Study after study shows that avoiding heel strike when running helps you dodge serious knee injuries that can shorten your running career. Dozens of emerging studies however, have found that knee tendons and ligaments pain when running can be completely avoided by landing with a forefoot strike as doing so can reverse the impact-related damage done to your knees from heel strike running. However, there are other key adjustments in your forefoot running form you must do to really give your knees the greatest protection.
How to Avoid Knee Tendons and Ligaments Pain When Running
A little-known tweak in your upper body posture, the forward lean, protects your knees from nonstop stress and this approach can help eradicate runners knee better than knee braces or visits to the physical therapist or chiropractor. So, here’s a little research-backed tip to make running easier on your knees.
How you position your upper body when you run can either place or remove constant stress from the knee-joints. Even if you are a light-weight, our upper body weighs over half of our body’s weight (Santos et al. 2016), this is why positioning your trunk the wrong way when running adds way too much weight on the knees, which can double knee-joint stress.
Adding a little trunk flexion (flexion meaning the act of bending a limb) in the forward position when you run in addition to landing on your forefoot, helps the body move forward with greater ease as compared with running ‘upright’ with your trunk.
- Adding a slight forward lean with your trunk when you run decreases knee extensor moment. This means that when the trunk is positioned slightly forward when running, the knee muscles are less likely to stretch out and the knee-joint is less likely to unbend.
This research also shows that patellofemoral joint forces are lower during running when the trunk leans forward because ground reaction forces shift forward which in turn, decreases knee extensor moments (Teng et al. 2014; Powers, 2010).
When you run, your entire upper body posture is relevant to your knee-joint health. It’s a myth that running takes a toll on your knees. Thanks to Born to Run, a new way of thinking about running blurs the long-standing notion that running is dangerous. The logical approach to safe running is to modify your biomechanics that favor forward momentum, this includes leaning forward, not backward.
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Powers CM. The influence of abnormal hip mechanics on knee injury: a biomechanical perspective. J Orthop Sports Phys Ther 2010; 40: 42–51
Santos et al. The Effects of Forefoot Striking, Increasing Step Rate, and Forward Trunk Lean Running on Trunk and Lower Limb Kinematics and Comfort. Int J Sports Med, 2016;37:369-373.
Teng HL, Powers CM. Sagittal plane trunk posture influences patellofemoral joint stress during running. J Orthop Sports Phys Ther 2014; 44: 785–792
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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