Leg and foot problems are one of the biggest health challenges for runners and fitness enthusiasts, which is not surprising given the demands that such training can inflict on them.
Our legs and feet do a LOT for us, but don’t often get the attention they deserve in return.
With this being Legs Matter Week , the general consensus is that we could alll benefit from keeping a closer eye on our lower legs and feet.
Pain right behind and around the knee cap is a common complaint, and is known as patellofemoral pain syndrome, or “runner’s knee”.
A tell tale sign of runner’s knee is pain when you’re running downstairs, or descending steep hills. Movements that load the knee joint on a flexed (bent)position are usually responsible, especially if your mechanics are off because of problems up- or downstream from the knee*. The result is that the patella bumps against the femoral groove, hence the pain! Women tend to be more susceptible thanks to wider set hips, but Runner’s Knee is not so much a structural problem, but rather one of muscle function.
This in mind, working on hip and quad strength can help reduce the risk of pain. Also, wearing appropriate footwear, such as custom shoes or orthotics, can often help. Another approach is to simply switch up your activity more often, and take a rest day when needed. Because a common cause of knee pain is muscle weakness and tightness around the legs and core (which causes the femur to rotate inward during the weight-bearing phase of your running gait) there is sometimes benefit in strength training the posterior hip muscles, like the gluteus medius. Equally, tight hamstrings or hips can sometimes play a part, so it pays to work on overall flexibility by regularly stretching and foam rolling as part of your training.
*Source: Runners World