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I started running about 3 weeks ago (3 x a week) in an effort to get in better shape and lose weight. I have noticed my stamina improving but my joints still hurt (knees & ankles) after I run. I am running about 4 miles each time I go out. I currently mix in some walking with the running too.

Is there any particular technique or way to run (like heel-toe or on the balls of your feet, knees bent more/less?) that would lessen the impact on these joins or do I just need to tough it out until I've lost enough weight to where the joint pain isn't as great? Currently I can run about a mile and a half before the pain around my knees is enough to make me want to stop and walk for about a quarter-mile before starting to run again.

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Also, going from 0 miles/week to 12 miles/week is taking a pretty good risk towards injury, especially with harder efforts. –  Ryan Miller Mar 19 '12 at 23:54
    
Well, the 12 miles is do-able physically (I mix in some walking right now still so it's not a huge effort) plus I've been playing competitive singles in tennis regularly for many years now so I'm still in "some" kind of shape - just trying to improve where I'm currently at. I know my body fairly well - enough to know when I'm pushing myself too hard. –  jamauss Mar 20 '12 at 0:09
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5 Answers

up vote 10 down vote accepted

There are many options to try out. Please don't stop - you're on the right track.

Before each run session, prepare your body a little bit through some dynamic stretching to prime your muscles and joints for the effort. This should be part of every session. If you are pressed for time, cut back on your actual running time (and mileage) to fit in a routine similar to this link video.

When you are out running, focus on good form more than speed or distance. Without seeing you run, or knowing how you run, here are a few pointers on good form:

  1. Run tall, don't slump over
  2. Make sure your feet are landing under you - not in front of you. Shorten your stride if you need to.
  3. Focus on landing soft and quiet. Yes, running is a high(er) impact sport, but you can still minimize impact regardless of size or weight

For more in depth information on good form, here is a great resource. Please be aware that there is more than one way to run, but this might work for you.

I'll add as well, that running is not necessarily the answer to losing weight. If, from working out, your appetite increases and you eat more, you may not actually lose weight. So keep that in mind. Weight lose can be attained through BOTH exercise and nutrition.

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Thanks for those 2 video's - especially the dynamic stretching one. I do stretch before and after my runs but not like that video shows. Part of my reason for running (besides weight loss) is to improve my foot speed, cardiovascular endurance and leg strength for when I play tennis, so I have also incorporated a few 100 yard wind sprints into my routine. –  jamauss Mar 19 '12 at 21:49
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"I started running" "You're on the right track". That was a clever pun. Or was it? dun dun dunnnnn –  corsiKa Mar 19 '12 at 22:31
    
huh, didn't realize that. good catch. –  Ryan Miller Mar 19 '12 at 23:52
    
Good video on natural running. I wonder how long it takes to get everything just right... –  Tonny Madsen Mar 20 '12 at 7:34
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I would consider trying to land on your fore- or mid- foot and not your heel.

There is good evidence to suggest that this reduces the sudden, large impact transient forces of heel-striking.

To quote from that Harvard study:

Our research asked how and why humans can and did run comfortably without modern running shoes. We tested and confirmed what many people knew already: that most experienced, habitually barefoot runners tend to avoid landing on the heel and instead land with a forefoot or midfoot strike. The bulk of our published research explores the collisional mechanics of different kinds of foot strikes. We show that most forefoot and some midfoot strikes (shod or barefoot) do not generate the sudden, large impact transients that occur when you heel strike (shod or barefoot). Consequently, runners who forefoot or midfoot strike do not need shoes with elevated cushioned heels to cope with these sudden, high transient forces that occur when you land on the ground. Therefore, barefoot and minimally shod people can run easily on the hardest surfaces in the world without discomfort from landing. If impact transient forces contribute to some forms of injury, then this style of running (shod or barefoot) might have some benefits, but that hypothesis remains to be tested.

I say consider because you have enough to worry about just getting this program underway. @RyanMiller's answer is very good. Running quietly with your feet under you is another way of saying fore-foot running.

Keep it up!

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While I agree with your advice, I have some doubts about Liebermann's agenda when it comes to barefoot running, so I'll take his claims with a pinch of salt. –  Ivo Flipse Mar 20 '12 at 23:32
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Running is bad on the joints for runners of all shapes and weight. I would lose the weight before starting a running program. Because running is in general bad for the joints, I would suggest biking, roller-blading etc.

