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Athletic Performance

What is runner’s knee, and what causes it?

Runner’s knee is a condition that often results from an overuse injury. Described as pain around your kneecap, it is most often seen in active individuals who are involved in running and jumping sports. In runners, it can often be the result of poor alignment and structural differences in the feet and legs, such as a slight difference in leg length.

With some conditions you will often experience a pain that is dull and aching around the kneecap or outside of the leg. You may also experience swollen knees. Most people with runner’s knee find that the knee joint pain is worsened by running, walking up and down stairs, squatting, and sitting for long periods of time

Often, runner’s knee is thought to be a result of one, or a combination of the following:

  • Overuse of the knee joint, from running or jumping sports.

  • Weakness or imbalance of the hip and knee muscles, which can lead to misalignment of the kneecap.

  • Injury to the kneecap, such as a fracture or dislocation.

Three-quarter side view of a man and woman in running gear touching their toes

There are also certain factors which can put you at greater risk for experiencing runner’s knee. Women, in particular young adults and adolescents, are more likely to experience this kind of pain. Also, involvement in sports that put stress on the knee, such as running or jumping, and increasing your training intensity, can lead to runner’s knee.

A man with his foot raised on a step, tying his running shoe with setting sun in the background