When you are a runner, a painful knee is incredibly annoying and in some cases debilitating. As most experienced runners will tell you, knee injuries are almost inevitable when you are running regularly. It’s down to a lot of factors – some that you can control, while others that are really down to your biomechanical structure. For example, you can perfect your running technique over a few months, but just one erroneous step can lead to an injury.

About 40 percent of running injuries are knee injuries, so it’s by far the most common. The Runner’s Knee or Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome (PFPS) is the most common type, and results in pain on the inside or outside of the knee. If you wake up a painful knee and it refuses to go away through the day, then you are the unfortunate victim of a Runner’s Knee.

Runner’s Knee typically occurs due to a long run (without proper warmup), after extended periods of sitting, or if you have poor posture and strides. It’s particularly painful while descending stairs or a slope, so downhill running is totally unadvisable when suffering from a painful knee. In addition, there are other biomechanical factors that end up causing pain in the knee. This could be a natural overpronation (i.e when your foot rolls inwards after landing), weak quads, hips, and glutes.

Work on your glutes
Take some extra days of rest and reduce your total running time. It’s also recommended to work on your glutes and strengthen them by running uphill or simulating an uphill run on a treadmill. Strong glute muscles control hip and thigh movement, and prevent the knees from turning inward when landing. Weak hips and glutes can lead to the thigh rotating internally as the foot comes in contact with the ground, and this in turn results in your knee being pinched.

Skip running, try swimming
Instead of running, try some activities and exercises that don’t exert your knees as much. Try the elliptical at your gym or a swimming day to keep your body active yet injury free. Cycling is another activity that will help strengthen your glutes and hamstring, while also protecting your knee from the kind of exertion that leads to Runner’s Knee.

Fix your strides
When you do get back to running, remember to keep your strides short and your knee slightly bent when you are landing. The easiest way to keep your strides shorter is landing your foot under your knee joint and not in front it. This helps keep some of the upper body load off your knee. While it’s not possible to change your technique immediately, make a conscious effort and your knees will be thankful for it.

Make sure you don't take giant strides when running
Make sure you don’t take giant strides when running (Image: Shutterstock)

Do the rehab
Once you do have a knee injury that you have shaken off, consult a physiotherapist for rehab exercises. Knee injuries may be masked by one or two days of running in the right form, but they are likely to flare up when you neglect your technique for even one day. And it can lead to continued risk of future problems, trapping you in a repeated cycle of injury.

Check your shoes
If your shoes look worn out or offer little cushioning support, it’s time to hit the shoe store. You should buy shoes that provide adequate support to reduce shock. Since it’s not advisable to run on hilly or undulating surfaces, get shoes that offer extra cushioning, instead of ones that offer better grip. You may choose to run on up-and-down tracks after the knee has sufficiently recovered.

Main image: Shutterstock

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