Knee Pain While Running: The Impact of Mid-Foot Strike

Alleviate Knee Pain While Running: Mid-Foot Strike Solutions

Introduction

If you’ve ever pondered the nagging question of “why does my knee hurt while running,” you’re not alone. Knee pain is an all-too-common companion for runners, often leaving enthusiasts questioning their passion for pounding the pavement.

In this blog, we delve into a potential solution gaining traction among runners: the mid-foot strike. With insights from experts, including Moore Physical Therapy, we aim to provide a comprehensive guide for a pain-free and enjoyable running experience.

Heel Strike vs. Mid-Foot Strike

Runner’s knee, alternatively recognized as patellofemoral pain syndrome, is an overuse injury impacting up to 30% of female runners and 25% of male runners, as reported by templehealth.org. Similarly, issues such as plantar fasciitis can contribute to discomfort in runners.

The choice of how your foot meets the ground can make or break your running experience, particularly in terms of knee stress. The default for many runners is the heel strike – a technique where the heel makes initial contact with the ground. However, the running community is buzzing with conversations that propose a potential game-changer: the mid-foot strike.

Heel Strike: The Traditional Approach

Traditionally, many runners have embraced the heel strike, believing it offers a stable foundation. However, this technique can transmit a substantial shock to the knee joint upon impact. The sudden force could be a contributing factor to the well-known knee pain while running, prompting a reevaluation of this age-old practice.

Mid-foot Strike: A Paradigm Shift

In contrast, the mid-foot strike entails a more even distribution of impact throughout the foot, potentially alleviating stress on the knee joint and reducing the risk of knee injuries. Recent discussions and emerging studies suggest that this alternative approach could be a revelation for runners seeking a smoother, less jarring experience, particularly benefiting calf muscles in the process.

The Science Behind Mid-Foot Strike

By the time we reach our 20s, a staggering 80% of individuals are grappling with some form of foot and/or ankle problem. Understanding the biomechanics of running is crucial. Heel striking sends a shockwave through the leg, potentially causing more stress on the knees and contributing to muscle imbalances and conditions like band syndrome, often leading to joint pain and affecting connective tissue.

This can impact individuals engaged in physical activity. On the other hand, mid-foot striking involves a gentler, more evenly distributed impact, reducing the strain on the knees and mitigating the risk of joint pain while supporting connective tissue’s health during various forms of physical activity.

How mid-foot strike can alleviate knee pain

Switching to a mid-foot strike could relieve runners plagued by severe knee pain and muscle weakness, often associated with a common knee injury. This adjustment may serve as a treatment option, exploring specific ways to alleviate discomfort by discussing the role of foot placement and impact distribution.

Presentation of Scientific Studies and Expert Opinions Supporting This Claim

Dive into concrete evidence supporting mid-foot striking as a practical solution for knee pain while running. Explore studies and expert opinions for a pain-free running experience.

  • The likelihood of developing running knee increases if you experience overpronation (your feet roll inward upon striking the ground) or have weakened muscles in your hips, thighs, or buttocks, often associated with repetitive stress.
  • Runner’s knee is particularly prevalent among individuals with underdeveloped pelvic muscles, those engaged in frequent downhill running, or individuals with notably low foot arches.
  • Allowing your plantar fascia to rest facilitates the reduction of inflammation, leading to a decrease in pain. The duration of necessary rest varies, contingent on the severity of your condition.

Transitioning to Mid-Foot Strike

Alleviate Knee Pain While Running: Mid-Foot Strike Solutions

Now that we understand the benefits, how do we make the transition? This section provides a guide for runners looking to shift from a heel strike to a mid-foot strike, ensuring a smooth adjustment without compromising performance.

