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Knee Pain After Running: Causes And How To Fix It

Just when you had been making progress with your runs and thought all was well with your running routine, a sudden knee pain hits you and it all seems to go downhill from there. If you’ve been or are in this situation – you are not alone. Knee injuries are a common, dreadful problem for many runners. Luckily, most injuries are manageable and there are plenty of solutions on how to treat them and prevent them.

Why Do my Knees Hurt When I Run?

Running as an activity can put a lot of pressure on joints and muscles if runners don’t adopt a good form and warm up properly. While some injuries can happen due to factors such as age and genetics, most of the common knee injuries among runners are a result of a poor running form.

Heel striking the ground, for example, especially when running on roads, can create a big amount of impact on the heels and knees. A long stride and lifting your knees as you run can also put additional pressure on your joints.

Apart from your form, not wearing the right running shoes that offer enough support as your feet hit the ground can also be a contributing factor to knee pain.

Common Injuries

While knee pain is often manageable, it can still be problematic if ignored and left untreated. The first step to overcoming injury is identifying the problem. Here are some of the most common injuries for runners:

Runner’s Knee 

The alternative name for Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome, ‘runner’s knee,’ is not a mere coincidence; this is one of the most common injuries that affect runners and other athletes alike.

Where it hurts?

This injury is usually associated with a dull pain in and around the front of the knee. The kneecap can also be sensitive to the touch and you may hear clicking and grinding sounds when you bend and straighten the knee.

This type of pain from injury usually happens during your runs or when you are walking up and downstairs.

What causes it?

While runner’s knee can happen due to a structural defect, most often it is caused by an overuse injury. Excessive and repetitive strain to the knees by frequently engaging in strenuous running activity can cause the kneecap to rub up against the thigh bone, leading to deterioration in the kneecap. The injury can also come as a result of flat feet, weak or tight thigh muscles, and improper or lack of stretches for knee pain running can cause.

How to fix it?

First and foremost, if you have runner’s knee, it is best to stop running for a while until you can run again without experiencing pain. Other treatments to help alleviate the pain include using cold packs or frozen bags, compression gear for reducing swelling, and elevating the leg when sitting or lying down to prevent further swelling.

You can use nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as aspirin, ibuprofen, or naproxen to help with pain as well, but we recommend talking to a doctor if you are unsure or have other health conditions that the drugs can interfere with.

Patellar Tendinitis 

Patellar tendinitis, also known as jumper’ knee, is an injury of the tendon that connects the kneecap (patella) to your shinbone. This condition is an inflammation of the patellar tendon which weakens it and it can lead to its tear if left untreated.

Where it hurts?

The first signs of patellar tendinitis are usually a tenderness at the base of the kneecap, as well as swelling and a burning sensation between the kneecap and the tendon that attaches to the shinbone (tibia).

The pain usually occurs when you are walking, running, and jumping. You can also feel it when you bend or straighten your leg and kneel down or up during an exercise.

What causes it?

Frequent jumping, especially in hard surfaces like asphalt, is one of the most common causes of patellar tendinitis. Studies have found that this injury is also associated with overuse of the knee joint and repeated stress to the tendon. Other causes include uneven muscle strength of both legs, excessive body weight, and lack of flexibility.

How to fix it?

As with runner’s knee, the best way to tackle patellar tendinitis is to first refrain from running and other exercises that will cause tension on the knee joint. To help reduce any swelling, apply an ice pack to your knee and elevate the leg with a pillow or splint when you lie down. NSAIDs like aspirin, ibuprofen, and aspirin can be helpful for pain relief as well. Stretching and strengthening exercises will also help for a quicker and more efficient recovery.

Iliotibial Band Syndrome (ITBS)

The iliotibial band is a thick band of tissue that runs from the outside of the pelvis, over the outer hip, and to the outside of the knee. ITBS occurs when the iliotibial band gets too tight, which can lead to swelling and pain around the knee. 

Where it hurts?

This injury is characterized with pain on the outside of the knee, just above the joint. This pain usually occurs and is most intense around five minutes into your run. 

What causes it?

ITBS can occur as a result of biomechanical imbalances in the body, irregular form, or in most cases, the two combined. This injury is often associated with having a wider pelvis, which means the degree of rotation of it is bigger and consequently more pressure on the iliotibial band. 

