Runners often expect pain in their legs or feet on the run, but we rarely consider the possibility of our ears hurting when you run. Unlike lower body pain, it is often a bit of a surprise to find that your ears hurt after running.
Why do my ears hurt after running?
Ear pain when running is usually quite unexpected. Runners who experience this type of pain are usually taken aback and unsure exactly what is causing this pain or how it could be related to running.
If your ears hurt after running, there are many possible causes. It could be as simple as listening to music too loudly or wearing earbuds that don’t quite fit. Or, it could be a result of various other issues, such as GERD, jaw tightness or a reaction to cold weather.
Can running cause ear problems?
If you notice that your ears regularly hurt when you run, you might begin to wonder whether running causes ear problems. Luckily, the answer is no. When your ears hurt after running, it is almost always due to something besides the actual act of running itself.
Many runners notice that their ears hurt after running in the cold. While this is actually quite common, ear pain is usually not associated with physical activity, so it often comes as quite a shock.
It can be a bit discouraging to feel ear pain when running, but luckily, this type of pain is usually easily resolved. However, in order to rid or reduce the pain, you’ll first have to identify what is causing it.
6 Reasons Your Ears Hurt After Running
There are always a few exceptions, but in most cases, you’ll be surprised to discover that your ears are hurting when running due to one of these 6 common, easily managed issues.
Improper earbud fit
We rarely consider the fit of our earbuds. Instead, we purchase headphones based on their style, accessories and features. However, improperly fitting earbuds can really take a toll on your ears when worn for hours at a time each week.
If you’re noticing that your ears hurt when you run, take a look at your ear buds. Are they truly fitting in your ear? Do you have to force them in any way or adjust them throughout your run? A sign that they are not fitting correctly is if you notice the ear pain begins while you are running. Take the time to experiment with different styles and types of earbuds to see what relieves your pain.
Playing music too loud
Another reason your ears might hurt after running is if you spend a significant amount of time listening to loud music on the run. The volume of your music, especially for a longer period of time, could potentially cause damage to you ear drum or result in headaches later on.
Take inventory of the volume at which you listen to your music, and consider whether or not it might be too loud for the length of time during which you listen. If you think this might be the cause, try out a few runs with the music at a softer volume and see if that makes a difference.
Once you’ve eliminated potential causes from your headphones or music, it’s time to start looking at underlying conditions that may be causing your ears to hurt when you run. Jaw tension or tightness could potentially lead to ear pain over time.
Many people clench their jaw or increase jaw tightness when they are stressed. This can quickly become chronic without even realizing it. On your next run, bring attention to your jaw and keep it relaxed throughout the run. Try stretching or massaging your jaw a few times each day to help relieve tension, and gradually – with consistent stretching – it will begin to loosen.
Another surprising condition that could result in ear pain after running is a digestive issue such as acid reflux. Acid reflux, or GERD, often worsens with exercise as the activity disrupts the contents of your stomach. If you eat anything particularly bothersome prior to running, GERD could worsen and actually result in pain throughout your upper body – including your ears.
If you regularly suffer from acid reflux of any kind, consider running on an empty stomach or after consuming something very mild in content. Try this out for a few days to see if your ear pain subsides.
Many people notice that their ears hurt after running in cold weather. This is incredibly common, but can be a bit confusing as it’s hard to relate the cold to ear pain. However, if your ears hurt on a run in the cold, it’s likely due to exposure to the cold temperatures and not the act of running itself.
Cold temperatures cause blood vessels to constrict, which can eventually lead to restricted blood flow in the extremities. This condition, called vasoconstriction, often results in the ears turning bright red. If you’re wondering why your ears hurt after running in the cold, consider covering them up more thoroughly.
Related: The Best Winter Running Gear for Cold Weather Runs
One final situation that could result in your ears hurting after running is an ear infection. Ear infection pain is certainly not limited to running, but the activity might exacerbate the pain, causing you to notice it more.
If your ears hurt after running and continue to hurt throughout the day, take the time to rule out an ear infection. When left untreated, ear infection pain will usually progress and become more intense. If your pain continues to grow over time, consider getting checked for an ear infection.
How to Prevent Your Ears Hurting After Running
Once you’ve determined the cause of your ear pain when running, you’ll be able to take the necessary steps to minimize or rid the pain. Luckily, most causes of ear pain are easily fixed.
If you’re still unsure of why your ears hurt when you run, you might need to test a few different strategies to determine what helps the most.
Simple fixes for your ears hurting during or after running
If your ears hurt when you run in the cold, the best thing you can do is protect your ears from the elements. Here are a few different options to consider depending on the temperature and weather conditions.
- Light earband or headband
- Thick, insulated headband
- Spring or winter hat
- Ear muffs
If your ears hurt when you run in regular temperatures, here are a few strategies to try to reduce or completely rid your ear pain.
- Test out different headphones
- Lower the volume of music
- Practice jaw stretches or massage
- Run on an empty stomach or find non-acidic pre-run fuel
If your ears continue to hurt when you run even after trying these strategies, it might be time to visit your doctor and get tested for an ear infection or other underlying condition.
Discovering that your ears hurt after running is surprisingly common – and luckily often doesn’t take more that a day or two to fix. Try out some different strategies to determine what works best. Ear pain doesn’t have to be something that holds you back from running, and the fix might be even simpler than you expect.