Best 5 Exercises for Runner’s Knee

First of all, I need to mention, there is a lot of confusion about runner’s knee, so let’s address the elephant in the room. Many websites will let you believe that runner’s knee is the same as a condition called patellofemoral pain syndrome, with symptoms at the front of your knee.

This is certainly not our understanding of runner’s knee.

Runner’s knee is where you get pain on the outside of your knee. How can I be so sure? Because I’ve had it, on and off for years. It started aged 17 when I ran a half marathon. I was flying round, but in a new pair of shoes. I clocked a time of about 1 hour 35, but the last half a mile I was staggering due to knee pain. I was limping for a few days after the race. I had entry to the London Marathon not too long after, which I had to decline and pull out of. I remember being disappointed because I was hoping to raise funds for a friend who had recently ended up paralyzed from a bad rugby accident. However, I knew I could not run. The pain was just too bad.

Fast forward, and I’ve had runner’s knee repeatedly over 20 years. The last London Marathon that I ran was so painful that I had about 30 physiotherapy treatments just to get me through it. The pain on the outside of my knee was unbearable. I would have to hobble home. After finishing the London Marathon after hobbling from mile 19, I really did think something bad was wrong, so I went for an MRI of my knee, and was diagnosed with, yes you guessed it, runner’s knee.

What Runner’s Knee is Not

Runner’s knee is not patellofemoral pain syndrome. That’s jumper’s knee or sometimes known as squatter’s knee. Runners tend to get lateral (outside) knee pain, not front knee pain. Jumpers on the other hand, or people who do a lot of squatting, get pain at the front of the knee. Jumpers and squatters are quite similar in movement patterns, but runners are not. Runners don’t tend to get pain at the front of the knee, unless they are older and have something called a degenerative meniscus tear.

What Runner’s Knee Is:

Runner’s knee is lateral (outside) knee pain where the IT band frictions against the outside of your knee, irritating a small bursa and the tendon. The repetitive 21-degree knee flexion during running is just the right angle to irritate the ITB on the outside of the knee. It’s generally fine, but the problem comes when you overload it. That’s doing too much, for too long, too frequently.

Best 5 Exercises for Runner’s Knee

1. ITB stretch

Standing, cross your legs, and run your arm down the side of your leg. You should feel a stretch in your back, and slightly on the outside of the opposite leg.

Hold for 30 seconds | Repeat 3x

2. Glute Stretch

Lie on your back, and bring your knee towards your opposite shoulder to feel a stretch in your bottom. Tip: changing the angle you take the leg will change the position of the stretch and you can play around with the position to find the stretch that feels most effective for you.

Hold for 30 seconds | Repeat 3x

3. Quad Stretching

Lie face down, and bend your knee bringing your heel towards your bottom. Use your hand or a towel to create overpressure. You will feel a stretch into the front of your thigh.

Hold for 30 seconds | Repeat 3x

4. Clam Shell Advanced

Lie on your side, with both knees bent. Squeeze your deep abdominal muscles by drawing the belly button inwards. Keeping your feet together, lift the feet 3-4 inches above the floor. Open your knees, like a clam, hold, and return to the start position. This is a good strengthening exercise for your gluteal (buttock) and outer thigh/hip muscles. It also works the abdominal core muscles.

Perform 15 reps | Repeat 3x

5. Hamstring Stretch

Standing up, place your foot on a chair or Swiss ball. Keep your leg straight. Pull your toes and ankle towards you. You should feel a stretch behind your knee and your calf muscle and into the back of your thigh. To make the stretch stronger, push your leg downwards into the ball/chair, or rest your foot on something higher.

Hold for 30 seconds | Repeat 3x

Perform 15 reps | Repeat 3x

And Finally:

Seek physiotherapy or osteopathy from my amazing team at Surrey Physio. It really will help reduce your pain and get you through those long runs.

Therapists, osteopaths, sports therapists, chiropractors reading this page… if you love the exercises here, then please check out the amazing exercise prescription tool You can sign up for a free 14-day trial, and it’s affordable to buy, with pricing starting from £11.23 per month.

For more info read about the TFL it may be interesting, as the TFL inserts into the ITB. Check out this guide.

If you are a patient, in pain, or suffering with Runner’s Knee please call us to discuss your case further. Surrey Physio have an amazing team of therapists to help you recover from pain, and get you back to living a normal life. Call us on 0208 685 6930 or click here to book online.