How To Protect Knees On Elliptical (Tips For Knee Pain)

An elliptical is a great exercise machine that will help you get in a workout and feel good in the process. It is simple to use and generally seen as a safe alternative to a treadmill and other exercise equipment. But one problem that is common for people on the elliptical is that their knees begin to hurt with extended use.  

Luckily, there are steps that an individual can take that will protect their knees on the elliptical, and they are simple to implement into your routine. Our guide will help you learn how to protect knees on the elliptical to ensure that you get an amazing workout without all the pain.  

The elliptical is generally seen as a safe machine for a low-impact workout. You will be able to get a good workout done and feel amazing when it is finished. 

However, you need to use the elliptical properly to keep your body safe and avoid hurting the knees. Some of the ways that an elliptical can hurt your knees include: 

Unnatural Stride 

While on the elliptical, you need to come up with a good stride that will help you to get into a rhythm and feel good on the machine. If your stride is not in rhythm, you need to consider a lesser setting to help you get to this. It may take some experimenting, but take the time to listen to your body and find the right workout for your needs.

Improper Posture 

Proper posture will be critical if you want to use the elliptical without causing harm to the body. Standing up straight without hunching over is important. Consider the proper placement of the legs so that the knees match up with the rest of the body and do not go in different directions.

If your back and arms are hurting after the workout, along with the knees, this is a sign you are using improper posture on the machine.

Exercising Too Long 

Always listen to the body to help keep the knees safe. You may be excited to jump in and get a long workout done. But if your body is not used to intense workouts, this is a bad idea. Start out slowly, with just 10 or 15 minutes, and then add on if you feel comfortable. Never start out with a 60-minute workout, or your knees will hurt.

Poorly Designed Machine 

Consumers who choose a poorly designed machine could run into some troubles with their knees. These machines may move in unnatural ways, which is hard on the knees or do not provide softness when you use them. Always go with quality name brands when choosing an elliptical to keep the body safe.

How To Protect Knees On Elliptical

How To Protect Knees On Elliptical (During Your Workout)

1. Use A Knee Brace 

You should consider wearing a knee brace to help while working out. The brace will provide extra support to the knee during and after the workout, stabilizing the ligaments and preventing further injury.

The brace can also make you feel safer and will provide some relief from pain if you already have an injury from using the elliptical. The extra compression and support will be good for the knee joint so that you can recover and feel better in no time.  

2. Wear the Proper Shoes 

When you get on the elliptical, take the time to wear the proper shoes. These shoes will fit comfortably and have some good arch support for all parts of your foot.

When you wear shoes that do not fit well, it can be hard on the whole leg, causing it to not have support and get out of place. If you plan to use the elliptical often, consider upgrading your shoes first. Running shoes and crossfit shoes are both good options.

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3. The Right Machine Stride Length 

The stride length is important to help you get the best workout without straining yourself in an unhealthy manner. There isn't a gold standard for the stride length, but most ellipticals will have the stride length set at 20 inches. This is a good stride length for most individuals from 5’3” to 6’.

For those who are shorter than 5’3” or taller than 6’, then it may be necessary to change up the stride length. Adjusting it can help you avoid overstretching and hurting yourself while you work out. A good stride length based on your height includes:

  • Under 5', the stride length should be between 11 to 14 inches.  
  • 5’ to 5’3” should have a stride length between 14 to 16 inches.  
  • 5’4” to 5’8” should have a stride length between 16 and 20 inches.  
  • Over 6' should consider making the stride length more than 20." 

You may need to use the elliptical a few times to see what works. Regardless of your height, if you feel like you are stretching too much or struggling to use the machine due to the stride length, then shorten it up.

4. Proper Posture 

The first few times that you use the elliptical, make sure that you are using the proper posture. It is easy to bend over or slouch on the machine as you adjust to using it. The machine can be awkward and hard to work with for someone not used to it. And when you get tired from the workout, it may seem so simple to lean over and slouch to take some of the work out of it.

This is not a good idea. Any improper posture can be hard on the knees and other parts of the body too. Adjust the components of the machine so you can maintain proper posture the entire time, rather than slouching over and twisting your knees in the wrong direction.

