The Best Running Shoes For IT Band Syndrome

IT band syndrome is a painful overuse injury that commonly affects runners. When the IT band becomes tight and inflamed from repetitive motion, it can cause sharp pain on the outside of the knee. This condition, known as IT band syndrome or ITBS, can sideline runners if left untreated.

In this blog post, we will explore the causes, symptoms, and treatments for IT band syndrome, specifically in runners. The primary focus will be providing actionable tips runners can use to prevent and alleviate ITBS.

We will also discuss how to select the best running shoes to help reduce the irritation of the IT band. A few top-rated running shoes for IT band syndrome will be recommended at the end of the post. Read on! 

What is IT Band Syndrome?

Before we tell you about some of the top running shoes for IT Band Syndrome, let’s discuss the condition first. IT band syndrome, or iliotibial band syndrome or ITBS, is a common injury that causes pain outside the knee in runners. 

According to the BMJ, the IT band, or iliotibial band, is a thick strip of connective tissue that runs down the outside of the thigh, starting at the hip and extending to just below the knee. It originates from the tensor fascia latae muscle on the side of the hip and inserts into the lateral tibial condyle, a bony prominence on the outer knee. 

A 2022 study published on Link Springer states that the primary function of the IT band is to stabilize the knee during activity by pulling the thigh bone outward. It also helps to extend the hip. The IT band assists with controlling knee flexion and extension. During running, it contracts to stabilize the knee with each step. 

The IT band comprises dense, fibrous tissue that does not stretch or elongate much. It crosses over the hip and knee bones but does not directly attach to the femur or tibia. 

A layer of fat between the IT band and the thigh bone allows it to move freely. But at the lower knee, it is close to the bone with no cushioning. That’s why IT band syndrome pain occurs over the lateral knee. 

Causes of IT Band Syndrome

The IT band can become irritated and inflamed when tight and does not glide appropriately over the knee. Friction occurs during repetitive motions like running. According to Shape Magazine, IT band tightness has several causes:

Symptoms of IT Band Syndrome

The most common symptom of ITBS is pain on the outside of the knee. It occurs at the lower attachment point of the IT band near the lateral knee joint. An article published by the Hospital for Special Surgery (HSS) says the symptoms include: 

• A sharp, burning pain on the outer knee during activity usually starts gradually 

• Tenderness when pressure is applied along the IT band, especially near the knee 

• Pain at the start of a run often improves with warming up but returns after completing a run 

• Pain going uphill, downhill, descending stairs or other activities putting a load on the IT band • A popping or snapping sensation on the outside of the knee when the knee is flexed and extended 

• Stiffness or tightness along the outside of the thigh 

Runners with IT band syndrome often have pain at specific points during the gait cycle when the strain on the IT band is highest. Understanding when pain happens during your running stride provides insight into what may irritate the IT band. 

Right after your foot strikes the ground, the IT band engages to stabilize the knee, which can cause pain. At the mid-stance phase, when your knee passes over your standing leg, tension increases on the IT band again, potentially triggering symptoms. 

Before your toe pushes off, the IT band fires to prepare your leg for propulsion forward. This repetitive motion inflames the IT band attachment at the knee. Paying attention to the timing of your pain during running can give clues about faulty form or mechanics that are overworking your IT band and contributing to IT band syndrome.

Tips to Deal with IT Band Syndrome for Runners

If you have been diagnosed with IT band syndrome, the good news is there are several effective ways to manage this running injury. You can return to the road and run comfortably again with a combination of rest, stretching, strengthening, massage, and proper training adjustments. 

The key to recovering from ITBS is reducing the strain on your IT band and addressing the imbalances that led to irritation in the first place. This comprehensive approach will get to the root cause of your pain rather than just treating the symptoms. 

Prioritize Rest

The first step in treating ITBS is to stop running and other high-impact activities that aggravate your knee. So this gives the inflamed IT band time to heal through rest. While taking a break from running is frustrating, pushing through the pain will prolong your recovery. 

How long you need off depends on the severity of your IT band syndrome. Taking 2-4 weeks off from running is common for pain to subside. During this time, switch to low-impact cross-training like cycling, swimming, or using an elliptical to maintain fitness without irritating your IT band injury. 

You can return to running gradually as symptoms improve, but if the pain continues, more rest is needed. Be patient and avoid returning too soon, as this risks reinjury. Listen to your body to determine when you’re ready.

