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How running affects your knees

Running with shorter strides, avoiding excessive heel striking. Picture by Pexels

Running with shorter strides, avoiding excessive heel striking. Picture by Pexels

Published Jul 6, 2023


A nice form of exercise is to lace up and head out for a run. It can be therapeutic, reduce stress, and improve the quality of your sleep, among other things.

However, concerns about the impact of running on knee health have persisted for years. This article aims to explore the effects of running on the knees, addressing both the potential risks and benefits associated with this activity.

Impact on joint health

Running is a high-impact activity that places repetitive stress on the joints, including the knees. The continuous pounding and ground reaction forces can lead to wear and tear on the knee joint over time.

However, the extent of impact depends on several factors, such as running technique, body mechanics and individual susceptibility.

Increased risk of overuse injuries

Frequent running without proper rest and recovery can increase the risk of overuse injuries, including patellofemoral pain syndrome, iliotibial band syndrome, and patellar tendinitis.

These conditions often manifest as pain around the knee joint and can be exacerbated by factors such as running on hard surfaces, improper footwear or sudden increases in training volume.

Strengthening of supportive structures

Contrary to common belief, running can actually help strengthen the muscles, ligaments, and tendons around the knee joint.

As the body adapts to the repetitive stress, the quadriceps, hamstrings, and calf muscles become stronger, providing better stability and support to the knees. This increased muscular strength can potentially reduce the risk of certain knee injuries.

Running can have both positive and negative effects on knee health. Picture: Andres Ayrton. pexels

Weight nanagement

Running is an effective exercise for weight management, and maintaining a healthy weight can alleviate stress on the knees.

Excess body weight can increase the load placed on the knees during running, potentially exacerbating existing knee conditions or predisposing individuals to knee injuries.

Regular running combined with a balanced diet can help promote weight loss or weight maintenance, positively impacting knee health.

Benefits of controlled and proper technique

Adopting proper running techniques, such as maintaining an efficient stride, using adequate footwear, and gradually increasing training intensity, can minimize the impact on the knees.

Running with shorter strides, avoiding excessive heel striking, and ensuring proper alignment and posture can distribute the forces more evenly throughout the lower extremities, reducing the strain on the knees.

Running can have both positive and negative effects on knee health. While the repetitive impact of running can contribute to joint wear and tear and an increased risk of overuse injuries, it also offers benefits such as strengthening supportive structures, aiding weight management, and improving overall fitness.

To mitigate the potential risks, it is crucial to adopt proper running techniques, gradually increasing training intensity, listening to your body, and allowing adequate time for rest and recovery.

If you have pre-existing knee conditions or concerns, consulting a healthcare professional or a sports medicine specialist can provide personalized guidance to ensure safe and enjoyable running experiences.