The nature of running poses overload to the body in relatively consistent areas*, and shin splints and knee pain are two of the most common overload injuries we see with runners. Both can be stressful, both can be incredibly limiting and both are often poorly explained within the health and fitness space. The reality is, neither have to – nor should – define or dictate your training, and we are here to share solutions!

Myth #1
Running will wear down your cartilage and cause you knee pain.

Truth #1
Running will assist in the development of bone density and will keep the cartilage healthy by keeping the joint lubricated (through the secretion of synovial fluid).

Myth #2
Running is bad for your tendons.

Truth #2
Running will develop tendon thickness, tensile strength and structural support.

Shin splints (or medial tibial stress syndrome) occur when muscles, tendons and tissues around the tibia become inflamed, usually resulting in pain around the shinbone. As well as being common amongst runners, the complaint can also happen as a result of a ramped up training plan that causes a sudden overload to unprepared structures.

Whilst many will advise that ‘rest’ is the answer, this will only get you so far. There is a root cause with shin splints and that is weakness.

To avoid shin splints, the structures around the ankle and lower body must be strong. MBP recommend integrating the following simple single leg drills into your training:

– Single Leg Calf Raise
– Tibialis Anterior Raise
– Longer Based Split Squat
– Single Leg RDL
– Box Step Up
– Low Level Plyometric Exposure (e.g. Landing Mechanics, Pogo Jumps and Single Leg Hop variations)
Work hard to build and maintain your lower body strength, progressively build your running volume and we guarantee the frustration of shin splints will become a thing of the past.

Runner’s knee; also referred to as anterior knee pain, patellofemoral pain or tendinopathy.

The most common cause of knee pain is overload*, whereby pain is caused either through structural issues or weakness. Weakness can be defined as the muscular strength of the surrounding structures causing a change in the loading of the knee. Modalities such as running, squatting, cycling or any excessive anterior loading to the knee will often cause inflammation when volume increases/passes the capacity of the muscles and joint.

*Obviously the exception is direct injury to the structures (ligaments, tendons or cartilage of the joint) for which the rehabilitation process would be addressed differently.

We regularly get asked about knee pain when running and how to train around it. Here lies the issue – we shouldn’t be training around knee pain, but instead should be training our body’s structures to limit knee pain.
How to rid knee pain:

1. Ensure the knee is functional

Does the knee flex, extend and facilitate enough rotation to deal with the demands you’re putting it under? Do the joints up and down the chain (e.g. hip and ankle joints) also have sufficient mobility? If the answer is yes, great! If the answer is no, restoring function should be your first priority.

2. Strengthen around the knee

For stability at the knee, the quads, hamstrings, calves and glutes all need to be strong.
MBP movement recommendations: Loaded Cyclist Squats and Tibialis Anterior Raises.

3. Perform isometric exercises

Isometrics are static muscle contractions under load that build strength and stability around the joint. MBP movement recommendations: Wall Sits and Split Squat Holds.

4. Train the prime movers in isolation

What we mean here is training the quad (knee extension) and training the hamstrings (knee flexion).

5. Practice movement sequencing

Your training should translate directly to your chosen modality, i.e. running! Your focus should therefore be training full body movement patterns whilst favouring single leg exercises.

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4 Exercises For Recurring Knee Pain

Implement these 4 exercises into your training and see how your knees feel the benefit [see video above for demos]*:

#1 Isometric Split Squat
A good measure of capacity is 60-90s on each leg

#2 Split Squat
Look to build load progressively up to 1-1.5 x bodyweight for 5 reps

#3 Goblet Squat
For strength development, target 30-40% of your bodyweight for sets of 8-12 reps

#4 Lateral Lunge
A great way to expose the hip, knee and ankle to different planes of motion

*Ensure you have clearance from your physio/practitioner first

Need Help Getting Back To Full Performance?

If running injuries are holding you back, apply now for 1-1 Bespoke Coaching and let The Movement Blueprint guide you back full performance. Through precise exercise prescription we will help you overcome limitation, eliminate fear and regain confidence in your body’s ability to perform!