This was a great question, posed to us by a runner client of ours who is suffering from knee pain. He is training for a middle distance triathlon and wanted to know if running the long distances slower would be better for his joints. What a great question?
The problem with running slower is that you will take more steps to get to the same destination. Granted, the force on each landing will be less if you were running slower, but overall would you not take more steps, therefore cumulatively create more stress?
This biomechanical study from the Journal of Orthopaedic and Sports physical therapy looks into this very thing. They detail how the conducted the study and draw detailed conclusions from their findings, however the summary is
The cumulative load at the knee joint, corresponding to a given running distance, is greater at slow-speed running than at fast-speed running. Knee joint loads per stride are decreased when running at slower speed.
There are further research articles that also back up this theory. This one was looking at stride length in recreational runners and concluded that a faster stride rate resulted in less injuries. Vitally, this study concluded that forefoot strike runners put less stress through the knee joint.
So, back to the question: is running slower better for your knees? It seems not. Because running slower means you’re out there on your feet longer, take more strides, therefore accumulate more stress on the joints than if it was faster and all over quicker!
Got a question you would like us to research? We love a challenge, so pop your question in the comments below!