Does running damage your joints?

23rd August 2018 / Health

Does running damage your joints?

Emily Hedgman

Plenty of scaremongering exists about the damage runners do to their knees and ankles through exercise. Fortunately, these claims don’t really hold up under research, with a few notable exceptions. While the act of running itself hasn’t been shown to increase instances of osteoarthritis, certain contributing factors can lead to deterioration if not careful.


The good news

A study conducted by the American College of Rheumatology in 2014 showed that contrary to popular opinion, a regular running habit does not increase the incidence of knee osteoarthritis, and may actually help prevent the disease.


On top of this, runners typically have a lower-than-average BMI, which in itself reduces the likelihood of experiencing osteoarthritis of the knee.


It is worth noting that the researchers did not look at whether running could help resolve existing OA conditions, only whether it increased the likelihood of developing one.


But what about inflammation? Another study, from Brigham Young University. In this study, they looked for markers of inflammation before and after running in healthy adults. They found that inflammation levels were not increased through exercise, and in fact, pro-inflammatory molecules were lower in the knee joint after running. This indicates that running can actually have a protective effect on joints.


The bad news

One study did show that modern running shoe design tends to work against our joints, not with them. While highly protective of the foot, running shoe design disrupts normal running patterns and causes increased joint torque at the hip, knee, and ankle. This is largely because of the elevated heel, and increased material under the medial arch.


While most people are unlikely to take this as a cue to start hitting the sidewalk barefoot, it does highlight the importance of finding a well fitted running shoe that works for you, especially if you have joint concerns.


Perhaps the worst news is that ultimately our joint health has very little relation to how we exercise. Age, having a family history, and weight are the most influential factors in developing joint problems in the lower body. On top of this, research released last year shows that high intake of saturated fat and simple carbohydrates over a long period of time contribute to the weakening of cartilage and onset of inflammation.


Instead of worrying that your running habit could be doing damage, it pays to look at your diet and ensure you are getting a healthy balance of the macro and micro nutrients required for good joint health.




Our Joint Support complex contains 1000mg of vegan glucosamine, vitamin C, and boron, plus turmeric and reishi mushroom to fight inflammation.


Referenced studies: