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running with knee arthritis

Running with Knee Arthritis: Should You Run With Bad Knees?

If you have bad knees, you’ve probably tried avoiding many physical activities for fear of additional pain or further injury progression.

Did you know that many times being active can actually help rather than hurt your condition?

If you have joint issues, like knee arthritis for example, running can be very beneficial for a number of reasons. 

Why Running Helps with Bad Knees

running with knee arthritisThere are quite a few reasons why running is beneficial for knee arthritis and can alleviate some of the pain you experience on a daily basis.

  1. Strengthen Muscles – By utilizing your knee muscles rather than being sedentary, you can actually strengthen the muscles around the knee.
  2. Maintain Cartilage – As long as you run intelligently and maintain a healthy weight, you can actually help keep the sponginess to maintain the cartilage between your knee bones when running. Runners have been shown to have lower incidences of arthritis.
  3. Bring blood flow to the joint to speed up healing – The compression in your knees from running actually brings more blood and fluid to the joint which can help quicken the healing process.
  4. Decreases Pain – Through strengthening your knee over time, you’ll be able to minimize the pain and improve the pain threshold in the knee.
  5. Improves Activity Tolerance – If you run consistently, you can actually improve the tolerance your body has for other physical activities. Your cardiovascular fitness will improve and overall health with improve.

FAQ about Running and Knee Arthritis

Does Running Cause Knee Arthritis?

No, it does not. In fact, there is research that supports there is no risk of further causing knee arthritis with running. There is some evidence that running is even protective of the joints and helps prevent knee osteoarthritis from forming.

Can Running Aggravate Knee Arthritis?

Running when you currently have arthritis can aggravate the knee but it doesn’t always. If you train smart and progress slowly then you can return to running even with established knee OA. In fact, this research study found not only can you run with knee arthritis but it likely will help with pain and overall joint health in those with established knee OA.

Does Running Marathons Cause Knee Arthritis?

Nope, it does not mean that you are going to get knee osteoarthritis. Those with arthritis, especially in middle-age, can actually benefit from running. This research study found that running improved areas of bony arthritis and chondral defects in marathon runners. 

Does Participating in Sports Increase the Risk of Knee Arthritis?

For most sports, there is no increase in developing knee arthritis. There is some evidence that playing soccer, elite-level long-distance runners, competitive weight lifting, and wrestling did show an increase in rates of knee arthritis

However, this usually involved a knee injury first and then participation in the higher-risk sports.

A Free Return to Running Program for Knee Arthritis

DateWeekTime (min)MileageRatio of Walk to Run ( per mile)
 1150.750.8 – 0.2
 216.50.8250.8 – 0.2
 318.150.90750.75 – 0.25
 419.9650.998250.7 – 0.3
 521.96151.0980750.7 – 0.3
 624.157651.20788250.6 – 0.4
 726.5734151.328670750.6 – 0.4
 829.23075651.4615378250.5 – 0.5
 932.153832151.6076916080.4 – 0.6
 1035.369215371.7684607680.3 – 0.6
 1138.90613691.9453068450.2 – 0.8
 1242.796750592.139837530.1 – 0.1
 1347.076425652.353821283all run
 1451.784068222.589203411all run
 1556.962475042.848123752all run
 1662.658722543.132936127all run
 1768.92459483.44622974all run
 1875.817054273.790852714all run

A Free 12-Week Running Program for Anyone with Knee Arthritis

Recommendations for Running with Knee Arthritis

If you are going to start running with arthritis, then there are some very important things to be aware of.

Start Slow

If you’ve been diagnosed with arthritis, don’t push it to the limits when starting out. Start off with just a few minutes at a time and continue to slowly increase it until you’ve built up to your goal. You should also listen to your body and take it at whatever pace is most comfortable for you. Too much strenuous activity too quickly can have a reverse effect on your knees. A good system of switching between walking and running is a good way to start progressing.

Strengthen Your Hips To Help Your Knees

It’s not just your knees that need strengthening but your hips will need some bolstering as well. Try using mini bands for the fastest and simplest way to get your hips prepared. The stronger that your hips are the less in and out movement that occurs at the knee joint and reducing load on the cartilage.

Strengthen Your Quads for Knee Arthritis

Using a suspension trainer has two-fold benefits. It will help strengthen your quads which will, in turn, reduce the force on your knees with arthritis. The stronger you are able to get the quads the better your knees are at shock absorption i.e. impact during running. This also helps decrease pain while during stairs or squating. Using a suspension trainer is one of our favorite ways to do this as it lets you to easily and safely adjust the amount of resistance in the legs.

Increase Your Cadence

Increasing the total strides taken each minute, also known as your running cadence, can help ease the pressure on your knees. The ideal cadence is between 160-170 steps per minute. The higher the frequency of steps, the less time the leg is in contact with the ground, and that means less force through the knees. For more information on how to increase your cadence.

Try a Different Shoe Type

If you’re running with arthritis or other conditions you may want to try a different shoe type such as the Hoka One One. They have a little more cushioning, a wider toe box for more forefoot motion, and come with minimal drop options.  Even customized orthotics to insert into your sneakers.

 Start with an Elliptical

When just starting out, you’ll want to start small, and an elliptical is ideal for beginners. Start with just five minutes at a time and work your way up to 30 minutes by increasing your time three minutes per week until you’re able to work out pain-free. Once you hit this point, you’re ready to transition to a treadmill. The Elliptical offers great cardiovascular exercise with minimal weight bearing through the joints. Our favorite elliptical for knee arthritis is the Schwinn 470 elliptical.

Choose the Right Treadmill

When you’re running with arthritis, not just any treadmill will work. You’ll want to make sure your treadmill is the best of the best, which can be found here:

Choosing a treadmill with more cushioning will go a long way to pain-free running. If you have made it this far then congratulations. Now you can start shredding the weight. For every pound of weight loss, there is a 4-pound reduction in forces at the knee.



Arthritis should not stop you from living the active lifestyle you want. As long as you can listen to your body and run consciously, running with arthritis can actually strengthen and help eliminate some of the daily pain experienced. There is ample evidence to suggest that running is more beneficial for arthritis than for harm if done correctly and safely.

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Disclaimer: The information provided in this post is for educational purposes only. This is not a substitute for a medical appointment. Please refer to your physician before starting any exercise program.