3 reasons for sore knees after running (which I discovered after destroying mine!)

3 reasons for sore knees after running (which I discovered after destroying mine!)

I recently posted about running my first 10k and intention to run the Hackney Half in May (here: healthunlocked.com/marathon... ).

Two weeks ago I went for a run. I ran 10k, this time with some kit my wife bought me (check her out, she's awesome- healthunlocked.com/couchto5... )- blister proof socks and a running top made a surprisingly massive difference.

I felt quite a lot stronger during this run than the previous 10k. I didn't time myself, but am sure I was faster and finished without feeling like dying. I even took my daughter to the park afterward. I couldn't believe how great I felt.

...Until that evening when I woke up in the middle of the night to go pee (proof that I really am getting older). I could barely walk down the stairs. What happened to my knees!? I was in serious pain. I tried to brush it off and woke up early to go to the gym the next morning. I felt pretty sore the whole time, but assumed it was muscle-related rather than an injury. I was wrong.

For the next several days my knees were pretty bad. I could barely walk up or down stairs for days. It took a full week for my right knee to feel better and a full two weeks for my left knee to feel normal again. I felt depressed about being so incapable and the prospects of the race.

After doing a fair bit of reading I discovered what I think are the 3 possible reasons my knees gave up on me.

1. Weak gluteus minimus muscles.

Have a look at image (1) above. Basically, these muscles keep your hips horizontal as you run. If the muscles are week then your hips dip, putting pressure in places you shouldn't (like your knees). I suspect that my left gluteus minimus muscle is weaker than the right, as it took longer to return to normal and since the exercises I've been doing were harder on the left side than the right (my right leg is dominant).

Here's a video showing the exercise I've been doing to strengthen my gluteus minimus:

2. Overpronation. As most of you know, pronation is when the foot rolls inward when you walk or run. It is part of the natural movement that helps the lower leg deal with impact. Overpronating is when your foot rolls too far inward. See image (2) above (underpronating is the opposite).

It was pretty easy to determine that my foot wasn't in its proper, neutral pronating position. I Just visited a running store that filmed me running on a treadmill, and replayed it in slo-mo. To correct that problem I simply tried on shoes and repeated the filming process till we determined which ones were the best for my stride / foot movement. It was between a pair of Brooks and Nikes and I went with the Nikes as they seemed slightly more comfortable (Nike Air Zoom Structure 19. Image (3) above).

As far as I understand, your pronation should look about like this guy's:

3. Wrong shoes. This is implied by point 2. above, but a while back I was interested in trying out barefoot running. I never really kept it up. When I recently decided to give running another try I just kept running in the same shoes, but instead of running barefoot style (striking with the ball of my foot), I ran the traditional way (striking with my heal). This meant there was no 'drop' (cushion / support) in the minimalist shoes and my heal was pounding the ground. I think this meant quite a lot of impact on my knees. I'm hoping the Nikes fix this as well.

So, while I'm hoping I've identified the problems, I won't know until I start running again. I've decided to wait till mid-week to try a short distance and see how I get on. I'm worried that this has killed my chances of building up my distance in time for the Hackney Half.

Any comments from real runners very welcome.

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  • Wow... What a learning journey, and actually a really positive one. This will set you up now to be so much stronger as you move forward. I think we gain so much from injury which is bizarre really. I hope you recover to do the Hackney Half which sounds very likely.. 😀

  • Wow. That's a really insightful way of looking at injury. I've often approached struggle or stress in that way, but it never occurred to me to have that sort of a perspective on injury. It feels like a paradigm shift. Thanks, JJ!!!

  • I think quad strengthening exercises are good for knees too. Good luck for recovery in time for Hackney - I did it last year and it is a great race. Well organised, good support along the way, and an interesting route.

  • That's a good point. I did read several times that both quad and hamstring strength was also fundamental. The only reason I didn't include them is I don't think that's my problem, but I probably should have listed a few other things I came across even if they didn't seem to apply to me. Good comment. Have you come across any other major contributors to knee pain?

  • I think shoes are important and you should find shoes that are comfortable for you, I not convinced that much about gait I think you should look at the whole movement of the body to find a true picture and not just the ankle/feet.

    Strength exercise's i would suggest would be the real benefit to you.

    good luck with hackney you still have time, but find a decent training plan so not push yourself to hard when you do come back.

  • I'm sure you're right about whole body movement. It's all - literally - connected. Good point about a plan. I like going to the gym so will focus on strength as well. Thanks!

  • Great advice there, I am going to have a go at the glute one. I was having trouble with my hamstrings, just a niggle and treated myself to a sports massage. I go to one in crystal palace that is sports specific. I got a good massage and lots of really good advice. Basically I need to stretch nearly every day and just before bed is a really good time and strengthen the muscles. Apparently there is a big difference in the beginning between weak and injured muscles but as time progresses it becomes the same thing. So the mantra should always be catch it early and nine times out of ten you can continue to run and do your exercises and it'll be fine. Its a case of knowledge is power with aches and pains. I hope you get it sorted, there is still time before Hackney.

  • Thank you!

    Before bed? That's pretty interesting. I'm interested in more flexibility in general so have been thinking about doing things to promote that (whether simple home stretches or yoga, not sure).

    I hope you're right about having time. I was feeling like I had missed the boat as I now feel like I need to start off with less distance than the 10k and build up. I'm going to try. Will continue to post progress. Thanks for the support!

  • I have been trying out ChiRunning recently and I think I recommend it!

    It involves leaning forward with a straight posture, relaxing the arms and legs, lifting the feet and elbows behind rather than in front of the body, using the strength of the core rather than that of the legs, and allowing movement to come basically from falling forward. I have decided to call it 'Mrs Doyle' running, although I have just realised that her form isn't really straight enough: 45.media.tumblr.com/tumblr_...

    Anyway, one of the features of this type of running is that one lands mid-foot instead of striking on the heel. It's too early really to say, but I have had no trouble with my knees since I started doing it :)

    chirunning.com/

  • LOL. That gif is great.

    Be sure to write a post after you've done it for a while and tell us how you're getting on. I'll definitely read up on it! Cheers.

  • I made a post with a bit of an update - swings and roundabouts so far! 

    healthunlocked.com/marathon...

  • Old-fashioned, I know but I think the best way to look after a runner's knees is plenty of squats on non-running days.

    I'm fascinated by RFC's suggestion of stretching before bed - I always think I can't stretch properly until after I've done some exercise.

    Best of luck with your injury, I'm sure you'll be right soon enough.

  • Squats sound good to me! I'll do it.

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