Is Running Safe for your Knees?

Psst. It’s not as bad as you think

Originally published at To learn how to optimize your habits, health, and running, subscribe to our newsletter!

With all the impact it creates, running is often thought to be dangerous for the joints. While there are a few exceptions, researchers agree that the result is quite the opposite. For the most part, running could be beneficial for the complex joint that is the knee.

Running might not be as bad for the knee as we think.

The Benefits

The popular belief around running is often that it will destroy your knees. This often comes with the belief that running increases the risk of osteoarthritis. On the contrary, scientific research seems to agree on the opposite. David Felson, a researcher and epidemiologist at Boston University School of Medicine says that “running doesn’t appear to cause much damage to the knees,” and studies like this one, and this one, support his claim.

Numerous studies have shown that runners have lower rates of knee osteoarthritis than sedentary people. This study followed more than 2,000 people for several years to see how many developed arthritic knees. Participants gave detailed information about how often and how severely they had knee pain, and also described their current and former exercise habits. In frequency of knee pain, symptoms of arthritis, and evidence of arthritis on X-ray, current runners had significantly better scores than non-runners.

What if you already have arthritis? Will you ever be able to run safely? Well, research shows encouraging results. This study followed participants over 50 with osteoarthritis in at least one knee. After eight years, runners had less knee pain. More importantly, imaging showed that their arthritis didn’t make progress, which is amazing.

A Few Exceptions

While research shows encouraging results, we can’t assume running is 100% safe. We must remember that knee injuries, especially from overuse, are still common. These injuries can also come from weakness elsewhere, like the hips.

Unfortunately, being overweight can also cause problems. The extra force on your joints could be the cause of some issues. To start, focusing on nutrition while regular walking and taking part in some form of strength training could be of great benefit before you start running.

In this case, “Listen to your body” is good advice for all runners. For runners with preexisting knee pain, that means to let your symptoms guide you in you running to decide what is tolerable. Fortunately, there’s good reason to believe running won’t worsen your condition over time.

The Key Takeaways :

  • Running isn’t as dangerous for the knees as we often think
  • Research is encouraging, but there are still some risks
  • Listen to your body

Optimizing your habits, your health, and your running. 🏃🏻‍♂️