How to Keep Your Knees Healthy While Running

Even if you haven't ever run before, you probably know that people say, “Oh runnings going to destroy your knees. You're never going to be the same again. You’re not going to have any knees when you're older.” Well, it's a bit of a fallacy.

Even if you haven't ever run before, you probably know that people say, “Oh runnings going to destroy your knees. You're never going to be the same again. You’re not going to have any knees when you're older.” Well, it's a bit of a fallacy. And I'm Jesse Funk and on today's episode of Runners High, I want to talk to you a little bit about how to keep healthy knees as a runner and prevent some of those knee issues that can crop up.

My first suggestion for taking care of your knees is actually starting at your feet. Get good shoes. Good shoes are a huge part of your whole body system when you're running because that's what's taking the impact before you take the impact. Now, I'm pretty frugal by nature so I can understand and empathize with the sticker shock if you've never been into a running store, we're before and you see $100+ shoes and think, no way in hell am I buying $100 shoe.

But you have to think about what about your knees, you know, is that a little bit extra money now worth the preventive care to your knee versus potential long term damage? I think it is. And that's why I will always recommend going into a running store and getting fit by somebody who knows the shoes, and having them show you several things that kind of, you know, work with your particular gait, health issues, all those kind of things. And then you can pick the best fit for you from there, which is most comfortable.

One habit I have, that isn't always best for the local running store, but it is pretty honest, is that whenever a model change comes and I can no longer get the shoe I've been running in and I need to try something completely different. I'll go into my local running store, let them show me the things that kind of fit with me, and buy a pair share with them that day. And then later on, I'll wait till a model change comes around. And often you can find the model of shoe you've been wearing, say it was version one and now version two is out, you can usually find version one at a discount. Sometimes up to 50% off or more depending on what size you wear.

I wear 11’s, which are fairly common so I don't really get the steep steep discounts. But I'll find those shoes, kind of buy them, you know, buy a couple pairs that are a discount so that I both benefit the local running store. It also can kind of, you know, feed that frugal side that wants to take care of my dollars and get the most out of them that I possibly can. It's the best win-win that I've come up with, to deal with both, you know, our nature of trying to find the best deal but also supporting those local stores that are there to help us as runners.

My next tip for new health is actually proper form. One of my habits is living on a somewhat busy street near a trail is I watch people run by and I critique their running. What's so so common is that people like to plant their feet out in front of them. This is a detriment to your legs, and your skeletal system and your knees in particular. It's what you want to avoid.

Now, I'm going to go over a proper running form in depth in another video, but today, I just want to talk about the one tip and that's make sure that your feet are being planted underneath you, not in front of you.

I talked about this a little bit in the very first episode of the Smart Athlete Podcast when I talk with my coach. And he reminded me that it doesn't really matter so much whether your heel striking midfoot striking or forefoot striking as it does that you're striking underneath your body. Because when you strike in front of your body, what you're effectively doing is taking that energy you're trying to use to propel yourself forward and you're breaking.

Which means you're trying to propel yourself forward, and you're effectively slamming it back into your skeletal system, instead of moving your body, you know, causing that shock to reverberate.

So we want to avoid that the best we can because that extra shock, that extra energy we've generated and put back into the system can have negative consequences like knee problems. Another thing that happens often is shin splints. And it’s pretty common with that kind of repetitive motion. The last thing that is possible, again, we're not on knee help but there are consequences of that breaking is that you can end up with stress fractures if you have enough of this kind of pounding effect and it affects your bones isn't going to be as common.

It's not like everybody gets a stress fracture but plenty of people do because of bad form. And because of the repetitive nature running, it can happen. So proper form is very, very important to knee health and skeletal health as a runner.

My next hit is actually taking the time to do pre-rehab, which means working on the major movers around your knee is going to be a big component and keeping your knee healthy. So, that means working on those big muscles in your legs, your quads, your hamstrings. But not only that, is you actually need to work on some of the minor movers if you're new to running as well.

Your ligaments get stronger as well as your minor movers, the stabilizing muscles as you run over time. But because they're smaller, they're more susceptible to damage if you overrun or over fatigue yourself, and that can create chronic problems down the line.

So, the big tip here is you need to spend time strengthening those things outside of running, to make sure that while you're running, everything will stay healthy. This tip short and quick, but take adequate rest, don't overwork your body. That's pretty much it.

It’s easier said than done but if you follow some of my other videos, and I talked about periodization a lot, where you are running hard for two, maybe three weeks, and then you take a week where you back down your mileage 75 to 50% of what you've been doing, that adequate rest will help prevent knee issues and a lot of other, you know, injuries that can come along with running.

Along with rest, you know, if you're feeling some of those aches and pains in your knees, it may be you know better to take a day off, take that rest and do my final tip. And that's body care, which is massage, icing, anti-inflammatories, if necessary or prescribed.

I'm not going to prescribe any anti-inflammatories for you because I'm not a doctor or physical therapist. But if you know that's something that's been recommended for you, and you need to do it, please do it.

Massage is a big deal. It's something I've added into my routine. And it's something I promised myself over a decade ago that I would add into my routine once I could afford it. So, every rest week, so every three weeks for me, I actually go to a masseuse who helps me take care of those aches and pains that I've accumulated over time in, you know, those couple weeks since I've seen her. And that helps me take care of things before they become bigger issues.

Now, I know everybody can't afford going to a masseuse. I couldn't for a very long time. And I made it a priority to find basically 50 bucks a month for me to do it. But you can also pick up something like a foam roller or massage stick. There's a very wide array of massage tools you can use to take care of yourself before things become larger issues.

I actually use those tools in between seeing my masseuse. And I don't know that I could actually do training the same without them because they do help take care of those issues beforehand.

Specifically, with your knee, you want to take care of your leg muscles. I like to do whole body rolling, but in particular, it's going to be the stuff around your knee. Much like the strengthening, you need to take care of your quads, your hamstrings, shins and calves. And that means probably if you only have to pick up one thing, get a foam roller, it's going to take care of all those things.

As an aside, you can probably pick up a stick or maybe a lacrosse ball to do kind of point, like maybe a particular point is an issue. But that foam roller is going to take care of a lot of the things that you want to do for knee health.

I'm going to cover foam rolling for runners in another video. So, subscribe, stay true to the channel to see that. But that's my fifth tip for taking care of knee health for you. So those are my tips for today to keep your knees happy and healthy. Do you have any tips you want to share with your fellow runners? Leave them down in the comments below, let me know, let the running community know what's worked for you. I'll see you next time on the next episode of Runners High.

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