Knee pain - as uncomfortable as it might be - is by far one of the most common forms of joint-related injury that people suffer from today. It doesn't matter whether you're a professional runner, or an individual with an eye for fitness who has just started going back to the gym - looking after your knees is one of the best ways to ensure you stay up and active.
Often, the underlying cause of knee pain, is a poor running technique. It's strange to think that there can be a wrong way to run - after all, it's just putting one foot in front of the other as quickly as possible - but adjusting your method to reduce impact or stress on your knees could protect you from strains and injury. So how can you get started on the road to prevent knee injury?
1. Invest in Protection
If you've ever been in a professional race, or taken part in a fun run, the chances are you've seen someone wearing a neoprene sleeve or bandage over their shins or knees. They're not just doing this because it's a way to keep their extremities warm - these sleeves are actually carefully designed to support the knee joint, reducing some of the impact taken while running, and absorbing excess strain to keep your leg as strong and stable as possible. By far, one of the best ways to prevent knee injury, is to get the protection specifically designed for the job.
These sleeves can even act as additional rehabs for your joints after an injury, making sure that you heal faster, and feel less discomfort.
2. Don't Get Ahead of Yourself
Once you're properly prepared to start running like a pro, focus on your technique. Avoid striking the pavement on your heel and letting your feet get ahead of you. Your legs should be swinging backwards, not forwards, otherwise you'll be working against yourself with every footstep, leading to extra stress on your shins and knees. As you run, focus on hitting the ground with the ball of your foot every time.
3. Keep your Knees Down and Your Heels Up
Remember those running magazines that tell you to keep your knees up when you run? Ignore them.
If you focus on keeping your knees up with every stride, then your lower leg will be swinging forwards, bringing your heel down too quickly and sending shock waves up to your joints every time you hit the ground. Instead, aim to keep your knees swinging as low as possible, and at the end of each stride, bend your knees so that your heels float behind you. It's your heels that should be hitting the air, not your knees.
4. Keep Your Feet Pointed Forwards
Finally, make sure that your feet don't splay out towards the sides while you're running. When your focus is on speed, it can be difficult to ensure you're always pointing your toes in the right direction, but when your feet splay, your ankle bends inwards, creating a torque in the lower leg. This means that you're dealing with a sensation akin to having someone grab your ankle constantly and twist it, leading to discomfort all the way through the legs - especially in the ankles and knees.
A good running technique is all about being conscious of how you place your feet as you move, and the way that you angle your body. Often, the best way to get started in improving your method is to go running and simply listen to your body. Don't worry about speed or distance, but instead find a comfortable rhythm that works for you, and protects your joints.