Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome (PFPS) also known as “Runner’s Knee” is probably one of the most annoying injuries any runner can face. We’re going to dive into how to adapt your running gait to help prevent and treat Runner’s Knee.
I am really not a fan of changing someone gait dramatically, but I am a fan of giving cues to make a runner more efficient and more functional. Running is a very individual thing and everyone is different. Not everyone will run the same because everyone is built differently. So how can there be only one way to run? Well, there isn’t. This is why it’s not a good idea to make dramatic changes.
Another key point: Don’t look at how you run but how much you run. A lot of runners deal with overuse injuries because they do too much too soon or have that guilty feeling when they don’t run. Always remember: Your recovery days are just as important as your workout days!
We are going to look at two ways to reduce patellofemoral load during a run. The “easy way” and the “hard way”.
The “easy way” is relatively simple. All you have to do is increase your step rate and reduce your stride length. Okay, it’s not super easy but it’s a lot easier than the “hard way”!
A study found that increasing step rate ny as little as 10% while maintaining the same speed reduces stride length and has the following effects:
- Reduced load on the hip and knee joints
- Has potential to reduce risk of stress fracture and patellofemoral pain
- Altered posture at initial foot-ground contact
- Increased knee flexion
- Lower inclination of the foot relative to the ground
- Heel is more underneath body’s center of mass
- Change in hip position and glute activation
- Reduced peak hip adduction angle (knee valgus/caving)
- Decreased hip abduction and internal rotation moments
- Increased activation of gluteus to promote hip extension and great push off
Now the “hard way”. You’ll need to reduce your hip adduction and internal rotation angles during the impact phase of running. This is considered hard because it takes longer to build muscle strength than it does to go out and change your running gait.
Hip Adduction is way more common in women then it is in men. This is from a greater Q angle (angle from hip bone down to ankle). To correct this you should implement some form of glute strengthening. Specifically the glute medius muscles. This muscle promotes abduction of the hip which is exactly what you need to create a more efficient gait pattern at the knee. Most runners will have weak glutes anyway, so it is good to get in a habit of adding some glute activation activity.
When you’re out on your runs and you feel as though you may be developing some knee pain, try both of these methods to avoid it. Shorten your stride focusing on landing underneath your body or work exercises targeting those gluten into your strength routine.