what is runner's knee

What Is Runner’s Knee? And How To Treat It? We Have Answers.

When it comes to running, perhaps you are nothing short of hard-working and dedicated to the sport. Really, you are determined and you are confident that you have what it takes to get to the top and become the best runner out there.

From going on long, intense runs every day to practicing sprints and circuit training on your off days, you have a huge drive that pushes you to keep going, whether through the sweat or the pain.

Speaking of pain, you have probably recently started to notice a slight irritating feeling in your knee (or knees). At first, you probably did not think much about it, and you continued to push yourself on runs.

However, after some time, the feeling did not go away, but has now gotten worse. You do not know what is going on, as well as getting incredibly nervous as to what is wrong with your body.

Little do you know that you have what is known as runner’s knee. Knowing this, you do not know what to do about it, as well as wondering if it will hurt your chances (literally and figuratively) for continuing to run, both short-term and long-term.

Have no fear, though, for we are here to help! Read on to learn all you need to know about runner’s knee: we will tell you what it is, as well as give tips on how to recover from it. While not an easy process, taking the right steps will ensure that you will be back on the track in no time.

Without further ado, let’s get right down to it!


What Is Runner’s Knee?

What Is Runner’s Knee

Technically known as “patellofemoral pain syndrome” (PFPS, for short), runner’s knee is a syndrome that is characterized by either sharp, sudden pain or a dull, aching one behind or around the kneecap. It is also distinctive in that its pain might disappear as you run, but returning later in a higher pain intensity.

For more information about it, check out this video: 

How Does Runner’s Knee Happen?

Runner’s knee occurs either gradually or through a sudden, traumatic event. That is why, then, it is difficult to know exactly when runner’s knee happens, since it can virtually remain undetected until it is too late.

There are a good handful of reasons as to how runner’s knee occurs, as we highlight some of them down below:

1. Sudden Increase In Physical Activity

Sudden Increase In Physical Activity

One of the most common reasons that runner’s knee occurs is by upping your usual workout too much, let alone too soon.

For instance, going from running three miles a day to doubling that to six miles within a week is too much, as well as dangerous. Your body does not have the time to gradually build up to the increased mileage, thereby causing features like joints and muscles to over-exert themselves.

Not getting enough rest between workouts also does not give them enough time to repair, thereby increasing the chances for poor form and subsequently injury, including runner’s knee.

This is a common problem among runners who over-train, as well as push themselves too much in practice.

2. High Or Low Foot Arches.

High Or Low Foot Arches

Perhaps you have either high or low foot arches, which already puts you and your body at a disadvantage for developing biomechanical problems while running or doing other strenuous exercises.

On one hand, having high arches causes your body to have less cushioning for support, thereby creating a lot of pounding on hard surfaces, which eventually impacts your knees and how much force it can take each step of the way.

On the other hand, having low arches (also known as “flat feet”) that makes your feet turn either inwards or outwards messes with the mechanics of how you run, thereby causing the patella to become misaligned with the legs.

Unfortunately, you might not be able to help the fact that your feet are naturally high-arches or low-arched. Either way, you can end up getting runner’s knee, if you are not careful.

3. Misaligned Patella

Misaligned Patella

Similarly to the previous point, your body’s mechanisms might cause the patella to shift, either inwards or outwards, from its normal position.

As a result, it changes how your legs and feet plant onto the ground and push off with each running step, thereby affecting other regions of your lower body, such as sore hips and worn-out IT bands.

4. Imbalanced Quadricep Muscles

Imbalanced Quadricep Muscles

Located in the front of your thighs, the quadricep muscles can also affect the condition of your knees, for they are connected to them through bone and tissue.

When the quadricep muscles are either tight or sore, they cause your body to compensate by changing how it moves when walking, running, or otherwise doing some sort of physical activity.

The quadricep muscles are unstable in the process, which then leads to the knees themselves getting affected.

5. Worn-Out Cartilage And Tissue

Worn-Out Cartilage And Tissue

Although this is the result of either overtraining or a misaligned patella (the latter causing the cartilage to rub away, leading to deterioration), having worn-out cartilage and tissue removes that important cushion your kneecap needs to function properly, let alone avoid pain when in contact with the bones in the quadriceps and the lower leg.

6. History Of Tight Muscles

History Of Tight Muscles

 Believe it or not, having naturally-tight muscles can put you at risk of getting runner’s knee, especially if you are not careful. Especially if you have tight hips, quadriceps, IT bands, and calves, they put extra strain on the amount of movement you can do, which is not preferable for activities like running, which engages a lot of these muscles.

In the end, it boils down to the biomechanics of your body, i.e. how it functions whenever you are in motion. Tight muscles not only limit you, but also causes disruptions with the bones, muscles, and tissues inside of you, thereby potentially leading to damage in the process.

Does Runner’s Knee Only Affect Runners?

