By Dr. John Coen, ROC Orthopedics

Running is a popular form of exercise that boasts numerous health benefits, including improved cardiovascular health, weight management, and mental well-being. However, a common concern often voiced by many is the belief that running is bad for your knees. As an orthopedic specialist, I frequently encounter this misconception. In this blog, we’ll examine the science and evidence surrounding this myth and uncover the truth about running and knee health.

The Origins of the Myth

The idea that running can damage your knees likely stems from its high impact. While running places more stress on the joints than low-impact activities like walking or swimming, the human body is remarkably resilient and well-adapted to handle such stresses, particularly when one practices proper running techniques and maintains overall joint health.

What Does the Research Say?

Numerous studies have explored the relationship between running and knee health. Interestingly, research suggests that running does not increase the risk of developing knee osteoarthritis, the most common form of arthritis that affects the knee joint. Some studies indicate that recreational running might have a protective effect on the knees.

A study published in the Journal of Orthopaedic & Sports Physical Therapy examined runners and non-runners over several years. The researchers found that recreational runners had a lower prevalence of knee osteoarthritis than non-runners. Another study from Arthritis Care & Research concluded that there is no increased risk of symptomatic knee osteoarthritis in runners compared to non-runners.

Understanding the Mechanics

When done correctly, running can help strengthen the muscles around the knees, providing better support and stability to the joints. The key is to ensure that your running form is optimal. Here are a few tips:

  1. Proper Footwear: Wearing the right shoes can make a significant difference. Ensure that your running shoes provide adequate support and cushioning.
  2. Gradual Progression: Avoid sudden increases in running intensity or distance. Gradual progression allows your body to adapt and strengthens the muscles around your joints.
  3. Strength Training: Incorporate strength training exercises into your routine to build the muscles around your knees. Exercises like squats, lunges, and leg presses are particularly beneficial.
  4. Stretching and Flexibility: Regular stretching can maintain flexibility in your leg muscles, reducing the strain on your knees.
  5. Running Surface: Run on softer surfaces like grass or trails to reduce the impact on your knees whenever possible.

When to Be Cautious

While running isn’t inherently bad for your knees, listening to your body and being mindful of any pain or discomfort is important. Persistent knee pain should not be ignored. Consulting with a healthcare professional, such as an orthopedic specialist, can help identify any underlying issues and provide guidance on safe running practices.

Current scientific evidence does not support the myth that running is bad for your knees. On the contrary, running can be a beneficial activity for your overall health, including the health of your knees, when done correctly. By following proper running techniques and maintaining a balanced fitness routine, you can enjoy the many benefits of running without compromising your knee health.

At ROC Orthopedic, we are committed to helping you maintain an active and healthy lifestyle. If you have any concerns about your knee health or running practices, don’t hesitate to contact our team of specialists. We can create a tailored plan to keep you moving safely and effectively. If you experience knee pain or have any questions, contact ROC Orthopedic today for an evaluation and personalized care plan.

Stay active, stay healthy!

To learn more about how ROC can help you stay active and healthy, please connect with our team by clicking here.

Dr. Coen is an experienced orthopedic specialist at ROC Orthopedic, dedicated to providing comprehensive care for patients. Dr. Coen helps active individuals achieve their health and fitness goals.