The 8 Best IT Band Stretches For Runners

Many runners have been plagued with IT Band syndrome at some point or another during their running careers. If you haven’t, you’re one of the lucky ones, but I’m sure that you’ve at least heard of it. And if you haven’t, you will today. 

In this guide, we will focus specifically on everything IT band and give examples of exercises to strengthen its surrounding muscles, and the best static IT Band stretches for runners to perform after workouts and long runs.

More specifically, in this article, we will cover:

  • What Is The IT Band?
  • What Role Does the IT Band Play In Running?
  • What is IT Band Syndrome?
  • How Can I Help Prevent From Suffering From IT Band Syndrome?
  • Tips For Stretching Properly
  • The 8 Best IT Band Stretches For Runners

Ready? 

Let’s stretch! 

A woman running outside.

What is the IT Band?

Your IT band, or iliotibial band, is made up of a thick band of fascia, a type of connective tissue that surrounds and holds muscles, organs, and bones in place. The IT Band is actually one of the biggest pieces of connective tissue in the human body. 

It runs along the outside of the thigh, beginning at the hip and reaching just below the knee. 

The following are the functions of the IT Band:

  • Hip stabilization
  • Hip extension
  • Hip abduction
  • Hip rotation
  • Knee stabilization
  • Knee extension
  • Knee flexion
  • Elastic energy storage while walking and running

Those are a whole lot of responsibilities for the IT band, but what about running specific functions?

IT Band stretches for runners: glute stretch with a twist.

What role does the IT band play in running?

The IT band plays an important part in running.

Carolyn Eng, from Yale University, explains to us that “One part of the IT band stretches as the limb swings backward, storing elastic energy. That stored energy is then released as the leg swings forward during a stride, potentially resulting in energy savings.”

It also assists in leg stability while running, keeping the knee from twisting. 

What is IT Band Syndrome?

IT Band Syndrome is a common running overuse injury that can end up causing so much pain, that it can actually stop a runner in their tracks. 

The constant bending and extending of the knee while running can cause the IT band to tighten up, causing friction against the knee. This then leads to swelling which causes knee pain and sometimes a clicking or popping sound in your knee. To help avoid this tightness, IT Band stretches for runners should be included in your training program.

A runner holding her knee from IB Band symdrome.

How Can I Help Prevent From Suffering From IT Band Syndrome?

There are numerous ways to help prevent yourself from suffering from IT Band syndrome such as including IT Band stretches for runners into your program, but there are also many more including: 

  • Ensuring your running sneakers are in good condition and not altering your stride
  • Performing our IT band stretches for runners frequently to keep your IT band loose 
  • Increasing your running volume gradually 

Before looking at the IT Band stretches for runners, let’s look at some strengthening exercises that will help in preventing IT Band Syndrome. You can add the following to your strength training workout:

Isometric Leg Lifts with Resistance Band

IT Band Stretches For Runners: A woman doing Isometric Leg Lifts with resistance bands.
  1. Place a resistance band around your ankles, calves, or above your knees, depending on how difficult you want the exercise to be. 
  2. Lie down on your right side, legs stacked, and propped up on your right elbow. 
  3. Lift your left leg as high as you can without altering your position or moving your hips.
  4. Hold the position for 30 – 40 seconds. 
  5. Repeat three times per side.

Note: You can also do this exercise in constant movement, slowly raising and lowering your top leg. Here you can do 12 repetitions per side, three rounds.

Side Steps with Resistance Band

IT Band Stretches For Runners: A woman doing side steps with resistance bands.
  1. Place a resistance band around your ankles, calves, or above your knees, depending on how difficult you want the exercise to be. 
  2. Squat down slightly keeping your back straight and your gaze forward. 
  3. With your right foot, take a lateral step towards your right, ensuring your knees do not collapse inward. 
  4. Bring your left foot towards your right, back to the starting position. 
  5. Take 12 steps towards your right, and then repeat by taking 12 steps towards your left.
  6. Repeat for three rounds on each side.

Clamshell with Resistance Band

IT Band Stretches For Runners: A woman doing clamshells with resistance bands.
  1. Place a resistance band just above your knees. 
  2. Lie on your right side with your knees stacked one on top of the other, bent at a 45-degree angle. 
  3. Use your right hand to prop up your head. 
  4. Engage your core. 
  5. Lift your left knee as high as you can while keeping your feet together, your right leg on the floor, and your hips stable.
  6. When your left knee reaches its peak height, pause, and then gently lower it back down to its starting position
  7. Repeat 12 times, then switch sides. 
  8. Repeat for three rounds on each side.

Fire Hydrant

IT Band Stretches For Runners: A woman doing Fire Hydrants.
  1. Start on your hands and knees, shoulders in line with your hands, and hips in line with your knees. 
  2. Keep your back straight. 
  3. Lift your right leg by opening your hip until you have reached a 45-degree angle. 
  4. Lower your leg and repeat 12 times. 
  5. Repeat for three rounds on each side.

Note: You can use a resistance band placed just above your knees, like we did the in the clamshell exercise, to make the exercise more challenging

These are just a few of many strengthening exercises that can help keep your IT Band protected. 

Now, to help keep your IT Band nice and loose, we have compiled a list of 8 of the Best IT Band stretches for runners for you to add to your next cool-down stretching session. You can also use these stretches to loosen up your IT Band when you are not running, just ensure your muscles are always warm before static stretching. 

Before we jump into the specific IT Band stretches for runners, here are some tips to ensure you are stretching properly:

A woman doing Downward Facing Dog.