Does Runner’s Knee Only Affect Runners

Although runner’s knee gets its name from the actual sport itself, it can also affect other athletes such as basketball players, cyclists, and skiers, who tend to use their knees a considerable amount for shifting and otherwise balancing when in practice.

Not only that, but also runner’s knee can affect non-athletes, such as the elderly, people with arthritis, and those with a history of bad knees. In any of these cases, it is certainly not an ideal situation to be in, since it can negatively impact the quality of one’s life.

Is Runner’s Knee Bad For My Body?

Is Runner’s Knee Bad For My Body

While not life-threatening, having runner’s knee certainly is not ideal, either. Depending on the severity of it, you might be in chronic pain for most of the time, and simple things like climbing or descending the stairs can be an onerous task.

Uphill, sometimes even downhill, walks can be excruciating as well. Even if your condition is mild now, continuing to run on it will worsen it. In essence, having runner’s knee can egregiously affect the quality of your everyday life.

What Are Some Ways To Recover From Runner’s Knee?

Depending on just how bad your knee condition is, treating and recovering from runner’s knee might not be an easy feat: it takes time, effort, and a lot of research. Although it can be a daunting task, taking the measures to recover from runner’s knee will be very rewarding for you, as well as help you know what to do should the situation arise later down the line.

That said, we have a few important tips to consider doing to assist you in recovering:

1. Stop Running

No matter how sad or reluctant you are in giving it up, we promise you that this will only be a temporary pause. It is important not to keep putting pressure on your body, for that will slow down, even hinder, your recovery process. Even the simple act of a one-mile run or loop around your block are strongly advised against.

By ceasing running for temporary reasons, you are giving your body the opportunity to slowly repair itself; it is incredible just how regenerative your body can be when you give it the chance to do so, and only time will be the way to help speed things up.

2.Seek Physical Therapy

This may or may not be necessary, depending on how bad your runner’s knee is, but it does not hurt to at least consult with your doctor about your status and whether or not you need physical therapy.

However, it is never a bad idea to try it out to see if it can, indeed, help with the knee pain. Plus, you are at the care of professionals who have seen and performed their line of work on many people like you with the exact pain. Being open to this possibility might help you recover in a more efficient manner.

3. Stretch And Relax Your Muscles.

Perhaps you are doing physical therapy, and maybe you have had your professional trainer recommend that you stretch and massage your muscles while at home. Doing so can really make a difference since one of the main reasons that runner’s knee occurs is because of tight muscles.

That said, stretching and massaging your lower body muscles (quadriceps, IT bands, hips, etc.) not only will relax you, but also keep your body at ease as it tries repairing itself over time. From hip stretches to rolling out your IT band with a foam roller, every little thing helps.

4. Strengthen Your Muscles

On the other hand, you have probably been recommended to do some strengthening exercises at home, or at least some in physical therapy. Considering that the reason you might have gotten runner’s knee is due to weak muscles like the quadriceps and hips, so working out those specific areas can help combat, as well as prevent, the injury from getting worse.

You can choose to strengthen your lower-body muscles either through gym weights, e.g. hip adductors and abductors, or simply by using a stretch band to extend your hip and let it build resistance. It can be relatively inexpensive to do, as well as reap benefits for a healthier, stronger body!

5. Get A Runner Knee Brace

Also in the same department as a “knee sleeve,” knee braces are not a bad idea to get, especially if the syndrome is more worse than you had imagined. While you might not be running, sometimes walking and doing everyday activities can put a strain on your knees, thereby creating pain.

That is why investing in a knee brace is optimal, since it not only keeps the blood circulation in the area going, but also has the potential to realign the patella, thereby speeding up recovery. Our article on knee braces can help you get started in choosing the right one for you.

You Might Also Like : How To Find The Best Knee Sleeves For You

6. Take OTC Medication

Sometimes, knee pain can be caused by inflammation, which happens when you exert too much pressure on it. When you have runner’s knee, it can be especially painful.

That said, taking over-the-counter (OTC) medication can help to reduce the swelling, even for a temporary bit. Icing the knee can be done as well, but of course, always remember to do so in moderation.

7. Get Shoe Support

Finally, getting new running shoes is a good idea to consider, especially if you plan on returning to it as soon as you recover. However, it is also ideal to get one suitable for your arches, particularly if you have been wearing the wrong type.

That said, we encourage you to get shoe supports, such as insoles, or find a pair which already comes built in with support. Our article on getting the best running shoes for bad knees can help you out.

For more ideas on how to recover from runner’s knee, this video can help: 


Overall, runner’s knee is certainly not a fun condition to have. However, by taking the measures to detect it early, as well as treat it, you can soon be on your way to a speedy recovery.

Share this article if you think a friend or family member might benefit from it. Leave a comment letting us know about your runner’s knee experience!


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