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5 min read

Knee pain from running is one of the most common complaints among runners.

There are many different forms of knee pain, and therefore many different causes and treatments. This article will take a look at some of the most common.

Knee Pain from Running

The purpose of this article is to help you to identify why your knee is hurting, what sort of injury you may be suffering from, and how best to treat it or prevent it.

Depending on the nature of the knee injury, you may need to get it looked at by a doctor or physiotherapist.

But there are many forms of knee pain that can be easily treated without needing to see a professional.

Knee pain can be caused by bad running technique, bad shoe choice, or bad running strategy. It can also be caused by overtraining.

So, we will give you simple strategies to help you avoid common knee pain causes.

Common Causes of Knee Pain

There are so many potential causes of knee pain that it would be impossible to condense them all down into one article.

Acute Injuries

An acute injury is one that occurs suddenly without warning. Often this is caused by an accident, falling over, stumbling, or slipping.

Or overexertion, like running faster than you’ve run before, and causing an injury. Examples of acute injuries in the knee include:


This is where bones in and around the knee are broken, often due to a severe accident or collision. The kneecap is at particular risk if you fall over.

Avoiding fractures can be difficult, as they are usually caused by a completely random accident.

But strengthening your bones and ligaments through diet and exercise is one way to reduce risk.

As is following strategies that lower risk such as not running in slippery conditions or bad light.

Meniscal Tear

Your meniscus is a strip of cartilage between your femur and tibia.

It is there to absorb shock and stabilise the knee.

Tearing the meniscus is a common injury, and while we have placed it under “acute injuries” it can also be caused by chronic overuse.

If it is acute, then a meniscal tear is usually down to accidentally twisting your knee.

You may find that it starts as knee pain from running, or you’ll find that you knee is unable to support your weight, that there is a lot of pain and swelling, you may also hear a “click” when you walk.

Following RICE protocols (Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation) is a good initial way to deal with a meniscus tear.

But depending on the size of the tear, you may need a physio or even surgery to deal with it.

ACL Tear 

Your knee is surrounded by several ligaments:

  • Posterior Cruciate Ligament (PCL)
  • Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL)
  • Medial Cruciate Ligament (MCL)
  • Lateral Cruciate Ligament (LCL)

Anterior means “to the front” and your ACL is the ligament that is in front of your knee.

Like the meniscus, the ACL connects your femur to your tibia. It is there to provide stability.

ACL tears are one of the most common injuries, more so in sports which involve a lot of agility than in running (though obstacle course runs, and cross-country are also high risk).

Sudden twists or landing heavily from a jump are the most common causes of an ACL tear, so you can see why an obstacle course or sport such as football would be more likely to cause it.

According to Bupa, people who get ACL tears usually have another knee injury such as a meniscus tear beforehand.

As with meniscus tears, you may be able to treat it through self-care and RICE but depending on the size of the tear you may need a physiotherapist or even surgery.

Chronic Injuries

While acute injuries are immediately noticeable, it is chronic injuries that develop over time that you should be most concerned with.

Not because they take longer to treat, or because they are worse.

But because they are 1) avoidable, and 2) if not addressed, you may re-injure yourself.

Interestingly, some of the injuries on this list may not even be situated in the knee but can cause knee pain.

Osgood-Schlatter’s Disease

Often, OSD is diagnosed in teenagers and young adults. But it can affect anyone who performs a sport with a lot of running and jumping.

OSD is caused by inflammation of the patellar ligament and leads to a painful bump just below your knee.

OSD is primarily an overuse injury. It can be exacerbated by having tight quads, glutes, and hamstrings, or by sports such as rugby or American Football that involve a lot of contact.

Increasing mobility and flexibility is one of the best ways to prevent or manage OSD, analysing your training program and recovery strategies can also help to reduce the risk of overtraining.

OSD may also be caused by low vitamin D levels, so consider supplementation or dietary changes during winter months.

Patellar Tendonitis

The patellar tendon connects the kneecap (patellar) to your tibia. It is an overuse injury that is found in sports that involve a lot of jumping.

The cause is usually overtraining or weakened thigh muscles (quadriceps, hamstrings, glutes).

The best way to avoid patellar tendonitis is to address muscle imbalances and improve flexibility.

A good resistance program should really help to prevent it. Avoiding overtraining is another excellent way to avoid it.

Iliotibial Band Syndrome (IT Band) 

Your IT band runs from your hips to your knee.

If you run a lot, particularly if you run with bad technique, the IT band can become so tight that it rubs against the knee and causes pain.

If you are feeling a pain on the outside of your knee, then it could well be the IT band.

In which case, you need to find ways to improve the strength of the lateral glute muscles.

Foam rolling can also be effective, as can exercises that strengthen the abductor muscles.

But rest is often the most effective treatment.


There are many forms of arthritis, and it is a common cause of knee pain. Osteoarthritis, gout, and rheumatoid arthritis can all be responsible for your knee hurting.

Losing weight, strengthening your muscles, and changing your diet are some of the best ways to treat arthritis (or prevent it).

But see your doctor as soon as possible and talk over the best strategy for you.

Final Thoughts

There are many different knee injuries you can aquire, which may present as knee pain from running.

But most of the causes have the same origins: Being overweight, exercising too often, not exercising enough, having bad technique, and rigid, inflexible muscles.

Nobody should ignore the benefits of a resistance training program and flexibility.

Managing your training is also vital, particularly as you age. Diet and recovery are also crucial.

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