Embarking on the journey from a heel strike to a mid-foot strike demands a systematic approach. Here are five essential steps to guide you through this transformative process:

  • Understand Your Current Striking Pattern: Begin by analyzing your current running style. Recognizing whether you predominantly land on your heel is pivotal for a successful transition, especially if you experience sharp pain.
  • Practice Mindful Running: Adopt a mindful approach during your runs. Integrate short intervals of mid-foot striking, focusing on the sensation and adjusting your form consciously. Seeking guidance from a physical therapist can enhance this process, ensuring a smoother transition and addressing any concerns you may encounter.
  • Gradual Integration: Slow and steady wins the race. Introduce mid-foot striking progressively, starting with short bursts and extending the duration as your muscles adapt, especially in regular running.
  • Focus on Foot Placement: Central to the mid-foot strike is precise foot placement. Concentrate on landing mid-foot beneath your hips, promoting a more evenly distributed impact and reducing extra stress on specific areas of your legs.
  • Listen to Your Body: Pay attention to your body’s signals. If you encounter excessive discomfort or painful conditions, modify your approach and allow more time in each transition phase.

Tips and precautions

Transitioning to a mid-foot strike requires thoughtful consideration and attention to your body’s signals. Here are five essential tips and precautions to ensure a smooth and injury-free adaptation:

  • Monitor form Consistently: Regularly assess your running form throughout the transition, especially if you have flat feet. Ensure you maintain proper mid-foot striking technique and make prompt adjustments if you notice any deviation.
  • Support with Strength Training: Complement your transition with targeted strength training. Focus on exercises that strengthen the muscles involved in mid-foot striking, such as calves, ankles, and core, helping to alleviate excessive stress on these areas.
  • Choose Appropriate Footwear: Invest in running shoes that support mid-foot striking. Consult a knowledgeable professional to find footwear that complements your new running style and provides adequate cushioning and support, considering options such as custom orthotics.
  • Cross-Train for Balanced Fitness: Incorporate cross-training activities into your routine to promote overall muscle balance and reduce the risk of overuse injuries. Activities such as cycling or swimming can complement your running regimen.

Conclusion

In conclusion, the mid-foot strike stands as more than a trendy buzzword—it emerges as a potential remedy for knee pain while running. By comprehending the science behind it, incorporating expert advice, and methodically transitioning step by step, runners can seamlessly switch to this technique, fostering a more pain-free running experience.

For those encountering discomfort, exploring complementary approaches like cupping for the top of the foot is noteworthy. Consider reaching out to professionals at Continuous Motion Physical Therapy. Their experienced team can provide tailored advice, incorporating the latest insights on mid-foot striking and addressing specific concerns. This ensures you stride confidently toward a healthier and more enjoyable running experience.

For visual insights and guidance, don’t forget to check out our insightful YouTube video on managing Knee Pain with Running. Watch, learn, and take proactive steps toward a more comfortable and fulfilling running journey.

FAQs

Q1: Will Runner’s Knee Pain Go Away?

A1: Runner’s knee pain can significantly improve, and in many cases, it can indeed go away. By adopting a mid-foot strike and implementing adjustments to your running routine, you can mitigate the factors contributing to the pain. Consistency in these modifications and proper rest and recovery increases the likelihood of bidding farewell to the runner’s knee pain.

Q2: Is It Okay to Keep Running with Runner’s Knee?

A2: Running enthusiasts often find solace in the rhythmic pounding of their feet against the pavement. However, for some, this joy can be hindered by persistent heel pain after running, raising the question, “why does my heel hurt after running?” Additionally, another common concern echoes, “why do my knees hurt when I run?”.

Continuing to run with runner’s knee should be approached with caution. While some individuals can manage mild discomfort, persistent or worsening pain may indicate the need for a break. Understanding the potential risks and benefits is crucial. Exploring a mid-foot strike can be a proactive solution, redistributing impact and potentially alleviating stress on the knees.

Q3: What Food Makes Knees Stronger?

A3: While diet alone may not entirely solve knee pain, incorporating specific foods can contribute to joint health. Foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids, such as fatty fish, walnuts, and flaxseeds, have anti-inflammatory properties. Additionally, including sources of vitamin C, like citrus fruits and broccoli, aids in collagen formation, supporting the strength and integrity of your knees. Remember, a balanced diet is key to overall joint health.

A man in a suit and tie smiling.
Author

Dr. Cameron Moore

PT, DPT, FAAOMPT, CSCS, Dip. Osteopractic

Helping active people STAY active

Want To Get Relief Faster?

