Knee pain can be mild and annoying, or it can be debilitating and stop you in your tracks.
If you are a runner, you have either experienced knee pain and/or know someone who has dealt with it.
Knee pain is a frequent source of frustration in runners. It is something that can plague the recreational runner and the competitive runner, the 5K runner and the ultradistance runner, the road runner and the OCR athlete.
We all want an easy answer to why it occurs, but unfortunately there is not one easy, straightforward answer. A number of things can cause and/or contribute to knee pain. Let’s dive into some of them!
The mechanics of how you run can contribute to knee pain. I am not talking your actual running technique, but more about the control you have through your leg as it is on the ground.
Ideally, when your leg hits the ground, your leg lands solidly: no unsteadiness, no shaking. And then while on the ground, it remains solid: foot stable, knee stable, hip stable, pelvis stable. What often happens instead is there is a weakness or mobility issue somewhere that causes that strong, stable leg to become unstable upon landing
When the leg is unstable, it produces an abnormal torque or force on the knee, which can eventually result in pain in your knee.
Investing the necessary resources to discover what your body is doing and what needs to be addressed from a running mechanics standpoint will help to resolve your knee pain.
Yes, the over striding issue does get into the heel strike vs midfoot strike debate. The longer strides you take, the more likely you will land hard on your heel with your knee extended. This position, an outstretched leg with the knee fully extended places a lot of force through the knee. From there, because your foot is not fully on the ground, your leg is very unstable, requiring more control of the muscles throughout the entire leg and also giving your leg more time to move around before the foot is fully on the ground and under your body. As stated above, the more unstable and unsteady the leg is, the more you are at risk of knee pain.
If you work to shorten your stride, landing more midfoot with your foot underneath you, you have a better chance of landing with a solid leg and less time for that leg to be unsteady.
Downhill running itself does not cause knee pain. What does contribute to knee pain, though, is how you run downhill.
When people experience knee pain when running downhill, it is often because they are attempting to control the descent with their legs. When controlling the decent, a significant amount of force and pressure is placed through the knee joint. The more you attempt to control the descent, the more pain you will feel.
Instead, let gravity take you down the hill. Let your body and legs relax a bit on the decent, just keep your legs moving along with you as you go. The more you relax and just let gravity do the work for you, the less pain you will feel. And as a bonus, you will feel less fatigued by letting gravity take you down the hill rather than attempting to control it.
Have knee pain issues that you are dealing with? Email firstname.lastname@example.org with you questions regarding your pain.
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