Is (long distance) running bad for your knees?




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This answer is brought to you after having consulted three different experts on the matter and my own experience.
First of all, running itself doesn't do harm to your knees. HOWEVER it is the way you run that can cause Arthritis (bone to bone contact).
That's why I will give you the easy steps I use to make sure you can enjoy your daily runs without damaging your knees.


Step 1
Invest in some good pair of running shoes. NEVER run in your flat sneakers, converse, ...
This is so bad for your knees, because there is nothing that will catch the shock between the ground and your feet. 
Running shoes with a shock absorber, will absorb a big amount of the shock for your whole leg.
Try running 2 miles in flat shoes and after 2 miles in shoes made for running (with a good shock absorber). You will feel the difference in your whole leg especially your lower legs and knees.


Step 2
Listen to your body and look at your body.
Do your knees or legs start hurting after running for a while? Don't pressure yourself and stop immediately and finish the remaining distance by walking. When something in your body feels wrong or hurts it is a sign from your body, telling you that something is wrong. 
Looking at your body and the way you run is also very important. Do you have X or O legs? In that case you have more chance in developing a knee injury compared to people with normal straight legs.
But don't make this stop you from running. Just make sure you take extra care of yourself and listen to your body when it wants you to stop running. I have slight O legs and I have been running for more than 10 years without any injury.
Look at the way you land on your feet. Where do you land with your foot while running?
The right way is by landing on your mid sole. If you land on your heels or toes, practice landing on your midsole landing first.


Step 3
Never start running without a schedule or run a very long distant after sitting at home for the past six months. Your knees (your whole body actually) have to get used to the running. You can not just jump from sitting at home all day to running 10 miles in one day. A good example for you to understand this first step better is Yoga. If you haven't done much Yoga in the past you can't just rush into splits or any advanced yoga poses. Your muscles and body have to get used to the new moves and stretches gradually. Even if you would perform the splits without any experience or warm up you will most likely tear your muscle or any other injury. If you build it gradually your body and muscles will get stronger and with time you will be able to build more muscle to carry your weight and stretch further and further without causing any injury. 
The same with running: you have to gradually build your running distance and time. Or else you will have too much pressure on your knees, which can result into some nasty injuries.
Start with a regular walk the first day. If you're someone that doesn't even walk that much, make sure you get into long distance walking first before you jump right into running. Let your legs and mind get used to the walking first.
After that you can do a walk-run-walk-run: for example running 1 mile, walking 1 mile, running 0.5 mile.
And gradually build it up. Don't forget to take rest days in between to let your body recover and get used to your new lifestyle and workout routine.

Step 4
Try to stay away from running on hard surfaces.
Hard surfaces don't absorb the shock when your foot touches the surface, if you run on softer surfaces like dirt, grass, treadmill,... the surface will absorb a big part of the shock.
Running on a hard surface isn't always bad, but just make sure you change it up with other surfaces as well, like I do.
In the neighbourhood I live in, we have a lot of nature and amazing running spots, but in order to get there I have to run 1-2 kilometers on hard surfaces before I reach those spots with beautiful dirt and grass roads. But if you cannot change it up and only are able to run on hard surfaces, try to go somewhere else, because continuous running on hard surfaces (concrete, pavement, ...) can cause injuries (back, knees, legs) later on. Asphalt is also a hard surface but absorbs more shock than the other hard surfaces.
Again, you can feel a huge difference in your legs and knees if you go and have a one hour run on a dirt road and/or a one hour run on a concrete surface.