Tips for Running Without Damaging the Knee Joints

These tips for running will help you achieve runner's high while keeping your joints safe.


Photo by Jenny Hill on Unsplash


Need a natural mood booster? Putting on your running shoes and hitting the trails might do the trick. But how to make sure that this exercise doesn’t take a toll on the knee joint? These tips for running are steps in the right direction.


Start Slow


As with most things in life, consistency trumps intensity. The human body needs ample time to adapt to a routine, especially high-impact exercises like running. So instead of going too hard, too fast, too soon, taking it slow and consistently increasing mileage might be the better approach.


In fact, most long-distance runners follow the 10-percent rule, which states that you should increase your weekly mileage by no more than 10-percent. For instance, if you run a total of 20 miles this week, you should run no more than 22 miles next week.


This rule is one of those time-proven tips for running that many professionals swear by. This technique helps prevent overuse injuries which is very common among runners.


Learn more about the principles behind this rule here.


Master Good Running Form


Running does not cause knee injury. The science has been very clear on this. In fact, there's a study involving 45 long-distance runners and 53 nonrunners, which aims to discover the comparative progression of knee osteoarthritis between runners and nonrunners. After almost two decades of continued radiographic observation, researchers concluded that only 20% of runners suffered from osteoarthritis as opposed to 32% of nonrunners. Data from this study also suggest that severe osteoarthritis may not be common among runners.


Running with poor form is another matter, however. Poor posture when hitting the tracks puts undue pressure on the knees, which increases the risk for knee injuries.


Due to our unique biomechanics, the proper running form may vary slightly for different individuals. But having these basics down pat is a good first step:


• Look ahead

• Lean slightly forward

• Elbows bent at 90 degrees

• Use the back leg to propel forward

• Keep shoulder blades tight and torso upright


Mind Those Shoes


Running shoes could be a runner’s best ally–or worst nightmare. It could spell the difference between safety or injury on the track. Gearing up for a run might entail a visit to the local shoe store first. Here's how to choose your new best friend on the trail.


Check out this definitive guide in choosing the right running shoes.


Fit for Comfort


Comfort is of supreme importance when choosing the perfect running shoes. Look for one which fits snugly and yet allows the feet to move comfortably through each stride. That’s why it might be best to take the shoes for a test run before purchasing them.


Perfect Cushioning


The legs and knees bear the brunt of our weight as our feet hit the ground when we run. That’s why a good pair of running shoes must have ample cushioning as a shock absorber to decrease the impact on the knees. Pay particular attention to the midsole, sock liner, and forefoot if they have a cushioning level that’s just right for you.


Lightweight Feel


The last thing our knees need is added weight when we run. When shopping for the right running shoes, go for one with lightweight construction. The miles would seem effortless when you don’t feel weighed down.


Support and Stability


A good pair of running shoes feels sturdy and stable enough to guard your feet against untoward movements that could lead to injury.


Choose Where You Run


Not all running surfaces are created equal. One of the most sensible safety tips for running is to choose where you run, especially if you’ve suffered from injuries before.


Generally, you may want to avoid rigid surfaces like asphalt or cement. A study that focused on foot pressure when running on different surfaces shows that rigid surfaces like asphalt and cement cause more musculoskeletal stress compared to running on grass. That’s why people who have suffered from fractures or knee injuries and are just starting to get back up on their feet will do well with grass.


Other surfaces that pose a low risk for injuries include:


• Treadmill


This equipment is specially designed, so you get the most out of running while minimizing its risk. A treadmill’s cushioned surface reduces stress to your knees, legs, back, and hips.


To make sure you stick to your running, enroll in a fitness facility near you, so you have easy access to a treadmill.


• Tracks


Uneven surfaces are the least of your worries when running on a track. Plus, the distance is accurately measured, so you’re less likely to go overboard.


• Trails


Trails are typically good with their soft surfaces. Just steer clear from trails with lots of uneven surfaces, rocks, and roots especially if you’re not familiar with the place or you’ve suffered from a leg injury in the past. Paved and rails-to-trails routes are the perfect surfaces to get into your stride.


Dose Up With Supplements


Food supplements are a staple in most professional runners. And even if you’re nowhere near Olympics level and you’re just running for the sheer pleasure of it, you’ll still benefit from taking supplements to give your body the nutrition it needs to function well and recover. If you rummage through a runner’s locker, these supplements are what you’ll most likely find:


Glucosamine and Chondroitin


Research on these popular age-old supplements for runners produces conflicting results. A study on the effects of glucosamine and chondroitin on people with osteoarthritis was published in The New England Journal of Medicine. The study concluded that those with mild pain didn’t experience any benefit from these supplements, while those with moderate to severe pain experienced modest relief.


While these supplements remain controversial, there’s no shortage of anecdotal evidence from runners who continue to take these supplements to help their bodies recover faster and keep their knees in the best shape.


Vitamin D


Early morning sunshine can do wonders for the body. Vitamin D, the “sunshine vitamin”, plays a key role in the uptake of calcium and mineralization of the bone. So if you want to keep bone injuries at bay, a regular intake of Vitamin D supplements or sun exposure is what you need.


Omega 3


Omega 3 from fish oil is also another popular supplement in the runner's world. This supplement has anti-inflammatory properties and helps sore muscles recover faster after a good run.


In a study published in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, it’s been found that those who took Omega 3 supplements were less sore and their range of motions is higher compared to those who have taken placebos.


Magnesium


This mineral does not just boost your workout performance; this also plays a key role in muscular processes. It also protects you from oxidative stress, relaxes sore muscles, and helps maintain healthy bones.


After sweating it out on the trail, your body loses some of this vital mineral and electrolyte. You can easily replenish your body’s supply of it by taking a magnesium supplement.


Consider Other Exercises


While these tips for running could help protect your knee joint, there’s no denying that this is still a high-impact exercise, and it may not be the best workout plan for some people. If you’re suffering from moderate to severe osteoarthritis or a knee injury, you might want to skip running in favor of these other alternatives:


Speedwalking


If you can’t pick up your strides by running, go for the next best thing — speedwalking. This low-impact cardio workout gives you most of the benefits of running without being too hard on your knees. Just make sure to start out on flat and even surfaces before you level up and go on a hiking adventure.


Swimming/Pool Exercise


People who have to go easy on their joints without reducing intensity will find swimming or pool exercises a good alternative. You get to make similar motions with exercises in the water without putting too much stress on your joints. Just avoid kicking or pushing off the wall while you’re in the pool.


Cycling


You can hop onto a bike and enjoy the outdoors or get some workouts done on a stationary bike at home. You get to burn calories, strengthen muscles, improve your fitness without risking injury to your joints.

Achieving that highly coveted runner’s high doesn’t have to come at the expense of your joint health. These tips for running will help you get on track with your workout goals while taking care of your knees and bones.