Around 1 million runners in the USA will experience hip injuries and hip pain after running. Fortunately, there are some things you can do to prevent hip pain during and after running.
In this article, we cover the most frequent causes of hip pain, what the symptoms are, the factors that can put you at risk of experiencing hip pain plus how to prevent sore hips from running.
Causes of hip pain after running
For runners, experiencing hip pain after running can be quite common. Here are the main causes why your hips might hurt after running.
Muscle strain and tendonitis
The most common causes of sore hips after running is muscle strain and tendonitis.
Muscle strain (or a pulled muscle) occurs when the muscle is stretched or torn.
Tendonitis, or a sprain, is the inflammation of a tendon (the band of tissue that connects a muscle to a bone). Tendons can become inflamed due to overuse, repetitive motion, or injury. Tendonitis is often accompanied by pain, swelling, redness, and warmth in the affected area.
Intense or repetitive running can lead to injuries due to overuse and tight hip flexors. This can cause the muscles and tendons around the hip joint to become inflamed and painful.
This tends to happen frequently in runners who have increased their training intensity or distance too quickly which puts excessive stress on the hip muscles and tendons.
Iliotibial band syndrome (IT band syndrome)
The thick band of tissue that runs from the hip down to the knee is known as the iliotibial band. IT band syndrome happens when this band becomes inflamed or tight, leading to friction and pain along the outside of the hip and thigh.
Runners often experience this condition when they run on uneven surfaces or with poor biomechanics. This can increase the strain on the IT band, leading to pain.
There are small fluid-filled sacs that cushion the hip joint. When these sacs (or bursa) become irritated or inflamed, it can lead to inflammation and pain in the outer hip or glute region.
Tight hip muscles, overuse or poor running form can potentially cause hip bursitis in runners.
The ring of cartilage that surrounds the hip socket is know as the labrum. The labrum provides stability and cushioning to the joint.
High-impact activities like running can lead to labral tears, that can cause deep, aching pain in the hip or groin area.
Labral tears can be caused by the repetitive stress on the hip joint or from sudden movements during running.
When the ball of the hip joint and the socket has abnormal contact, you can develop hip impingement.
This can happen due to structural abnormalities in the hip joint, which can lead to pain and limited range of motion after running.
Runners with hip impingement may experience discomfort on the side or in the front of the hip during or after their runs.
It’s best to check in with your healthcare practitioner if you are experiencing ongoing hip pain after running.
Symptoms of hip pain after running
Experiencing hip pain after running can be a disheartening for any runner. Recognizing the symptoms associated with hip pain is important so that you can address any potential issues as soon as possible.
Here are a few of the more common symptoms of sore hips from running.
Pain in the front, side, or back of the hip
The location of the pain can help identify the specific cause. Pain in the front of the hip may be due to hip impingement or a labral tear, while pain on the outside of the hip and thigh may indicate IT band syndrome or bursitis.
Swelling or redness around the hip
Swelling and redness in the hip area can indicate overuse or an injury. If you are seeing swelling and redness in the hip area, it’s best to check in with your doctor.
Loss of range of motion in the hip
If there is inflammation in the hip, your range of motion might be restricted. This can make it challenging to perform certain activities or even walk comfortably.
Weakness in the hip muscles
Injuries or overuse can weaken the hip muscles. This can lead to instability and difficulty supporting the body during running or other physical activities.
Risk factors for hip pain after running
While not everyone will develop sore hips from running, there are some risk factors that can increase the likelihood of this occurring.
The body needs time to adapt to increased intensity, duration or frequency. Doing too much too soon, can lead to overtraining which will increase the risk of hip pain after running.
Gradually increase the intensity, duration and frequency to allow the body time to adapt. Don’t forget to include rest days to allow your body to recover.
Poor running form
Running with poor form, such as excessive inward or outward rolling of the feet (overpronation or supination), can place extra stress on the hip joint.
Poor running form can lead to repetitive strain on the muscles and tendons surrounding the hip which puts you at risk of sore hips after running.
Weak hip muscles
Weak hip muscles, particularly the glutes, can cause instability and poor alignment during running. If your hip muscles are weak, this can contribute to improper distribution of forces through the hip joint, which can lead to injuries.
Previous hip injuries
A history of hip injuries or conditions, can make the hip joint more susceptible to hip pain after running, especially when the intensity, frequency or duration is increased too quickly.
If you’ve have a history of hip injuries, it’s best to get professional assistance if you find it flaring up too frequently.
As individuals age, the cartilage and structures within the hip joint may experience wear and tear. This makes older runners more prone to hip pain and injuries.
Skipping warm-ups and cool-downs
Not warming up properly or taking time to cool down afterward can increase the risk of muscle tightness and strain in the hip area.
Running on hard surfaces, such as concrete or asphalt, can cause greater impact on the hip joints compared to running on softer surfaces like grass or trails. The more shock through the hips, the greater the risk of pain or discomfort in this area.
Wearing unsupportive or worn out running shoes can affect the alignment of the feet and legs. This in turn will affect the alignment of the hips which can increase the risk of hip pain after running.
Running off road or on uneven surfaces can place extra strain on the hips as the body adjusts to different angles. This can increase the risk of injury especially if it’s over a long period.
