body to build speed later? Can you do yoga to improve hip mobility?
Have other questions about your knees and running?
Other running injuries you need help with?
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