How to Prevent Knee Injury
and Knee Pain

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By far, the largest complaint I get from runners is that it’s so hard on their knees. I have my own take on running and it’s a little different. It’s that running is blamed for knee problems when it’s actuality not running causing the injuries. It’s the way people run that causes problems. The truth is, if you can work on your running technique so that there is minimal impact or undue stress to your knees, you’ll never have knee problems. It’s pretty simple.

Here are some ways to protect those precious knees and insure that you can run for many more years without the worry of having to give it all up someday because your knees are toast.

  • Avoid heel striking: Don’t over-stride and let your feet get ahead of you. Always make it a point to NEVER step past your knees, and learn to let your legs swing rearward, not forward. If your feet land in front of your knees, you’ll be putting on the brakes with every foot strike. Then, all of the shock of hitting the road goes right up your legs to your knees, which were never designed to act as shock absorbers. Eventually, all of this impact to your knees will present as pain in your joints or soreness in your muscles. If this is happening to you, I suggest you listen to what your body is trying to tell you, and change your stride mechanics, or you could end up on the bench. What to do: Always lean from your ankles and let your stride open up behind you so that when your feet swing forward they land beneath you instead of in front of you. Another thing to do: Get the ChiRunning DVD to see how it’s done.
  • Don’t lift your knees when you run: That’s right. Pay no attention to the advice of all those running magazines that tell you to lift your knees and reach forward for a longer stride. That’s intended advice for sprinters… and certainly not how you should run any distance longer than a mile. Lifting your knees, makes your lower legs makes your feet hit the ground in front of your body and, as I just said previously, you’ll be putting on the brakes with every stride. What to do: Keep your knees swinging low. At the back end of each stride, bend your knees and let your heels float up behind you. You should always be thinking, “knees down, heels up.”
  • Lean your entire body forward: Remember, anytime your foot comes down in front of your body, you’re putting the brakes and the shock of that deceleration is going straight into your knees. What to do: Always try to land in a midfoot strike.
  • Keep your knees soft and bent during the landing and support phases of your stride. I see many runners over-stride and then straighten their knees when they land. This creates an incredible amount of impact to the heel and the knee. What to do: Make a pact with yourself that you will never again straighten your legs when you run. Problem solved.
  • Keep your feet aimed in the direction you are running: If your feet splay it can create knee pain because you’re torquing your knee with every foot strike. Imagine someone grabbing your ankle and twisting it to the outside 1200 times every 10 minutes! What to do: Always run with your feet pointed in the direction you’re headed. Rotate your entire leg inward towards your centerline until your feet are parallel and pointing forward. This can permanently fix your problem by strengthening your adductors to realign your legs. Then, your knees will hinge in the direction they were designed to, instead of twisting as they bend.Foot splay also affects the iliotibial band which, at its lower end, attaches to the lateral side of your tibia just below your knee. Lateral pain in your knees is more often an iliotibial problem and is often mistaken for a knee problem. What to do: Increase the amount you rotate your legs inward in small increments over a number of weeks or months, to give the muscles, tendons and fascia in your feet, knees and legs time to adjust to their new direction of movement. Changing the biomechanics of your body takes time and persistence, but it’s well worth it if you’d like to never have to deal with knee pain again.
  • Don’t rely on cushioned shoes to fix your knees: It’s always better to fix a running problem from the inside out and many running shoes with too much cushioning can actually exacerbate knee problems. What to do: Go for low-profile neutral shoes and allow your body to make the necessary adjustments toward a softer landing.

Taking good care of your knees should be a high priority, especially if you want to continue to enjoy running year after year. Reducing torque and impact are the two best places to build a life insurance policy for your knees. Start today and your knees will thank you every time you put on your running shoes.

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