What easy and effective exercises exist to treat an existing runners knee injury?

Runners knee often occurs when quadriceps are too weak to support the knees. Thigh-strengthening exercises are needed. Some exercises, such as lunges, might not be appropriate for existing knee injuries since it might cause pain and make it worse.

So far in my research I came across CoolRunning, suggesting

  • Standing Leg Lifts: Stand with your back against the wall. Lift one leg up as high as you can with the knee straight. Hold for five seconds, then bend your knee to relax, hold for five seconds. Straighten your leg again, and do five of these before switching to the other leg. Over time, see if you can build up to ten seconds.
  • Foot Turns: Lie down or sit in a chair and stretch both legs out, knees straight and feet pointed up toward the knees. Tighten your thigh muscles and turn your feet out as far as you can, holding for ten seconds. Now turn your feet in as far as you can and hold for ten seconds, keeping your thigh muscles tight for the entire exercise. Do three of these sets.
  • Foot Press: Either sitting or lying down, put one foot on top of the other and pull up with your lower foot as you push down with the upper foot. Hold that for ten seconds, and then switch feet and repeat. Try five sets of these.

Do you agree with these suggestions?

2 Answers 2


Barbell back squats are probably the most effective exercise for strengthening everything south of your belt line. Everything else is a half measure or more dangerous. If there was a more effective way to build lower body strength it would be used by professional athletes instead of squats.

I'm not sure what your existing knee injury is and what it would preclude you from doing. It's fairly common for people to avoid squats because they have some random knee pain that very well could be resolved by (as you stated) strengthening your legs. I wrote up an answer a while back that you may or may not find useful, it's basically how I structured running and strength training.

Backing up a bit though, you should be able to do a squat without pain. If you can't squat (no bar, no weight) without pain then you really do have an injury that you either need to let heal or you need to have some professional medical help for.

If you can do that, start working with an empty bar. Then put 5lbs on the sides, and then ramp up. Follow a proper strength training program.

Don't look at squats as something other people do. Look at it like a very normal movement for a human being. If you can't do it without pain, it's akin to not being able to lift your arms in the air: it's a problem and you need to address it. Start light, pay attention to your form, and ramp up safely.


The runner's knee is not an injury. It is exercise-correlated patellofemoral pain. As a matter of fact, the pain is associated more with beliefs and anxiety than functional and/or structural problems. Hence, physiotherapy strengthening your trust in your knee and busting nocebos is more important than exercises against the pain.

The functional problems can best be tackled by mobilisation and strengthening of the gastrognemius. Accordingly, I'd say eccentric training programs or heavy slow resistance training similar to achilles tendinopathy rehab (thousands of videos on youtube on that) work best.

Source: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/19236982/

That being said, strengthening the quads doesn't hurt either in case it is not the classical Runner's Knee and structural problems being involved as well. For strength gains, a variation in load and exercise is more effective than focusing on single exercises even when using progressive load programs, though. Thus, it is never a good idea to focus on one exercise or constant load, especially if one wants to stabilise the patella for which the vastus medialis and rectus femoris are crucial (linked study shows no response of these muscle in these cases).

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