How to prevent runner’s knee: 5 solutions explained


It can all be going so well. You’ve put all the hours in, you’ve set a good pace, and then you start to feel that all too familiar grinding sensation creeping in, or the dull ache around your knee that signifies you’ve fallen prey to one of the most common of running injuries, commonly referred to as the runner’s knee.

Patellofemoral pain syndrome (PFPS), to use it’s proper name, can feel like a large setback beyond the physical sensation of pain, and be demoralising to athletes whether you’re in the final stages of preparing for a triathlon, or building up your stamina to complete longer runs. 

In this article, we’ll unpick some of the reasons runners experience this relatively common syndrome, and give you the know-how on how to deal with these causes, so you can keep this issue at bay in the future.

Read on to find out our steps for preventing runner’s knee.

1. Only train when wearing good quality running shoes

With all that pressure driving down towards your feet every time you touch the ground, the first thing to ensure is that your running shoes are up to the challenge. You can put all the training in, but if you’re constantly pressing on worn-down shoes or using your makeshift trainers that are just about up to the job, you’ll soon find problems starting to crop up – and runner’s knee is just one of them. So, invest in high-quality running shoes that you’re confident can last the distance. Having flat feet or high arches in your feet can affect how force is distributed too, so look for running shoes that can counteract these bone structures if that applies to you.

Thankfully, you can typically find good deals on running shoes year-round. You could even shop at retailers like the Asics store on Qantas Shopping to earn Qantas Points as you shop. And there’s every chance you may be able to find some great deals at outlet stores or even via independent sellers on Facebook Marketplace or other marketplace platforms. 

2. Recover with some foam rolling sessions

With regular running, the knee cap rubs against the lower part of the femur. When this knee movement is not happening correctly, the patellar tendon is weakened. This extra tension is 

weakens the patellar tendon in the knee, and is what causes the pain. That’s why foam rolling and other mobility exercises have become amongst the best practices for budding triathletes to maintain in the long term.

Foam rolling is a popular exercise to target not just tension in your patellar tendon but all the other hard-to-reach muscles that power your runs. For mitigating runner’s knee in particular, we recommend positioning the foam roller between your thigh, and rubbing back and forth for around 15-20 seconds, seeking the areas of tension to release the muscle tightness.

Think of it like a DIY deep tissue massage. It might be painful, but slowly working your way down will allow you to massage the patellar tendon which is where most of the pain lives. You can do your foam rolling twice a day and in doing so, may notice a difference within a week. But it’s a good bit of self-care to get into the habit of doing anyway, before you experience the pain.

3. Stay on top of your strength training regime

Weak thigh muscles, tight Achilles tendon or hamstring muscles, and poor foot support as mentioned above, are all contributing factors to runner’s knee – which is where strained or weak muscles produce the structural issue and compromised stability that can produce that soreness or swollen feeling.

If weakened muscles contribute to more tension and weakens the tendons, then make strength training a component of your running routine. The muscles you should focus on include your hamstrings (actually a collection of 3 muscles), the tensor fasciae latae (TFL) muscle, your quadriceps, especially the rectus femoris and vastus lateralis, and hips and glutes for pelvic stability. 

Be sure to create a strength training routine that provides you with ample room to develop as you improve. And most importantly – only make incremental improvements. Biting off more than you can chew when it comes to strength training is a surefire way of generating perfectly avoidable injuries.

4. Maintain dynamic stretching and warm-up routines

Finally, before starting your running and weight-training exercises, it’s vital that you warm up your body and prepare your muscles by doing some dynamic but still less intensive movements. Without this preparation, your muscles will shorten and become tight, so that if you suddenly try to break into a run, you’re much more likely to experience all the problems that cause runner’s knee.

Your muscles should be a little warm beforehand, so prepare for your stretches by doing some gentle activity such as light walking or cycling for a few minutes. Hold each stretch for around 30 seconds, focusing on the above muscles you work on during your weight training, and try to achieve flexibility on each side rather than the poster shot for the craziest yoga position you’ve ever seen. You should feel tension in your stretches, but not pain. Stretching will loosen your joints and stretch your muscles, which improves flexibility and blood flow, allowing you to increase your range of motion and therefore decrease the risk of injury.

5. Don’t skip your rest days

Perhaps it’s tempting to power through the pain under the assumption that your body will adjust to the pressure and heal itself – especially if that marathon date is coming round the corner. But unlike prepping for a written exam (where cramming in a load of information just may help your performance on the day), preparing for strenuous physical exercise naturally requires a different approach. By setting yourself rigorous training programs and steep goals to achieve with linear markings, you’ll run the risk of doing yourself more damage, and end up hurting yourself more quickly and severely, putting you out of action for a longer term.

As we’ve discussed, one of the primary causes of runner’s knee is repetitive actions, so try to avoid pushing yourself to your limit. It’s just as important to give yourself adequate time to rest as it is to meet your goals, and that doesn’t mean waiting until you’ve acquired an injury or pain to do so. 

And any professional athlete knows that rest is a vital part of training. But rest doesn’t have to involve putting your feet up on the sofa either. So if you want to take a break from running, you can keep yourself moving by trying a lower impact activity like swimming or cycling. That way, you can still stay active on your rest days without having to place extra tension on your knees.


So there you have it – the easiest ways to prevent runner’s knee from stopping you in your tracks. By taking care of your body and responding to it when it signals pain, you’ll be better able to keep pushing yourself, in a way that is sustainable and allows you to continue developing your muscles and running ability. Implement these steps into your running routine and training program, and you should find that your runner’s knees are as strong as ever.

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