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Knee Health & Running: Roll Out Those IT Bands

Knee Health & Running: Roll Out Those IT Bands

Running is one of my favorite ways to get my heart rate up, but let's face it - running can be hard on the knees. A very common injury for runners is the Iliotibial Band (ITB) Syndrome (for more on the ITB see The Skinny on: The ITB) — the ITB is a band of fascia that runs down the outside of the thigh. If you are experiencing pain on the outside of your knee or knees when running, it might just be this syndrome, which occurs when the ITB is too tight and disrupts proper knee function.

Here are the main symptoms to look out for:

  • Pain on the outside of knee that increases when running, especially running down hill, and the pain disappears soon after you stop running.
  • Tenderness when you touch the outside of the knee, with signs of inflammation.
  • As the syndrome progresses there may be a sharp stinging pain, or burning on the outside of the knee.

The best way to deal with the ITB syndrome is to prevent it before it starts. I find that releasing the ITB with a foam roller is the best and most direct approach. It can be a little uncomfortable (that is an understatement) at first, but if it is super painful you really need to roll it.

To learn how to roll out your ITB


Folks with excessive pronation are prone to ITB syndrome, so if you pronate and run look into getting a pair of orthotics (podiatrist made insoles) or supportive running shoes like Axiom 2 by Brooks designed to decrease pronation.

When I talk to folks that have been running for years, they tend to give me unsolicited advice and a lot of them tell me to take care of my knees.

So roll those ITBs out, even if you don't have knee pain since prevention is often the key to staying injury free.

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rumpel2 rumpel2 7 years
you bet! foam rolling can be a lilttle uncomfortable is an understatement! i do it once weekly to roll out my calves, ITBs and quads.
angelaevans angelaevans 8 years
Here's another stretch I found http://www.rice.edu/~jenky/sports/itband.html
angelaevans angelaevans 8 years
Great article! I just started running again and have been very frustrated by the pain in my right knee. I have always enjoyed running and I hate having to end my workouts before I'm even tired. This article couldn't have been posted at a more perfect time. Thanks!
Fitness Fitness 8 years
kayleigh - check out the stretch in this post The Skinny on the ITB. Work on strengthening your quads and hamstrings too, and espeicially your inner thighs.
sailing-chick sailing-chick 8 years
I also suffered this when I was younger and going through high school as I did a lot of sports and had a huge growth spurt. I know constantly have sore knees so thanks fir for putting something up here that might help them!!
smilinfox smilinfox 8 years
I've had, unfortunately, more than my share of IT band problems. I finally broke down and went to the physical therapist to attempt to remedy the pain once and for all. He told me that doing a lot of exercises to strengthen your legs overall can be good for your IT band, because when your leg muscles stay strong it keeps tension off of the IT band. When I'm training for long races now, I do leg exercises to strengthen my quads nightly. I can definately tell the difference, too.
smilinfox smilinfox 8 years
I've had, unfortunately, more than my share of IT band problems. I finally broke down and went to the physical therapist to attempt to remedy the pain once and for all. He told me that doing a lot of exercises to strengthen your legs overall can be good for your IT band, because when your leg muscles stay strong it keeps tension off of the IT band. When I'm training for long races now, I do leg exercises to strengthen my quads nightly. I can definately tell the difference, too.
doubleuendy doubleuendy 8 years
i usually do some fast paced walking and add incline to get my heart rate up on the treadmill for about 30 mins. then i do some running but only about 5-6 minutes and thats been working well for me and its not as aggravating on my knees.
kayleigh83 kayleigh83 8 years
Are there any exercises that will achieve the same end without a foam roller? Unfortunately at this time I have pretty much nil in the way of exercise equipment other than 5 lb weights. I don't have any exercise equipment stores nearby, nor a credit card to buy any online! I will be buying more equipment in the future when I get an opportunity but until then I'd like to start getting those IT bands loosened! Any tips would be mucho appreciated!
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