Runners Guide To Runner's Knee

I would like to start off by saying that I absolutely hate knee injuries! Through my running career, I had plenty of injuries. However, it seemed like I always had knee pain. This would distract me through every race. I would go from 5-minute mile pace in a 5k to 7-minute due to a lack of focus form the injury.

Runner’s knee is something that plagues runners. It is actually a catch all term that describes several different conditions that cause knee pain (which can make it a pain when researching how to treat it. Normally, it is caused by doing a consistent activity that involves bending of the knees. It consists of a constant aching around the knee that is bothersome.

What Is Runner’s Knee (Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome)?

So, what exactly is runner’s knee if it is a catch all term? James Kercher states, “It’s a broad term that describes the pain you feel if you have one of several knee problems” (Kercher, 2016). Normally, there are injuries that might cause stress or maybe tearing of cartilage.

Some of the injuries that are included inside of the broad term of runner’s knee are “anterior knee pain syndrome, patellofemoral malalignment, chondromalacia patella, and iliotibial band syndrome” (Healthline, 2017). All of these develop differently and require slightly different treatments. However, they have a lot of the same causes and symptoms.


There are several reasons why runner’s knee can develop. When I ran cross country, I developed the injury because I was trying to run too much without stretching properly in negative temperatures.

One of the biggest reasons for runner’s knee is overuse. Lunges are one of the ways that you can aggravate your knee due to the strenuous stretches. Not only that, but high-stress workouts can cause overuse, which would lead to the development of runner’s knee.

When I was in fourth grade, I tripped in the middle of a 5k. It was so embarrassing, and I was almost to the finish line. My time of 25 minutes was best out of everyone in my age group, but I had a throbbing knee pain.

Falls or direct impact to the knee is another big cause of injury. This can cause damage that or a high amount of stress on the area. If you have fallen recently, you could easily be suffering from runner’s knee.

Malalignment, your bones aren’t lined up correctly, can also cause Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome. If you have a bone that is even slightly out of place from your ankles up to your hip, then you will put higher stress on your joints. This will cause your kneecap to not run as smoothly as it was, which will cause unnecessary pain.

Different issues with your feet can be another major issue. My feet are mainly flat footed, but they have a slight arch. Whenever I wore shoes that did not support my foot correctly, it would cause pain in my knees and back because my feet were not supported.

Hypermobile feet, overpronation, and flat feet are all linked to Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome. These different kinds of feet can change the way you walk, which has the chance of growing into knee pain. This could be as simple as how much pressure you put on one side to walking with an outward step.

Finally, weak or unbalanced thigh muscles can also cause different issues with your knees. Kercher states, “The quadriceps muscles in the front of your thigh keep your kneecap in place when you bend or stretch the joint” (Kercher, 2016). If the muscles are weak or they are too stretched, then your knee cannot bend properly.

Take the time to make sure that your quadriceps and hamstrings are properly stretched. It will help you prevent injury in the long run. Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome has several different causes and is not unique to runners. One of the keys to prevention is recognizing the symptoms.

Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome Symptoms

There are a few different symptoms that you will face. However, there is one main thing that you can count on: There will be pain.

You can feel pain in your knee when you are walking, climbing stairs, going down stairs, squatting, kneeling, running, sitting down, standing up, and sitting for a long time with your knees bent (Healthline, 2017). I still experience this today.

I tend to do a lot of walking and running, which causes a lot of pressures on my knees. When I am struggling with Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome, I can’t sit down for more than two hours. Otherwise, I will deal with minor pain for the rest of the night.

Normally, pain will be in front or behind your kneecap. It can also be around the general area. The pain will be obvious whenever you bend your knee, especially if you are doing it repeatedly. Finally, it will be very obvious when you are walking up and down stairs or hills.

Swelling around the knee can happen. You might also feel some popping or grinding on with your joints. Your doctor has to test you in order to diagnose Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome. There are several treatments that you can do in order to heal it.


Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome is a very common injury that occurs from consistently bending the joint. This is common among runners, hikers, walkers, and cyclists. It tends to form sharp pains around the knee, normally being in front or behind the kneecap.

The main symptom that you will have is pain. Some of the most common causes are overuse, foot problems or conditions, weak thighs, malalignment, falls, or direct impact to the knee. Soon after you will develop pain and possible swelling.

I have had Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome several times. It is not fun to have. Therefore, it is important to get it treated as quickly as possible, so you can return to your normal workout routine.

On my cross country team, we would run through this injury several times, which was not the wisest idea. Take the time take care of your body, so you can be at peak performance once your Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome is fully healed.