Any breaststroke swimmers with knee pain?


Legendary Member
I've been off the bike for 3 weeks now with swelling and pain behind the knees, which I blamed on getting fitter and stronger, going out looking for hills and then mashing my knees. Both my GP and a cycling physio have checked my knees and my bike position and can't find any definite reason for the problem.

However on Saturday I had a sudden insight into the problem; I usually go swimming on Saturday mornings with my young son and I am an unskilled but enthusiastic breaststroker; my swimming is usually in vigorous bursts rather than prolonged. We haven't been for three or four weeks and last Saturday I had a sudden flash of insight when I began to swim and experienced quite a lot of knee pain. I also realised that in the pool we have recently been playing a new game with the floats that involves me backing up to the side and pushing my son off hard on a float by straightening my legs, which are usually bent out awkwardly sideways rather than folded beneath me. This does create momentary pain in the knee joint. I have Googled knee pain in breaststrokers and have found a lot about joint and ligament damage caused by poor technique putting lateral strain on the joint. Thinking about it I realise that the swelling and slight pain behind the knees had already started before I went looking for steep climbs (I did a 12% hill, mostly standing on the pedals) so I am wondering if the hill climbing is a red herring and the damage was actually caused in the swimming pool?

Any swimmers on here with experience of knee pain from breaststroking?

mr Mag00

rising member
Deepest Dorset
yup worst thing you can do, learn to crawl, NOW!

Fiona N

Yep - I swim mostly in open water (with a wetsuit unless it's the Med in July) and don't use my legs other than a gentle swish for balance so when I'm in the pool my knees really don't like even crawl leg kicking never mind that vicious breaststroke action. I always use a float between the knees now in a pool.


Puzzle game procrastinator!
Having seen the way you climb on your bike, I had my doubts about cycling up hills being the cause of your knee problem. I am a lot less fit than you and weigh a lot more but cycling has only ever hurt my knees when I got my cleat positions wrong and I climb the same kind of steep hills that you've been doing.

I assume that you are 100% happy with your cleat positions? I also assume that you have plenty of 'float' and your foot is comfortable in the mid-part of the range (i.e. you can turn your foot equally either way before it starts to unclip)?

I never got knee problems from breaststroke but the last few times I went swimming, the leg action was really making my hips ache! I reckon you might be on to something there. The breaststroke kick seems much harder on the leg joints than cycling is. I never really got into the crawl but if I ever start going swimming again I'll switch to it.


Legendary Member
Thanks Colin; yes, I'm using grey Kleo cleats and have ordered some red ones, which have 9 degrees of float.

Must admit that I only blamed the climbing because the pain really came on a few days after that ride so it may well be a red herring. I'd climbed the same hill (opposite the Inn at Whitewell, it's 12%) twice before without problems.


God Almighty
Kneecap mis-alignment I betcha.
There are a million causes for this though.

One of the most common causes is tight hamstrings - try some deep stretching (no idea if that would cause swelling though!)


I can swim a couple of miles front crawl without any discomfort, but half a mile breaststroke is my absolute limit before my right knee gives out. The pain is behind my knee, on the inside of the leg. Definitely not a kneecap or joint issue in my case. It isn't a pain that I get from cycling, even though I do 40 and 50 mile lumpy rides on a 72" fixed gear.

I know what causes my pain - it's ligament and muscle strain from 'snapping' at the end of the leg kick. That in turn is because I have a slightly lopsided leg action, which is very common with self-taught breaststroke.

You need to improve your leg kick or get some specific exercises for the muscle imbalance; or swim front crawl, as the man says.


The breastroke kick as with the pull should be long and smooth with full extension of arms and legs, all to often you see short jerky actions which I assume would cause the sort of pain you are describing.


Legendary Member
Very interesting, thanks all.


CC Neighbourhood Police Constable
Because Breast stroke is powered by the kick and as Lukesdad points out is long and POWERFUL it will cause pain (eventually). The strain put on the knees as the legs are Whipped through the water is horrendous...
Definitely stay away from it if you have knee problems..

I would advise getting a leg float and doing F/C if you have knee problems!


Vikeonabike said:
I would advise getting a leg float and doing F/C if you have knee problems!

Good advice, I was county/nationals standard at 50m and 100m breaststroke in the late mid-late 90's and all the training in the end did knacker the knees a bit. Its actually pretty difficult to get the technique 100% right and if you don't get it right you will suffer with knee pain.

Leg floats and breaststroke arms is a good bit of exercise, Crawl arms are easier though.


New Member
I suffered with my knees through to many years of playing football, all that twisting and turning. I was told by my doctor to go swimming and do fornt /back crawl only. NEVER do breast stroke puts to much stress on the Knees. Cycling has also helped as my knee joint is not being twisted, its strengthend my ligaments either side of my knee keeping it more stable.
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