Stretch and Massage the IT Band

Stretching is vital for treating ITBS during time off and when resuming training. Tightness through the IT band, quadriceps, and hip flexors contributes to improper tracking at the knee. Perform stretches like lunges, the warrior pose, and foam rolling daily to relieve tension. 

Focus on the areas where you feel the tightest. Stretches for the IT band should be held for 30-60 seconds and repeated 2-3 times. Massage from a physical or massage therapist can further help loosen the IT band and release adhesion between the band and your leg. 

Strengthen Your Hips and Glutes

The root cause of ITBS is often weak hip abductors and external rotator muscles. These important stabilizers get overpowered by stronger quads and hip flexors, pulling the IT band tighter. 

Correcting these muscular imbalances through targeted strengthening helps properly track your knee and takes the pressure off your IT band. Exercises like side leg lifts, clamshells, and resistance band rotations strengthen the glutes and hips. 

A physical therapist can prescribe a rehab plan catered to your weaknesses. As you build strength, they’ll progress exercises to replicate running motions. Aim for 2-3 strength sessions per week in addition to stretching. 

Orthotics or Kinesio Taping

Custom orthotics correct overpronation that exacerbates IT band pulling. They support proper foot motion through each stride. Orthotics are beneficial if you have high arches contributing to ITBS. 

Special tape lifting the skin over the IT band reduces pain and inflammation. It can be worn during activity to keep the IT band in an optimal position for movement without friction. 

Fine-Tune Your Training 

As you return to running, be strategic about training to prevent IT band syndrome from flaring up again. Some tips include: 

• Increase weekly volume by no more than 10% at a time 

• Limit hilly routes and incorporate hill training progressively 

• Replace worn shoes because old shoes lose their cushioning and support • Assess mechanics with a coach to correct strain-inducing habits 

• Maintain hip and glute exercises as part of your routine 

How to Choose Better Running Shoes for IT Band Syndrome

If you have IT band syndrome, finding the right running shoes is critical to avoid knee pain. The correct footwear can stabilize your stride, reduce inflammation, and take pressure off your IT band. 

However, with so many shoe options available, it can be challenging to select the perfect pair. Follow this guide on the key features and mistakes to avoid when choosing running shoes for ITBS. 

Understand Your Foot Type and Gait

The first step is analyzing your feet and gait at a specialty running store. The staff can assess your arch type, which determines whether you need neutral, stability, or motion-control shoes. 

They will also video record you walking and running to identify biomechanical factors contributing to your IT band issues, like overpronation. This information lets them match you with shoes that provide targeted support and cushioning where you need it most. 

Don’t just guess your foot type or assume what feels comfortable is appropriate. Be professionally fitted for running shoes tailored to your needs. So, we believe this is one of the best factors to consider when choosing running shoes for IT Band Syndrome. 

Prioritize Cushioning

Extra cushioning helps absorb the impact that can aggravate your IT band, especially if you are a heavier runner. Well-cushioned shoes also prevent your knees from buckling inward and your feet from rolling too far inward or outward, reducing IT band strain. 

Look for thicker midsoles made of shock-absorbing materials like EVA foam or Gel. Brands like Hoka and Altra are known for maximum cushioning. Also, ensure the collar around the ankle is well-padded for comfort. 

Consider Stability Shoes

Stability shoes can guide your foot motion and limit excessive inward rolling if you overpronate. These shoes prevent the torque on your knee that triggers IT band pain. Motion control shoes are even more rigid to discourage pronation if you have high arches. 

Stability features include firmer medial material, a plastic torsion bar, and a medial post. Get fitted for the right amount of pronation control based on your degree of overpronation without restricting natural foot movement

Focus On Flexibility

While cushioning is critical, you also want flexibility to ensure a smooth transition through the gait cycle. Rigid shoes force the foot and create pressure points irritating the IT band. 

Prioritize a flexible forefoot outsole that bends with your foot strike and toe-off. Soles made of blown rubber offer responsiveness without feeling too firm. Also, ensure the upper moves naturally with your foot.

Consider Insoles and Orthotics

Orthotics and aftermarket insoles provide extra arch support and cushioning right where needed. They also help position your foot optimally to alleviate IT band strain. Custom-made orthotics are best to match the contours of your feet. 

Orthotics are strongly recommended if you have flat feet or very high arches. Over-the-counter options can also offer relief. Consult your podiatrist or physical therapist on whether insoles would be beneficial.

