Running Shoes that Protect Ankles and Knees
There’s no doubt that running can take a toll on your knees and ankles. When we run, force equal to 2.5 times our body weight comes down through the foot that’s striking the ground – so if you have weakness in these joints, there’s a real risk of injury.
If you suffer from chronically weak knees or ankles, or are overcoming an injury in one of those joints, knee- and ankle-protecting running shoes can offer a solution. It’s worth noting straight up that shoes alone won’t fix the problem – but knee- and ankle-support shoes can play a big part in helping to protect your joints and give you the confidence you need.
Understanding knee and ankle problems when running
There are many possible causes of joint pain when running, and it’s always a smart idea to discuss your concerns with your GP or a qualified physiotherapist first. Support shoes are certainly part of the treatment, but it’s essential to understand what’s going on in your joints first, as this will help with your choice of knee- and ankle-support trainers.
Common causes of knee and ankle problems include:
- Overuse: You may experience pain in your joints through sheer overuse. Aim to have at least two or three days of rest from running each week, even if you’re in the midst of training for an event.
- Poor posture: Pain in your ankles and knees may actually be caused by poor posture elsewhere in your body – get that fixed and the pain may disappear.
- Old injuries: Whether you once broke a leg joint or repeatedly sprained your ankle in the past playing a different sport, old injuries may flare up when you take up running.
- Pronation issues: When we run, the outside of our heels normally strikes the ground first before ‘rolling’ inwards slightly (a term called ‘pronation’) as the rest of the foot comes into contact with the ground. However, some people over- or under-pronate, and this can result in pain if you’re not wearing the right shoes for your gait.
- Fractures and other musculoskeletal problems: You may have stress fractures or some kind of joint fluid problem – a specialist will be able to examine you to identify these kinds of issues.
Very often, a visit to a running store can be enough to fix simple ankle and knee problems – trained staff can conduct a ‘gait analysis’ where they film you running on a treadmill to understand the mechanics of your running style to figure out if there are any problems. They’ll also be able to recommend knee- and ankle-support trainers as appropriate to you.
What to look for in knee- and ankle-protecting running shoes
While it’s wise to get to the root of any joint pain before investing in trainers, knee- and ankle-support shoes normally combine certain features to reduce the impact of running and offer extra support. Here’s what to look out for:
- Buy running-specific shoes: If you plan exclusively to run, choose running shoes which are designed specifically for the sport. The problem with wearing more ‘generic’ sports trainers is that they don’t tend to include as much of the cushioning or support in the heel as runners require.
- Emphasise cushioning: Choose shoes which offer plenty of padding and cushioning in the heel, but also through to the midfoot.
- Choose shoes that are the right fit for you: It’s important to find running shoes which fit snugly around the sides of your foot, but also allow for some movement from back to front. It’s generally recommended to buy running shoes a half size bigger than your normal footwear to accommodate a bit more movement – this prevents your toes painfully banging against the end of the shoes. At the same time, you want to avoid wearing shoes that are too wide, as any side-to-side movement risks your ankles slipping. Many running shoes are available in wide, regular and narrow fits. Choose whichever is comfortable for you.
- Focus on grip: Any runner – but especially those with a history of ankle or knee injuries – needs to feel confident in their shoes’ grip. Check the tread of new running shoes and make sure you’re buying from a reputable brand that will guarantee durable grips which won’t wear away in a few weeks. You might want to consider trail running shoes for extra tough and durable lugs.
- Solid support in the sole and sides: Depending on your level of pronation, you might benefit from a running trainer that has a tough medial support. This is a kind of hard foam which aims to counter overpronation (where the heel rolls inwards too far).
Find the right shoes for you
While there’s a lot to take on when looking for running shoes – and especially if you have any joint issues – don’t despair. There is a huge range of footwear available nowadays catering to the styles and problems of all kinds of runners. A good place to start finding your next pair is our shoe finder tool , that narrows down from hundreds of shoes to find the right pair for you.