Good Content from: Team Saucony
The truth is, our sport can be hard on our joints. In fact, it’s so common to have knee pain due to running that injuries related to the joint are broadly labeled as “runner’s knee.” These injuries can present pain on the outer (lateral) side of the knee, kneecap, or inner (medial) side of the knee.
While all of these issues are frustrating to deal with, they don’t have to last forever. Knee pain is often caused by something that can be corrected, such as footwear, muscle imbalances, running form, or training intensity. With the right shoes and targeted strength exercises, you can take the load off your knees for a happy, pain-free ride.
At Saucony, we know that every good run starts with a supportive pair of shoes. Here, we’re sharing advice for choosing the right footwear to ward off knee pain as well as tips for preventing future issues.
If you start to feel knee pain while you run, your shoes might be to blame. With each stride you take, your legs withstand a force of up to three times your body weight, which seriously strains your bones, muscles and joints. Luckily, running shoes absorb a lot of this shock, thanks to cushioning and structural details that help support your foot and arch.
Runners with bad knees should avoid low-profile, minimally-cushioned shoes and, instead, seek out shoes with a higher heel-to-toe drop and thicker cushioning, which provide maximum shock absorption, plus more arch and ankle support. If you suffer from inner knee pain, you might be overpronating (when your foot excessively rolls inward), and you should also consider a stability shoe that will help keep your foot tracking forward.
Best running shoes for knee pain and knee arthritis
Before shopping for shoes to relieve knee pain and knee arthritis, you should first consult with a physical trainer or podiatrist to find out what works best for your body. Some runners might benefit from custom orthotic insoles, which help stabilize the arch and ankle and may relieve knee pain caused by excessive foot movement.
- Triumph 17: For runners craving maximum protection for their joints, our most-cushioned neutral shoe can’t be beat. An 8mm drop plus plush and springy PWRRUN+ foam allows you push off powerfully but land softly.
- Ride ISO 2: Like the Triumph 17, this neutral shoe also has an 8mm drop, but weighs slightly less and features firmer PWRFOAM for a protective and responsive ride.
- Hurricane 22: For runners who want more support and cushioning, this stability shoe offers the best of both worlds, with plenty of plush PWRRUN+ cushioning and a rocker-like heel that keeps you springing forward.
- Guide 13: Fans of the Ride ISO 2 who need a little more support should opt for this shoe, which features PWRRUN cushioning for just-right softness plus a subtle medial post to keep your foot tracking straight.
Once your shoes become flattened or worn-out, make sure to replace them immediately, as the compressed cushioning and broken-down support structures can leave you susceptible to injury.
Second to choosing the right pair of shoes, the key to preventing knee pain is to stretch and strengthen the muscles and tendons surrounding the knee joint. If your hips, quads, hamstrings, or butt are tight or weak, they aren’t as effective at absorbing shock and stabilizing you, which can result in irritated knees.
To help avoid dreaded knee pain, add these key exercises to your weekly routine.
- Foam rolling: If you have pain on the outer side of your knee, it might be caused by a tight IT band (the tendon running from the side of your hip to your knee). To relieve the pain, lie on your side with your legs stacked and place a foam roller under your bottom leg near the top of your thigh. Slowly roll upward, letting the foam roller roll to the bottom of your thigh. Repeat back and forth, making sure to not roll over your hip or knee joints. Switch legs after a few minutes.
- Figure-4 stretch: For runners with tight or weak hips and glutes (which can factor into knee pain), this stretch targets both. Lie on your back with one knee bent up and your foot planted on the ground. Cross your other ankle over the bent knee, forming a “figure 4” with your legs. Wrap your hands around your hamstring on the bent leg; pull the leg toward you until you feel a stretch.
- Clamshells: This exercise strengthens your hips and quads while stabilizing your pelvic muscles, which are critical in preventing knee pain. Lie on your side with your knees bent and stacked on top of each other. Use your hips to open your top knee toward the sky, like a clamshell. Repeat 10 times on one leg, then switch sides. For a more advanced option, try it with a resistance band loop around your quads.
- Glute bridges: This simple exercise works your hips and glutes and stretches your psoas, a deep core muscle that helps stabilize you while you run. Lie on your back with both knees bent toward the ceiling and your feet planted on the ground. Engage your core to raise your hips off the ground, forming a flat line from your chest to your knees. Lower down and repeat; try for 10 to 12 repeats.
- Squats: While it might seem counterintuitive that squats help bad knees, the rumor is true. If done with proper form—with your knees bent at a 90 degree angle and your ankles tracking directly below your knees—squats engage the glutes and quads (both key stabilizing muscles) to raise and lower you without adding pressure to your knees. Once you’re comfortable doing regular squats, you can try squat jumps, where you push off the ground each time you raise up.
Along with regular stretching, foam rolling, and strength training, runners with knee issues should make sure to increase their mileage and intensity gradually, since knee pain is often caused by overuse. If you notice pain, it’s wise to reduce your mileage or rest until the pain subsides. In the meantime, you can cross-train with non-impact exercises like swimming.
Be nice to your knees
With proper footwear, smart training and routine stretching and strengthening, you can fend off pesky knee pain for good. Remember that knee pain is almost always caused by a weakness or tightness somewhere else, such as the hips, hamstrings, glutes and quads. Power up these stabilizing muscles and your knees will thank you!
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