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June 04, 2019

The tiny workout tweak that can help relieve treadmill-induced knee pain

FYI, running at a zero incline isn't doing you any favors

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How to make treadmill runs a little more bearable.

So, you’ve worked your way up to a run streak — running at least one mile per day for a given time — or are at least running regularly, and everything is going great, except for one not-so minor detail: your knees really start to hurt when you’re on the treadmill.

Sure, this might not be all that surprising if you have a pre-existing knee issue, or recently tweaked it, but if knee pain arises rather suddenly during a treadmill run there is something you can do that might help remedy the situation.

Well and Good spoke with the founder of an NYC-based running studio — Precision Running — David Siik, who explains that increasing the incline – very slightly – on the treadmill can help take the load off of your knees.

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The running instructor tells Well and Good:

“Adding incline reduces certain forces acting on the knees, which can create a much more comfortable experience,” says Siik. “The other bonus is a little extra work on your glutes, quads, hamstrings, and calves, and really improving strength.” And it’s not like you have to hike Everest (bless up for that) to reap the benefits on your treadmill. “While there’s no perfect incline for every body type, the one to three percent incline range is a great place to run for those with knee issues or recovering from a knee injury,” says Siik.

If you think running at a low-to-zero incline is doing your knees a favor, you are sorely mistaken. Another trainer, Tiffany Zarcone, who shared this caution with Well and Good:

“A zero percent incline on the treadmill actually simulates downhill running, which can put a tremendous strain on your knees and patellar tendon, especially if you have a pre-existing injury. Your muscles have to work harder to control your movements when going downhill so you don’t fall, and too much of this ‘eccentric strain’ can cause overuse injuries.”

But if your knee pain doesn’t subside after gently upping the incline on your treadmill runs – think 1 percent incline – you may want to cease that high-impact activity in favor of the more forgiving elliptical trainer, Everyday Health suggests. This will give your knees a break, while keeping your cardio up. 

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