Failing to properly warm up before and cool down after the run are also contributing factors to ITBS. Poor flexibility and strength in the lower back, hips, knees, and leg muscles can increase the chances of this injury as well.

How to fix it?

If you are experiencing this pain, it is best to rest by either decreasing your mileage or pausing from running altogether. Cross training exercises and activities are a great way to stay active while you give your knee a break until it heals. Over-the-counter pain relievers can help to alleviate pain. Cold therapy (applying an ice pack on the outside of your knee) is also a great option to help with pain.


Knee osteoarthritis, also known as wear-and-tear arthritis, is a condition in which the cartilage of the knee degenerates or breaks down. The cartilage is the smooth, slippery tissue that protects the bones from the friction and impact of joints. When it deteriorates or breaks, the joints rub closely against each other without its protection, which can lead to pain, swelling, and stiffness in the knee.

Where it hurts?

Osteoarthritis can cause a feeling of warmth in the joint, stiffness, and swelling in the knee. The pain can intensify during running, but it can also be present during daily activities, especially when waking up from a night’s sleep or you have been in a sitting position for a longer period of time.

What causes it? 

Injuries, overuse, anatomical instability of the joint, or being overweight, can all be possible causes of osteoarthritis. Running alone, however, has not shown evidence of being a direct cause of osteoarthritis, and there seems to be no known exact cause of this condition, except for the fact that it is the body’s inability to repair joint tissue.

How to fix it?

While osteoarthritis does not have a cure, it does not necessarily worsen over time. Treatment for osteoarthritis of the knee varies from the condition’s degree. Weight loss in cases of overweight patients has shown to reduce pressure from the condition. Anti-inflammatory drugs can also help to alleviate pain.

When running, pain should serve as a signal to reduce the effort and run with more ease. To reduce the pressure on joints, opt for running on grass or other soft surfaces. 

How to Prevent Knee Pain When Running?

Knee pain is often caused by factors that can be easily prevented. Here are some of the measures you can take to avoid chances of knee injuries and the pain that comes with them.

Improve your running form 

For a good running form that will take the pressure off your knees, avoid striking the ground with your heel and opt for striking with your midfoot instead. The body should lean forward so the weight is distributed toward the front feet.

When you land, keep the knees soft and bent instead of straightening them. Increasing the stride rate and taking shorter and lighter steps will also help with decreasing the pressure on kneecaps. 

Run on softer surfaces

The harsh surfaces of roads can add stress to joints due to the high impact force when your feet hit the ground. When possible, switch it up and consider running on trails or hills to strengthen a wider range of muscles and build more stability in the joints.

Don’t skip strength training

Strength training is an integral part of a well-rounded running routine. When you are not out for a run, consider a strength training session to help build up the muscles that support the knees. Some great strength exercises for preventing knee injuries are straight leg raises, calf raises, half squats, hamstring curls, leg presses, wall sits, and more of the like.

Warm up and cool down properly

A warm up routine is necessary for runners; it ensures that your muscles, bones, and joints are loosened up and ready to gradually adjust to the rhythm of your run. Cooling down, as well, is crucial for gradually easing the muscles and body into their pre-run state. In this case, you protect the knees from the sudden shock they experience from the contact with the ground’s surface by ensuring a smoother transition to the movement that comes with running.

Find appropriate shoes

Your choice of running shoes can make the biggest difference when it comes to knee injury prevention. To ease the impact loading on your knees, opt for running shoes that are supportive and have balanced cushioning that offers stability. Shock absorption and arch support are also features to look for in shoes in order to prevent knee injuries.

Is It Safe to Run with Knee Pain?

While you do not necessarily need to stop all physical activities, knee pain can in times be a serious problem that should not be overlooked. When you are experiencing pain, the safest choice is to rest until it gets better. If it’s reoccurring, consulting a doctor will be the smartest decision, so you get professional guidance and therapy if needed.

These were some of the most common issues when it comes to knee pain after running. With caution, attentiveness, and proper treatment they can be fixed and relieved in most cases. With some preventative measures, the chances for injury can considerably decrease as well.


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