Many runners believe that running damages the knee, this is true, only if you run with a heel strike will you have knee problems. But, if you run with a forefoot strike landing, you should have no knee problems at all as forefoot running is very non-straining on the knee, and by the way, have you ever seen a forefoot runner wear a knee brace? I haven’t, but I see tons of heel strikers wearing a knee brace strap for running.
Dangers of a Knee Brace Strap for Running
I always see many runners wearing a knee brace and they still look like they are in pain, so does a knee brace strap for running help at all?
Whether you are a forefoot striker or a heel striker, wearing a knee brace during running causes lower leg pain by increasing anterior compartment pressure of the lower leg.
Jerosch et al., found that runners running at a speed of 8 km/h and wore a knee brace had a significant increase in anterior compartment pressure from 49.1 mm Hg to 95.6mm Hg!
In addition, knee braces for running disturbs the preferred movement path of the leg. Regalburto et al., reported that running with a knee brace may move ankle or knee-joint mechanics from their ideal position. Immobilizing the knee-joint with a knee brace may also restrict the knee’s range of motion, which may alter foot strike mechanics, causing the lower leg to move less efficiently and possibly, with greater force.
The meaning of the findings is clear: knee braces are ineffective and are detrimental to a runner as high anterior compartment pressure is the leading risk factor for chronic compartment syndrome, a common condition in heel strike runners.
Forefoot Running Fixes Knee Problems
In forefoot running, the ankle lands under the knee while the knee is kept softly bent at touchdown. Landing this way relieves knee-joint stress.
The main purpose of a running knee brace is to stabilize the knee-joint, but in forefoot running, the ankles and the plantarflexor muscles stabilizes the knee-joint, whereas heel strike running destabilizes the knee, therefore increasing the risk of runners knee.
Why Heel Strikers Wear Knee Braces
Knee braces are commonly worn by heel strike runners because these runners run with knee extension of the leg at touchdown which holds the knee-joint in an unstable position and generates a braking effect on the knee-joint as well.
- heel strikers show greater knee-joint compression because the horizontal distance between the center mass and foot strike position is larger compared to forefoot running.
Next time you experience knee pain, don’t wear a knee brace, rather consider modifying your foot strike from a heel strike to a forefoot strike as doing so not only protects the knee, but has more health benefits than heel strike running.
More to Explore at Run Forefoot:
Jerosch, J., Castro, WH., Hoffstetter, I and Reer, R. Secondary effects of knee braces on the intracompartmental pressure in the anterior tibial compartment. Acta Orthop Belg. 1995; 61(1):37-42.
Regalbuto, MA., Rovick, JS and Walker, PS. The forces in a knee brace as a function of hinge design and placement. Am J Sports Med, 1989; 17(4):535-43
BSc Neurobiology; MSc Biomechanics candidate, ultra minimalist runner & founder of RunForefoot. I was a heel striker, always injured. I was inspired by the great Tirunesh Dibaba to try forefoot running. Now, I'm injury free. This is why I launched Run Forefoot, to advocate the health & performance benefits of forefoot running and to raise awareness on the dangers of heel striking, because the world needs to know.
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