knee support for a jogger/runner?
April 30, 2008 6:00 PM   Subscribe

joggers with knee problem - do you recommend a knee support?

I added jogging to my regular workouts lately, and I started to toy with an idea of running a half marathon this year (not to run competitively, but just to make my exercises a little more fun by adding a goal).

When I started jogging, I was only going for about 3 miles or so and I didn't have any issues with it. But when I started thinking about running a half marathon, I started to jog longer (duration and length) and I started to notice knee pain a day after my jog, which lasts about 3-4 days (or longer if I don't give myself a good rest). At first, I thought it was my old shoes not very fit for running, so I got a good pair running shoes which was designed for people with...well, sort of bad running form (which I believe I have). The shoes have been great, but knee pain continues.

I'm now considering about buying a knee support, but my boyfriend doesn't believe ones sold at drug stores (priced about 15-30 dollars) are any good.

So, my questions are:
* Does knee support actually help (in terms of relieving pain or not creating pain after running long distance)?
* What brand/kind do you recommend?
posted by grafholic to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (14 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
I trained for four months to run the Kona marathon in Hawaii. I had special shoes for poor form too. I actually experienced pain in my right knee about 20 miles into the marathon. This is the same leg that looks to me like the knee and foot do not align properly, which I think gives me my poor form and I am going to see a doctor about this soon. I really recommend seeing a doctor as well. Joints, especially knees, are not something you want to fool with.
posted by Brandon1600 at 6:15 PM on April 30, 2008

First of all, you should never increase your mileage dramatically from one week to the next. Maintain easy, "recovery" runs between hard workouts and try to give your body a day's rest (regardless) between runs.

Second of all, it depends on what kind of knee problems you are having. Does it hurt on the kneecap? Does it hurt below and to the left of the knee? Does it hurt or throb? These are important questions to ask, because you may be suffering from an IT band injury, which is perfectly solvable, or you may be suffering from ACL issues, which are far more difficult to work through. "Runner's knee" is most often IT band problems, and there are stretches to help strengthen it; just simply putting a brace on will not cure the problem.

Your IT band is like a railroad track and your quads keep the kneecap on track. When the IT band stretches too much to one side or the other, that's what causes the pain. The best cure for that is to strengthen your quads because they keep the track in line. Doing leg lifts with one leg flat on the ground (the lifting leg) and the other bent while you are laying on your back is a great way to strengthen those quads. Do three reps of 20 every day and that will help a lot.

A knee brace helps keep things in line, but that's it. A drugstore knee brace is perfectly fine. I like and often use just the Ace brand, although any brand is fine. Look at for more exercises and advice.

Do NOT continue to run on an injured knee. And DO crosstrain; swimming is great for the knees. You should have no problems running a half marathon soon, but train appropriately (read: do NOT overdo it without resting!) and don't increase your mileage too fast or too soon.

Best of luck! I started with a half for the same reasons you did, and now I've become a marathon runner and I love it! My biggest competitor is myself!
posted by cachondeo45 at 6:39 PM on April 30, 2008 [3 favorites]

Speaking as a MCL knee injury survivor: Don't get a knee support and carry on running as normal. Figure out what's wrong with your running form, do exercises to strengthen your legs, and / or consider orthotics.
posted by TrashyRambo at 6:42 PM on April 30, 2008

An awful lot depends on what kind of knee pain you have, where and how it hurts.

The first move I'd make is to go to a running store to get my gait checked (you seem to suggest that your shoe choice was based on your own inexpert appraisal), as you may be running in the wrong type of shoes. While there, I'd talk to them about the pain in greater detail and ask for recommendations. There are over-the-counter solutions that tend to work for a lot of people (things like the Cho-pat Strap), but it would be a mistake to suggest that to you with the scanty information in this post.

Going to a doctor or physical therapist is also a good idea.
posted by OmieWise at 6:42 PM on April 30, 2008

You're maybe just adding on the miles too fast. The rule of thumb is to add no more than 10 percent a week. So if you run 12 miles (total) one week, no more than 13.2 the next.