EDIT: Ok so after doing more a recent study of the impacts of running, it appears that perhaps running is now considered less harmful on the joints as previously thought. However, don't over-do it, listen to your body, be aware of any pain.

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Or swimming - the ultimate zero-impact sport. –  Rory Alsop Mar 19 '12 at 18:20
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This is a rather unnuanced statement, what's your evidence for running being bad on the joints regardless of shape or weight? –  Ivo Flipse Mar 19 '12 at 21:11
    
Yes, please update your post or I'll have to down vote it. –  Ryan Miller Mar 19 '12 at 21:17
    
There is actually some scientific research suggesting that running is good for the joints. Back up your point. –  pjmorse Mar 20 '12 at 13:50
    
As the edit said, longitudinal studies show no increase to arthritis risk from running. –  Sarge Mar 20 '12 at 18:23
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Having read the other answers, I would suggest a couple of things.

  1. Start with biking, even on a stationary. Get used to the movements of your legs. This helps build muscles and strengthens your knees, before you start taking the pounding on them for real. If riding a real bike work on seated climbs. (Same on a spinning bike I suppose, but more fun outdoors.
  2. Once you start running, listen to your body, as others have suggested, but also try working on a Run:Walk program. There are many approaches to this. This can be a run 10 minutes walk 1, once you get better at it. But start with run 1 minute, walk 1 minute, and repeat for all the time you have set aside for your run. Then as that gets more comfortable, switch to two minutes running, one minute walking.
  3. If you are worried about your joints, consider starting out on a running track, since they make it out of much softer, bouncy material instead of pavement or concrete.
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Would taking glucosamine help with the joint pain at all or is that only meant for arthritic pain? –  jamauss Mar 19 '12 at 22:06
    
Glucosamine potentially has long-term protective effects against osteoarthritis (and that's not even recognized US regulators yet), so the pain that you're feeling likely wouldn't be solved by glucosamine supplements. –  user3085 Mar 20 '12 at 4:33
    
@jamauss If the pains are severe then you really must talk with your GP. If for no other reason then he might have other suggestions that can help you. –  Tonny Madsen Mar 20 '12 at 7:37
    
The pain is not that severe - just some general soreness that goes away as soon as I stop running and walk. I'm not usually sore after my run is over either, just during. –  jamauss Mar 20 '12 at 15:50
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As Jim says, running is very hard on all your joints as well as your back... And it doesn't really matter whether you're 20kg overweight or 10kg underweight. The rule of thumb is that the pressure on all joints is 3 times as great when you're running as when you're walking (Assuming an average 5km/hour pace).

Starting with some swimming or biking - or maybe just doing this beside the running - is a very good idea. That will help you built the fitness side of running while still protecting joints and back along the way while you can deal with the weight-loss.

If you just must run, then I would recommend you stop and walk every time your joints begin to hurt. After all pain is the body's way to make you notice when things are not quite right...

The basic idea of running all the many kilometers is to make the body learn the motions... So I cannot recommend, you use an alternative "style" of running now. This can be very difficult to un-learn later.

Good luck!

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"Running is very hard on all your joints"... really? What is your evidence? –  pjmorse Mar 20 '12 at 13:50
    
@pjmorse I would qualify his comment, such as to exclude finger joints perhaps, but legs, most of your core, and much of your arms are affected, just due to the physical impact on each foot fall. –  geoffc Mar 21 '12 at 1:57
    
When I started running 30 years ago this was the common wisdom. And something I have not questioned since then. Now, when I google, I can see there is more nuanced view on this. I'll look more into this and update the answer accordingly... –  Tonny Madsen Mar 21 '12 at 6:48
    
Running is hard on your joints. Please consider the various knee and ankle problems that runners have. But... having said that, it looks like relatively new studies show that osteoarthritis is not more common in runners than non-runners. See runningtimes.com/Article.aspx?ArticleID=17799 for a researchers view of running and joint problems. –  Tonny Madsen Mar 21 '12 at 11:10
    
Tonny, thanks for the research and the clarification. Many of the knee and ankle problems runners have are a consequence of complex issues with muscle, connective tissue, and/or existing weaknesses; the stress of running can exacerbate those problems but usually the cause is more complex. –  pjmorse Mar 21 '12 at 14:34
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