Why Do My Knees Hurt When I Run?

So, you’ve decided to take up running after reading about all the wonderful benefits that come with regular exercise. Improved cardiovascular health, a less-stressed you, and active fat-burning are just some of the advantages associated with running. It is possible however, that you could experience sharp pain radiating from your knee area soon after you start embarking on daily runs. If this happens to you, you’ll realize nothing puts a damper on your newfound passion like knee pain. Many fellow runners ask, “why do my knees hurt when I run?”.

Dubbed the “runner’s knee,” this condition occurs when there’s irritation to your knee’s soft tissues, if your cartilage tears, or your tendons strain. Several other factors contribute to knee pain, and we’ll highlight them in this article. We’ll also give you tips on how to navigate, treat, and prevent knee pain.

What Causes Knee Pain When Running?

Several conditions may be responsible for causing pain in your knee when you run. As you run, your kneecaps move. If this movement creates too much pressure, it may cause the tissues to become inflamed or irritated. If you’re new to running or have recently resumed running after a long break, prematurely increasing your mileage or pace might cause this excessive pressure. This can also happen due to running every day, without giving yourself a rest day. When this happens, the pain manifests around the area of the kneecap, also known as the patella.

Aside from a build-up of pressure, some causative habits can contribute to knee pain, which you may inadvertently bring on yourself. Poor running form is one of the most common culprits. For those working on building up their muscles through running, tight muscles caused by not warming up might be the reason for excessive knee pain. Other causes are out of your control, such as structural issues. Having an abnormally high knee cap, misalignment of the kneecap, and flat feet may also contribute to your knees’ discomfort. Health conditions such as arthritis or dislocation of a kneecap can also cause knee pain while running.

How To Treat Knee Pain

We’ll start by saying that you need to stop running the second you experience any form of knee pain. The good news is that many runners’ knee conditions are treatable without surgery. A tried and tested approach to treating knee pain exacerbated by running is following the RICE approach, as outlined below:

  • Rest: Start by resting the knee to avoid repetitive movements that might add more pressure to your knee. 
  • Ice packs: Cold compresses are a knee pain’s best friend. Apply an ice pack for 30 minutes to eliminate heat and reduce pain & swelling.
  • Compression: Wrap your knee using a bandage to restrict swelling. Avoid wrapping it too tightly because this will result in swelling below the knee.
  • Elevate: The last step is to keep your knee elevated above the level of your heart. You can do so while sitting or lying down.

For pain relief, you can consider taking an over-the-counter medicine like ibuprofen or aspirin. However, if you have underlying health conditions, you should consult your personal physician prior to taking any medication.

How To Prevent Knee Pain 

Treating your knee pain will most likely give you relief for the discomfort. But as the adage goes, prevention is better than cure. Of course, prevention is most relevant only if you don’t have any structural issues or health concerns like arthritis. For the average runner who’s in relatively good shape, consider regular workouts. Staying in shape is the first step in preventing knee injury. When you decide to run, don’t hit the road without warming up first. You can easily warm up by doing some simple stretching to get the blood flowing and increase your knee’s flexibility. 

As mentioned before, abruptly increasing your pace while running could cause knee pain. So, always set your pace appropriately. If you want to challenge yourself, increase your pace gradually. We can’t overemphasize the importance of wearing a properly fitted set of running shoes, as good running shoes help to prevent injury, and your favorite pair of kicks will probably not be the best choice. You shouldn’t run in overly worn-out shoes. Instead, look for quality shoes that absorb shock and provide ample cushioning to both your sole and heel. Lastly, proper running posture is everything. Avoid slouching or leaning too far backward. And always keep your knees bent.


Knee injury can be common among runners and happens when your kneecap lining is irritated. Stop running the moment you experience it and nurse your knee using the RICE approach. While we support getting proper treatment for knee injuries when they do occur, preventing them altogether is always ideal if you can help it. Work out regularly, stretch, and use proper running form, and you’ll be able to easily avoid most causes of knee pain.

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