A Runner’s Knees

Stop me when this sounds familiar.

You’re talking to a non-runner about whatever. During the course of the conversation, the fact that you’re a runner comes up and the non-runner decides to stir the pot a little bit.


Image by Pascal Maramis via Flickr

“You’ll be sorry you’ve been doing all that running one of these days, when your knees are shot, arthritic, and it hurts to even walk around for more than a few minutes!”

Really, non-runner?

I know I can’t be the only runner to ever have a conversation come to a screeching halt because of a statement similar to this. But what are you supposed to do? Someone who doesn’t run is telling me that something I enjoy, something that’s good for my health, and something that makes me feel better than I’ve ever felt before is telling me that running is going to make me miserable.

Am I’m supposed to just smile and carry on like it’s no big deal?

Are The Nay-Sayers Right?

I like to think they’re not.

Being a personal trainer, and coming from a sports medicine/athletic training background, I understand the physics and physiology about what the non-runners are claiming. Running puts a lot of stress on the body, and the longer you run (both in terms of distance and duration) the more stress your body has to endure.

Let me say this about that.

Our bodies are the most complex, amazing, and mind blowing machines ever. We are able to adapt like crazy, and these adaptations can help us stay healthy and continue to run for years.

If you get off the couch after years of sedentary behavior and go run a marathon, then you’re probably going to be hurting. Your knees, hips, ankles, feet, quads, hammies, calves, back, and glutes (did I miss anything?) will all be screaming at you.

But you didn’t give your body a chance to adapt to the demands you placed on it.

Instead, do a 5k. Then maybe a 10k. Build up your distance over time and follow a training plan. In the end, you’ll be able to make it a full 26.2 miles without feeling like you’ve been hit by a truck. Just give your body time to adapt and recover, and you’ll be surprised at what it can do.

If the nay-sayers won’t buy that well thought out argument concerning our body’s adaptability, hit them with a hay maker. A casual “Walking around obese and out of shape puts a lot more stress on one’s knees than running a marathon. So I’ll take my chances as a runner!”

That usually shuts them up.

An Ace in the Hole

However, as runners we now have an ace up our proverbial sleeves.

As I was reading through my new Running Times issues this morning, I saw a headline that made me do a double take. Turns out, “Running is Good For Your Knees”.

e9a2295b3db9b45c8f5484a09033c1c71cf88e3375bb7ff60456bc81c29a4e04Running does not cause osteoarthritis, according to a new study from the the journal Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise. Their study showed that runners are actually less likely that walkers to have arthritis or need hip replacement surgery later in life.

So running can help you keep your knees and hips healthy instead of breaking them down. Yahtzee!

Just Don’t Be Stupid

Like anything, running too much can cause problems, so don’t overdo it.

Listen to your body, take a day or two off if you need to, and ramp up your mileage and intensity over time.

And the next time some clown tries to warn you about how your knees are eventually going to hate you for all this running you’re doing, just smile and let them in on the secret.

And then get back out there and hit the pavement.

How Do You Usually Respond When Someone Talks About Running Causing Arthritis and Knee Issues?

8 replies
  1. Sam
    Sam says:

    I usually point at the people with bad knees who have never run a step, or I thank them for the concern but point out I will carry on running anyway. Then they tell me all about the people who dropped dead whilst running some race.

    • Denny
      Denny says:


      I love the “You know, people die running races, right?” comment. My dad gives me that one A LOT! I have two responses that I fire off for that–People die every day from obesity and inactivity. And, If I die during a race, please know that I went out doing something I love. Shuts him up every time.

  2. Christopher Case
    Christopher Case says:

    I constantly get reminded by my family that “you can’t run” & “there’s no way you’ll hold up” after having a history of issues with Gout and back problems. I can honestly say over the last couple of months since I started running, I feel better and have had less problems with my “pre-existing conditions” than I ever did sitting fat & lazy on the couch. Plus I’m happier, and don’t take up nearly as much space as I used to (smaller carbon footprint right?), I never thought I’d be one to say this, but I love running and what running has done for me!

    • Denny
      Denny says:

      The “problems” caused by exercise pale in comparison to the problems of sedentary behavior. Keep loving your family and hopefully they’ll follow your example to improve their health as well!

      Keep fighting the fight bro. And the knees will be just fine.

  3. No Time For Pain
    No Time For Pain says:

    In Jamaica i used to run track and was very good at it 100 and 200 meters. A bicycle accident took the fun of competing away from me by damaging me knees. I still run a little but I know enjoy watching my daughter even though i have to drill into her the importance of stretching and exercise.

  4. Jennifer Lefforge
    Jennifer Lefforge says:

    I usually say, well, if that does happen, I can always get a new knee. A new heart is a little more difficult. My favorite podiatrist (who is very pro-running) said to me when I asked if Plantar Fascitis was worse for runners: “well, maybe. But PF won’t kill you. You know what’ll kill you? Heart disease!”

    • Denny
      Denny says:

      Exactly! Love that line from the podiatrist too. To date, no deaths from PF, so roll the foot on the golf ball and keep on running!


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