Sunday, July 10, 2011

What to Wear Running for Knees

Despite the talk of pounding on your joints, a recent study revealed that, if you don't already have bad knees, running moderate distances at a moderate pace is good for them.

Unfortunately, I already have bad knees, thanks to tearing my ACL more than 10 years ago. For now, I run anyway, but I've had to had to make some adjustments, including taking ibuprofen a few times a week, stretching my IT band and, after long runs, icing or taking an ice bath.

While training for my last marathon, I also started wearing a knee strap. Cues that a knee strap was in order:
  • Knee joints felt tender, sort of a soft, liquid soreness
  • Discoloration that looked like a bruise way beneath the surface, under my patella

You may have other signs; my point is, don't ignore them - they won't go away. My pain wasn't sharp, so I decided to keep running but try to reduce the impact with a knee strap. It worked - the bruising went away and, with icing and Vitamin I (ibuprofen), so did the gooey pain. I now have, and often wear, two straps (one for each leg, not two on one!). I like them both but prefer the Ace. Here's some details.

Ace knee strap:
  • Like: Velcro on both ends means it stay in place
  • Like: Wide fabric keeps the rough Velcro covered, so it never scratches your skin
  • Like/dislike: Cloth fabric on the front and back absorbs sweat
  • Dislike: Even the small is not quite small enough - the design makes it hard to get it tight enough (and I don't have skinny knees!)
  • Dislike: The front has a rough plastic ridge that, if I don't position the band correctly, scratches my other leg
McDavid knee strap:
  • Like: Exposed rubber knee brace really gets in, under the patella, creating a strong support
  • Like: Design lets me tighten the strap as much as I need
  • Like/dislike: Neoprene doesn't absorb sweat
  • Dislike: Neoprene isn't holding up well - starting to curl
  • Dislike: Non-Velcro end sometimes slips out from under the band (it just feels weird)

Both were available at my local, major drug store for less than $20.  These days, even shorter runs are taking their toll, so it was worth the small investment.

Be good to your knees and happy running!