Running is a great exercise for staying healthy. Getting your body moving in any capacity is vital for overall wellness. We are designed to move! According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, cardio (like running) can help strengthen the heart, naturally boost energy, improve lung capacity, and even help with quality sleep. 
As with any form of exercise, there is the possibility of injury. You have questions and concerns about your daily run—will it affect your joints? We researched for you. Keep reading to find out!
Running is a high-impact physical activity. What does that mean?
Because running is high-impact, it will have some wear and tear on your body. If you’re an avid runner, you know this—you can experience a bit of discomfort from time to time.
But, can running be hard on your knees and joints, specifically?
What Does Science Have to Say About It?
The fact of the matter—running itself is not bad for your knees. Running with poor form is bad for your knees. What is poor running form?
Poor running form is nuanced, but the basics mainly focus on bodily alignment. For example, if you have poor form, your hips might be tilted sideways, or your head might be tilted backward. If you have good form, you look straight ahead, maintain a good posture, and your arms are at 90-degree angles while also taking quick strides with midfoot strikes (hitting the ground heavily with your heel means you’re more prone to knee pain).
Science says that running is good for your knees.
Recent research has shown that recreational runners have a lower risk of developing knee and cartilage problems. Though, through gait analysis and computer modeling, researchers confirmed that running does place a higher load on the knees than walking, running also causes the bone and cartilage of the knee to adapt, potentially leading to stronger knees overall. 
So, yes, running can have more wear and tear compared to walking or other forms of lower-impact activities, but those same lower-impact activities will not build up cartilage to ward off future knee issues as running will.
Science even says that running isn’t completely off the table for people who already have knee pain. A recent study including 82 middle-aged volunteers, in which the majority had asymptomatic damage to several knee structures, found that after running a marathon, there was a reduction in the tibia and femoral bone damage. 
More common sources of pain or injury in the knees:
- Iliotibial Band Syndrome (ITBS). ITBS is a painful medical condition in which the connective tissue becomes so tight it begins to rub against the thighbone. The main symptom is a sharp pain between the hip and knees, which can worsen with activity. Distance runners are the most susceptible to this condition. 
- Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome (PFPS). PFPS is a medical condition that causes pain under or around the kneecap (patella) and is often called Runner’s Knee. It can occur in one or both knees, and the pain can increase with running, walking up or down stairs, sitting for long periods, or squatting. It is not the same as Patellar tendinitis, also known as Jumper’s Knee (an injury to the tendon connecting your kneecap to your shinbone). [19,20]
- Bursitis. Bursitis is a medical condition identified by painful swelling affecting the bursa, most common in the shoulders, elbows, knees, and feet or near joints that perform frequent repetitive motions. Bursae are fluid-filled sacs that act like cushions for your bones, tendons, and muscles, so friction is reduced between tissues of the body. The more stress you place on your joints, the more you are prone to this condition. 
How Can I Protect My Knees When I Run?
As with every other activity, you should be listening to your body. If you are running and notice pain occurring, take a step back and investigate why.
Curious to know more ways you can protect your joints while running? Let’s take a look at some of them.
Looking for more ways to maintain your overall health and wellness in the fitness world? Click here to discover more everyday feel-good supplements carefully crafted with you in mind.
- Miller, R. H., & Krupenevich, R. L. (2020). Medial knee cartilage is unlikely to withstand a lifetime of running without positive adaptation: a theoretical biomechanical model of failure phenomena. PeerJ, 8, e9676. https://doi.org/10.7717/peerj.9676
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- Hannelore Boey, Jeroen Aeles, Kurt Schütte & Benedicte Vanwanseele (2017) The effect of three surface conditions, speed and running experience on the vertical acceleration of the tibia during running, Sports Biomechanics, 16:2, 166-176, DOI: 10.1080/14763141.2016.1212918
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