Are Your Feet Causing Knee Pain?

What is knee pain?

There are commonly two types of injuries which can cause knee pain:

1. Acute injuries (eg. Ligament/cartilage tears)
2. Overuse injuries.

As podiatrists, we generally deal with the overuse type injuries.

How do overuse injuries to the knee occur?

Various factors can cause overuse injuries to the legs, including poor footwear, inappropriate training programs and inadequate training surfaces (eg. bitumen or soft sand).

Another major cause of knee pain, which can often be overlooked, is abnormal alignment of the foot and lower leg.

Excessively Pronated Feet - this can lead to excessive internal or medial rotation of the lower leg at the same time that the upper leg is rotating in the opposite direction due to forces produced during walking or running. The knee is the area that therefore must absorb these twisting forces, and thus injuries due to excessive strain or force can be the end result. Also, pronated feet can result in a valgus, or 'knock-knee' position, which can contribute to various muscles exerting their forces in abnormal directions.

High-arched feet - high arched, or excessively supinated feet, do not allow the shock absorption needed with normal knee flexion during walking. The knee must therefore take too much force to absorb this shock, and this can also lead to overuse injuries.

Some Common Problems Causing Pain in the Knee...

Patellofemoral Syndrome - with pronated feet the knees move into the 'knock-kneed' position. This causes the knee cap tendon to pull in the wrong direction. The knee cap thus runs over areas of the knee joint that it is not supposed to, and eventually this will result in injury and pain. The pain is often felt with bent-knee activity, like squatting and walking upstairs.

Iliotibial Band Syndrome - A band of thick tissue which runs down the outside of the thigh, and which crosses the outer side of the knee joint, is the iliotibial band. With excessive pronation, this band shortens over time and is therefore subject to pain and injury. Pain is felt on the outer edge of the knee joint.

Osgood Schlatter's Disease - this commonly affects teenagers, and is an inflammation of the growth plate of the tibia (lower leg bone), which is situated just below the kneecap.

How is knee pain treated?

Knee pain caused by overuse generally responds well to conservative treatment if treated early. If disregarded, symptoms and treatment can last for several months and lead to the need for possible surgery. Conservative treatment involves:

Training modification. Your training or activity schedule will be discussed and modified so that a successful and effective treatment can be administered.

R.I.C.E. Rest, Ice, Compression and Elevation. As with any acute injury the RICE principle is paramount. It is necessary in the early stages of treatment to help fight the inflammation. Anti-inflammatory medication may also be required.

Foot Orthotics - these allow the foot, leg and knee to function in the correct position, and therefore forces are distributed correctly throughout the leg.

Exercises - strengthening and stretching of muscles around the knee may be advised by your Podiatrist.

Physical therapy

Taping of the knee

Wearing appropriate footwear.

Shoe information for painful knees can be found here.

Podiatry Care MODBURY
Suite 2
959 North East Road

Ph: (08) 8265 4130

Podiatry Care
"Proudly South Australian Owned & Operated"

WARNING : This information is for educational purposes only and is not intended to replace professional podiatric advice. Treatment will vary between individuals depending upon your diagnosis and presenting complaint. An accurate diagnosis can only be made following personal consultation with a Podiatrist, your Doctor or your foot specialist.

For more information on aching feet and many other foot pain, leg pain and back pain conditions please visit our Foot Pain Conditions page and click on the condition of interest to you.

To find a Podiatrist or Foot Doctor near you visit our Find a Podiatrist page and click on your country.

Still have a question about your foot problem, leg pain or you just need some footwear advice?

Visit our Foot Problems page and ask us a question about your specific problem. We'll do our best to help.

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