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Trailrunners cause knee problems?
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Justice Baker

Locale: Central Oregon
Are Trailrunners the cause of my knee problems? on 07/01/2012 10:14:22 MDT Print View

I have been backpacking in Inov-8 trail runner shoes this summer but have developed knee pain. I believe I walk on the inside of my feet in the trail runners and stress my knees to the point where they hurt. I hiked last summer in boots and never had any problems with my knees. I went hiking yesterday with my backpack in my boots instead of trail runners and my knees feel better than they did last time I went in my trail runners. My backpack is a good 10 to 15 pounds lighter than last year. Is it possible the trail runners are causing my knee problems? Are there any good light mid-height non-waterproof boots that may help? The boots I hiked in yesterday are a little too heavy and waterproof, feet over heat but my knees feel better. Any help would be appreciated, THANKS

Edited by jkokbaker on 07/01/2012 10:38:33 MDT.

Terry Trimble
(socal-nomad) - F

Locale: North San Diego county
Trail runners cause knee problems what? on 07/01/2012 10:32:22 MDT Print View

Your title is misleading it should have been titled "trail runner cause my knee to hurt?"

Everybody is made differently some can hike in trail runner with out injury, Some cannot with out injury.
Your a person that need extra ankle support Lowa,Vasque,Merrell and others make light weight mid 3/4 ankle height hiking shoes that should give you support. Hope they help if not maybe you need to see a podiatrist and get fitted for orthotics to get your feet on stable platform .

I have never had knee problems but I have twisted or blown up my ankles over a few hundred time from hiking,skateboard mishaps have had to go back and forth from low top to 3/4 high top shoe.I even own my own pair of crutches but luckily at my older slower age I have not needed the crutches and hike in low tops more freedom for me.

Edited by socal-nomad on 07/01/2012 10:37:34 MDT.

Mike M
(mtwarden) - MLife

Locale: Montana
Re: Trailrunners cause knee problems? on 07/01/2012 10:34:28 MDT Print View

I doubt that trail runners are to blame, it's possible that Inov-8 shoes aren't the right fit for you and you may have to look to another shoe; but heavier boots are much more likely to be a source of knee trouble vs lighter trail runners

Justice Baker

Locale: Central Oregon
Re: Trail runners cause knee problems what? on 07/01/2012 10:43:44 MDT Print View

Sorry about the title. I was thinking that ankle support keeps my leg straight where I can not put all my weight on the inside of foot.

Stephen M
(stephenm) - MLife

Locale: Mind your own business
Re: Re: Trail runners cause knee problems what? on 07/01/2012 11:22:54 MDT Print View

I did about 20 hours over two days in a pair of trail runners (pack was about 20lb) last weekend and was fine expcept for the last hour when I could feel every root and rock through the sole, I think I must of bruised the soles of my feet a bit, but definitley felt better after than I would been in boots.

Thomas Budge
(budgthom) - F

Locale: Idaho
Could be on 07/01/2012 11:25:30 MDT Print View

I'm no podiatrist, but I did develop femoral lateral syndrome from hiking. It's a knee problem where your patella shifts laterally (toward the outside). Based on what I've learned about it from my doc, i suspect that a lack of arch and/or ankle support in your trail runners could contribute to this type of injury. Of course, your pain could be from something totally different. My advice: talk to your doc before it gets any worse.

Nathan Hays

Locale: San Francisco
Retraining on 07/01/2012 13:45:43 MDT Print View

I found that the switch to trail runners (Vasque, 10-12mm drop, not much arch support) caused me odd pains including knees, inside ankles, and metatarsals.

Determined to get off the shoe and more on my feet, I retrained my muscles. Over a few months I hiked 350 miles of trail with a 20lb pack. I hiked toes in, toes out, on the balls, on the heels, rolling step, flat step, etc.. This really stressed how my stride is put together. My muscles were VERY sore, but the joint issues have all gone away.

In boots I used to plod along, my feet more like stubs at the ends of my legs. Now there is a lot more spring in my step and my feet are engaged with the terrain.

I suppose the inov8s have less of a drop and if you haven't been lowering the drop over time (they suggest this) then you will certainly have a lot of alignment issues. I would recommend that you not push past the point of pain in your joints because that can cause damage that requires healing time and incorrect accomodation in your stride. Make sure the pain is in your muscles. Walk in odd ways to stay out of an alignment rut.

I assume your pain is on the inside of the knees? I would think so because the inov8s will put the weight more on the balls which you will compensate by pronating (toes out) and your arch falling. This draws the knees together and stretches the inside ligaments.

If so, hike toes in on the balls with no weight on the heels. Once your tibialis (front, outside muscle below the knee) gets tired (pretty fast!), go back to your normal stride and watch how your knees collapse inward. That's what you want to train away from.

