4 steps to protect your knees while running: Reduce knee pain

Anyone who runs a lot knows that knees are among the first parts of the body to give trouble if they’re not cared for properly.

Knee pain and other knee problems actually prevent quite a few people from incorporating running into their healthy lifestyle.

Running may not be the most suitable cardio activity for everyone. Swimming or cycling might be more appropriate. The knee is a complicated little joint and as a dentist strangely enough I’m well aware of the importance of healthy joints. Just think temporomandibular joint (TMJ).

What can you actually do to protect your knees if you want to keep running for a long time?

This article is not geared towards sprinting or sprinters. Sprinting requires the body and knees to be aligned slightly differently and this alignment is not ideal for long distance running.

Choose the right shoes

There is a reason why shoes for various sports have been designed differently. We use different areas of our body in different ways for prolonged times when we play our favorite sports.

The right shoes are important
Choose the right shoes

Good arch support is fundamental for runners even for flat-footed people. Your shoes should have firm midsoles and the treads should be not be worn.  Every time your run or walk the force from your foot striking the ground is transferred back up your foot to the knee. For this reason cushioning is vital.
Cushioning dampens that force, reducing excessive impact on your knee. If it’s your first time buying running shoes don’t buy them online. You need to try on your shoes in store with the assistance of knowledgeable personnel.

Face forward

Your feet should be facing the direction you are running in. This is to ensure that your knee is also facing forward. Splayed feet mean that your knee cap is at a different angle with respect to your foot when your feet are facing forward. The knee cap is not in its optimal position. Splaying your feet can cause inflammation of ligaments which attach to the knee joint and you may experience pain over time.

Strength training

Strength training is important
Strength training is important

If you want to run on a long term basis you will need to dedicate time to strength training. Strength training here doesn’t only mean weight training. All sprinters, mid-distance runners and marathon runners do some form of strength training.
The reason is, muscles and ligaments which hold the joint in its proper position can become weak which may make the joint unstable.
Another reason is the pain you may experience though near the knee might be from the muscle or the ligament and not the knee itself.

In the weight room runners should concentrate on lifting moderately heavy weights. Don’t skip the upper body. If you’re intimidated by the weight room, yoga, pilates or weightless exercises can also be incorporated.

Take your time

Increasing your endurance and speed will take time. Knee pain can be caused by over enthusiastic runners exaggerating their stride. When you over stride you are more prone to striking the ground with the back of your foot which was not meant to be a shock absorber. A greater force is transferred back to the knee.
You want your ‘forefoot’ to be the area that strikes the ground first. That’s nature’s shock absorber.
Good running stance involves leaning slightly forward and shortening your stride to avoid hitting the ground with your heel. What you can seek to improve with less possibility of injury is your stride rate. The number of times your feet hit the ground. Your stride rate can be improved by using turnover and cadence drills.

These tips should help you to become more aware of what it takes to keep your knees in good shape.

Do you already use any of these tips?

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