While running is one of the best ways you can gradually train your body and potentially get into the best shape of your life, it comes with some caveats that you must keep in mind. One of the most common injuries that occur amongst runners is some type of knee injury, i.e. “runner’s knee,” and even the most benign twinges in the knees can be a sign of painful things to come. Fortunately, there are simple tactics you can take to prevent injuries from occurring in the first place.
Wear the right shoes
So much of the strain that your knees may experience when you are constantly running is caused by the brunt pounding that your feet do as they hit the pavement with each stride. There are so many bones, joints, ligaments, and muscles in the foot and if it is not properly guarded by a shoe that is designed to protect it while running, that type of negative impact can directly affect the knee. Whatever the natural construction of your foot, there is a shoe that will adequately fit and aid it. Whether you are dealing with supination, high arches or flat feet, you’ll need to ensure your foot is adequately supported with quality footwear. If you are unsure what type of shoe you should be going with, you can visit your local running retailer and take a gait analysis which will give you more significant specifics regarding exactly what your foot requires.
Improve your form
Sometimes, especially when you first start your training, you can overdo it or improperly use your body in a way that compromises your joints. This is extremely common and and is often connected to a lack of strength in your hips and abdominal muscles. Knee pain is typically not something that happens in a vacuum; it can generally be linked to poor body mechanics, running form, or posture. These factors all cause your knees to take on unnecessary stress and impact when running, leading to aches, pains and sometimes full-blown injury. Improve your posture as well as your hip and core strength to prevent any type of unnecessary and preventable strain being felt by your knees.
Wear a knee strap
One of the easiest ways to prevent any type of knee injury or strain is to wear a knee strap. These orthotic aids reduce the impact of running on your knees by stabilizing the kneecap and adjacent ligaments, tendons, and muscles. Much like a leg sleeve helps to protect your shins from splints, a knee strap can help to give all the parts of your knee extra support and compression which can prevent injuries and unnecessary instability of the knee. There are many different knee straps on the market that can provide additional weight against the outside of the knee which will prevent common swelling and pain.
Don’t rush training
One of the most integral aspects of training to become a marathoner is to ensure that you are taking training as slowly and deliberately as you would any other long-term goal. Diving in guns blazing will potentially lead to injury and and burnout. Your body is going to require some time to become used to the pace you are moving at. Most ways that the body conforms to activities and exercise habits through adaptation takes time. Nothing happens all at once. You’ll need to steadily increase your time and distance. Don’t try sprinting for long periods of time right out of the gate. You’ll need to temper your expectations and understand you’re training regimen will be cyclical and take time.
The importance of stretching cannot be overstated. Your body goes through so much during the process of training and exerting itself. Your muscles need that break to be tended to by properly stretching. So much of the tension that can be localized in the knee is due to tight quads and hamstrings. Properly increasing blood flow with dynamic stretching before you run and helping to loosen muscles after you’re finished is integral to preventing injuries and keeping your knees healthy.
-By Joe Flemming