Stuart .
(lotuseater) - F

Locale: Mountains
Re: Trailrunners cause knee problems? on 07/01/2012 14:18:12 MDT Print View

I switched from full boots (Salewa Mountain Trainers) to Inov-8 Rocklite 295s for my last trip, a two dayer in Indian Peaks in CO. My pack was about 20lbs and toward the end of the trip my left knee was aching. Not surprising after injuring it last November. Within 24 hours it felt fine, but I did notice that my hamstrings were tight for 72 hours after the trip.

It's possible that the switch put a strain on my ankle or hip, and the knee is what showed the symptoms. More training required, with a lighter pack and/or aftermarket insoles.

I'll stick with the Rocklites - I've never felt as comfortable as I did wearing them. No desire to swap them out for camp shoes at the end of the day.

Edited by lotuseater on 07/01/2012 14:23:18 MDT.

Stephen Barber
(grampa) - MLife

Locale: SoCal
"Walking on the inside of your foot" on 07/01/2012 14:22:50 MDT Print View

Sounds like maybe you have a tendency to over-pronation, and the Innov-8s lack pronation control, and your high tops block the ankle from moving inward with the pronation. You may need a runner with more aggressive pronation control. Many runners (shoes) have this, you need to find some and test them for knee pain. Alternatively, try something like Superfeet Green (an insole) which might help control the arch collapse pronation causes, which can create knee pain.

Best of luck in your search!

Stuart .
(lotuseater) - F

Locale: Mountains
Re: Walking on the inside of your foot on 07/01/2012 14:28:09 MDT Print View

Typing at the same time as Stephen - agree fully with his recommendation. I know my left arch has a tendency to collapse. I've been using green Superfeet since November with great success. I left them out as a test this last trip but the weight penalty is worth it and they're going into the Inov-8s for my next trip.

Justice Baker

Locale: Central Oregon
Re: Re: Walking on the inside of your foot on 07/01/2012 15:51:56 MDT Print View

I think green Superfeet are it. I never thought of a different insole for my current shoes. I will try this first in my Inov-8 shoes before buying new boots, thanks for the idea.

Jennifer Mitol
(Jenmitol) - M

Locale: In my dreams....
PT advice on 07/01/2012 16:29:50 MDT Print View

Those who suggest that you're an overpronator are probably correct. Many times a taller boot can prevent enough arch collapse to support your knees, but the low hiker is exposing your weaknesses and your knee is taking the brunt of the forces.

For your long-term knee health, you need to strengthen your hip muscles, particularly the gluteus medius and the external rotators. This helps to keep your femur from collapsing and rotating inward when you take a step, which causes your lower leg to twist the other direction...and then your arch collapses downward (stand on one leg and try it - rotate your hip outward, then inward while standing on your leg and watch what your arch does). Your patella is embedded in your quad muscles and doesn't go anywhere, so when your femur rotates under it, you cause too much pressure under the kneecap and voila - knee pain. The old way of thinking said that you needed to strengthen the inside of your quads because your kneecap "tracked" wrong, but there has been a ton of research in this area and we now know that it's the femur moving UNDER the patella that is causing all the trouble, and that we can't change how the patella tracks at all.

You can PM me for specific exercises if you want.

Secondly, I would look for a different trail runner with more support for overpronation. In road runners they are called "motion control shoes" and a good running store will sell these in trail runners as well.

If you can't exchange the shoes, or can't afford to get new ones, then try the super feet insoles. They're a cheaper off-the-shelf option and are sometimes good enough for most people. in the meantime, if the insoles or new shoes don't help immediately...then argh! go back to the heavy boots until your knees feel better (or take a break from hiking), then try the low hikers again. Patellofemoral syndrome can become a nasty chronic problem and you don't want to go down that path if you can avoid it...

Good luck,

Randy Martin
(randalmartin) - F

Locale: Colorado
Re: PT advice on 07/01/2012 17:01:16 MDT Print View

I have pronation issues as well and use Green Superfeet inside my La Sportiva Wildcat trail runners. The combination of stiffer soles and the arch support are perfect. I think minimalist shoes in general require you to have a very good stride/gait and well balanced/developed muscles. Of course some would say that's the cart before the horse and that you will develop those features as you wear minimalist footwear. I don't buy into that.

Edited by randalmartin on 07/01/2012 17:02:18 MDT.

Matthew Reese
(Bradktn) - M
knee pain on 07/01/2012 19:25:23 MDT Print View

I've had three surgeries on my left knee and switching from boots to trail runners, (Salomons), has made my knee hurt less. LIke others have said, I use Superfeet Green insoles. I also like the Salomons because they are available in wide.

jeffrey armbruster
(book) - M

Locale: Northern California
Trailrunners cause knee problems?" on 07/01/2012 20:29:58 MDT Print View

Re: Jennifer's comment that "we can't correct knee tracking at all" (I'm not exactly reproducing what she said here. )It's clear that Jennifer is coming at this issue with extensive knowledge. If I can just throw in my personal experience: after three years of knee pain my doctor finally diagnosed that I WASN'T tracking correctly. Long story short, after four weeks of exercises to strengthen the muscles above my knee, and so tighten them to improve knee tracking (forgive my lack of proper medical terminology here) VOILA my right knee--the problem knee--is in fact virtually pain free. And yes I'm talking about everyday pain free and a recent backpacking trip of sixty miles with several thousand feet of elevation and descent involved. So in my case "tracking" was indeed the problem and a non-drug solution was the answer. YMMV.

