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Mobility For Runners: 11 Exercises to Improve Performance

Enhance flexibility, prevent injuries, and improve your running efficiency

Mobility.

As a runner, you’ve surely heard this term and the importance of working mobility in your training program. It is one of those important pieces of the training plan puzzle that is often overlooked because, let’s face it, it’s hard!

However, having a decent range of motion in our joints will allow us to run with less stiffness, help us execute efficient and powerful strides, and minimize the risk of running injuries1Fukuchi, R. K., Stefanyshyn, D. J., Stirling, L., Duarte, M., & Ferber, R. (2014). Flexibility, muscle strength and running biomechanical adaptations in older runners. Clinical Biomechanics29(3), 304–310. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.clinbiomech.2013.12.007 that can derail training plans and goals. 

Every joint and muscle group contributes to our running technique, from hip rotation to ankle stability.

In this guide, we will explore how mobility for runners impacts performance, aids in recovery, and serves as a preventive measure against common injuries.

We will also provide eleven mobility exercises that you can do from the comfort of your own home. These exercises are designed to improve your range of motion and help maintain optimal functionality. 

a runner doing a mobility exercise

What Is Mobility? 

According to the Cambridge Dictionary,2Cambridge Dictionary. (2024, June 5). mobility. @CambridgeWords. https://dictionary.cambridge.org/dictionary/english-spanish/mobility mobility is the ability to move freely or be easily moved. Now, for our purposes, let’s expand on that a bit.

If we have good mobility, we should be able to move well, meaning our joints should function at their full range of motion and do so without pain or stiffness. 

Mobility exercises for runners often focus on the hips, knees, and ankles; however, being mobile in all of your joints, including your shoulders, neck, and thoracic spine, is even more beneficial. 

Are Flexibility And Mobility The Same Thing?

They are not.

The difference between flexibility and mobility is that mobility focuses on the joint. In contrast, flexibility focuses on the range of motion achieved while stretching a muscle.

Now, a stretching routine is a whole other ball game, but also an important part of a post-run routine. 

two people doing a childs pose

What Are the Benefits of Mobility For Runners?

Mobility training can:

When Should I Add A Mobility Routine To My Schedule?

If you are pressed for time, the most convenient moment to add mobility to your routine may be before your runs. By adding mobility work to your dynamic stretches and warm-up pre-run routine, you can kill two birds with one stone.

If you have more time, you can add a mobility workout to your strength training program. Begin by foam rolling, and then proceed to the exercises.

You could even do this as an active recovery workout on a rest day, as it doesn’t imply any intense work that may tire you out. (It still may feel tough for some!)

Mobility For Runners 11 Exercises To Improve Your Performance 

These mobility exercises use your body weight, so you don’t need special equipment or a gym to perform them.

Take your time with each exercise, adjusting each position carefully as you go.

There’s no rush to finish, and it helps to do each one deliberately, as you can ensure you achieve the correct position and progress with each movement.

#1: Runner’s Stretch 

This first mobility exercise is my favorite because it hits all the specific areas we want to target in just one move. So, if you have minimal time and need to choose just a couple of exercises to do, make sure this one is on your list. 

  1. Begin in a full plank position with your hands, wrists, elbows, and shoulder lined up, your body straight from head to feet, and weight distributed between your hands and toes.
  2. Bring your left leg forward so your left foot is on the outside of your left hand. Adjust until you are in a stable position. 
  3. Push your left knee forward while simultaneously stretching your right foot back, pulling in opposite directions. 
  4. Take your left arm and stretch it toward the ceiling, turning your torso toward your left with you. Reach up and hold this position for a couple of seconds. 
  5. Return your left hand to its initial position and bring your left foot back to its initial position so you have returned to a full plank. 
  6. Repeat on the other side. 
  7. Alternate sides and complete 4-6 repetitions. 

#2: Goblet Squat 

The goblet squat is often used to build strength while holding a heavy kettlebell in between your hands.

In this case, we will use it specifically for mobility purposes (ankle and hip mobility), focusing on pushing our knees outward as we lower down into position.  

  1.  Stand tall with your feet a bit wider than hip-width apart and your toes slightly turned out. 
  2. Hold your hands to your chest, shoulders back, and chest up.
  3. Bend at the knees and hips as you sit back until your thighs are parallel to the floor. 
  4. Using your elbows, slightly push your knees outward.
  5. Extend your knees and hips, pushing yourself back to your initial standing position.
  6. Repeat for 10-12 reps.

#3: Walking Lunges With Overhead Reach

Walking lunges not only improve your range of motion but also work your stability and coordination. The overhead reach works your shoulder mobility.

  1. Stand tall with your feet shoulder-width apart and reach your arms overhead, elbows by your ears.
  2. Engage your core and take a big step forward with your right foot.
  3. As you take this step, bend both knees until they reach 90 degrees. Your left knee will be just above the ground, and your right thigh will parallel the floor. Be sure your front knee does not pass in front of your toes. 
  4. Push off your right foot and walk forward without stopping in the middle, performing a lunge on the other side.
  5. Keep your arms extended overhead throughout the entire number of reps. 
  6. Repeat for 8-12 reps.