Also, "shoes designed for people with poor running form" is sort of a useless designation. I assume you're talking about over- or under-pronation? Those aren't really form issues but describe how your particular body works. You should have someone who knows what they're doing (for instance, someone at a very good running store) watch how you run. There's no shoe that works for everyone with some issue with form.
posted by Airhen at 6:43 PM on April 30, 2008

Too much, too fast, it's classic. Slow down your training schedule and work on some strength and flexibility exercises for your legs. Bands, supports, etc. are not really the answer. Make sure you have new and good shoes also. If this stuff doesn't help, but it probably will, then get some coaching on your style. Running is pretty hard on the knees even when you do everything right, and some people just can't get away with it. Anyone who runs hard for many years will be doing some serious damage to their cartilage. Don't kid yourself. It is unavoidable.
posted by caddis at 6:57 PM on April 30, 2008

when i had bad knee problems i was taught one legged squats, which really help to straighten out the three muscle groups that stabilise the knee. i would focus on strengthening the knee before worrying about the brace.
posted by edtut at 7:24 PM on April 30, 2008 [1 favorite]

With any sport that is repetitive, you expose yourself to the possibility of overuse injury. The small deviations from proper form get magnified and can affect your cartilage and joints--with which you don't have a second chance. Don't ask me how I know.

What I can say is that you need to work on running form, build the muscles necessary to support your skeleton, and work with someone who knows what they are doing. I would join a running group with a hired coach. It is well worth the investment. Trust me, it will save you a lot of grief later on if you correct the problem before it is a major one.

Pain is your body's way of telling you that something is wrong. Don't ignore it.
posted by |n$eCur3 at 8:01 PM on April 30, 2008

Response by poster: Thanks for great suggestions/answers everyone.

As for exercise routine/past exercises - I was doing a lot of cycling for about two years, and I wasn't doing other exercises for cross-training, resulting in unbalanced muscle gain (and quads being stronger than other muscle groups). I joined my gym over a year ago to cross-train as well as to do weight training. Today, I do various cardio exercises as well as weight training and I have 2 or 3 rest days during a week. The running distance/time has been increased very gradually. Thanks for the suggestion on swimming! It's something I've been wanting to add to my exercise schedule.

As for quads, I feel like they're big enough already (I'm 5'2", 120lb, and I lift 65lb in leg extension, 15 times per set, doing 3 sets), and am actually wondering if I have too strong of quads in comparison to other muscle groups. In other words, I'm wondering if some pain is being caused by having strong quads but weak supporting muscles. But I'm not very certain on this. Maybe I should be lifting 80lb?

As for knee pain, it is only in my right knee (my left leg is fine) - slightly below knee cap, inside my knee. I had an injury on my left leg when I was young, and it's possible my right leg is trying to compensate a lot to reduce stress to my weaker left leg. I agree that I should see a doctor about this.

I haven't had anyone look at how I run. I just assumed that I must have incorrect form (because I am pretty new to long-distance running and because of the knee pain). I bought Asics Gel kayano 14 a few months ago but I must admit the decision was made very naively - some magazine recommended this for someone with poor running form. I, however, have very wide feet and finding shoes that are comfortable is not an easy task. After trying on various pair, this pair felt the most comfortable, and this is why I'm happy with the shoes.

I'll see if there are any trainers in my neighborhood.

So much to learn!
posted by grafholic at 8:23 PM on April 30, 2008

I lift 65lb in leg extension, 15 times per set, doing 3 sets

This may not be helping. From stumptuous:

why are leg extensions hard on the knee joint?

To understand why this is, it is helpful to understand the concept of shear. Shear in this case just refers to a horizontal force on the joint. Imagine two cans stacked on top of one another, and imagine that a piece of masking tape joins them. Then, imagine what happens if you hold the top can still while you push the bottom can to one side. Eventually that tape will snap. This is a simplistic description of what happens to the knee joint in a leg extension.

posted by Airhen at 8:34 PM on April 30, 2008

"I bought Asics Gel kayano 14 a few months ago...." That's a long time to have 1 pair of shoes. Perhaps they are just played out and can't cushion enough.

Braces will work - if they are fitted correct and you use them consistently. I'd suggest you see your doc for a fitting. It makes a huge difference.

Good luck training for your half marathon - that's my favorite race distance.
posted by 26.2 at 10:38 PM on April 30, 2008

If you're experiencing pain which isn't going away, I'd recommend a visit to your doctor. I lived with a similar knee problem to what you described for ages before seeing my GP, who diagnosed patellar tendonitis - basically a repetitive strain injury aggravated by trying to 'run through the pain'. You might have this, you might not, but it's worth getting it checked out sooner rather than later.
posted by highrise at 11:18 PM on April 30, 2008

Speaking from personal experience, running on painful knees can cause permanent damage that requires surgery to repair, and then prevents you from running anymore. I strongly recommend the first thing you do is find a good sports orthopedic doctor and get examined and probably x-rayed.
posted by conrad53 at 11:43 AM on May 1, 2008

I run regularly with a simple velcro closed-patella elastic knee brace on my left knee. Without it, I'll get a flair-up of some tendonitis. The open-patella models aggravate the problem, too. The closed-patella brace holds everything together perfectly.
posted by Thorzdad at 2:14 PM on July 14, 2008

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