Zumba and Knee Pain

by Elizabeth on October 25, 2010

The most common question/complaint I get from people who are trying out Zumba or who have done a few too many Zumba classes during the week relates to knee pain.

First, I am not a doctor. So if you have a medical concern, never go to me or any other group exercise instructor for medical advice (unless that instructor also happens to be a MD).

However, while you’re waiting for an appointment to talk about your knees here are some troubleshooting ideas:

1. Make sure you are wearing proper shoes. The bottoms of your shoes should be slick (like Converse shoes or Keds). NO TREAD. My own knees would hurt from time to time when I took Zumba in running shoes. I now wear a pair of $14 Target shoes and LOVE them. No more knee problems.

2. Make sure you are using proper form. Zumba has a lot of twisting movements. You MUST perform these on the balls of your feet. If you put your heel down and try to twist, you will be hurting the next day. Heels up! It also works your booty more.

2a. If you are in a squat position and doing any booty-shaking, make sure that you are in a wide squat and your knees are over your ankles (think of second position plie). Often I see students who have narrow squat stances, which means their knees jut out past their toes. Again, you will be hurtin’ the next day. Our mantra in my classes “Knees close together, you’ll hurt in bad weather. Knees far apart… good for your heart.”

2b. Think about keeping knees over your ankles when performing any fitness moves (like squats and lunges) in Zumba. I typically avoid fitness in Zumba because we’re moving so fast it’s hard to use good form. However, other instructors DO use these moves. If you’re doing a squat or a lunge, don’t think of pushing your knee forward. OUCH. Setting yourself up for pain. Think of reaching your booty back to touch the wall behind you (or putting it in the lady’s face behind you. She doesn’t mind! She’s doing the same thing!) You should hinge at the hips and stick your rear back.

Recently, I injured my knee at work (not in Zumba, this was a results of too many trips up and down stairs in 3.5 inch Christian Louboutin knockoffs) and wore this brace for a few days.  It’s only $10 on Amazon.com (eligible for free super save shipping!) and I decided to keep it on in Zumba so I didn’t aggravate my injury.  This isn’t a replacement for a doctor’s care but it’s an option to discuss during your visit.

I hope these tips help prevent knee pain but, again, if you are having any sort of issue talk to your doctor.

xoxo,
Elizabeth
aka
FitWithLizzie

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{ 11 comments… read them below or add one }

Michelle Zounis Nasser December 3, 2010 at 7:45 am

Thank you, this has been the best info I have found to help with my hurting knees.

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Elizabeth December 3, 2010 at 12:51 pm

Thanks for letting me know Michelle! I hope you’re back to Zumba-ing pain free in no time!

xoxo,
E.

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Lisa Rodick Quin December 15, 2010 at 10:31 pm

I was thinking maybe it was my shoes! I do have arthritis but I wear those sketchers shape ups and even my husband said those are made for walking! LOL Then I tried it in my socks and that failed miserably. I did it 3 times and my knees are killing me :o(
I am doing the Zumba fitness through my xbox 360 kinect and I love it! I don’t want to quit because of my knees!

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Elizabeth Demeusy December 16, 2010 at 2:23 am

Hi Lisa,

Stocking feet and Zumba aren’t a great mix if your studio has a wood floor. I do Zumba barefoot but ONLY at a martial arts studio with a thick, squishy mat. I’ve tried Zumba with no shoes and even thin jazz shoes and could hardly walk after each experiment. We need a wee bit of padding because of the repetitive movement of the class.

Do you wear the shape ups to Zumba? I have heard that those aren’t a great idea for exercise either. Something about how the instability of the shoe can force your knee and foot muscles/joints to work over time.

The best bet would be to talk to a orthopedist if this keeps up and maybe try a new pair of shoes while you’re at it. They don’t have to be expensive — my $14 Target shoes are still going strong after 7 months. I’m gonna stick with ‘em until my legs start to protest. :-D

Keep me updated — I hope you’re Zumba-ing pain free in no time!

