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How to Prevent & Protect Runner's Knees

by Patty Weasler, RN July 30, 2020 0 Comments

Man holding knee brace

Learning about proper knee protection for runners is important, not just to avoid uncomfortable symptoms from runner's knee, but for long-term leg health. Often the best options begin with simple lifestyle changes, paired with exercise, stretching, and leg supports. Read on below to learn more about how you can avoid this painful condition.   


Runner’s knee can be caused by multiple factors, including problems with your feet and kneecap placement. Support with orthotics and braces can temporarily manage the conditions but won’t cure them. Take a look below at some of your options.

  • Footwear

    The right footwear can make all the difference. First, make sure you are wearing supportive running shoes that properly fit your feet. Visit a specialty running store, where they can help you determine which shoes are best for you based on your gait and other factors.

    Another change you can make is to add orthotics to your shoes. These can help correct flat feet, also called fallen arches, and overpronation, when your ankle and foot rolls inward when you step. These conditions can lead to knee pain if left uncorrected.

    If you need help deciding which orthotics are right for you here is a helpful article.

Exercise Tips

When preventing runner’s knee you’ll need to make changes to your exercise routine to strengthen your muscles and allow for recovery as a part of the big picture plan.

  • Vary Exercise Routine

    Repeated stress and strain on your joints can cause injury, like runner’s knee. If you are a runner take breaks from running and bike or swim. For injury prevention, change up your training plan from whichever sport or exercise you normally perform to one that places less stress on your knee joint.

    When choosing runner’s knee exercises It’s important that you work different muscles and train your weak spots. Your quadriceps, hamstrings, and glutes are all vital to keeping your knee stable, with your quadriceps being perhaps the most important. If those thigh muscles are weak or unbalanced your kneecap may not stay in the correct spot.

  • Consider Terrain

    When you’re running try to avoid uneven surfaces and rough terrain. These can throw off your gait and cause you to develop more than just knee problems. Try to run on flat, soft surfaces or a treadmill. Another tip is to make sure to use proper running form. You can have your running form evaluated by a physical therapist or specialty running stores may offer the service.

  • Take it Easy

    Preventing runner’s knee is sometimes easier said than done. Especially for athletes who have a hard time when they’re told to take it easy. But it’s crucial to your body to give yourself rest days and to make sure that you slowly increase the intensity and duration of your workouts. If your knee pain is getting worse when you increase your running mileage then back off. Take a break by doing low-impact activities until your knee is ready for running.

  • Warm-Up

    Another exercise tip is to make sure to warm up before you work out. This can be as simple as walking quickly before you start running. Warming up helps to prevent muscle and joint injury. It gives your body time to the new change in movement and lets your brain get into the mindset for exercise.

Lifestyle Changes

To actively protect and prevent runner’s knee there are a few lifestyle changes that you might have to make.

  • Lose Weight

    If you carry around extra weight that can put additional stress and strain on your knees. We all know losing weight isn’t something that happens overnight and it doesn’t come easy to most people. Loop in your doctor or another support person with your weight loss goals. They can help keep you on track and focused on the big picture.

  • Practice Good Sitting Posture

    With more and more people sitting at a desk job, sitting posture has been pushed to the forefront of workplace health. The ideal ergonomics of sitting at a desk can be a bit complex but in its simple form: keep your feet flat on the ground, legs not crossed, sit up straight, and keep your gaze forward.

    While your leg position will be the most important factor related to runner’s knee, all the other components of your sitting posture will affect multiple other joints that can cause pain when malaligned.

    To learn more about treating and recovering from runner’s knee check out this article.

Foam Rolling

Foam rolling is used to work out tight muscles and relieve any tension caused by muscle knots. You use your own body-weight to press against the foam roller while slowly moving your body to find relief. Check out the foam rolling video below to target your lower body, hamstrings and quadriceps.

Stay Safe With Runner’s Knee Prevention

Runner’s knee is a common running injury that plagues athletes to weekend warriors. The best way to manage the condition is to prevent it from even occurring. With the right footwear, braces, stretching, and lifestyle changes you can protect your knee and avoid injury. If you are unsure how to properly manage runner’s knee talk to your doctor for further medical advice.




Patty Weasler, RN
Patty Weasler, RN

Patty Weasler is a freelance health writer and nurse. She is certified in critical care nursing and has been practicing for over 10 years. Patty lives in Milwaukee, WI with her husband and three children. She enjoys spending her time with family and educating people about their health.

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