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Learn how to prevent and treat runner’s knee.
Runner’s Knee Symptoms
Pain beneath the kneecap that’s worst after you finish an activity. It’s especially sore going up or down stairs, tends not to swell, and typically becomes most aggravated after about an hour of running, when your quads start to tire.
What’s Going On In The Knee?
Patellofemoral knee pain (runner’s knee) is the most common type of knee pain I see in my sports medicine practice. The patella is located inside the patellar tendon and connects to the quadriceps muscle group, the most powerful group in the body.
Pain can come from several causes. One is an injury to the cartilage under the patella. Poor running or biking mechanics resulting from weak or tight muscles can contribute. Here’s how: Ideally, your pelvis remains in a steady, level state as you run. But if your muscles are underconditioned, your pelvis will wobble as you run. This stresses the knees and can cause runner’s knee
Employ dynamic rest. As you work to rehab the injury, stay fit with vigorous upper-body work, plus pool running and/or biking if you can do so without knee pain. Meanwhile …
Strengthen your knees, quads and hips. Weak or inflexible quads are a particular source of knee pain, but upping your strength and flexibility throughout these areas will help both ease the pain and improve your form once you return to your normal training.
Work on body mechanics. Poor run form can bring on runner’s knee. Have a friend record you running toward a video camera or camera phone—you may see things you never realized you were doing. Concentrate on proper form or seek out a coach to help you retrain yourself.
Try orthotics. Arch supports and motion-control shoes can help with overpronation.
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When To Call A Doctor
If runner’s knee pain persists after two months of disciplined home-based treatment or if swelling appears, you could have a different problem and a doctor should evaluate you.
Runner’s knee is only sometimes caused by a literal knee problem. More likely muscle imbalances, tightness or bad conditioning is the issue. The stretches and exercises below all target your quads and hips and can be added to any workout.
Stand tall with your feet spread shoulder-width apart. Place your fingers on the back of your head and stick out your chest. Lower your body as far as you can by pushing your hips back and bending your knees. Pause, then slowly push yourself back to the starting position.
Bulgarian Split Squat
Stand in a staggered stance, your left foot in front of your right, 2 to 3 feet apart. Place just the instep of your back foot on a bench or chair. Pull your shoulders back and brace your core. Lower your body as deeply as you can, keeping your back foot on the bench. Keep your shoulders back and chest up through the movement. Pause, then return to starting position.
Lie facedown on the floor with a foam roller positioned above your knee. Roll your body back and forth up to the top of your thigh.
New York City sports medicine specialist Jordan D. Metzl, M.D. is a 29-time marathon runner and 10-time Ironman finisher, and author of the book The Athlete’s Book of Home Remedies.
More injury prevention articles from Dr. Jordan Metzl.