Our knee joint is the most complex joint in our body and with each step our knees bear a load of 2-3 times our body weight and therefore knee pain is one of the most common overuse injuries in the body. In cases of acute and sudden onset of pain, the cause is usually an injury that causes tear of the ligaments or cartilage of the knee joint. Chronic knee pain is usually caused by arthritis and/or biomechanical abnormalities. In this case the pain gradually builds up over many months or years.
Knee pain can be caused by abnormal foot function, especially if your foot tends to roll in and flatten when you walk. The pain is usually at the front or the inner side of the knee. When the foot rolls in excessively, torsion is caused within the knee joint and can strain the ligaments and tendons and cause wear of the cartilage within the knee joint.
Knee pain is usually experienced around the patella (kneecap). In some cases, the pain may be located either on the outer side of the knee or on the inner side of the knee joint. In people with arthritis the knee joint may lose its flexibility and therefore more damage occurs over time.
People with increased levels of physical activity are sometimes more likely to develop knee pain due to the wear and tear of the joint. Activities such as walking upstairs also aggravate the pain. Some people may also report instability in the knee joint when walking or changing positions from sitting to standing.
Even though knee pain is more common in people who pronate excessively, high arched or supinated feet can also cause knee pain. In this case the foot rolls out excessively and does not allow for normal knee flexion when walking. This type of foot function can cause bowing of the knees, where the patellae face away from each other and leads to narrowing of the inner side of the knee joint. Additionally, less shock absorption takes place and can cause pain in the foot and knee. People with a supinated foot type usually have tight calf muscles which can cause pain in the Achilles tendon and the knees as it restricts the range of motion when walking and running.
If you have knee pain, you should be assessed by a podiatrist regardless of your foot type. Your podiatrist will assess your walking and then give you the necessary advice on footwear and provide insoles if necessary. The correct footwear and insoles will promote a better gait cycle and therefore reduce the torsion and strain placed on the foot and knee. In some cases, it may be necessary to incorporate exercises targeted specifically to your needs to strengthen the muscles around the joint. In people who are physically active, it is necessary to make sure that the surfaces you exercise on are good and that all movements are carried out in a correct way to minimise joint and muscle injury.