Call us biased, but we happen to think that running is one of the best ways to take care of your physical and mental health! But we also know that, like any sport, running comes with a list of injuries that can affect anyone regardless of age, fitness level, or ability.
In this article, we're going to look at one of the more common injuries we see here at BlackToe: Runner's Knee. When dealing with an overuse injury like Runner's Knee, it's essential to include a pair of properly fitting running shoes into your treatment plan that provides the right level of cushion, support, and stability.
So what are the specific features should you be looking for when choosing the best pair of shoes for Runner's Knee? Let's find out!
What Is Runner's Knee?
Runner's Knee (patellofemoral pain syndrome or PFPS) refers to pain around the kneecap. It is often most often caused by improper tracking of the kneecap, excessive training volume without building adequate strength, muscular imbalances, particularly weakness through the hips and core, and - you guessed it - improper footwear.
Your physiotherapist will work through various treatments with you, including strengthening and flexibility exercises, cross-training, rest, and a realistic training progression.
It's also likely they'll send you to a running shoe expert who can match you with the right pair of running shoes for your body mechanics, treatment plan, and overall needs and goals. That's where we come in!
Here are some key considerations we'll talk about for choosing the best pair of shoes for working through Runner's Knee.
Arch support is an important part of meeting the unique shape of your foot and is available in many different options. For example, if you have low arches or "flat feet," you'll want shoes with significant arch support to stabilize your foot. If you have high arches, shoes with cushioning and flexibility may be more suitable.
Cushioned shoes help provide shock absorption which can alleviate some of the pressure on the joints. You’ll want to look at running shoes with ample cushioning in the midsole to absorb impact and reduce stress on the knee joint. Not everyone needs the same level of cushioning and, in fact, some people might find too much cushioning or a foam that's too soft a bit uncomfortable. Your shoe expert can help identify the right level and type of cushioning for you.
Since Runner’s Knee is often spurred by concerns with body mechanics and stride, stability shoes are a common recommendation. Look for shoes that offer stability features, especially if you have issues with overpronation (excessive inward rolling of the foot). These shoes will have stability features like firmer foam or support structures along the heel and arch to help control overpronation (excessive inward rolling of the foot) and promote a more natural foot and stride alignment.
Heel drop is something we get asked about a lot! It is simply the height difference between the heel and forefoot of the shoe, and shoes can run from a low drop (0-4 mm) to a high drop (10-12 mm) and everywhere in between. Since Runner’s Knee can be influenced by the position and alignment of the hips, legs, and feet, it will be important to identify the right heel drop for your body and stride pattern. For example, a higher drop is often better for those who overpronate, but for people with a neutral stride, we may recommend a more moderate drop of 4-8 mm.
Fit and Comfort
Your comfort is our priority! It’s imperative to make sure the shoes, above all else, fit well. They should be snug (without being overly tight) and provide a “locked down” sensation that makes you feel secure within the shoe. There should be enough room in the toe box to allow for natural foot movement. With so many different brands and models available, it will be helpful to try on a variety of shoes until you find something that feels perfect.
Foot Strike Assessment
Getting a foot strike assessment is an excellent way to learn more about your level of pronation, where you tend to strike the ground the hardest (i.e.: heel vs. forefoot strike), the type of arch support you need, and the level of cushioning you require. Our shoe experts will use your analysis to narrow down your running shoe options considerably, so you can have total confidence in your choice.
Insoles And Recovery Slides
For additional support and cushioning, many runners (and walkers) opt for adding insoles to their shoes. Insoles offer an added layer of comfort and arch support, and the right insole (we recommend Currex) can even help strengthen the foot muscles, making them a great option for people with Runner’s Knee.
Recovery shoes or slides are another excellent way to help alleviate discomfort associated with Runner's Knee and many other injuries (or just plain ol' tired legs and feet), such as Hoka Slides or OOFOS.
It’s important to remember that there is no single “best” shoe for any type of injury - only the best shoe for your individual needs. Your needs might change over time, so it’s important to continue working with professionals who can recommend the right treatment and running shoes to help you return strong from a running injury.
Additionally, we highly recommend replacing your running shoes frequently. Running in worn-out running shoes is something we see far too often and is a major contributing factor to the increased risk of injury. Not to mention that it’s easy to fix: just replace those shoes! As a general rule, we recommend replacing your shoes every 400 to 600 km or no longer than 2 years, whichever comes first.
Visit Us At BlackToe Running To Find Your Next Pair Of Running Shoes
Our shoe experts are well-versed in how to help folks find the best pair of running shoes for a variety of running injuries, including Runner’s Knee, plantar fasciitis, calf and Achilles tendon issues, and more. We also work closely with local physiotherapy clinics, such as The Running Physio in Toronto, to provide the best injury prevention and treatment experience possible.
Visit us at either of our Toronto-based retail stores or online for expert guidance and an unbeatable selection of running shoes and gear!