Runners Knee? What is it and what can you do about it?

Wednesday, May 4, 2022

By: Dr. Matt Silver, Physical Therapist, and Founder of Alpha Project Phyzio & Performance

There is this ugly statistic out there that 70% of runners in a given year are injured. That is a crazy statistic! If you are running with a group of your friends that means 70% of you are going to get injured this year. Let’s also not forget the definition of an injury “ Being unable to do the thing you love”….. I don’t mean to beat a dead horse but what this statistic is saying is that 70% of runners will have so much pain that they can’t run and train the way they want to. That is INSANE!

Now you may be thinking to yourself “surely we have improved upon this statistic right?”. At some point this statistic must have been 80%? 90%? Unfortunately, we’ve been trending in the wrong direction. This statistic used to be less than 70% and we’ve been adding onto it. One injury has a nasty history of causing runners aches, pains, and problems. Enter Runners Knee.

Runners knee or chondromalacia (meaning softening the cartilage) is one of the most common running related injuries. Why is that? Let’s find out!

Runners knee can occur for a multitude of different reasons. One of which is a lack of mobility in your quads and hip flexors. In particular a muscle called the rectus femoris originates in your hip and goes all the way down to the knee cap. If this muscle is tight and overused the knee cap will have excessive pulling on it and can cause runners knee.

Another cause of runners knee is lacking strength. Strength where? Well… everywhere! The quads in the front need to be strong, the glutes and hamstrings in the back need to be strong. Also your calves in the back and foot flexors in the front need to be strong.

Too many runners (especially the ones we end up seeing!) do not spend enough time strength training. The stronger our muscles are the more capacity we’ll have to handle the loads of running. Last but not least we have running form. Running is a repeated single leg hop over, and over, and over again while moving forwards. Many runners we end up seeing are landing way too far out in front of their bodies and they end up decelerating and then having to re-accelerate every single step…. Doesn’t sound very efficient right? What’s worse about this is that the quadriceps end up taking a majority of this deceleration force. The quadriceps then yank on the knee and…. no wonder why so many runners have knee pain! If we can learn to minimize this deceleration force by improving our running form, improve our strength, and have a mobile quadriceps we should be able to finally take care of that pesky runners knee.

Where to go from here? Many runners that we see are sick and tired of having to deal with and worry about their runners knee. They’ve tried exercises on their own, seen other practitioners, and nothing has worked. If this sounds like you and you’d like to solve your knee pain once and for all reach out to us at and talk with a running expert.


Wednesday, May 4, 2022

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