Several years ago my knees started hurting a lot and eventually I was diagnosed with somewhat early but not bad osteoarthritis in both knees. After years of running, I decided that my career was almost over, so I geared up with some cortisone injections and ran my first and last marathon. The doctor may have said it was not severe yet but my knees hurt like hell for the months afterwards.
But I missed running. Yes, many of you think running is stupid and boring. Which is fine. I think weight-lifting is a boring chore, but others love it. Anyway, I love running not just for activity but to enjoy a nice day or explore new places. I tried biking and an elliptical scooter and neither scratched the same itch.
But for almost a full year I never ran once. I did a lot of hiking, and when that seemed to not be active enough I started adding my old textbooks to a day pack until I was walking and hiking with a 40+ pound pack and felt great. So I was tempted to run again but knew I had to change something up to make it work.
At first I tried that old man marathon runners gate, which looks like a fast walk. It worked OK but it was not that fun. Then I read something about barefoot running, which I still think is dumb. But the article talked about different sorts of strides and how they land differently -- some heel first, some toe first. Apparently a benefit of barefoot running is it supports toe first landing, which some think is more beneficial. Mostly I wrote all this off, as runners forums are jammed with people who have these pet theories that don't really stand up to study.
Anyway, the learning for me was that toe first landing even existed. I started thinking about it and experimenting, and found that I had a strong heel first landing that was so forceful it was pile-driving my knees and spine. What if I got off my heels? I had already noticed that my knees seldom hurt running up a steep slope, and I realized I was on my toes doing so. Couldn't hurt to try.
Well, changing your running gate after decades of running the same way is just as hard as you might expect. The first few outings must have looked stupid. Basically I was trying to run on my tip toes, as if I was doing the high-stepping tire exercise you see football players doing.
The breakthrough came with some practice and when I read somewhere that 1) toe first landing is about toe first, not toe only and 2) you have to sort of lean out a bit over your skis to run toe first.
Over time, it has gotten more natural and my knees feel great. My progress was delayed a bit as I really was exhausting something in the back of my calves, but more practice and a more natural gate and some strengthening and I am back where I can run 3-4 miles at my old pace. Actually a bit faster, as I think I was never leaning forward enough and wasting a lot of energy.
So we shall see. This may all be temporary. Heck, it may all be a placebo (readers who spend too much time in the comments trying to undo the placebo effect by convincing me it's a placebo will be blocked -- just kidding, in 15 years I have never blocked anyone).
By the way, I am not a doctor and PLEASE do not take any medical advice from me.