Choose which option works best for you

Monday-Friday 8am-6pm by Appointment

The front of a building with a sign that says continual sports.
Scroll to Top

Dr. Peyton Oules, PT, DPT Cert. DN

A professional portrait of a smiling woman with medium-length brown hair, wearing a black zip-up jacket with a "continuous motion physical therapy" logo, in a gym setting.

Dr. Peyton Oules, physical therapist, is a Brewster, Washington native who grew up as a small-town athlete. During her high school sports career, she suffered from two ACL injuries which led her to pursue a career in physical therapy. 

She began her studies by earning her Bachelor of Science in Exercise Science, Pre-PT at Eastern Washington University.  During her undergraduate studies, she spent much of her time playing volleyball and coaching at the high school level.  Dr. Oules continued her education to earn her Doctorate in Physical Therapy from Franklin Pierce University in Goodyear, Arizona.While in school, Dr. Oules became Certified in both Dry Needling and Myofascial Cupping.

Part of her clinical training included international travel to Sydney, Australia where she expanded her orthopedic skill set and had the opportunity to provide treatment for the athletes from the 2023 World Underwater Hockey Championships.

During her doctorate level studies, Dr. Oules learned the importance in making movement a lifestyle. She has a passion for sharing this knowledge with the community and getting her clients back to the activities they love.

Outside of the clinic Dr. Oules enjoys CrossFit®, hiking, traveling, and spending time outdoors with her dog, Rue. Some of her favorite adventures to date include hiking parts of the Grand Canyon and running across the Sydney Harbour Bridge during the Sydney 10k!

Dr. Peyton Oules’ Credentials:
•           Physical Therapist (PT)
•           Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT)
•           Certified Dry Needling (Cert. DN)

Dr. Khristian McGinley, PT, DPT Cert. DN

therapy in pregnancy

Dr. Khristian McGinley, physical therapist, grew up here in Phoenix, as a competitive softball player with a longtime passion for health and wellness. After sustaining an elbow injury in high school and attending PT herself, she knew that she wanted to pursue a career helping people recover from injuries and getting back to doing what they love. She eventually received her B.S in Nutritional Sciences from the University of Arizona in 2013, then earned her Doctorate in Physical Therapy from Franklin Pierce University in 2017.

Dr. McGinley began her career with a passion in pediatrics and orthopedics, undergoing coursework to treat diagnoses such as torticollis, developmental delay, and toe walking. She also became certified in Dry Needling in 2017, and since then has been additionally trained in Dry Needling for Pelvic Rehabilitation. After the challenging birth of her first child, she developed a passion for treating the pregnant and postpartum population. She became specialty training in Pelvic Floor Rehabilitation in 2021 and since then has focused her practice on helping moms achieve pain free pregnancy, peaceful childbirth, and complete postpartum recovery. She specializes in diagnoses such as urinary incontinence, diastases recti, pelvic organ prolapse, and pelvic pain.

Outside of the clinic, Dr. McGinley enjoys hiking, running, camping, weight lifting, and playing slow pitch softball. She loves spending as much time as she can outside with her husband and two children.

Dr. Khristian McGinley’s Credentials:

  • ​Physical Therapist (PT)
  • Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT)
  • Certified Dry Needling (Cert. DN)
  • Specialty-trained in Pelvic Floor Therapy

Dr. Meredith Wall, PT, DPT FAFS, Cert. DN

A man and woman looking at an ipad in a gym.

Dr. Meredith Wall, physical therapist, grew up as a competitive athlete in basketball, gymnastics, soccer and volleyball. After sustaining an ankle injury and going to rehab as a young athlete, she instantly fell in love with learning about sports injuries and rehabilitation. This led her to major in Exercises Science at Grand Valley State University. After she graduated in 2010, she immediately pursued physical therapy to ultimately achieve her lifelong goals of becoming a physical therapist. She earned a Doctorate in Physical Therapy from Grand Valley State University in 2013, graduating as a member of the Phi Kappa Phi Honor Society recognizing individuals with outstanding GPA in a college graduate program.