Tips For Static Stretching 

  • Hold each stretch between 45 – and 60 seconds to reap optimal benefits. 
  • Try to relax your muscles while holding the stretch.
  • Breath deeply while you stretch. With each exhale, you can try to gently stretch the muscle a tad more. 

Now that we know how to stretch correctly, let’s look at the following IT Band stretches for runners that you can add to your post-run routine. 

IT Band Stretches For Runners

#1: Standing Side IT Band Stretch

IT Band Stretches For Runners: A woman doing a standing IT Band stretch.
  1. Stand tall.
  2. Cross your left leg behind your right leg, lowering the side of your left foot onto the ground.
  3. Extend your right arm above your head. 
  4. Lean your torso toward your left side until you feel the stretch. 
  5. Hold the position for 45-60 seconds. 
  6. Repeat on the other side. 

#2: Horizontal  Lunge IT Band Stretch

IT Band Stretches For Runners: A woman doing a horizontal lunge stretch.
  1. Start in a low lunge with your right foot forward, your knee bent at 90 degrees, and your left leg extended out behind you. (As you would for the all-famous “runner’s stretch”)
  2. Slightly twist your torso to your right and extend your right arm so it brushes by your right ear.
  3. Rotate your right shoulder behind you and bring your right arm down so it is parallel to the floor.
  4. Rotate your hips toward your right, and bring the side of your left foot onto the ground. The outside of your left leg should now be facing the ground.
  5. Hold the position for 45-60 seconds. 
  6. Repeat on the other side. 

#3: Knee to Opposite Shoulder Stretch

Knee to Opposite Shoulder Stretch woman
  1. Lie on your back and extend your legs out in front of you.
  2. Bend your right knee and bring it toward your chest.
  3. With both hands, pull your right knee up and toward your left shoulder. 
  4. Hold for 45-60 seconds.
  5. Repeat on the other side.

#4 Deep Lumbar Rotation with Resistance Band

woman doing deep lumbar stretch
  1. Loop a resistance band around your right foot.
  2. Lie on your back and extend your legs out in front of you.
  3. Hold both ends of the band in your right hand. 
  4. Lift your right leg with the assistance of the band, first straight up.
  5. Let your extended leg cross over toward your left side, keeping your back straight and flat on the floor. 
  6. Hold for 45-60 seconds. 
  7. Repeat on the other side.

#5: Figure Four Stretch

IT Band Stretches For Runners: A woman doing a figure four stretch.
  1. Sit on the floor with your right leg in front of you and your left leg in back of you, both bent at 90 degrees. 
  2. Keeping your back straight, lower yourself over your front, in this case right, bent knee, lowering your elbows as close to the ground in front of you as you can. Don’t go too far that you lose your posture and arch your back. Your back must be straight at all times. 
  3. With each breath, try and lower down a bit further for a deeper stretch. 
  4. Hold for 45 – 60 seconds. 
  5. Repeat on the other side. 

Note: You can also do this stretch seated in a chair, or standing.

 #6: Seated Floor Glute Stretch with a Twist

 IT Band Stretches For Runners: A woman doing a floor glute stretch with a twist.
  1. Sit on the floor with your back straight.
  2. Extend your legs out in front of you. 
  3. Place your right arm behind you.
  4. Take your right foot and cross it over your left knee. 
  5. Place your right foot flat on the floor next to your left knee. 
  6. Take your left arm and extend it across your right knee, palm facing outward, pushing your right knee towards your left side.
  7. At the same time, twist your torso to the right, trying to look over your right shoulder. 
  8. Hold for 45-60 seconds. 
  9. Repeat on the other side. 

Yoga poses are also a helpful addition to our IT Band stretches for runners’ repertoire.

#7: Half Monkey Pose with a Twist

IT Band Stretches For Runners: A woman doing a half-monkey pose with a twist.
  1. Start in a kneeling position. 
  2. Extend your right leg out in front of you placing your right heel on the floor, flexing your right foot
  3. Fold forward slightly keeping your back straight.
  4. Place your left hand on the ground and reach your right hand up toward the ceiling, twisting your torso slightly.
  5. Look up toward your extended right hand.
  6. Hold the position for 45-60 seconds.
  7. Repeat on the other side.

#8: Pigeon Pose

woman doing pigeon pose
  1. Start in the Downward Facing Dog pose, (an upside-down V position). 
  2. Bring your right knee forward toward your right wrist, keeping your left leg straight behind you. 
  3. Bend your right knee and gently lower your right glute to the ground
  4. Lower your torso over your right leg stretching your arms out in front of you with your elbow slightly bent. 
  5. Hold for 30 – 45 seconds. 
  6. Repeat on the other side. 

There you have it! The best IT Band stretches for runners for after your next run. Remember to stretch all muscles used during the workout. If it’s running, you’ll need to include calves, quads, glutes, and hamstrings for sure.

If you are looking to add even more stretches to your repertoire, check out our Hip Flexor stretches for runners.

Photo of author
Katelyn is an experienced ultra-marathoner and outdoor enthusiast with a passion for the trails. In the running community she is known for her ear to ear smile even under the toughest race conditions. She loves sharing her knowledge and experience with everyone and has a great desire to motivate others to hit the trails alongside her. Run for fun!

2 thoughts on “The 8 Best IT Band Stretches For Runners”

  1. Thank you Katelyn! I am a cyclist with two TKR (Total Knee Replacements). Last year I rode nearly 10,000 km (Canada). I have been having knee pain and easing off both on intensity and distance. I have been using your stretching programs and the pain has eased off. Then today I became aware of your IT Band Stretching. I have some symptoms which may be related to my IT Band, so I have now added your IT program into your calf, glute and hamstring programs.
    I anticipate that I am on the way to recovery.
    Thank you Katelyn!

    Reply

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