Running and Knee Joint Loading

The biomechanics of running is a hot topic at the moment. Should we heel strike? Should we run on our toes? What reduces injury the most? Should I try barefoot running? Should I run at all? All these and many other questions are being asked around the world and science is doing it's best to try and answer some of these for us.

For this blog I thought we should look at the basic question of loading. Many runners complain of knee pain at some point. The question commonly asked by runners who get knee pain is, can I keep running? Or how much running can I do?

This nice little study recently released looked into the cumulative loading of running and in simple terms found:

  • the slower the runner and the longer the distance the greater the knee joint load
  • fast runs over short distances gave a lower knee joint load

Makes sense, in other words, you will take more steps and therefore put more force through your knee the slower you run, as it will take you longer to cover the distance.

This means for those runners who suffer from knee pain one factor they should consider in their rehabilitation is

  • short distance runs at a slightly quicker pace

It's important to add that this won't work for all types of knee pain or all types of runners, but it's valuable information to consider if you're recovering from an injury and in the early stages of rehabilitation or have started to develop some knee pain as your running distances have increased.

For more detailed information and guidance on running and knee pain please speak to your Southcare Physiotherapist.

Happy running!