Can what’s good for your feet be bad for your knees? If you’re like a lot of runners, you are interested in learning how to prevent knee pain by having less load.You’ve probably figured that shoes with more shock absorption would not only be good for your feet but also for your knees. Perhaps you’ve even wondered if you should switch from the thin-soled , flexible, neutral running shoes to the more thick-soled supportive stability shoes.
The truth is that if you suffer from a condition such as Osteoarthritis (OA), stability shoes with lots of support may make things worse for your knees.
Then you’ll be even more surprised when you discover just how much the shoes that helped your feet are now giving you knee pain. Consider the story of the following runner who was advised to switch from neutral shoes, with thinner sole, to the more thick-soled stability running shoes.
“Before this point I was running about 15-20 miles a week, but I started out with a shorter (4 mile) run and my feet got achy and the outside of my knees and ankles started hurting. I wasn’t sure if it was because I needed to adjust to a more stable shoe, or if it was the wrong shoe. I ran another 4 miles a couple days later and it felt better but still not amazing, so today I tried out a longer run (7 miles) and the last mile my knees started hurting so bad and now both my knees and ankles hurt and I feel like I can barely walk, stairs kill. I’m thinking that I need to switch back to a neutral shoes ——“ Health News Magazine
Read on to find out how to prevent knee pain by having less load.
What Do We Mean by Load?
If you recall my post on arch types, I spoke about how we define injury. I discussed that when we use the term “injury” we mean that the load applied to the tissue has exceeded the capacity of the tissue to withstand the load. In plain english your body is saying, “Don’t stand in front of that speeding bus because there’s no way my bones and ligament will withstand the load.”
What Happens When You Run?
Understanding this analogy, originally presented by Dr. Kevin Maggs, Biomechanics expert, let’s talk about this simple fact: A tremendous amount of force is applied to the entire body when you run. Some biomechanics experts have said as much as 3 times your body weight.
How You Get Pain
If the force of striking the foot exceeds the capacity of the foot muscles to withstand it, you will have pain.
How The Pain Spreads
Here is the gist. When the foot strikes the ground during running the ground produces a force back against the foot. This force is focused mainly on the foot and ankle then continues through out the leg and body.
A Two Prone Problem
Let’s examine the statement above: This force is focused mainly on the foot and ankle then continues through out the leg and body. This means that:
- We need to get a solution for when we feel pain at the foot.
- The solution that we need to relieve pain at the foot may not be the same solution needed to relieve pain as it spreads above the foot and ankle.
We thus have the situation where what’s good for your feet may not be good for your knees.
This brings us to the matter of stability shoes and knee pain.
Stability shoes which often have thick soles and lots of cushioning are often recommended for runners who strike the ground hard with their heels. These runners don’t have Plantar Fasciitis which would be addressed by motion control shoes, but need some sort of correction.
This makes a lot of sense as these runners need to protect themselves from the shock that results from the impact. In other words, they act as shock absorbers.
What if The Shock isn’t Fully Stopped Above The Foot?
Understanding Knee Loading
Knee loading is really another way of saying stress on the knee joint. Here is the tricky thing about wearing thick-soled shoes to help your plantar fasciitis. Those shoes probably cushion direct loading—meaning impact—on the plantar surface of the foot. Yeah, that’s what we want. Bye Bye heel pain. However, they may also play a dirty trick. They seem to mask the transfer of loads further up the kinetic chain. This means that those stability shoes you got to reduce stress on your foot could actually put more stress on your knee joint than those thin-soled neutral shoes.
What Does This Mean For You?
The bottom line is that shoe makers, for understandable reasons, have rushed to provide shoes that give comfort and protection to the feet. It’s only been recently that any kind of attention has been paid to how these shoes increase stress on knee joints. Let’s say you have been running for a long time with thin-soled shoes or neutral shoes.
This means you most likely have less stress on your knees and you would be wise, no matter how fancy they look, not to switch to stability shoes. The years of running in neutral shoes have adapted your anatomy to put less stress on your knees.
Some people, because of misinformation out there on the internet, have assumed that running is bad for your knees. I hope that after reading this post, you have a better understanding that you can keep running as long as you adjust your foot ware to put less load on your knees. This may mean that stability shoes are not right for you. So if you are experiencing knee problems, take a look at your shoes. Maybe you need to switch them.
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I like to hear from the readers so please leave me a comment below to let me know if this post helped you or if you have any questions.
“Think about your knees when you’re shopping for your feet: some shoes may benefit the foot at the expense of the knee.” Health News Magazine, vol. 14, no. 2, 2008, p. 3