Is knee pain stopping you from registering for that 10K, or even hopping on the treadmill? “There’s this misconception that running is bad for your knees, but when you look at the science on it, it’s actually probably good for your knees,” says sports medicine physician Jordan Metzl, M.D., author of Running Strong.
If your knees are achy, it could be that you need to tweak your form. A new study in Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise finds that leaning forward slightly while running can help reduce the load put on your knees. That means they won’t absorb as much shock from all that pounding the pavement.
Lean from your ankles, not hips, almost like you’re falling forward (think: skiers stance.) But, the best way to get in the right position—and protect your knees and other joints—is actually to shorten your stride length and take more steps per minute, says Metzl. Doing so will propel your body forward so you’ll get that lean naturally, without having to think about how you stand with ski poles. “It’s a lot easier to change how quickly your feet turn over than it is to change your body position, but it will get you a similar injury-prevention effect,” says Metzl. Plus, this simple trick can also make you a more efficient (read: faster) runner, per other research.
Next time you lace up, look at your watch and count how many times your left foot hits the ground in one minute. Shoot for 80 strikes per minute (160 left and right foot strikes.) “If you’re getting 60 or 65 left foot strikes a minute, that means your stride is too long, which puts much more compressive force on your knees,” says Metzl. Try using a metronome app like Run Tempo ($0.99, iTunes) to help you quicken your turnover—and save your knees. Here’s to lots of pain-free running once the weather permits us to get back outside.