Lack of hip joint flexibility and in the surrounding muscles can limit the range of motion during running and increase the risk of hip injuries.
When to see a doctor
Knowing when to see a doctor for hip pain after running is vital to ensure timely diagnosis and appropriate treatment. If you have a history of hip conditions or injuries, seek medical assistance if you experience pain.
Also seek medical assistance if you experience:
- Severe pain or lack of improvement with rest
- Accompanying symptoms such as fever, chills, numbness in the hips or surrounding areas
- Persistent pain
- Difficulty walking or weight bearing
- A worsening of symptoms
- Swelling, redness or warmth
A healthcare professional, such as a sports medicine doctor, orthopedic specialist, or physical therapist, can perform a thorough evaluation, order appropriate tests (e.g., X-rays, MRI), and develop a unique treatment plan to address the specific cause of the pain.
Early intervention and proper management can help prevent further issues and facilitate a quicker return to running and other physical activities.
How to prevent hip pain after running
Preventing sore hips after running is vital for maintaining a healthy and enjoyable running routine.
Here are some effective ways to help prevent hip pain:
Warm up and cool down properly
Warming up properly is one of the key ways that you can help prevent sore hips after running.
Warming up increases blood flow to your muscles and joints. It can also help improve flexibility and reduce the risk of injury.
After your run, include static stretching to help improve flexibility and reduce muscle tension.
Focus on stretches that target the hip flexors, glutes, and hamstrings to promote hip joint mobility and reduce tightness.
Wear proper running shoes
Invest in a pair of high-quality running shoes to make sure you have adequate support and cushioning for your foot type and style.
Proper footwear can help absorb shock and reduce stress on the hips and other joints.
Gradually increase your mileage
Avoid sudden increases in running intensity or mileage. Gradually progress your training to allow your body to adapt to the increased demands of running. This will help prevent injuries.
Cross train in other activities
Participating in cross-training activities — such as swimming, biking, or yoga — can help give your hip joints a break from the repetitive impact of running. Adding weight training and stretching can provide a well-rounded workout and will reduce the risk of overuse injuries.
Maintain a healthy weight
If you are carrying excessive weight, running can put unnecessary strain on the hips and aggravate hip pain running. Maintaining a healthy weight through a balanced diet and regular exercise, you can reduce the load on your hip joints.
Include hip-strengthening exercises
Incorporate exercises that target the hip muscles into your strength training routine. Exercises such as hip bridges, clamshells, and lateral leg raises can help strengthen your hips.
Strong hip muscles provide better support and stability for the hip joint during running.
Avoid excessive sitting
Prolonged sitting can cause hip tightness and stiffness. If you have a sedentary job, take regular breaks to stand up, stretch, and move around.
This can help prevent hip discomfort and improve hip joint mobility.
Listen to your body
Pay attention to any signs of discomfort or pain during or after running. If you experience hip pain during or after running, allow time to rest and recover. Don’t push through pain. If the pain persists or gets worse, seek medical assistance to identify and address the underlying cause.
Proper hydration is important for joint health and overall performance during running. Drink enough water during the day and particularly before and after your runs to ensure you are hydrated properly.
Treatment for hip pain after running
Depending on the underlying cause and the severity of the hip pain after running, treatment can vary. Here are some of the most common treatments for sore hips from running.
Rest: For any pain after running, it’s important to rest and give your body time to recover. Avoid high-impact activities and running until the pain has subsided.
Ice: Apply ice to the affected hip for about 15-20 minutes every few hours. This can help reduce inflammation and alleviate pain.
Compression: Using a compression bandage or hip brace can provide support and help reduce swelling.
Elevation: Elevating the leg with hip pain can help reduce swelling and improve circulation.
Medication: Over-the-counter pain medication can help reduce inflammation and pain.
Rehab: Working with a physical therapist can help address the causes of hip pain after running. They will create a tailored program to strengthen the hip muscles and improve biomechanics.
Specific exercises for hip pain: Certain exercises can help prevent and treat hip pain. Hip-strengthening exercises, such as hip bridges, clamshells, lateral leg raises, and squats, can be included into a targeted exercise routine. These exercises help stabilize the hip joint, improve running mechanics, and prevent hip pain.
Generally mild hip pain after running should go away on its own within a few days or weeks. More severe pain may take longer to heal depending on the cause.
Rest and avoid running until the pain has subsided. You can also apply ice or heat to the affected area, take pain medication, stretch and strengthen the hip muscles or see a physical therapist for help.
The best exercises to prevent sore hips from running include squats, lunges, and bridges. Hip mobility exercises such as leg swings and figure-of-eights. Core strengthening exercises and stretching.
Common symptoms include: pain in the front, side and back of the hips, swelling or redness in the hip area, loss of range of motion and weakness in the hip muscles.
If you’re experiencing hip pain after running that is severe, does not improve with rest, or is accompanied by other symptoms, such as fever, chills, or numbness, you should see a doctor.
- Hip pain after running is a common experience for many runners
- Sore hips from running can be caused by several factors
- Make sure you rest and recover before running again. Check in with your healthcare practitioner if the pain is severe or is not subsiding
- Prevention is better than cure so take time to warm up, invest in good shoes, learn proper running form and gradually increase the duration and intensity of your runs