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What Exercise Can I Do With Runners Knee?

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Posted 1 year ago


Last updated: 21/11/2023


by James McCormack

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This article will discuss common questions about what exercise and sports are ok to do while recovering from Runner’s knee.

Can I Walk with Runners Knee?

If it is pain-free to walk, then walking is ok to do. We recommend you take short walks and know that the pain might worsen after the walk. So, only gradually increase your distance to avoid irritation. If it is painful to walk, it is not advisable to do so.

You might find that stretching your quadriceps muscle or relaxing it by foam rolling gives you a window of time when you don’t feel pain. In this case, it is a good idea to stretch and foam roll before walking and only walk for a short time.

Similarly, if you get pain in the middle of your walk, you should stop and stretch before continuing.

Photo of woman walking with dog

Is it OK to run with runners knee?

Runner’s knee is caused by repeated bending and straightening of the knee under load, therefore running is a common activity that causes or aggravates it.


Often a period of rest from running is necessary to recover as quickly as possible. In mild cases, it might be possible to continue running, but you should consider reducing your frequency, distance and intensity.


Having a running coach or physical therapist who specialises in running, to have a look at your running gait is very helpful as some running styles are more likely to develop this condition, so you can be coached to change your running stype to offload the patellofemoral joint.

What Cardio Can I do with Runner’s Knee?

Is the Elliptical Good for Runners Knee?

The Elliptical (cross-trainer) is a non-impact solution for maintaining cardiovascular fitness while recovering from Runner’s Knee.

There is low force placed through your knees when using the elliptical, and we recommend it’s use to patients who have too much knee pain to run.

Stretching and foam rolling before and after will help to keep your knee pain-free.

Tips for using the elliptical with Runner’s Knee:

  • Make sure your knees move straight.
  • Work on medium tempo
  • Avoid hard resistance
  • Use added assistance from your arms.

Can I Cycle with Runners Knee?

We recommend cycling or biking as an alternative form of exercise if you have a Runner’s Knee.

Cycling is a non-impact exercise, and it is a great alternative to running as it places less force on the front of your knee and is unlikely to irritate Runner’s Knee.

Although biking involves repetitive bending and straightening of the leg, it primarily works the quadriceps muscles with low force through the knee. Cycling, therefore, acts as a great option to strengthen your quadriceps. 

If you cycle with cleats, it can be better to loosen these, so they are easy to clip in and out of the pedal with less force.

When cycling with Runner’s knee, we recommend that you consider the following:

  • Check your bike position set-up
  • Avoid hills
  • Choose lower gears
  • Keep a high cadence
  • Stay seated

Can I Swim with Runners Knee?

Yes, you can swim with Runner’s Knee, and it is one of the best non-impact exercises you can do while you recover from this condition.

Swimming is an excellent alternative for cardiovascular workout if you cannot run because of your knee pain. With front crawl, you can work mainly or completely with your upper body to get a good workout while avoiding any irritation to your knee.

  • Avoid breaststroke
  • Kick from your hips, not your knees
  • Don’t kick but use a pool buoy

Is Rowing Good for Runners Knee?

Rowing is a good strengthening exercise for the whole body and is non-impact. It does, however, still bend and straighten the knees under force so needs to be done with caution. It can be an excellent way to strengthen the posterior chain of muscles which include the glutes and hamstrings.

  • Limit your time to stay pain-free
  • Use less resistance
  • Limite knee flexion

Can I Workout with Runners Knee?

Strength training is often prescribed by physical therapists as an essential part of the recovery of patellofemoral pain syndrome. Common patterns to find in individuals with runner’s knee is tightness of the quadriceps, and weakness in the posterior chain of muscles, which includes the hamstrings and glutes. Therefore, targeted strength training can be very effective for recovery.

Can I Squat with Runners Knee?

The contact of the patella on the femur changes as the knee is bent. The greatest contact of the patella on the femur is between 60-90º of flexion. As the knee is bent, the contact moves further to the top of the patella.


Therefore, squatting will increase the pressure on the patella and, depending on the area of the patella surface that is irritated, it may increase the contact on that part.


In most cases, squatting is aggravating, but it can be an effective rehab exercise in the latter stages of recovery.

Can I Lift Weights with Runners Knee?

Adding weight to exercises is effective for building strength. The specific movement and the stage of recovery are important to establish if this is a risk of aggravating the injury.


In the early stages, it is likely that weightlifting is not helpful and a risk of causing pain. But in the latter stages of recovery, it can be very useful for strengthening and for the improvement of biomechanics.

Can I do HIIT with Runners Knee?

HIIT training is often varied in terms of the exercises that are included and the impact involved can be a high load on the patellofemoral joint.


A good rule is to avoid painful movements. However, sometimes symptoms might not be felt during the activity, but only afterwards. To be safe you can try the different exercises from the HIIT sequence, individually to determine if they are aggravating or not.

Can I do Yoga with Runners Knee?

Yoga is a great exercise to improve flexibility.

In many cases of Runner’s knee, flexibility is an issue that has contributed to the injury development. Good flexibility can also improve running efficiency, and there are some running inefficiencies, such as poor hip extension, that can contribute to the development of Runners knee.

Is Pilates Good for Runners Knee?

Pilates is an exercise that works on increasing the strength of core muscles. This can help control movements throughout the body, especially with exercises such as running when force is applied to one limb.

Poor strength and stability in the core can cause movements such as a pelvis drop, increasing the patellofemoral joint load.

Physiotherapy with James McCormack

This article is written by James McCormack, a Lower Limb Specialist who is an expert in treating knee pain.

This is not medical advice. We recommend a consultation with a medical professional such as James McCormack if you are experiencing any of the symptoms discussed in this article. James offers Online Physiotherapy Appointments weekly and face-to-face appointments in his London clinic.

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