Are you new to running? Run softer to prevent knee pain

Running is one of the best things you can do for your health. Unfortunately, knee injuries are very common with running!


If you’re new to running, here is an important tip for preventing knee injuries:


Think about running (or landing) softer.


We've been teaching this cue for a while now (based on Chan et al. 2018) but a new systematic review and meta-analysis put it into context with other studies by compiling data from 30 randomized controlled trials (RCT’s) to understand the best strategies for preventing and managing running-related knee injuries.



Preventing running-related knee injuries


18 RCT’s looked at prevention of running-related knee pain, including Chan et al.’s study which showed that new runners who learn to “run softer” reduce their risk of getting a knee injury by 2/3 compared to controls.


Across the other studies, interventions such as footwear, exercises, running programs, and injury prevention education programs didn’t make a huge difference in preventing knee injuries.


Managing running-related knee injuries


12 RCT’s looked at managing running-related knee pain, and multiple treatment strategies have been shown to provide short-term pain relief:

  • gait retraining (combining increased cadence + minimalist footwear, switching from rearfoot strike to forefoot strike);
  • exercises;
  • orthotics, and
  • manual therapy (although only 1 study looked at manual therapy and it had a high risk of bias…).


4 notes of caution


  1. Some treatment interventions can increase your risk of injury elsewhere (e.g. quick transition to new footwear or changing footstrike), so please consult a healthcare professional – ideally one who has extra training in treating runners.
  2. We don’t know if “running softer” helps experienced runners, so if you’re already running, and are not injured, don’t change how you run based on these findings.
  3. There isn’t a lot of research available on this topic, so all the recommendations are considered “low certainty evidence” (i.e. more research is needed).
  4. As with all our posts, this is NOT meant to replace medical advice. If you are unsure, please consult a healthcare professional!

Bea Francisco

Bea Francisco (BKin, MSc, MPT) is a physiotherapist practicing at MoveMed Physiotherapy, a specialized clinic recommended by The Running Clinic based in Kelowna, Canada.