runner's knee

runnerskneeThis injury got its name from unfortunately being all too common among runners. I have heard a lot lately from runner’s in my area about Runner’s Knee. Therefore, I thought it was as good a time as any to share what I know to be true about the injury. Running causes irritation on the patella (kneecap) where it rests on the thighbone. The pain resulting from this irritation can be dull or sharp, and alignment persistent.

There may be an issue with running bio-mechanics, but it mostly comes from weak quadriceps and tight hamstrings. At the first sign of pain, reduce your weekly mileage. The following is more detail to consider related to possible Runner’s Knee. First, I must share my standard disclaimer when addressing running injuries either via my blog or in person…

Where It Hurts and How It Feels:

  • Bottom and/or medial side of the knee cap.
  • Felt more when walking up or down stairs/hills or when doing jumping or plyometric exercises.
  • Pain is typically described as more of a dull ache than a sharp pain.
  • Difficult straightening leg after a long period of sitting with knees bent.


  • Overuse or a sudden increase in the intensity of physical activity.  Following a training plan is an excellent idea to keep you on track to reach your goals, but sometimes our bodies cannot handle the constant pounding from higher weekly mileage or the addition of new types of training such as speed-work or tempo runs.  Each person has their threshold of weekly mileage that their bodies can handle.  You can steadily raise that bar with proper training, but don’t compare your threshold of weekly mileage to someone else’s weekly mileage ability.
  • Tightness or weakness of the quadricep muscles, especially the Vastus Medialis Oblique muscle that runs along the medial side of the thigh and connects to the knee.  This muscle group being imbalanced or weak can cause increased hip motion and more torque on the kneecap.

Contributing Factors:

  • Overpronation of the foot.
  • Poor biomechanics or improper foot positioning while running (heel striker).
  • Differing leg lengths can put more stress on the kneecap typically on the shorter leg.
  • Training surface and/or terrain.


Most literature on shin splints will refer to ”The 3 S’s” for treating shin splints.  This refers to stretching, strengthening, and supporting. Also, runners should attempt to ice and rest the area for a period of time. CAUTION – If injury persists, see your physician.

  • Stretch – Improve flexibility of hamstrings, quadriceps, IT Band, and calf to reduce pressure on your knee cap.
    calf stretches
  • Strength – gaining strength in your quadriceps muscle is easier than you think. Check out the videos below for strengthening exercises that fit right into your daily routine…
  • Support – Check into a local running specialty store to have your foot analyzed and matched up with the best footwear options.  Yes, there are a lot of online resources and opinions out there on the best shoes, but your feet are not the same as the next person out there.  You are unique…Your feet have a unique length and shape, your arch has a unique length and shape, your hips and knees are uniquely aligned, and your running form is unique as well.  The only way to know what footwear is correct for you is to have a footwear specialists take a look at your uniqueness and allow them to use their wealth of bio-mechanic and footwear knowledge to fit you properly.
  • Replace running shoes every 350 to 500 miles.  Track your weekly mileage in training and each pair of running shoes.  Also, pay attention to wear on the bottom of the shoes.  Just like the tires on your car, when the tread starts to get really smooth, that is the visual sign that the cushion and support of the shoe have worn down.  Do not wait until you start to feel physical soreness or pain.  The best practice is to buy new shoes before your current pair is worn out and start alternating in a new pair over the last bit of the older shoe life.
  • Avoid running on technical terrain, downhill/uphill, and walking on stairs.
  • Decrease your weekly mileage and/or overall pace for 1-2 weeks while working on ”The 3 S’s.”


foamrollerTrigger Point GRID Foam Roller
Trusted foam roller of physical and massage therapists, coaches, trainers, and athletes provides muscle recovery, pain relief, and improved flexibility. Constructed from quality materials that won’t break down or lose shape from repeated use. Patented foam roller design offers a superior, multi-density exterior constructed over a rigid, hollow core.
Rock Tape | Kinesiology Tape
RockTape is a special kind of tape known as kinesiology tape. First used by acupuncturists and chiropractors in Japan, today kinesiology tape is used by practitioners throughout the world to treat injuries and improve sports performance. Proper application for runner’s knee should be direct by a registered practitioner. Both allignment and tension of tape are critical to improving your symptoms related to any injury.
Pro-Tec Patella Knee Strap

This handy little knee strap can be perfect for alleviating some knee pain associated with runner’s knee. Use it to maintain some of your weekly mileage, but it is not considered a substitute for treatment of the issue at hand. The knee strap provides consistent pressure on the patella tendon to reduce discomfort and irritation.


SPRI Softer Foam Roller Option

Just like the Trigger Point GRID Foam Roller, use this tool to massage and relieve pain from the area. If your pain tolerance level is low or you have a large amount of discomfort, then this softer option is the right choice.


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