You probably hear people say it all the time. “I can’t run because I have bad knees.” But is it possible the knee pain isn’t the problem so much as a symptom of other issues?
There’s such a stigma attached to running. People who aren’t regular runners love to blame running for knee issues, or use it as an excuse to avoid running with regularity. But running may not be the actual issue. There are so many variables that could impact your knees during and after the run.
First, think about your shoes. How long have you had them? How many miles have they been put through? Have you properly dried them after they’ve gotten wet? If your solution is throwing them in the dryer or leaving them wet, then the answer is no, you’ve been mistreating your shoes and breaking down their structural support.
Shoes need to be taken care of. They are what protect you from the impact of running on the road. To dry them, stuff them with old newspapers and leave them in open air. Every 300-500 miles they should be replaced if used just for running, and if you do more in them, like playing basketball, weight lifting, cross training or more, you should consider replacing them every three months.
Although it may sound expensive, those new shoes will better serve you by absorbing the impact of each step you take. In the long run, your knees and shins will feel better when running and you’ll avoid injuries, saving you money down the road.
Another way you can avoid knee pain is to select the appropriate terrain. When selecting terrain to run on, the goal is to avoid asphalt and concrete as much as possible. For a major city, D.C. has an incredible selection of running options.
If you’re looking for trails, we have miles and miles of single tracks through Rock Creek Park as well as smoother, broader horse trails. If you prefer gravel, take your trip to the National Mall or the towpath of the C&O canal. Throughout the District you’ll find opportunities to ditch the roads and find your way onto gentler surfaces to help take the beating off your feet, knees and shins.
It’s that pounding on the pavement that causes issues for most people, sending tremors of impact up your feet and through your legs. If you can find ways to avoid the impact, you’ll find that running isn’t the beat down you always thought. So take time to plan your route and get creative to protect your legs from the harder surfaces.
Finally, try running intervals. There are so many reasons to run them for the positive impact on your speed and performance, but they can also be less of a beat down on your joints. First, intervals allow you to get a great running workout in without having to run quite as many miles. Reducing that mileage a bit allows you to continue to run with regularity without the consequences of high-mileage training.
You can run intervals on essentially any surface, including grass, trails or even a springy track. Gentler surfaces lead to gentler impact and less inflammation in the joints.
Running can be immensely beneficial for improved endurance, weight loss and increased happiness. So before you demonize running, see if there’s anything you can do to make it more manageable. With better shoes, better terrain and different training methods, you may find running isn’t a problem for your knees after all.