Edited by book on 07/01/2012 20:33:45 MDT.

Jennifer Mitol
(Jenmitol) - M

Locale: In my dreams....
Knee tracking on 07/01/2012 22:20:09 MDT Print View

It's really a question of word choice, honestly. The old way of thinking was that we could change how the patella moved - and people would do exercises specifically for that, or they would wear expensive and uncomfortable braces, etc. But now we know that the tracking problem comes from the femur twisting under the the exercises should target the hips, buttocks and hamstrings, not so much the quads (the muscles of your thigh). It still is a tracking problem, per se, but we can really affect only one component of the two moving probably got better (as most do) because those exercises likely targeted the hips we can just do it a lot faster by going straight for the hips, buttocks and hamstrings. And in some people the problem is actually TOO much strength in the quads compared to the hamstrings...most people do not have any problem with the strength of their thigh muscles. It's the buttocks and the hamstrings that most of us have issues with.

The specifics of exactly why things are biomechanically off are certainly more appropriate in an academic discussion (lol!), but there is so much bad information out there - some coming from physicians and PTs too! - because people don't stay current on these things. I'm on a bit of a personal mission to make sure people get good sorry if I'm being too specific.

And if anyone wants some specific exercises I can pass them along...

(KalebC) - F

Locale: South West
Patella femoral pain on 07/01/2012 23:18:43 MDT Print View

Im a DPT, your knee pain could be from your shoes, or perhaps not. I would see a PT to figure it out. I have treated cyclists that had knee pain that ended up being from changing shoes that changed foot angles, small changes to the kinetic chain can make a difference. If it is the trail runners- no doubt that it isn't trail runners in general but those particular shoes.

Sam Farrington
(scfhome) - M

Locale: Chocorua NH, USA
knee pain on 07/01/2012 23:25:25 MDT Print View

It may be that the higher boots are preventing your feet from a tendency to pronate; that is, for the heels and soles to rotate and put pressure on the knees.

As we get older, and our cartilage weakens, this pressure can do tremendous damage to the knees. As several posters have suggested, a good orthotic can prevent the pronation, in whatever kind of footwear you're using. If the generic ones won't work, a good podiatrist can tailor them to your foot issues, which could be the opposite of pronation, or something else. The best prescription orthotics I have found are made by PAL. They are carbon fiber, and have a full foot bed with reinforced Spenco blue foam. Mine were around $400 in 2007. They are finally beginning to wear a little, and I will use some McNett SeamGrip to patch some cracks in the bottoms. They were a miracle of comfort when I began wearing them, in both boots and low trail shoes. I had tried all the generic footbeds first, and none helped.

Edited by scfhome on 07/01/2012 23:26:59 MDT.

rowan !

Locale: SF Bay Area
Maybe a different last on 07/02/2012 03:18:20 MDT Print View

You might find that a different pair of trail runners, built on a different last, would help. I find that any shoe that is slightly too narrow in the toes, or even a little bit pointed in the toe, will cause me to overpronate (something I don't do when barefoot). But a shoe with a wider, squared off toe box doesn't cause those problems for me. So maybe your shoes just aren't the right shape, even though they're the right size. From what I recall, the Inov-8s look like they are both narrow and pointy.

Susan Papuga
(veganaloha) - M

Locale: USA
Re: Are Trailrunners the cause of my knee problems? on 07/02/2012 05:16:44 MDT Print View

I don't think your pain is due to wearing trail runners, but rather it's because you're wearing the wrong trail runners.

+1 on the thought that you may have a pronation problem (collapsing inward).

Remember, trail runners are running shoes. (We just use them to hike in.) Like road running shoes, trail running shoes are designed and built for correcting/taking into account a variety of certain biomechanical issues, such as arch type, pronation, suponation, stability, cushioning, light weight, low milage, high milage, etc. In short, you need the correct shoe that matches your biomechanic and running style needs, ie forefoot striker or heel-toe foot strike.

For example, if in fact you pronate a little, a stability shoe may work, but if you pronate excessively, you may need a pronation motion control shoe. Then you would also need to know your natural foot strike pattern to choose a shoe with the correct last shape and midsole support for you. For example, a person who pronates and is a forefoot striker will need a different shoe than one who pronates but strikes heal-to-toe.

In short, there's more to it than just emulating what shoes other hikers are wearing or just buying the lightest model. You could pay $150.00 but if you're in the wrong shoe, you'll get injured.

The best place to start is to go to a running specialty store and work with a knowledgable sales person who can examine your foot, watch your gait and foot strike, etc. It is also still a good idea to bring your current runnng shoes with you so the salesperson can look at the wear pattern. You can also check online resources like or runner's world for more information.