How to Pick Up Knees When Running

A woman is jogging on a country road.
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Good running form, including lifting your knees properly, can help increase the speed and efficacy of your runs. High knees are often used when sprinting; the explosive action of lifting your legs quickly from the ground and high into the air helps you move fast. There are techniques and exercises you can use to help lift your knees higher off the ground when you run. Your running form should feel comfortable and not cause any pain, so keep your knees from going too high on your normal, day-to-day runs.

High Knees Exercise

Step 1

Practice a high knees exercise while standing in one place. This is safer than trying to lift your knees higher while running without prior experience. Stand with your arms at your sides and your legs shoulder-width apart.

Step 2

Lift your knees one at a time so you bring each thigh parallel to the ground. You will be marching in place. Begin to swing your arms, bent at the elbow, back and forth in a typical runner's arm swing. Swing the opposite arm forward to the leg you are lifting and vice versa.

Step 3

Begin to pick up your knees as quickly as you can while doing this. Continue for 60 seconds. Stop and rest for 30 seconds. Repeat if desired.

High Knees While Running

Step 1

Use good basic form when you run. Look straight forward, hold your neck and head high and strike the ground with the balls of your feet. Your knees will naturally lift to a comfortable place when you do this.

Step 2

Raise your knees straight to the front and not to either side when you run. This will help you keep your balance while you are running with high knees. Avoid kicking backward with your legs. Swing your arms without moving them side to side as well, and remember to keep them close to your body.

Step 3

Go slowly at first and gradually increase your speed. Slow down if your form begins to deteriorate.


Develop a running form that works for you and helps you meet your goals, but take your time getting there. You have to pick up your knees when you run, so choose to lift them to a place that feels comfortable and pain free. Don't push yourself more than you are ready for at any given time. Slowly work toward lifting your knees higher to help you move faster each time you run.


Be careful about lifting your knees too high while running, as this increases the risk of injury due to stress on your joints from the impact. Lift your knees only as high as feels comfortable to you, and stop running immediately if you feel any pain in your knees, feet or ankles.