Runners suffering knee pain could find relief from intensive hip-strengthening exercises, a Calgary team of researchers says.

As the weather warms and more Canadians lace up their runners, injury prevention comes to the fore.

With that in mind, the University of Calgary's running injury clinic used gait analysis to show how hip and knee alignment is key to preventing injuries in runners.

The 25 runners participating in the study did treadmill tests, and the clinic captured their motion in 3D to analyze their gaits and the relationship between their knees, hips and ankles.

Before three weeks had passed, 15 runners doing exercises to strengthen their hip abductors reported less pain and showed more strength and less stride-to-stride variability  — a sign of recovery — compared with a control group of 10 runners.

"We've shown that strengthening those critical hip muscles helps runners restore a more consistent, predictable pattern of movement, reduce knee pain and stay on the roster for that next race," said Prof. Reed Ferber, the clinic's director and a member of the kinesiology department.

Half of all running injuries in Canada involve the knee and between three and four million runners suffer with knee injuries each year, he said.

Emily Morin, 21, a student at the university and participant in the study, said that after she'd exercised for two or three weeks, her knee pain just went away. She had already tried physiotherapy, acupuncture and chiropractic medicine, but the pain persisted.

The research is published in the March/April issue Journal of Athletic Training.

With files from The Canadian Press