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 – 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.

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

Considering the last two common contributors during our physical rehab or exercise prescription for this injury, we often look at implementing exercises that 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 2 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 facing away from it.

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

– Begin by lowering your hips down 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 foot in front.

– 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 will 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, slowly lifting the other leg completely off the ground.

– When you are sure of your balance, begin spelling the alphabet or performing large circles with the leg lifted into the air. The leg that you are balancing on will have to work hard to maintain stability while you move your other leg.

– Perform this exercise for 20-30 seconds in duration in 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 a thorough assessment and get to the root of your problem. You can book an appointment online by clicking here.