How to Climb Stairs to Minimize Knee Strain

Hold on to the railing for support.
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The knees are vulnerable joints, especially if you are active and engage in activities like running, skiing or cycling. Everyday activities, like climbing stairs, can also put a strain on your knees if you use improper form. While the whole body should be engaged when walking up stairs, it can be common to allow your weight to drop into your legs, which can cause the knees to endure extra weight. Minimize knee strain on the stairs by practicing proper form.


Step 1

Place your foot flat on the surface of the stair when stepping up, with the weight on the inner side of your foot and your big toe. The outer foot can be stronger for many people; however, putting too much of your weight on the outside can throw your knee out of alignment.

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Step 2

Bend your knees when climbing up or down stairs. Avoid locking your knees in an out position, which can cut off circulation to your feet.

Step 3

Keep your body in alignment by pulling your stomach in and keeping your shoulders over your hips. Avoid leaning forward, which can throw your body out of balance and force you to place extra stress on your knees to keep your body stable.

Step 4

Use crutches or a cane if you need; it is better to use the assistance of such aids rather than injure your knees. Similarly, hold onto the railing for support.


Step 5

Step up on the stair with your stable leg and down with the weak leg if you have an injury. More stress is placed on your knees when going up stairs than going down; therefore, stepping up with your injured leg can cause further strain.


Engage your entire body when climbing stairs, not just your legs. Your core should take some of the weight off of your hips and knees.

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Is this an emergency? If you are experiencing serious medical symptoms, please see the National Library of Medicine’s list of signs you need emergency medical attention or call 911.

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