Hot Tips For Runners With Knee Pain - By Stephanie Vanden-Bergh (Musculoskeletal Physiotherapist)


Hot Tips For Runners With Knee Pain

Is your knee pain bugging you during your run? If yes, well you are not alone. Knee cap (Patellofemoral joint) pain is a common condition that affects up to 25% of the population and sorry ladies, those stats are higher for us.  

During running our foot strikes the ground and as Newton said “for every reaction there is an equal and opposite reaction” – this is the ground reaction force. It’s up to our leg to absorb this force, store it and release it again in the next stride. The knee cap is a pivotal link in this kinetic chain as it stores and releases energy during  your 21km run (or roughly 42,000 steps).

Although many variables (both environmental and structural) influence the amount of compressive load on your knee recent studies have shown that the force varies between 2 – 5 times your body weight – wow!

So it’s no wonder your knee might get sore from time to time but don’t fret I can help. I have compiled a little list of some easy to try tips and tricks.

  • Increase your cadence. Shorten your stride but speed up those legs. Land softly to reduce your ground reaction force.

  • Trial prefabricated foot orthotics.

  • Avoid stairs and downhill running.

  • Lose weight. Be sure you are within a health weight range. Remember up to 5.6 times your body weight goes through your kneecap every step of the way. If you are doing your 10 000 steps a day and you lose just 1kg, that is 10 tonnes less weight going through your knee cap daily.

  • Foam roller massage may help to temporarily reduce pain.

  • Improve your hip (gluteals) and knee (quadriceps) strength. There is solid evidence to support the use of therapeutic exercise in the long term treatment of patella (knee cap) pain. Some very basic exercises that I sometimes use are demonstrated below. The key is to strength the leg without increasing pain >3/10. Symptoms should settle within the hour after and not flare up the following morning. Give them a go! If you are having trouble or need more help then pop in for an appointment.

You’ll notice that rest isn’t listed above. Complete rest from physical activity, although initially results in less pain, will ultimately lead to deconditioning and wasting of those leg muscles you worked hard for. Relative rest is key. This may involve reducing the distance but increasing your frequency of weekly runs. It may mean running slower or walking instead.  

For those of you suffering knee pain, statistics have shown that 50% of people with patellofemoral pain will have symptoms persisting for up to 20 years! This is crazy.  Don’t tolerate pain - get it sorted! Give these exercises a go. If symptoms persist, make an appointment as there are many variables as to why you might have knee pain and just as many fixes. 

Double leg bridge.jpg
single leg bridge.jpg

1. The Supine Bridge: Lie with your knees bent. Curl your tailbone, then pelvis, then lower back upwards. Be sure to squeeze your bottom (Gluteal) muscles throughout. Curl down and repeat. Aim for 3 x 50 repetitions

2. Single Leg Bridge: Lie on your back with one knee bent and the other raised off the ground. Curl your tailbone, then pelvis, then lower back upwards. Be sure to focus on squeezing your bottom (Gluteal) muscles. Aim for 3 x 30 repetitions. 

side plank.jpg
Side plank hip abduction.jpg

1. Side Plank: Prop yourself up on your forearm and either stacked knees or stacked feet depending on your fitness level. Raise your pelvis up off the floor and hold. Aim for 3 x 45-90 seconds on both right and left sides. 

2. Side Plank with Hip Abduction: Prop your self up on your forearm and your bottom knee or foot. Raise your top leg and pulse it up and down. Aim for 3 x 15-30 repetitions. 

Wall Squat.jpg

1. Wall Squat: Have your back to the wall. Feet and knees roughly hip width apart. Aim to have your knees facing your second toe. Only go as low as comfortable. You can still get a good workout by hold a wall squat at 60 degrees for upwards of 1 minute. Aim for 3-6 x 30-60 seconds. 

The above exercises are just suggestions and should cease doing them if they cause an aggravation of pain during or after completion.  For exercise that are specific to your needs, make an appointment

Enjoy your weekend!

Stephanie Vanden-Bergh

Feel Good | Be Lively