Knee pain is something that many runners experience at some point during their training. Persistent knee pain is often referred to as "runner's knee," which is a condition that leaves many runners' marathon dreams in tatters. If you regularly experience knee pain, here are three steps you can take right now to overcome the injury and get your training back on track.
1. Replace Your Shoes
Sometimes, runner's knee is simply the result of running in shoes that are too old and worn out to offer the support and cushioning your legs need. Most running shoes have a lifespan of between roughly 300 and 500 miles. If you have run further than that in your current shoes, take a trip to your local running store to get fitted for a new pair.
2. Reevaluate Your Running Form
New shoes are enough to resolve runner's knee for some athletes, but others need to invest time in working on their running form. The most common mistake people make is overstriding, which means landing on your heel with your knee straight and your toes pointing up toward the sky. This running style does not allow the calf and arch muscles to absorb forces properly, which means that all the impact of your stride goes through your knee.
For many people, the simplest way to stop overstriding is to focus on taking shorter, faster steps. The ideal number of steps per minute is in the range of 170 - 190, but most overstriding runners take far fewer. Listen to music with approximately 180 beats per minute while you run and try to step in time with the beat.
3. Strengthen Your Legs
When you run with good form, the muscles in your thighs, shins, and calves absorb forces that could damage your knee. Some runners develop runner's knee because their muscles are not strong enough to offer this vital support. A program of strengthening exercises, such as bridges and squats, can improve these important muscles, but it is also crucial to avoid overstraining the knee joint when it is already fragile.
The best way to start strengthening the muscles around your knee is to visit a sports physiotherapy clinic. A physiotherapist can examine your knee joint, work out the cause of your knee pain, and recommend exercises that can help you recover from the injury and become stronger than ever. Seeing a physiotherapist is a much safer way to overcome runner's knee than starting a strengthening program on your own, which could make the injury worse.