Running doesn’t necessarily put you at a greater risk of pain on your knees. Incorrect or poor running practices will however expose your knees to excessive pressure and strain thus causing them to ache. Knee pain is therefore a very common injury in runners which requires attention whenever it appears.
In this guide, you’ll learn common mistakes that lead to knee pain and what you need to do to alleviate and prevent such injuries.
Common Causes of Knee Pain
1. Excessive Heel Strike
Hitting the surface with your heels is blamed for most cases of knee pain especially during running. That’s because it results in greater eccentric loading on your knee joints compared to forefoot or midfoot striking.
Foot injuries experts recommend midfoot striking because it yields optimal shock attenuation from your foot. This is aimed at lessening the intensity of the impacts received by your knee joints.
2. Foot Turnout
Also referred to as ‘duck walk’, foot turnout describes the tendency of ones feet to point outwards as opposed to straight on. Whether it’s an acquired gait or you have been walking or running with foot turnout positioning, it can leave you with injuries such as knee pain, back pain, bunions and shin splints.
Foot turnout involves the external rotation of the foot, tibia, knee and the hip which may eventually lead to musculoskeletal injuries due to overuse.
Although foot turnout is an essential element in many dance practices, it’s of no benefit when it comes to running, walking or jogging. However, since it results from body imbalances, it can readily be corrected or avoided.
3. Excessive Overpronation
When you overpronate, your foot and ankle tends to bend or roll inwards. Excessive overpronation, leads to medial rotation which may then be transmitted to the knees and hips. This results in increased strain and rubbing on the knee joint thus causing pain.
Individuals with flat feet or fallen arches are more prone to overpronation. That means they are more likely to suffer from knee pain and other related injuries like patellofemoral pain syndrome.
4. Running Downhill
Perhaps you have been told that running downhill is a potential risk for knee and back pain. Well, this might be true when you do it the wrong way. But generally, running downhill is beneficial to your performance since it helps you build your running form by enhancing your speed and strength.
5. Wearing Wrong Shoes
The cushioning in your running shoes is meant to protect your joints and muscles from impacts especially when you’re running on pavement. Therefore, wearing worn-out or less cushioned running shoes leaves your knees with a greater task of absorbing excessive impacts.
Tips for Preventing Knee Pain
1. Stop Heel Striking
Heel striking results in higher impacts on your feet with the bulk of the shocks going to your knees. That’s why it’s recommended to adapt to midfoot striking as much as possible.
However, this does not indicate that heel striking isn’t safe at all. Some individuals do not experience knee pain as a result of their habitual heel strike. Such runners may not benefit from adapting to a midfoot or forefoot strike pattern.
Moreover, studies have shown that forcing your feet to a different footstrike may result to injuries. So, it’s recommended to consult with your podiatrist to ascertain whether midfoot or forefoot strike is good for your feet.
2. Wear Appropriate Running Shoes
Sufficient underfoot cushioning is inevitable if you want to protect your knee joints from excessive impacts. This is especially true if you’re running on a hard surfaces such as concrete or pavement.
Therefore, ensure your running shoes are adequately padded and are able to absorb a great deal of landing impacts.
If your current running have lost their shock absorption ability, they won’t offer as much impact protection as intended. Podiatrists recommend replacing your running shoes after covering between 300 and 500 miles.
Moreover, your shoes should provide the ideal foot support depending on your pronation type. Notably, overpronators are more likely to strain their knee joints because of their habitual inward foot rolling. Therefore, they need heightened support to keep their feet stable so as to lessen strain on the knee joints.
3. Avoid Foot Turnout
Your feet are created to point in the direction you are running and not outwards as in the foot turnout or ‘duck walk’ tendency. Normally, foot turnout results from imbalances elsewhere in the body and not on the feet themselves.
Most often foot turnout is a problem that you acquire with time from habits such as poor posture and excessive sitting. With some effort, you can change the habit of foot turnout to alleviate knee pain. See the video below on how to fix foot turnout or ‘duck walk’.
4. Proper Downhill Running
When running downhill, there’s always a tendency to take longer strides. This puts excessive pressure on knees thus increasing the likelihood of knee pain. So, it’s advisable to take shorter strides to minimize the stress on your knee joints.
An effective way of avoiding longer strides is to run with short and quick steps.
In addition, relax your legs and avoid holding back too much as you run downhill as this puts pressure and strain on your knees.
If you’re in and out of knee pain during running, then there’s a possibility you are not adhering to some basic running dos and don’ts. This is especially possible if you’re a beginner and you have not mastered the skill including the possible running injuries.
However, by sticking to simple guidelines and avoiding simple mistakes, it’s possible to avoid most instances of knee pain.