Dr. Wall continued her educational pathway through the Gray Institute receiving a fellowship in Applied Functional Science (FAFS). A FAFS is only obtained by a select number of practitioners, who deliver optimal care through the diagnosis and treatment of functional human movement. She also became Certified in Dry Needling (Cert. DN) in 2017, is trained in the McKenzie Method to treat spinal pain, and most recently has become specialized in Pelvic Floor Rehabilitation. This specialty area allows her to treat women across the lifespan dealing with incontinence, diastasis recti, pelvic pain, and pain during or after pregnancy.

Dr. Wall’s special interests include diagnosing and treating active patients across the lifespan to help them return to optimal function. In her spare time, she enjoys Crossfit®, running, coaching youth sports, and traveling with her husband and three sons.

Dr. Meredith Wall’s Credentials:

  • ​Physical Therapist (PT)
  • Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT)
  • Fellow of Applied Functional Science (FAFS)
  • Certified Dry Needling (Cert. DN)
  • Specialty-trained in Pelvic Floor Therapy

Dr. Cameron Moore, PT, DPT, FAAOMPT, CSCS, Dip. Osteopractic

skilled thrapist

Dr. Cameron Moore, physical therapist and co-owner, has always been very active with sports and activities starting with competitive motocross racing up to a semi-professional level and being a scholarship athlete in track and field competing at the division 1 level in college at Eastern Washington University in the triple jump. Cameron became interested in the profession of physical therapy after having knee surgery in high school and seeing the inter-workings of the profession. He pursued his bachelors degree in Exercise Science before moving to Phoenix to earn his Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) from Franklin Pierce University.

He then began specialization courses for spinal manipulation (Spinal Manipulation Institute) and dry needling (Dry Needling Institute). This lead Cameron in to becoming a Fellow of the American Academy of Manual Physical Therapist (FAAOMPT) through the American Academy of Manipulative Therapy (AAMT) and earned a Diploma of Osteopractic®, a distinction and training that only a small percentage of physical therapist have completed.

Dr. Moore continues to be very involved with motocross riding, Crossfit®, Olympic weight lifting, running and an overall active lifestyle with his Wife (Michelle) and their Vizsla (Parker).

Dr. Cameron Moore’s Credentials

  • Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT)
  • Certified in Dry Needling (Cert DN)
  • Certified in Spinal Manipulation (Cert SMT)
  • Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS)
  • Diploma in Osteopractic® (Dip Osteopractic)
  • Fellow Of The American Academy Of Manual Physical Therapist (FAAOMPT)
  • American Academy of Manipulative Therapy Fellow (AAMT)
  • Crossfit® Level 1 Certified (CF-L1)
  • Crossfit® Mobility Certified
  • USA Track and Field Level 1 Coach

Dr. Michelle Moore, PT, DPT FAAOMPT, Dip. Osteopractic

weightlifting in physical therapy

Dr. Michelle Moore, physical therapist and co-owner, grew up as a competitive gymnast and developed a passion for healthy living from a young age. Her collegiate studies in Health Education at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse and athletic background influenced her to combine her passions and pursue a career in physical therapy. She earned a Doctorate in Physical Therapy from Franklin Pierce University in 2013.

Dr. Moore continued her educational pathway through the American Academy of Manipulative Therapy where she earned her Diploma Osteopractic® (Dip. Osteopractic) and became Certified in Dry Needling (Cert. DN), and Spinal Manipulative Therapy (Cert. SMT). From 2016-2017 Dr. Moore completed the rigorous coursework to become a Fellow of the American Academy of Orthopedic Manual Physical Therapy (FAAOMPT), a distinction held by only a fraction of the profession.

Dr. Moore’s special interests include treating active individuals and returning them to the activities that they love. In her spare time she enjoys Crossfit®, Olympic Weightlifting, mountain biking, hiking, and traveling with her husband, Cameron, and dog, Parker.

Dr. Michelle Moore’s Credentials:

  • ​Physical Therapist (PT)
  • Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT)
  • Fellow of American Academy of Orthopedic Manual Physical Therapists (FAAOMPT)
  • Diploma in Osteopractic® (Dip. Osteopractic)
  • Certified Dry Needling (Cert. DN)
  • Certified Spinal Manipulative Therapy (Cert. SMT)
  • Crossfit® Mobility Certified