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Isaac Callihan


August 3, 2023

Running and Knee Pain

If you love hitting the pavement for a good old-fashioned run, you might have been told at some point that it's bad for your knees. Pounding your feet on the ground is often a major no-no if you want to keep your joints healthy.

But is this true? Is running really that bad for your knees?

The short answer – is no, not really. Most research shows that running is great for your joint health and bone density, especially as you age.

A study published by the National Library of Medicine shows recreational and competitive runners have lower rates of knee osteoarthritis than sedentary individuals. Running has also been scrapped off as a risk factor for developing knee osteoarthritis in later life, with a 21-year longitudinal study correlating running with reduced risk of disability.

But there is a caveat. While the research is conclusive that running is suitable for your knees, if you are already suffering from knee pain or arthritis, you should take things easy at first. Avoid pounding over 10 miles per week, and consult your doctor or physical therapist to devise a running program.

While running is not bad for your knees, running with bad form can put unnecessary stress on the joints and lead to pain or injury. Wearing the wrong shoes, poor running techniques, and terrain can compromise the efficiency of your running stride and lead to abnormal knee joint wear and tear. 

Common technique mistakes that can lead to knee pain include

This is when your foot strikes the ground too far in front of your body, causing your knee to bend more than it should. This can lead to pain in the front of the knee orIT band syndrome.

Poor posture
Hunching during a run puts unnecessary stress on your back, hips, and knees. Run tall with your shoulders back and relaxed to avoid pain down the line.

Heel striking
When your heel is the first thing to hit the ground, it can cause a jarring impact that travels up your leg and puts stress on your knees. Try to land your foot underneath your body for a more gentle impact.

Tilted pelvis
Always keep your pelvis level when running to avoid putting extra stress on your lower back and knees. Any misalignments in your hips can lead to pain and injury.

Excessive foot supination or pronation
If your foot rolls inwards or outwards too much when you run, it can cause knee pain. Wearing the right shoes for your foot type can help correct this.

With the myth debunked, we can conclude that running is, in fact, good for your knees as long as you do it with proper form. Running helps build muscles around the knee joint, which can protect the joint from ailments like arthritis. 

PS - If you want to run more, but it hurts, I'd love to help you. At Pittsburgh FIT, we offer free Personal Training assessments for anyone interested in working with us. This is a time for us to figure things out, then offer a unique and fully individualized solution built just for you.

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