Monday Myths — Does Running Hurt Your Knees?

There are many benefits to running … but there are also many myths about running that stop people from enjoying the benefits of it. One of the biggest myths is that running is bad for your knees.

Stretch it outphoto © 2010 lululemon athletica | more info (via: Wylio)


The truth of the matter is … studies have shown that knee problems are a human problem … not more common or limited to runners. Some runners have knee issues and some non-runners have knee issues.

An article in Time reports research findings … after tracking 1,000 people, runners and non-runners, for over twenty years, they found that the runners’ knees were no more or less healthy than the nonrunners’ knees. Instead … the findings lend support to the theory that osteoarthritis … is caused mainly by genes and risk factors like obesity (obese men and women are at least four times as likely to become arthritic as their thinner peers)

An article in Runner’s World says that not only doesn’t exercise hurt knees, but it can make them healthier … When you exercise, the cartilage in your hips, knees, and ankles compresses and expands.  This draws in oxygen and flushes out waste products, nourishing and keeping the cartilage healthy. “Without exercise, cartilage cells get weak and sick,” he says.

Both runners and non-runners need to take the same approach to help keep their knees healthy. Pain is our body’s way of talking to us. So if you have knee pain, don’t add to it … instead determine (by reading/medical advice/etc) why you have pain and, if possible, do something to help it. Runners may need to take a break from running … maybe bike for a time until the issue is resolved. Non-runners may need to begin running to keep their knees healthy and/or help lose extra pounds which is one of the biggest stresses on knees.

UPDATE: A day after I posted this, I came across this excellent broadcast on NPR’s Your Health “Put Those Shoes On: Running Won’t Kill Your Knees.”

Do and/or have you believed the myth that running is bad for knees? Are their any other supposed myths about running that you’ve wondered about?



If interested, a few posts about beginning to run …
Pole by Pole
Beginner’s Running Schedule
I’ve studied both the myths and truths about running after almost losing my leg and my life in an accident and having my doctors tell me that running was a thing of my past. One step at a time… I returned to running and I feel better now than I ever imagined I would after all the injuries I had. My memoir, Because I Can contains my story of recovery. 

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  • Carrie A Groff

    Thanks for sharing! This is a great article! I am one of those people that always thought running was bad for your knees…maybe it’s time I start running :-)

    • Janet Oberholtzer

      Thanks for visiting! Yea, these studies have great information.

  • David H.

    Great post. Thanks for sharing. I’ve gotten into many debates with my non-running friends that running will not destroy your knees. And even if it did, I’d rather destroy my knees than get sores on my butt from sitting around all day.

    • Janet Oberholtzer

      Thanks for stopping by.

  • Janel – Eat Well with Janel

    Hi Janet. I just came to your site after seeing you post on mine and I’m captivated by your story. I can’t wait to read more from you. Your courage, passion, and strength are inspiring. Thank you!

    • Janet Oberholtzer

      Thanks for visiting Janel … and for the comment!

  • BA

    Every time I have a conversation with a non-runner about beginning running last year I’m told how running is bad for the knees! (okay, maybe not EVERY time- but rather often!) I’ve thought how interesting it is that someone who is not physically active is ready to squash someone else who is excited about becoming physically active with a standard line like that. Sad really.

    I just smile, nod, and change the subject.

    • Janet Oberholtzer

      Yay, non-runners like to throw that line around. And most times, I just nod and smile also. But now I can point them to scientific research … not just say what I think :)

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