Knee straps are a supportive device for running. This article delves into the science behind them to give you the best advice. Read on to find out more!
If you are an avid fan of running, that irritating pain around the knees at the end of your training day may be no stranger to you. Some blame it on poor warm-up exercises, others on bad forms, but few know the real causes behind it. As a result, despite the pain, you keep pushing yourself for that extra mile as if nothing has happened. Then one day you realize, as the pain gradually gets worse and worse, your training intensity and performance have been already reduced to nil. More often than not, at that time, you will spend most of your time dealing with the deleterious cycle of pain and disability, let alone running. Your running career, thus, comes to an untimely end.
Good news! It’s only a worst-case scenario if you don’t pay much attention to your own health. Yes, it’s real, it’s possible to happen to everyone, but it could also be avoided. Knowing a little science behind that pain and being aware of what tools you have at your disposal will help you a long way. Knee straps for running are one such tool against this debilitating scenario among the vast selection of sports medicine equipment on the market right now. This article sets about dispelling some myths about knee straps to help you make the right decision.
What is a Knee Strap?
You may have seen it before in real life situations or in a sports magazine. Basically, it is a tourniquet-resembling rubber band with various colors wrapped around a fellow runner's knee. It usually comes with Velcro closure to help secure the band. The fact that it is such a simple-looking device fills you with many questions. What purpose does it serve? Is it effective in providing relief for your pain?
Well, the answers depend on the condition you're having, the cause of that condition, and the amount of pain you're experiencing. A knee strap, or a counterforce strap, its formal name, applies pressure on the tendons surrounding the knee joint when worn just below the patella (knee cap). The idea is that it will disperse the tension from muscle contractions evenly throughout the knee’s tendons so that the tendon(s) in pain is not overstressed too much.
Why Should I Use It?
As the name suggests, the strap counters the forces created mainly by the quadriceps muscle when running. The quadriceps muscle is the largest muscle in your body. It extends from your hip, goes down through your thigh, and attaches to the tibia (shin bone) through the patellar tendon. This muscle is so strong that it counters gravity to help you stand upright and produces the strength needed to power through a marathon. The drawback to that amazing feat is that your tendons will suffer from lots of repercussions. If your tendon is irritated, the knee strap for running will disperse that force on a larger area and provide some pain relief.
Current evidence also supports the theory that a knee strap helps align the patella and the patellar tendon properly to stabilize the complex knee joint. What’s more, it increases the sensitivity of your proprioception, kind of a 6th sense of knowing exactly where your limbs are without looking at them. As a result, your brain is able to subconsciously make the necessary muscular and articular adjustments with this heightened level of perception to avoid injuries. Overall, a knee strap for running improves the resistance to the wear and tear effect of your training and partly relieves the compression on the patellar tendon.
When is the Right Time to Use It?
A knee strap is not, first and foremost, an ambrosia for your pain. Prevention is better than a cure. Do not ignore the early signs and symptoms your body sends for help. Injuries will sneak up on you when you least expect them. See a sports medicine professional or an orthopedic doctor to correctly diagnose the cause of your pain first. In many cases for runners, they will have patellar tendinitis, the inflammation of the knee cap tendon, as the root cause. That’s when a knee strap for running comes to the rescue.
Some may tell you that you can use a knee strap to help alleviate the soreness caused by ITB (iliotibial band) syndrome, but that’s not true anymore. Different from patellar tendinitis, in ITB syndrome, you wear the knee strap just above your patella. The image below reveals some insights into why a knee strap for running doesn’t have much effect on ITB syndrome. It does help in some way, but not as much as one would expect in patellar tendinitis. If you are interested, you can read about that discussion in full here.
How to Strap Knee for Running 101
Alright! You have done everything by the book so far and even brought home a brand new knee strap, but you’re just halfway through addressing your knee problem. To have the maximum positive effect, you must wear it properly. Usually, a user instruction is included with the commercial product showing you how to apply the knee strap on your affected area. Or, you may have your sports medicine doctor demonstrate the process step-by-step for you. It's a foolproof process and only takes a minute or so to master.
But if you're having problems with those two options above, maybe the image below will help you. The trick is to use your fingers to feel the patellar bone and the tendon just below connecting the patella to the shin bone. The palpation could be done standing or sitting, whichever position works best for you. The junction between bone and tendon is where the level of the knee strap should be. Make sure to adjust the tightness accordingly, not too tight and not too loose.
Are you still having problems? Don’t worry! You might just be a visual learner. I hope this video will help you.
Which is the Best Knee Strap for Running?
Honestly, I don’t think that different brands will have that much of a difference besides shapes and sizes. What you choose boils down to your preference as long as you identify your problem and wear the knee strap for running properly. Nevertheless, here are some of my suggestions to give you a feel of what the ongoing market has to offer. Disclaimer: I’m not in any way affiliated with Amazon.com and the brands listed here.
1. Abco Tech Patella Knee Strap for Knee Pain Relief
This knee strap provides a way to do exercise and play various sports without having to worry about knee pain. It also claims to not have a scratchy feeling when worn on your knee, unlike other knee straps available on the market right now.
- High quality and durable mixture of nylon and neoprene
- Fully adjustable to fit everyone
- Good after sales service
- A little difficult to put on using both hands
2. Ipow 2 Pack Knee Pain Relief & Patella Stabilizer Knee Strap
The product has a segmented structure so that it could be adjusted to fit with the user’s knee’s curves and to provide better patellar protection. It also boasts having damage prevention and pain reduction effects when playing sports.
- Innovative design
- Soft and very easy to wash
- 1 price for 2 pieces of knee strap
- Prone to wear and tear due to using fabrics as material
- No instruction included
3. Paragon Patella Knee Strap for Running, Fitness, and Stair Climbing
This knee strap for running comes with two adjustable Velcro straps and fits all knee sizes between 11 and 22 inches. Also, it is made with a breathable material, so you will have no trouble wearing it all day.
- One size fits most
- Premium nylon for breathability
- Full refund if not satisfied
- Velcro straps may get loosened over time
- Have trouble with the extreme sizes (below 11 or over 22 inches)
4. DIY Knee Strap
If you are interested, give it a twirl, but use at your own risk.
- Sense of self-accomplishment
- Boasting rights
- A test before the real thing
- Low quality
- Complicated to make
Have you learned anything helpful to your condition so far? The best doctor for you is yourself! Do you have any questions or stories relating to the topic? Feel free to share your experiences in the comment section below.