How to Choose Running Shoes to Protect Knees

Last updated on February 21st, 2024

knees pain when running

There are various forms of knee pain that runners may encounter during their training. To enhance their comfort and provide adequate support throughout their journey, it is crucial for them to select the appropriate pair of running shoes.

Engaging in regular running has a multitude of advantages for both the mind and body. Surprisingly, even dedicating a mere 50 minutes per week to running can enhance your overall well-being and reduce the likelihood of mortality, as revealed by a comprehensive analysis featured in The British Journal of Sports Medicine.

Nevertheless, it is important to acknowledge that running can take a toll on your knees. With each stride, you subject your knees to a force equivalent to three to four times your body weight, making this repetitive and high-impact activity potentially responsible for knee discomfort. Are you under the impression that your knees are simply destined to suffer?

Strength training, adopting correct form, and wearing running shoes that provide sufficient cushioning can enable numerous runners to conquer knee pain. The initial stage entails identifying the root cause of the discomfort and implementing measures to avoid its recurrence.

knees pain when running

1.Stabilizing features or midsole cushioning

If you have a tendency to supinate, meaning that your foot leans outward when it lands, you might require additional padding in your footwear to absorb shock. Nevertheless, excessive cushioning in your running shoes can potentially amplify the impact on your knees. It may be necessary to experiment with various levels of cushioning until you discover the perfect balance in a shoe that provides adequate cushioning.

If your knee pain is a result of overpronation, where your foot tilts inward upon impact, it is advisable to consider stability shoes that offer structural reinforcement like medial posts.

Additionally, stability shoes with a wider base, specifically designed for shock absorption, can potentially alleviate the strain on your knees.

strength training after running

Before you embark on a journey with your new shoes, it is essential to ensure they fit perfectly. Avoiding any reliance on a break-in period, take the time to examine their fit and comfort. Additionally, it is advisable to conduct a trial run to guarantee that the comfort remains consistent throughout.

2. Heel-Toe Drop

Heel-toe drop, the variation in height between the heel and forefoot of a running shoe, affects the distribution of impact on your muscles during each step. Opting for a lower heel drop is recommended for alleviating various forms of knee pain, such as IT band syndrome and runner's knee.

Conversely, if your knees are affected by plantar fasciitis pain and your stride is compensating for it, a higher heel-toe drop might prove advantageous.

3. Supportive Upper

When searching for a upper that allows air to flow and prevents moisture buildup, it's important to find one that also offers a snug fit and specific support. Nike's FlyKnit technology, for instance, is a fantastic choice as it is not only long-lasting and lightweight, but it also molds to your foot like a sock, granting essential support and cushioning precisely where needed.

4. Lightweight Construction

When selecting footwear, it is crucial to avoid burdening your knees with heavy shoes and boots. Opt for a pair that strikes a harmonious equilibrium between providing support and cushioning, while also offering a lightweight sensation.

strength training after running

When it comes to knee pain, runners may encounter a variety of causes. It's important to note that although there are numerous suggestions and exercises to maintain strong and painless knees, it is crucial to consult a healthcare professional for specialized medical advice if the pain continues.

1. Runner’s Knee

If the muscles in your legs are not strong or flexible enough, it is possible that your kneecaps are not properly aligned. This misalignment can lead to various painful conditions caused by the repetitive stress of impact. Walking, running, squatting, and climbing stairs may all become sources of discomfort.

What You Should Be Aware Of: It is crucial to warm up before engaging in physical activity and gradually increase the distance you run as you simultaneously focus on building strength in your legs.

Additionally, diversifying your exercise routine to promote the development of well-rounded muscles and prevent knee problems is highly recommended.

warm up before running

2. IT Band Syndrome

If your hip muscles are not strong enough, they can place additional pressure on the iliotibial (IT) band while you run. This can lead to friction between the IT band and your thigh or knee, resulting in bone irritation, pain, and swelling. Symptoms of IT band syndrome (ITBS) include knee pain on the outside and possible popping or clicking sounds during movement.

Important Information: It is crucial to prepare your body before going for a run, including warming up, engaging in regular stretching, and including exercises that focus on strengthening your hips in your workout routine. When experiencing flare-ups, it is advisable to take a break, but still maintain a consistent practice of stretching and using a foam roller.

3. Patellar Tendonitis

Repetitive impact can cause inflammation in the tendon connecting your shin and knee. You'll usually experience discomfort beneath your kneecap that arises when you commence running or rise from a seated position.

Important Information: Start by examining your running shoes to determine if they require replacement. As the arch support in your shoes diminishes over time, it is advisable to change a new pair after covering a distance of 300 miles.

rotate running shoes

In case you are unsure about the duration for which you have used your current shoes, consider trying out a new pair and assessing if they provide a superior sensation. If the soles of your shoes appear worn out, this indicates that you have exceeded their recommended usage period.

By the way, rotating your running shoes can shift the areas of your leg that bear the brunt of impact, which is particularly significant if you experience knee discomfort following your runs. According to a study conducted in 2015, this practice can reduce your chances of sustaining running-related injuries by as much as 39 percent.

4. Knee Bursitis

Bursa, small sacs filled with fluid, serve as a protective barrier between your bones and tendons. However, they can also become inflamed and cause discomfort. This inflammation can be triggered by knee injuries or intense physical exertion such as running. Symptoms can include a tender, swollen lump on the front of the knee or pain and stiffness within the knee joint.

What You Should Be Aware of: To ensure a smooth running experience, remember to incorporate regular stretching intervals and gradually increase your distance over time. Individuals who are overweight are at a higher risk of developing knee bursitis, hence it is important to focus on maintaining a healthy weight. If the problem persists, consider diversifying your cardiovascular workouts.

5. Arthritis

Engaging in long-term running or walking can result in the gradual deterioration of the articular cartilage, ultimately leading to discomfort in the joints. Arthritis-related pain is commonly experienced in the inner knee region. Maintaining an active lifestyle is crucial when dealing with arthritis, and the use of anti-inflammatory medications can provide relief from the associated pain.

running girl

What You Should Be Aware Of: Although it's impossible to guarantee the prevention of arthritis in your later years, maintaining a healthy weight and minimizing strain on your joints can be beneficial.

6. Bad Form

When certain muscles are more powerful or constricted compared to others, these inequalities can result in discomfort in your knees while running. The pain is typically experienced within the knee or kneecap, although this may vary depending on your unique running style. If you are experiencing knee pain and are unable to determine the source, it is advisable to consult a physical therapist who specializes in working with runners. They can provide an assessment to identify the underlying cause.

What You Should Be Aware Of: Before embarking on your training journey, it may be beneficial to seek guidance from a running coach or physical therapist.

7. Overpronation or Supination

Knee pain is often linked to individuals who have flat feet, particularly among older adults. This is due to the tendency of those with flat feet to overpronate, causing their feet to roll inward. Although a certain degree of pronation is normal and beneficial, it may be necessary to address your gait and alleviate knee pain by wearing appropriate cushioned footwear.

flat foot and high arch

Conversely, individuals with high arches often experience supination, where their feet roll outward. While high arches primarily place strain on the ankles, inadequate arch support can also lead to knee pain in certain cases.

What You Should Be Aware Of: Ensure you have the appropriate footwear for running. If you experience discomfort due to excessive supination, seek out shoes that offer ample arch support, added cushioning, and a spacious toe area. On the other hand, if you encounter pain from overpronation, consider investing in stability or motion control shoes.