#4: Quad Hip Flexor Stretch 

This is a two-for-one as we work our hip flexor mobility and throw in a nice quad stretch

  1. Place a bench behind you and face away from it. 
  2. Start in a lunge position with your right leg in front of you at 90 degrees and your left knee on the ground directly underneath you. Place your left toes up on the edge of the bench behind you.
  3. Engage your core, keep your back straight and hands on your hips.
  4. Shift your body forward, pushing your right knee further out in front of you. Hold this position for a couple of seconds. 
  5. Bring yourself back, and instead of stopping at your initial position, bring your glute back to your left heel. Hold this position for a couple of seconds.
  6. Repeat for 8-12 reps. 
  7. Repeat on the other side. 

#5: Adductor Mobility

  1. Begin on all fours with your shoulders over your wrists and knees under your hips. 
  2. Extend your right leg out to the side, placing your foot flat on the floor.
  3. Extend your arms straight out in front, palms on the floor. 
  4. Keeping your back flat and your body positioned over your left leg, rock yourself back and sit back on your left heel, stretching your arms further out in front of you. 
  5. Hold this position for a couple of seconds. 
  6. Return to your starting position.
  7. Repeat for 8-12 reps. 
  8. Repeat on the other side. 

#6: Ankle Mobility 

We runners, especially heel strikers, tend to have very stiff ankles. Loosening up the ankles before running can help improve mobility in your running stance phases and take tension off the shins. In the example video, I slightly elevated my toes using a weighted disk. 

  1. Stand tall with your hands on your hips. 
  2. Take a step forward with your left foot. 
  3. Driving your left knee forward, shift your body as far forward as possible. 
  4. Hold for a couple of seconds. 
  5. Return to your starting position. 
  6. Repeat for 8-12 reps.
  7. Repeat on the other side.

#7: Full Plank Ankle Pump 

Continuing with ankle work, this mobility exercise will help improve the range of motion in your ankles while promoting good posture and engaging your core.

  1. Begin in a full plank position with your hands, wrists, elbows, and shoulder lined up, your body straight from head to feet, and weight distributed between your hands and toes.
  2. Place your left foot on the back of your right ankle. 
  3. Shift your weight forward and backward, using your ankle to redistribute your weight. 
  4. Repeat for 8-12 reps. 
  5. Repeat on the other side. 

#8: Downward Dog Walk Outs 

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This yoga-inspired mobility exercise is great for ankle and spine mobility while stretching your calves and hamstrings.

  1. Stand tall with your feet shoulder-width apart, core engaged. 
  2. Bring your hands down to the floor and walk them out until you are in a full plank position. 
  3. Push your hips up and shift your weight back until you have formed an inverted V position. Keep your head down between your elbows.
  4. Press your heels into the ground to stretch your calves. 
  5. Hold this position for a couple of seconds.
  6. Bring yourself back into your full plank position. 
  7. Walk your hands back toward your feet and stand up, returning to your starting position. 
  8. Repeat for 8-12 reps. 

#9: Squat to Stand 

If you think you felt your hamstrings in the last mobility exercise, check this one out!

  1. Stand tall with your feet wider than hip-width apart. 
  2. Bend at the waist and grab underneath your toes with both hands. You will likely need to bend your knees to get into this position. 
  3. Using your arms, pull yourself into a deep squat position, knees pushing outward and chest up. 
  4. Extend your knees, holding your toes, head down, and back slightly arched. 
  5. Repeat for 8-12 reps. 

#10: Hip Rotation 

Now for some lower spine rotation. I love this one as I feel like my back adjusts into place with some cracks and pops every time I do it!

  1. Lie face up with your knees bent at 90 degrees and lower legs parallel to the floor. 
  2. Extend your arms out so you form a T. 
  3. Keep your shoulder blades on the floor, twist at your hips, and bring your legs down to one side. Lower your legs down just until the point where your shoulder blade is just about to lift off the ground. 
  4. Return to the center, and lower your legs to the other side. 
  5. Repeat for 8-12 reps. 

#11: Shoulder Blade Squeezes 

In this exercise, I have mixed a shoulder blade squeeze with a scapular wall slide with no wall! I love these exercises because they help with our posture, as runners tend to round their shoulders. 

  1. Kneel on the floor with your back straight and chest proud. 
  2. Bend your elbows at 90 degrees, open your chest, and place your elbows at your sides at shoulder height. 
  3. Squeeze your shoulder blades together. 
  4. Now, in a controlled movement, bring your arms up overhead. Hold this position for a couple of seconds. 
  5. Slowly bring your arms back to their starting position, always keeping your shoulder blades squeezed tightly together. 
  6. Repeat for 8-12 reps. 

Ready to get mobile? Use these exercises to help improve your mobility, help you stay injury free, and just feel better running in general!

Another great way to reduce your risk of injury is strength training and cross-training. Check out this full body strength training workout to get started right away:

The Best Full Body Workout Routine

References

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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 racing conditions. She is a UESCA-certified running coach and loves sharing her knowledge and experience to help people reach their goals and become the best runners they can be. Her biggest passion is to motivate others to hit the trails or road alongside her, have a blast, and run for fun!

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