How to Avoid and Treat Treadmill Knee Pain

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Treadmill knee pain is a common issue faced by active individuals who use treadmills for their regular workouts.

It can be caused by various factors, including improper running techniques, lack of strength in the supporting muscles, and using a treadmill with insufficient cushioning.

In this comprehensive guide, we will discuss how to prevent and treat treadmill knee pain effectively.

Causes of Knee Pain

There are numerous reasons why one may experience knee pain when using a treadmill. Some of the most common causes include:

  • Overuse: Running on a treadmill frequently or for extended periods can cause wear and tear on the knee joints.
  • Poor running technique: Incorrect foot strike or posture can lead to uneven distribution of force on the knee joint, causing pain.
  • Weak muscles: Weak quadriceps, hamstrings, and hip muscles can contribute to knee pain by not providing adequate support to the joint.
  • Insufficient cushioning: Running on a treadmill with inadequate cushioning can increase the impact on the knee joints, leading to pain.

How to Avoid and Treat Treadmill Knee Pain

Symptoms to Look Out For

If you are experiencing any of the following symptoms, you may have treadmill knee pain:

  • Swelling or inflammation around the knee joint
  • Stiffness or limited range of motion
  • Pain that worsens with activity and subsides with rest
  • A clicking or grinding sensation in the knee

Preventing Treadmill Knee Pain

To prevent treadmill knee pain, it is crucial to:

  1. Choose the right treadmill with proper cushioning and incline features.
  2. Maintain proper running technique, including foot strike and posture.
  3. Incorporate strengthening exercises for quadriceps, hamstrings, and hip muscles.
  4. Wear appropriate running shoes that provide adequate support and shock absorption.

How to Avoid and Treat Treadmill Knee Pain

Selecting the Right Treadmill

Treadmills come in various types, including manual, motorised, and curved. While motorised treadmills typically provide the best cushioning, manual and curved treadmills can also offer a low-impact workout. It is essential to choose a treadmill that meets your needs and provides the necessary features to minimise knee pain.

How to Avoid and Treat Treadmill Knee Pain

Cushioning and Incline Features

Treadmills with proper cushioning systems can absorb the shock of each foot strike, reducing the impact on your knees. Additionally, using a treadmill with an adjustable incline can help you simulate uphill running, which can reduce the strain on your knees.

Proper Running Technique

Adopting the correct running technique is essential for preventing treadmill knee pain. This includes proper foot strike and maintaining good posture throughout your workout.

Foot Strike and Posture

Aim for a midfoot strike, where the ball of your foot makes contact with the treadmill first, followed by your heel. This distribution of impact can help prevent excessive stress on the knee joint. Additionally, maintaining an upright posture with a slight forward lean from the ankles can help keep your body aligned and reduce the strain on your knees.

Strengthening Exercises

Incorporating exercises that target the muscles supporting your knees can help prevent treadmill knee pain. Focus on strengthening your quadriceps, hamstrings, and hip muscles.

Quadriceps, Hamstrings, and Hip Muscles

Some effective exercises for strengthening these muscles include:

  • Lunges: These target the quadriceps, hamstrings, and glutes, providing comprehensive support for the knee joint.
  • Squats: A staple exercise for the lower body, squats help build strength in the quadriceps, hamstrings, and glutes.
  • Leg curls: This exercise isolates the hamstrings, which are essential for knee stability.
  • Clamshells: A great exercise for the hip muscles, clamshells can help improve hip stability and reduce strain on the knees.

Treating Treadmill Knee Pain

If you are already experiencing treadmill knee pain, it is essential to address the issue promptly to prevent further damage. Here are some effective treatment methods:

RICE Method

The RICE (Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation) method is a tried-and-true approach for treating knee pain.

Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation

  • Rest: Give your knees a break by reducing or stopping your treadmill workouts temporarily.
  • Ice: Apply an ice pack to the affected knee for 15-20 minutes, several times a day, to reduce inflammation.
  • Compression: Use a compression bandage to help control swelling and provide support to the knee joint.
  • Elevation: Keep your knee elevated above the level of your heart when possible to reduce swelling.

Pain Relief and Anti-inflammatory Medications

Over-the-counter pain relievers and anti-inflammatory medications can help alleviate knee pain.

Topical Creams and Oral Medications

Topical creams containing NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) can help reduce inflammation and provide temporary pain relief. Oral medications such as ibuprofen or naproxen can also be used for pain relief and to reduce inflammation.

Consult a Medical Professional

If your treadmill knee pain persists or worsens, it is crucial to consult a healthcare professional for further evaluation and treatment.

Physical Therapy and Orthotics

A medical professional may recommend physical therapy to help improve your knee’s strength, flexibility, and stability. In some cases, orthotic inserts for your shoes may be prescribed to provide additional support and correct any biomechanical issues that may be contributing to your knee pain.

Recommended Exercises for Treadmill Knee Pain

In addition to the lunges, squats, leg curls, and clamshells mentioned earlier, other beneficial exercises for preventing and rehabilitating treadmill knee pain include:

  1. Step-ups: This exercise targets the quadriceps, hamstrings, and glutes while improving knee stability.
  2. Bridge: A great exercise for strengthening the glutes, hamstrings, and lower back muscles, which all contribute to knee support.
  3. Hip abductions: This exercise targets the hip muscles, helping to stabilise the knee joint.

Alternatives to Treadmills for Low-Impact Exercise

If you are looking for alternatives to treadmills that offer a low-impact workout, consider the following options:

  1. Elliptical trainers: These machines provide a smooth, low-impact workout that targets both the upper and lower body.
  2. Stationary bikes: Cycling is an excellent low-impact exercise that can help strengthen the leg muscles without putting excessive strain on the knees.
  3. Rowing machines: Rowing offers a full-body, low-impact workout that can help improve cardiovascular fitness and muscle strength.


Treadmill knee pain can be a frustrating and debilitating issue for active individuals. However, by taking the necessary precautions and adopting a proper running technique, selecting the right treadmill, and incorporating strengthening exercises into your routine, you can reduce the risk of knee pain. If you are already experiencing knee pain, seek appropriate treatment, and consult a healthcare professional if necessary.


Can treadmill knee pain be completely cured?

With proper treatment and prevention measures, most individuals can recover from treadmill knee pain and resume their treadmill workouts.

How long should I rest before returning to treadmill workouts after experiencing knee pain?

The duration of rest depends on the severity of your knee pain. Consult a healthcare professional for personalised advice on when to resume your workouts.

Can I still exercise if I have treadmill knee pain?

It is essential to rest your knees, but you can still engage in low-impact activities such as swimming or cycling.

I'm Jamie and I test out new models in sports retailers, or buy and sell them new or second hand so I can review a wide range of models and put together the best advise on which treadmill is right for you. So if you are looking for a cheap treadmill for walking, a gym quality treadmill to run sprints, or something in-between I can point you in the right direction.
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