Why You Get Knee Pain While Running (and How to Make It Stop!)

Danh Ngo"Staying Active" Division, Exercise Tips, Knee Pain, Running

When you run, forces of up to 550% of your body weight exert themselves on your joints.

It’s no wonder that many people experience knee pain from running. Yet, there’s not just one cause that results in knee pain in runners.

Read on to learn why you have knee pain running and what you can do about it. 

Why Knees Hurt When Running

Body mechanics is the first thing you should look at in order to figure out what is causing your knee pain. A sports medicine professional can work with you to correct the underlying issue causing you knee pain. Treatment could include getting an orthotic insert for your shoe or stretching and strengthening certain muscles.

Your footwear can also be the reason you have knee pain while running. You can have issues if your shoes aren’t meant for running, have seen too many miles or aren’t right for the surfaces you typically run on.

Another reason why knees hurt when running can be due to your training schedule. Perhaps you’ve been working on increasing your distance runs or your speed. 

If so, you need to make sure you give your body enough recovery time. When you push yourself too hard over a short amount of time, you are more prone to injury and pain.

Now, let’s take a closer look at the type of knee pain you’re having. Then you’ll be able to know what you need to do for proper treatment.

Diagnosing Knee Pain

As soon as you start to notice recurring knee pain, it’s time to take action. Often, knee pain can be managed by simple changes in habits or specific exercises. 

Once you start treating your knee, monitor your pain. If your knee pain lasts longer than a week or so, you should make an appointment with us to help you get back to running without pain. Click on the green button for your FREE second opinion with a Board Certified Orthopedic and Sports Medicine Knee Rehab Expert.

Here is a look at some of the most common causes of knee pain and how to treat it. 

Runner’s knee

Runner’s knee is a common ailment. It is pain directly under your kneecap triggered by running or going up and down the stairs.

Runner’s knee is due to the patella moving out of aliment. When this happens, the cartilage under your knee becomes irritated and causes pain.

You can treat runner’s knee by applying ice to the area for 15 minutes several times a day. This will reduce inflammation.

Try to cross-train with other activities that don’t aggravate your knees like using an elliptical, rowing machine or swimming. Foam rolling your quads and reducing your mileage can reduce your pain.

You can prevent runner’s knee by adding strength training exercises to your weekly exercise routine. Focus on your lower body.

Taking shorter strides can also take the pressure off your knees. Aim for 170-180 foot strikes per minute. 

Patellar Tendinitis

Do you feel pain right below your kneecaps and at the top of your shin? This is likely patellar tendinitis.

When you run, the force on your knees can strain the patellar tendon causing knee pain.

Again, applying ice and cross-training can reduce pain. You might also want to try wearing a patellar tendon strap. These velcro straps sit snugly under your knee cap and absorb the shock as you run. 

Regular and concentrated strength training, as well as quad and hamstring stretching, can reduce the pain you feel when you run. Foam rolling is also helpful if you do it daily. 

IT Band Syndrome

If you feel pain on the outside of your knee when you run it may be a case of IT band syndrome. Pay attention to see if the pain starts a few minutes into your run and diminishes as soon as you stop running.

Your IT band is a long piece of connective tissue that runs down the outside of your leg from the hip to the knee and shinbone. Its job is to stabilize the side of your knee while also protecting the outer thigh.

When your IT band is tight, it can squeeze a fluid-filled sac (called the bursa) that sits next to the IT band. That pressure on the bursa causes the pain you feel when running.

Overtraining is the most common cause of this. Insufficient warm-up or cool-down, or running on banked surfaces can also lead to IT band syndrome.

Look at your gait while you run. Does your foot roll inward? This is called overpronation and can cause IT band syndrome. Motion-control shoes may help.

Get into the habit of foam rolling the soft part of your outer thigh each day to stretch this tight tissue. 

Work to strengthen your glute and core muscles to see an improvement. Short, quick strides may also help reduce this type of knee pain. 

Meniscus Tear

If you have knee pain running all over your knee, you could be dealing with a meniscus tear.

The meniscus are two pieces of cartilage that work as shock absorbers between the femur and tibia.

A sudden change of direction or a twisting your knee can cause a tear. Symptoms include stiffness, pain even when not running and feeling that your knee is stuck in one position.

Treatment for meniscus tears depends on the size and location of the tear. Small tears might heal on their own. A rehab clinic will be able to assess the severity of your tear and suggest the best treatment.


Osteoarthritis is a medical condition that means the cartilage lining your knee has worn out. As a result, your bone is grinding directly on bone resulting in pain, swelling and stiffness in your knee.

You likely feel this pain even during regular activities like sitting, walking and climbing stairs.

Don’t worry, you can treat this condition by keeping your joints well lubricated with lots of activity.

Running on soft surfaces like a springy track can help reduce your pain and swelling. 

Say Goodbye to Knee Pain Running

There you have it! A detailed look at the various reasons you might be suffering from knee pain running.

At ReVITALize Rehab Club we believe that an injury does not have to dictate your life.

Learn who we are and what we do to help people like you get back to the activities they love.

Do not settle for standard Physical Therapy when you can hire one of the only few Physio that has demonstrated excellence in the niche of Sports Medicine and Orthopedic Physical Therapy.


Danh Ngo PT, DPT, OCS, SCS

Doctor of Physical Therapy

Board Certified Specialist in Orthopedic and Sports Medicine

Mind Body Health Results Coach