Some runners contest that it’s satisfying to feel some muscle soreness after running, as it can be an indication that their workout was challenging and that they will get stronger from the run.
However, muscle soreness after running that is more moderate than mild, occurs frequently, or inhibits your next run can be problematic. One of the most common complaints when it comes to muscle aches in runners is sore hamstrings after running.
The hamstrings are one of the prime movers of the hip and leg in the running stride, so sore hamstrings after running is not uncommon. However, if your hamstrings are always sore after running or your hamstrings hurt after running, it’s time to examine the potential causes to address the root issue and experiment with potential solutions.
There are plenty of better ways to feel proud and notice progress from your workouts than muscle soreness, so let’s dive in and consider the possible causes and solutions for sore hamstrings after running.
In this guide, we’re going to look at:
- Why Are My Hamstrings Sore After Running?
- Sore Hamstrings After Running? Here Are the Potential Causes
- How to Prevent Sore Hamstrings After Running
- Can I Run With Sore Hamstrings?
Let’s dive in!
Why Are My Hamstrings Sore After Running?
Before we look at the reasons why your hamstrings may be sore after running, it’s helpful to consider the role of the hamstrings when you run.
The hamstrings are a group of three muscles—the semimembranosus, semitendinosus, and biceps femoris—that run along the length of the back of your thigh from their attachment at the ischial tuberosities (sit bones) at bottom of your pelvis to the back of your knee.
The hamstrings work in opposition to the quads on the front of your thigh. They work with your glutes to propel you forward when you run and walk and upward when you jump.
When you run, your hamstrings play the pivotal role at ground contact, slowing down your lower leg, and preventing your knee from hyperextending when your quads contract.
Sore Hamstrings After Running? Here are The Potential Causes
If you find yourself asking, “Why are my hamstrings sore after running?”, there’s a good chance there’s something off about your running form, training, or muscle strength or flexibility.
Let’s examine the six common causes of sore hamstrings after running:
Overstriding is the most common cause of hamstring soreness after running. Overstriding places your lead leg too far in front of your body when you land, causing your hamstrings to have to work extra hard to keep your pelvis level and knee from hyperextending.
Over the course of a run, this repetitive overstriding causes accumulated over-exertion and fatigue in the hamstrings, causing microdamage and resultant muscle soreness.
#2: Weak Hamstrings
The hamstrings work in opposition to the quads. If you imagine the pelvis as a large bowl, the job of the hamstrings and quads is to keep the bowl level so as not to tip out the contents.
If the hamstrings are weak relative to the quads, they have to work extra hard to try and keep the pelvis level and balance out the forward tilt on the pelvis from the quads.
#3: Tight Hip Flexors
Tight hip flexors cause an anterior or forward tilt of the pelvis, which places the hamstrings in a constant stretch position and makes them have to work harder to try and keep the pelvis level.
#4: Weak or Inactive Glutes
The glutes are one of the largest, strongest, and most powerful muscle groups in the body, but many runners struggle to recruit the glutes effectively, placing an excessive workload on the hamstrings. As the hamstrings are smaller and weaker muscles, this can lead to sore hamstrings after running.
#5: Training Errors
Increasing your mileage too quickly can cause sore hamstrings after running, particularly in beginner runners.
Other training errors that may affect your hamstrings include doing too much speed work and failing to vary your terrain. For example, runners who always run on a treadmill and don’t alter the incline are prone to hamstring soreness after running.
#6: Failing to Warm Up
Finally, if you jump right out of bed and head out for your morning run, or hit your workout after sitting at your desk all day without warming up first, you increase your risk of pulling your hamstrings.
Particularly when we sit all day, our hamstrings tighten up. If we jump right into running without warming the tissues up, we can injure the muscle at the end range of motion.
How to Prevent Sore Hamstrings After Running
Once you have identified the likely cause of your hamstring pain after running, it’s important to fix the problem to prevent a more serious hamstring injury. Here are the best solutions to fix hamstring soreness from running:
- Warm up before every run: A few minutes of walking, slow jogging, and then dynamic stretching can increase blood flow and warm up your tissues, which can prevent sudden lengthening in a contracted position.
- Vary your terrain: Variety in your terrain and running surfaces can stave off all sorts of overuse running injuries.
- Strength train: It’s critical to correct any muscle imbalances between the quads and hamstrings. The hamstrings are usually weaker, so work on posterior chain exercises like deadlifts, hamstring curls, and bridges. It’s also important to strengthen your glutes and work on building your neuromuscular connection to them, so that they are actively recruited in hip extension to take the workload off your hamstrings.
- Stretch your hip flexors: Use a foam roller or stretch your hip flexors, particularly if you sit all day. This will help keep your pelvis level and combat a forward tilt.
- Shorten your stride: Keep your stride shorter, by working on increasing your running cadence. Work on your running form, trying to keep good posture and landing on your midfoot rather than your heel.
- Increase gradually: Keep your mileage increases to 10% or less per week to give your muscles time to adapt.
- Cool down: Cool down after running by walking and stretching to flush metabolic waste from the muscles.
Can I Run With Sore Hamstrings?
Even if you’ve identified the cause of your sore hamstrings after running and started implementing the appropriate solutions, it can take some time for the soreness to go away.
The good news is that in most cases, you can run with sore hamstrings provided the soreness is mild. On the other hand, if your hamstrings hurt after running rather than being mildly sore, you should take a break from running until the pain subsides.
Pain is indicative of a more serious hamstring injury, and acute hamstring injuries can rapidly progress to chronic injuries in runners. Take a few days to focus on rehab—alternating ice and heat, foam rolling, and gentle mobility with a lacrosse ball.
Resist the urge to stretch your hamstrings. They may feel “tight,” but stretching can exacerbate any damage in the muscle fibers or tendons. You can try light, low-impact cross-training if it is pain-free.
If your hamstrings are just mildly sore, you should be able to run, provided you warm-up and can run with your normal form and stride without limping or compromising your biomechanics. Do not do any speed work, and stop running if the pain gets worse.
After your run, you can do some gentle stretching of the hamstrings.
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