The Top 2 Exercises to Alleviate Runner’s Knee

By: Eric Walper, Physiotherapist

Summer is upon us, and we are quickly moving into the peak of the running season. With the possibility of running a race in the upcoming months, there comes an increased intensity and volume of training. At the same time, we are starting to see an increased prevalence of running related injuries. Runner’s Knee, or IT Band Friction Syndrome, is a common running injury that we usually see as our running athletes continue to push their volume and bodies into unfamiliar territory. Many of us have heard of the IT band. This is a dense piece of connective tissue that runs down the outside of the leg from the hip to the knee. It provides the structural support for the outside of our thigh and that stability aids us in side-to-side motion. When the IT band gets hurt, Runner’s Knee occurs.

What is Runner’s Knee and What are the Common Causes?

Runner’s Knee is defined as an inflammation of the IT band as it crosses the outside of the knee joint. It is due to the repetitive motion often seen from prolonged and/or high intensity running activities. The three most common contributors to this condition are:

– Inadequate or improper footwear

– Decreased strength in the glutes (butt)

– Instability in the ankle

In particular, we consider the last two common contributors during our physical rehab or exercise prescription for Runner’s Knee. As a result, we look at exercises that will add strength to the hips above the knee, and stability to the ankle below the knee.

Two Exercises to Alleviate Pain from Runner’s Knee

Below, you will find my two favourite exercises I recommend to someone who is suffering from Runner’s Knee.

  1. Strengthen Your Hips

When strengthening the hip, one of our commonly assigned exercises is a single leg squat. Here are the steps to perform this exercise:

– You want to stand 2-3 feet in front of a chair, and face away from it.

– Place one foot on the chair behind you, and shift your weight onto the target leg in front of you.

– Begin by lowering your hips and back, while maintaining your knee directly in line with your foot. Try not to allow your knee to collapse inwards or travel too far forward over the front foot.

– Perform 10-12 reps in 2-3 sets as part of a rehabilitation program.

  1. Work on Ankle Stability

To enhance the stability of the ankle, we incorporate single-leg balance exercises. One of my favorite exercises is doing a single leg stance while moving the opposite leg. Here are the steps to perform this exercise:

– Shift your weight to the target leg, and slowly lift the other leg completely off the ground.

– When you are sure of your balance, begin spelling the alphabet, or make large circles with your leg in the air. The leg that you are balancing on will have to work hard to keep you stable while you move your other leg.

– Perform this exercise for 20-30 seconds for 2-3 sets.


Next time you notice pain on the outside of your knee, or have a suspicion that you too could be experiencing Runner’s Knee, try these two exercises to alleviate your pain. If all else fails, stop by the clinic and book an appointment with one of our experienced physiotherapists to get to the root of your problem. You can book an appointment online by clicking here.