by Jake Greski
Last month I wrote an article on how picking the right running shoe can be helpful if you’re suffering from ankle or foot running injury. This process can be useful for knee injuries as well. In my last article, I mentioned common running shoe factors that can be addressed which are helpful to all injuries. The shoe’s lifespan, using your running shoes for running, and giving your shoes a break between runs can give you an edge on either preventing or alleviating pain. Knee injuries from running are typically overuse injuries, where your knee cannot handle the amount of pounding on the pavement, treadmill, track or trail. If you notice a pattern of getting knee pain every time after using a pair of running shoes for a certain amount of months, that may be your body telling you it’s time for a new pair. There are a dozen reasons outside of shoes as to why your knee hurts, and that is worth a trip to your doctor’s or physical therapist’s office. Running shoes play a significant role in injury prevention but are only a piece of the puzzle.
Patellofemoral pain syndrome, or runner’s knee, is the most common knee complaint for runners by a wide margin. This feels like pain around the kneecap and is made worse during a run and especially going uphill or downhill. Pain here can be caused by several different factors including tight quads, weak hips, or improper running form to name a few. Resting the knee or cross training allows the knee to recover and pain to lessen.
Shoes that have a lower heel-to-toe drop have also been shown to take stress off the knee. Heel-to-toe drop is how much higher (in millimeters) the cushion under the heel is than the cushion under the toes. Some shoes have a higher drop of 12 millimeters, and some have 0 millimeters or an even amount of cushion from heel to toe. So, what exactly is considered a lower drop? This all depends on what you’re used to. If you’re wearing a pair of Brooks, which typically have 10 or 12 millimeters of drop, and start using a Saucony, which typically have 8 millimeters of drop , then this would be considered a lower drop. However, if you are already wearing Saucony and experiencing knee pain then going to a Hoka, which is 4 or 5 millimeters of drop, would then be lower. However, there are other factors of a running shoe such as cushion and overall comfort that must also be considered.
Using a stability running shoe can be beneficial for some with knee pain. If you overpronate, or your ankle rolls inwards excessively, while running then this can lead to greater forces on the knee. A stability shoe can offer support that can better align the ankle, hip, and knee to decrease the impact of these forces. All major brands offer a stability shoe option and if you’re interested in trying them out, then I suggest visiting Fleet Feet Albany and Malta for more guidance.
IT Band Syndrome
IT band syndrome is another nagging injury that can pop up in runners. Your IT band goes all the way from the top of your hip to the outside of your knee. This is considered an overuse injury, where repetitively bending the knee (as one does while running) can irritate the outside of the knee and worsen with inefficient running form. Pain can also be felt at the hip from overuse or a variety of other causes that a physical therapist can help pinpoint and address. As with most other injuries, resting or pain-free cross training are great alternatives.
Since there are several causes for this injury unrelated to running shoes, the choice of shoes may have less of an impact than someone with an ankle or foot injury. However, getting the right type of shoe can still put you on the right track towards recovery. A stability or more supportive shoe can prevent excessive movement of not only the foot but also the knee and even the hip. A foot that overpronates, or excessively rolls in, can also lead to excessive knee movement and lead to pain and IT band syndrome. Using a stability shoe to prevent this excessive movement can be beneficial especially for runners who have a history of knee injuries.
There are several other running-related injuries that can pop up around the knee. These two injuries are most commonly found in runners and can be addressed through choosing the right running shoes. In summary, if you’re having knee pain it is worth trying a lower heel-to-toe drop shoe in an attempt to take stress off the knees. A stability shoe can be a good option for those with IT band pain or have been suffering from knee injuries for a long period of time. As I’ve said before, it’s important to try these shoes on before making a decision to ensure the fit is right and the shoe is comfortable. Any fit specialist at Fleet Feet Albany and Malta will be able to help through this process.
Jake is an elite runner, running shoe specialist, and student in the Doctor of Physical Therapy program at Russell Sage College. His unique background makes him eminently suited to write columns for the Pace Setter that our readers will benefit from greatly.