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Liz April 21, 2011 at 5:10 pm

I can’t say that I agree with all of this. I have had 2 knee surgeries in my right knee and teach Zumba 7 times per week. I agree that you need a shoe with little tread, however, you also need a shoe with good cushion and support and I don’t see this as being found in a Ked or Converse. I suppose you could add a gel insert, but you would not get the support you need for bad knees. I am still on my quest for the perfect Zumba shoe for those with knee ailments.

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Elizabeth April 21, 2011 at 5:49 pm

Thanks for commenting Liz.

As I said, I’m not a doctor so it’s important to go with your doc and your own body’s response.

However, I have to say that even though I haven’t had any knee surgeries, my knees would hurt if I taught Zumba 7 times a week no matter what shoes I wore. It’s a lot of repetitive stress on the body. My personal policy, based on some miserable experiences, is no doubling up on high intensity cardio classes on the same day. Everytime I break that rule, say, when it’s an emergency and someone needs a sub, my body grumbles at me for a day.

Additionally, I will not teach more than 4 high intensity cardio classes in a week. My body needs rest in between classes, plain and simple. I would love to teach more but self-care has to prevail. Perhaps that would help your knee pain.

As far as the cushioning goes, I agree that’s a concern. There are several variables here. First, as I’ve already pointed out, is how often you teach or take class. Second, is the type of floor the class is on. My clubs all have excellent “floating” wood floors which are very shock absorbing or I teach on the padded martial arts floor.

You do raise a good point — some Zumba classes are in church basements on tile or surfaces that don’t absorb shock, so those students may need more absorbant shoes.

However, I think there is a growing movement away from the idea that padded shoes provide the best source of shock absorption for our knees. I’ve read a few articles about the barefoot running movement and how heavily padded shoes disrupt the body’s ability to stabilize itself naturally and actually leads to MORE knee pain. Google around on the subject if you’re curious for more info.

Thanks again for adding to the information here for Zumba-philes! I hope you find the solution to your knee pain.

xoxo,
Lizzie

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Amy July 16, 2011 at 3:48 pm

Liz — I have had 4 surgeries on my left knee (two were open-knee), but I love zumba (still trying to convince my gimpy knee to love it, too!). What shoes do you wear?! I’m trying to find the best for a bad knee, but ones that still let you spin, etc. I also have high arches.

Ideas?

Thanks!!!

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Sylvia September 6, 2011 at 5:57 pm

Liz- I use the Nike Musique VII’s for Zumba and they completely took away my knee pain and provide much support. I haven’t had knee surgery, buy I did tare some ligaments in my right knee a few years ago which had me on crutches for awhile. I bought these shoes at a Nike Outlet store for $44. I know it’s seems a bit pricey, but worth it in the end to prevent re-injuring my knee. The shoes really make a difference next to proper form IMO.

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seejanesweat October 11, 2011 at 12:36 pm

Thanks Lizzie. I attend two Zumba classes and noticed knee pain after the second. My shoe has a lot of thread on them and I’m guessing that may have contributed to the pain. I’ll try it with slicker soles and see how it goes.

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Shahnaz Mir October 30, 2011 at 11:59 am

Hi,

Thanks for all the comments, taking it all on board since I have started with terrible knee pain, gripping pain at night. I do 6 Zumba classes a week, 3 with my dance shoes on and 3 with trainers with a tread. The ones I do with the trainers on are the venues where without them I would slip as the floors are so slippy! Having spoken to many Zumba teachers the knee problem seems a common one as well as the venues with slippy floors! I am worried that is this carries on that I will have on going knee problems…not sure of the solution, a knee support could help. Taking pain killers at the moment….hope my Zumba days are not numbered only started January 2011 not even a year yet!

Shaz x

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Lei December 12, 2012 at 11:40 pm

Hi Elizabeth. Thanks for the tips. May I ask which $14 shoes you got at Target? Most zumba shoes I’ve seen online average ~$50. Hoping to save =) Thanks again and happy holidays!

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