5. Do A Warm-Up Before Working Out 

Before getting on the elliptical, you should consider doing a warm-up. This is a good way for you to activate the muscles a little bit when you are ready for that exercise program and is the best way to prevent injuries. There are many great warm-up options that you can choose for the elliptical, or you can do a nice walk or jog ahead of time to get the blood flowing.

Just like the warm-up is important to preventing injuries, take the time to do a stretch when you are done too. A few minutes for a cool-down will make a world of difference in how safe it is for you after you use the elliptical.

man stretching at the gym

Dealing With Knee Pain Post Elliptical Workout

If you feel some pain in the knees when you are done with your workout on the elliptical, there are a few things that you can do to help, including:


Before you get started with the elliptical workout, take a few minutes to stretch. This can get the muscles ready to go and is a great way to prevent injuries when you get on the machine. You can choose some of your own stretches or go with a program to make you nice and limber too. Then take a few minutes to stretch when done to make sure that you can cool down.

As a huge advocate for stretching both pre and post-workout, I recommend reading our guide on the benefits of stretching.

Exercise To Your Level 

Be careful when you go on the elliptical. You may be motivated to workout hard and see what you can do, but listen to your body and see what it can handle. If you exercise too hard, you will cause more damage to the knees.

For those who have not been on a routine exercise program for a long time, start slow. Five or ten minutes is good and then slowly increase to longer times on the machine to be safe.  

Proper Hydration and Nutrition 

You need to eat well to keep your body strong. If you go work out on the elliptical and then eat donuts and soda, your knees will go through a beating. You should take the time to drink plenty of water before and after using the elliptical and eat healthy meals full of good protein and nutrients so the body can heal after the workout.

Supplements For Joint & Knee Protection 

Several supplements are good for supporting the joints and preventing knee pain from working out on the elliptical. Some supplements like turmeric, vitamin C, collagen, and ginger are good options that I would personally suggest to help support the joints of the knee and to keep them healthy.

Talk To Your Doctor 

If you have tried out a few of these suggestions and still experience issues from knee pain, then it is time to talk with your doctor. They may need to do an exam to check on the knees and see whether other conditions are present that could cause the knee pain. They can give other suggestions to help with this as well.  

woman working out on elliptical pain free

Protect Knees On Elliptical FAQs

How long should you exercise on an elliptical machine to avoid knee pain? 

Never push the body too much, or it can cause knee pain. Depending on your athletic ability, you may need to experiment to see how long you can go. A 20 to 30-minute workout daily or a few times a week is generally seen as safe. However, unless you are an athletic person, inching up to the 40-minute time limit could be enough to put too much pressure on the knees and cause pain.  

Is a bike or an elliptical better for your knees? 

This will depend on how you use the machine. If you take it easy and do not attempt some of the harder settings on the bike, such as mountains or options that require you to stand up on the bike, the bike can be safer on the knees. If you plan to go hardcore for those workouts, then you should choose the elliptical for the best results 

Is a treadmill or elliptical better for your knees? 

A treadmill is generally safe for your knees and will not cause too much damage, as long as you pick the right speed and are careful about how you use it. However, if an individual has a knee injury or intense knee pain, they may find that the elliptical is a better fit. This puts less stress on the knees while still working the whole body out, making it safer and more effective for those with knee issues.  


An elliptical is an excellent piece of exercise equipment to use to work out the whole body. But you must use caution to ensure that you are using it properly. With the tips above and only working out for shorter bursts of time, you will be able to enjoy the benefits of the elliptical without causing any damage along the way. 

We highly recommend checking out our list of the best affordable ellipticals, so you can do cardio at home!

Last Updated on January 13, 2023

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Andrew White

Andrew White is the co-founder of Garage Gym Pro. As an expert fitness professional (gym building nerd) with over 10 years of industry experience, he enjoys writing about everything there is to do with modern fitness & the newest market innovations for garage gyms. When he isn’t testing out products for his readers, he’s usually out surfing or playing basketball.