Six Ways to Protect Your Knees for Running

While many people fear that running will be bad for their knees, research suggests that, in fact, if you take it slowly and run with good form, running may offer some protection in the fight against osteoarthritis (Williams, 2013 on PubMed). Of course, running is still a high-impact activity that puts a lot of pressure on your joints, bones, ligaments and cartilage, so if you overdo it, injuries can still happen.

Here are six ways you can protect your knees to ensure you stay as safe as possible while running…

1. Don’t neglect your strength training

Supporting your knee joints by strengthening the surrounding muscles is your best course of action when it comes to knee injury prevention. Doing a regular strength and conditioning session several times a week, including exercises such as single-leg squats, walking lunges, single-leg deadlifts, and planks, will target key running muscles – including your glutes, quads, hamstrings and core – and stronger muscles will help to stabilise your knee joints while you run.

2. Respect your rest days

Those runner’s highs you get can see you bound with enthusiasm from one run to the next… and you might even be tempted to skip those rest days. But don’t! Knee injuries tend to be more prevalent in those who overtrain or who do too much too quickly, going from zero to marathon in the blink of an eye. Your rest days are as important as your running days, as they’re the days when your muscles repair and adapt to the training you’ve been doing. To avoid overtraining, it’s a good idea to follow a training plan that’s suitable for your experience level, so you build up those miles at a sensible rate.

3. Wear the right shoes

While it can be tempting to throw on any old pair of trainers when you first start running, investing in a pair of running shoes that properly support your foot type is one of the best purchases you can make when it comes to injury prevention (knees or otherwise). A gait analysis at a specialist running shop will determine whether your feet pronate (turn inwards) when you run, and you’ll be able to try out shoe options that best support this. They may not be cheap, but a good pair of running shoes will last you hundreds of miles, so they’re well worth the investment.

4. Improve your form

There’s a saying that goes, ‘It’s not running that injures your knees… it’s running with bad form!’ When running, your back should be straight with your shoulders relaxed and down, and you should be looking ahead, rather than down at the ground. Overstriding can also be a cause of knee injury while running. Overstriding means taking steps that are too large, causing the front leg to extend too far out in front of your body, increasing the impact on your knee as you land. Instead, try taking shorter, quicker strides, keeping your feet below your centre of gravity and thus increasing your cadence. If in doubt, seek the help from a running coach.

5. Eat for joint health

Your diet can have an impact on joint health, so make sure yours is filled with foods that have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. Eating plenty of oily fish, such as salmon and mackerel, as well as lots of fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, nuts and pulses can help to reduce joint inflammation, keeping your knees healthy. Studies show that turmeric is also highly anti-inflammatory, so you could consider a supplement.

6. Hit the trails

The surfaces you run on can have a big impact on the health of your knees. If you’ve been struggling with knee pain and tend to run on pavements or hard, tarmac surfaces, consider switching to trails or grass. The softer surfaces will be easier on your knees and, what’s more, running on trails requires greater concentration as you avoid tree roots or rocks, thereby improving your balance and proprioception (your sense of your body in relation to your surroundings).

If you suffer a knee injury, seek the help of one of the amazing physiotherapists or osteopaths at Surrey Physio. Call us on 0208 685 6930 or book online here.