Knee pain is one of the most common complaints among regular runners, but it's not true that running inevitably wears out your knees. By learning to run with good form and correctly supporting your knees while you run, you can banish knee pain from your training and prevent it from returning. Here are three common causes of knee pain in runners, along with advice about how to address them.
1. Your Shoes Are Worn Out
Running shoes typically have thick, padded soles that are designed to absorb impact forces. Over time, this padding wears down and loses its ability to cushion your body from impacts. Most running shoes wear out after 300 to 500 miles of pounding the pavement, so if you've had your shoes for a very long time, replacing them could be a simple solution to your knee pain.
2. Your Running Form is Incorrect
One common mistake that runners make is overstriding: taking long strides that result in the foot landing in front of the body, rather than under the centre of mass. Overstriding runners often land on their heels with only a very slight bend in the knee. This landing position transmits forces through the lower leg bones to the knee joint, which could explain why you are feeling pain.
Next time you run, try taking shorter, faster steps. Many runners find that the best way to shorten their stride is to focus on their running cadence, which is the number of steps they take each minute. Count the number of steps you usually take per minute and aim to increase this number by five percent to reduce the strain on your knees.
3. Your Leg Muscles are Weak
If changing your shoes and your stride doesn't resolve your knee pain, you need to seek physiotherapy for your knee pain. Many cases of knee pain in runners result from weak muscles in the legs failing to protect the knee joint in the way they should. A physiotherapist can guide you through a program of exercises to strengthen your quadriceps, hip flexors, hip abductors, glutes and hamstrings. While working through these exercises, it's important to follow the guidance of your physiotherapist carefully and stop if you feel any sharp pain in your knee.
Knee pain is a common problem for runners, but it's not something you have to put up with. By identifying the cause of your pain, you can take action to rid yourself of discomfort and protect yourself from developing a serious knee injury.