After a run (cross country, mixed terrain, ~4 miles) I sometimes get knee pain. The pain is located beneath the knee cap. It goes away after a while, but sometimes resurfaces if I'm walking. I've tried wearing a tubigrip around the joint when running, but it doesn't seem to help. Is this serious?
Pain beneath the knee cap can have many causes. Most often, it's caused by your biomechanics being a bit off so your knee cap is tracking badly as your leg moves.
It can also be referred pain from some other problem in the area. (Referred pain: the nerves are shared so pain in one spot can feel like it's coming from somewhere else).
My advice is to see a physiotherapist and ask their opinion. I would expect some strengthening exercises, some co-ordination excercises and possibly some stretching.
From my own experience, I used to do trail running, and I tended to have knee pain after the 10k mark (6.2mi). My (partial) solution was to exercise the quadriceps in static weight machines before training on the treadmill or outdoors. This approach significantly reduced my knee pain (and calf pain) after training or after a race. I think that the impact is transferred more to the muscle than to the knee. Anyway, I recommend you see a physical therapist.
Knee and hip conditions are one of the main reasons why people turn to minimalist footwear. The theory there is that if you are wearing a normal shoe with a reasonable amount of padding and sole thickness than the cushioning and changed elevation causes you to strike with your heel transferring a lot of force to your knees and hips that eventually becomes painful and damaging.
Minimalist footwear helps with this problem by allowing you to adopt a fore-foot strike that uses the natural design of your foot and leg to absorb a lesser-impact more effectively.
Of course it could be other things. Maybe you just need to strengthen the knee?
You should also note that transitioning to minimalist footwear takes a while and you have to ease into it slowly. People can injure themselves doing it because you begin to need to develop all kinds of little muscles in the foot as well as your calves, the effort of which an ordinary shoe would mitigate. So when you suddenly start to need them, they don’t have the strength or endurance to take on that work—at first.
A couple of possibilities from my own experience:
- Is the left/right shoe or both shoes worn out?
- Are you running on hard surfaces (e.g. stone or rough ground)? This is for street running so it may not apply, but I've found running on pavements, combined with old worn out shoes caused the exact same part of my left knee to hurt. New shoes and running on the smoother tarmac of the road helped.
- Another possibility: do you pronate on the other foot?
If it still doesn't get better, there's always the flat bouncy treadmill.