A Small Trick to Avoiding Knee Injuries - Chi Living

A Small Trick to Avoiding Knee Injuries

Posted by Danny Dreyer on Mon Dec 15th, 2014, 7 comments

A Small Trick to Avoiding Knee Injuries

If you've never had any knee pains from running, you're one of the few, lucky people who haven't. Count your blessings and go find something else to read. But, if you're like the rest of us who have dealt with some form of "runner's knee," here's a pretty easy way to prevent the most common impact injuries to the knee.

The next time you go out for a run, listen to the sounds your feet make as you land. What do you hear? If it's a skidding sound, a thud or a slap, your feet could be telling you that you're creating unhealthy impact  that, if left uncorrected, could lead to knee pain.

Let's look at each of the different sounds and what causes them. I'll talk about how to correct all three at the end of the list because the same fix applies to all three situations.

1. The Skidding sound: Those of you who have been studying Chi Running for awhile, might already know how this happens. It usually means that your leg swing is more pendular than circular; that your knees don't bend enough; and that you're most likely running in a vertical body position instead of falling forward in a slight lean. The skidding sound is the sound of horizontal braking which creates a forward, jarring force to the back of your knees.
2. The Thud: The runners who land with a thud are what I call heavy runners, which means that they come down hard on their feet because their mind is directed towards coming down onto the ground instead of moving across the ground. These are the people I wouldn't advise to run across a frozen pond. They feel the airborne nature of running and therefore focus on the landing as "returning to earth" at the end of the flight phase of their stride. The thud is a sign of vertical impact to the knees… like jumping up and down.
3. The slap: This is the sound I hear from people who tend to bend at the waist and who also dorsiflex their ankles as they reach forward into their next stride. This makes them hit heel-first, which in turn makes their forefoot slap the ground as it hits. The slap, like the skidding sound, is a sound associated with horizontal braking.

Here's how to correct all three sounds… run quietly. Have it as your personal running goal to not make any noise when you run. You should be able to sneak up on someone running ahead of you. Of course, this is easier said than done. So, here are some focuses and visualizations for adding some silence to your stride. But, if these focuses are too much to think about when you're running, just go back to having the intention to run as quietly as you can.

1. Focus solely on lifting your ankles with each stride instead of coming down onto your feet.
2. Imagine your center moving along a line parallel to the surface of the Earth.
3. Relax your lower legs to the point where you feel like you don't have any lower legs.
4. Allow your toes to drop as you lift your ankles off the ground; and keep them dropped until you touch the ground again on your landing.
5. Keep your posture tall and straight while allowing your center to fall gently ahead of where you feel your feet during the support stance of your stride.

Whether you're working to reduce impact using these focuses, or whether you just try to run quietly, and you could be adding years to the future of your knees.


  • injury-free running,
  • chirunning,
  • running training,
  • knee pain,
  • knee injury,
  • pain-free

7 CommentsLeave a comment below

My comment is about the limp ankle piece. I have sprained it and am very hesitant about letting it come back to the ground in an extended relaxed state—if i hit an irregularity and flip it, that’s it—a massive sprain!
Any suggestions? Thanks!

Chase Wilson Jun 10th, 2015 12:24pm

Great explanation! I chuckled a little bit about the heavy runners on a frozen pond! I agree, running quietly is so important! Despite my efforts to run quietly and softly, I have had knee trouble since my first day running. Do you have any idea what could be going on? Maybe I should go see a doctor.

Charlotte Eddington Jul 28th, 2015 09:54am

Your comment about the skidding sound, was interesting. I didn’t know that that sounds came from being too upright while running. That is good to know. The next time I go running, I will have to watch that and see if I do it. I want to do whatever it takes to avoid knee pain. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

Zach Thalman Sep 15th, 2015 05:48pm

I had a friend that would always correct me on my running when I went with her. She noticed that I slap pretty good when I run. It has never been an issue before, but I feel like I had the problem because I was always taking smaller strides to make sure I didn’t leave her in the dust. I have never heard my feet slap when I normally run so I think it is just a stride issue I was having. It really affected my knees and made me have to wear a brace. I should probably get my knee looked at sometime.

I initially bought the book and tried out Chi running so that I didn’t have a big energy slump after running. Practicing Tai Chi Chuan regularly, everything I read about chi running seemed to makes sense.

However, I’ve never had knee problems before I tried it out. Maybe it’s a coincidence, but I now have aches and shooting pains in both knees and feel even more shattered after my run. What could I be doing wrong?

  I’m 73 and have knee issues.  A physical therapist, working with my arthritic knees, told me I can still run but would pay dearly for it. A primary physician (not an orthopedist) recommended a running style like yours.
  I took a Chi class session or two about 3+ years ago and i kept running but eventually gave up trying to integrate all the details of your running advice, always degenerating into my old clomping stride, fearing that I was accelerating damage.
  Can your system deal with, or ameliorate, what I describe, or are 73-year-old knees already too shot?  Never had surgery, just physical therapy.

Melissa Ewan Sep 7th, 2016 03:50am

I find many of your articles seem to be biased and not include other alternative therapies like chiropractic.

What are your thoughts?

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I wanted to take a minute to thank Danny and everyone involved at Chi Running. On January 1st 2010 I limped off the Buckeye Trail in NE Ohio with another pulled calf muscle, I have to admit I was done running. 

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