Avoid Extreme Stability or Motion Control

While moderate stability helps control pronation, shoes with extreme motion control can be too rigid. It restricts natural foot mechanics and leads to discomfort that aggravates your injury. 

Only opt for heavyweight stability if you have severe overpronation issues. Likewise, zero-drop and minimalist shoes lack the support and cushioning needed for ITBS recovery. Gradually transition to a lower heel-toe offset once your IT band is no longer irritated. 

Find the Proper Fit

Even the greatest running shoes won’t help if they don’t fit your feet correctly. With ITBS, an improper fit can throw off your gait or create uncomfortable pressure spots. When trying on shoes, leave enough room for your toes and account for foot swelling on longer runs. 

Consider sizing up a half or full size from your regular size. The shoes shouldn’t pinch your feet laterally and keep your heel securely locked in place. The upper material should also accommodate the shape of your foot. Don’t just rely on the size and assess the fit and comfort. 

Great Running Shoes for IT Band Syndrome

The tips above can help you find the finest running shoes for IT Band Syndrome. But now,  let’s cover the top running shoes for IT band problems based on researching the factors above. 

Brooks Adrenaline GTS 22 Supportive Running Shoe

The Brooks Adrenaline GTS 22 is an excellent stability running shoe to help relieve IT band pain. With ample cushioning and support features, this shoe stabilizes your stride to take pressure off your IT band.

With ample cushioning and stability features, the Adrenaline GTS 22 supports runners prone to IT band issues. The DNA LOFT cushioning softens impact to prevent jarring your knees and aggravating your IT band. 

The GuideRails technology reinforces proper knee tracking so your IT band stays correctly aligned. The result is a smooth, comfortable ride that protects your IT band and knees without sacrificing responsiveness.

ASICS GT-2000 Running Shoes

The ASICS GT-2000 is a stability running shoe that prevents and relieves IT band pain. Its blend of cushioning and support promotes proper mechanics to align your IT band. Here are some of the best features of these running shoes for IT Band Syndrome. 

With ample shock absorption and stability features, the GT-2000 gives your IT band the protection it needs from excessive forces during running. The structured fit reinforces proper foot alignment while the cushioning softens the impact. 

Worn regularly, this shoe can aid recovery from IT band issues and help you maintain pain-free mileage. Visit a specialty running store for a professional fitting to find your ideal GT-2000 based on your gait and support needs.

MIZUNO Wave Inspire 19 Running Shoes

Are you seeking relief from IT band pain? The Mizuno Wave Inspire 19 brings the stability and cushioning needed to keep your IT band happy. Thoughtfully engineered features in this shoe align your body and soften the impact. 

The responsive MIZUNO ENERZY FOAM midsole cushions your stride with just the right blend of softness and bounce. It absorbs shock effectively to prevent jarring your knees and irritating your IT band.

With its blend of cushioning and stability technologies, the Wave Inspire 19 gives your IT band the protection it needs from excessive forces during running. The Enerzy foam softens impact while the Wave plate promotes an efficient gait cycle. The result is a smooth, comfortable running that aids recovery from the syndrome. 

HOKA Arahi 6 Running Shoes

If you’re a mid-build runner seeking ample cushioning and support for road running, consider the HOKA Arahi 6. This lightweight stability shoe brings the latest innovations to guide your stride and soften the impact, keeping your IT band happy mile after mile. 

With optimal cushioning and built-in support, the Arahi 6 gives your IT band the protection it needs from excessive forces during running. The stability elements reinforce proper mechanics to keep your IT band pain-free.

Saucony Guide 15 Running Shoe

Runners seeking a stable yet lightweight shoe to prevent IT band pain, then the updated Saucony Guide 15 is for you. New key technologies deliver a smooth, cushioned ride that aligns your body to keep your IT band strong and comfortable.

Guide 15 gives your IT band the protection it needs from excessive forces when running. The technology aligns your body to maintain proper mechanics stride after stride. Remember, this is due to ample shock absorption and stability in a lightweight build

A Final Recap

IT band syndrome can sideline you from running if not appropriately addressed. You can relieve irritation and pain by understanding the causes and implementing solutions like stretching, foam rolling, and strengthening exercises. 

Choosing running shoes with ample cushioning and stability features is vital. Models like the HOKA Arahi 6 and Saucony Guide 15 provide the technologies to absorb shock, control pronation, and reinforce the proper form. 

With the appropriate knowledge, prevention routines, and equipment like these top shoes, you can continue running comfortably even with IT band syndrome. Don’t let ITBS derail your running endeavors.

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