It is common to experience a sore hamstring after running – however, if you’re experiencing chronic hamstring pain, it’s likely a red flag that something is off in your running.
Sore, painful and tight hamstrings are all problems that runners deal with on a regular basis. Determining the root cause of the issue is key to successfully treating – and eliminating – the pain.
Hamstring Function and Location
In order to determine why the hamstring is sore after running, we need to understand its location and function.
The hamstring is the thick band of fibrous muscle that attaches the pelvis to knee on the back side of the leg. This muscle is used in just about every activity, and plays a crucial role when running.
The main purpose of the hamstrings is to keep the pelvis level. When running, hamstrings work hand-in-hand with the quads and glutes to keep the pelvis level. If an imbalance occurs, the pelvis can tilt too far forward or backward. Hamstring muscles are active with each step a runner takes, constantly keeping the pelvis level on the run.
Why is my hamstring sore after running?
Tight or painful hamstrings after running are nearly always a sign that something is off. If you have a sore hamstring that seems to disappear after a day or two, the problem is likely related to something specific that happened on the run and will not reoccur.
However, if you’re noticing chronic hamstring pain after every run, it’s time to dive a little deeper. Here are a few of the most common reasons that running causes sore hamstrings.
- Overstriding – the foot lands too far in front, causing the hamstring to repeatedly work harder to compensate and keep the pelvis level
- Repetition – frequent runs on surfaces with little to no variation (track or treadmill) can add strain to the hamstring
- Too weak – hamstrings that are too weak are unable to match the strength of the quads in order to keep the pelvis level
- Hips or glutes are too tight – when the hips or glutes are too tight, the hamstrings have to work harder to keep the pelvis level
Is running with hamstring pain safe?
An isolated occurrence of runners hamstring pain is likely nothing of concern. It becomes an issue, though, when the pain is chronic. While running with sore or tight hamstrings is not dangerous, it can prolong healing.
In most cases, it is safe to continue running with sore hamstrings, but reducing mileage and/or intensity can help speed up healing.
Many runners unintentionally make the problem worse by stretching the hamstrings in attempts to help relieve pain. If the hamstring is sore because it is over-lengthened, stretching can actually exacerbate the problem.
Signs that Sore Hamstrings are Over-Lengthened
- Muscle imbalance: strong quads with weak hamstrings – the pelvic is tilting too far forward, causing the hamstrings to become over-lengthened
- Chronic hamstring pain that does not go away even by ending the activity
While a sore hamstring after running might not be enough pain to cause you to quit, the chronic ache is enough to frustrate any runner. Luckily, there are a few remedies that will ease those sore, tight hamstrings right at home.
7 Ways to Treat a Sore Hamstring After Running
If you’re running with sore hamstrings, treatment might be more attainable than you think. These 7 solutions can all be completed right at home with minimal equipment. Experiment with a few different tactics to determine what gives you the most relief.
One of the simplest and easiest ways to relieve painful hamstrings after running is to foam roll the area. Place a foam roller under the sore hamstring and slowly roll up and down the muscle. When you arrive at a painful spot, gently press against the foam roller and hold for 10-15 seconds before moving on.
Another simple way to relieve sore hamstrings from running is to use a lacrosse ball. Place the lacrosse ball under the painful hamstring and apply gentle pressure as you roll up and down the muscle. If you notice any particularly painful areas, hold the ball for 15-20 seconds while applying more pressure.
If you are experiencing chronic hamstring pain, it could be caused by a muscle imbalance due to the hamstrings being too weak. Try incorporating hamstring strengthening exercises into your weekly or daily strength training routine to build strength and reduce the imbalance.
Stretch the hips and glutes
A sore hamstring could also be caused by tight hips or glutes when running. Complete some simple stretching exercises for the hip flexors and glutes on a daily basis to see if you experience relief in your hamstring.
Improve running form
Chronically sore hamstrings after running are most commonly caused by overstriding. To prevent this, focus on improving your running form. Shorten your stride and aim for a midfoot landing. Taking the time to increase your cadence can help find an appropriate stride length.
When runners have sore hamstrings, they often continue running through the pain. If you choose to do so, compressing the area can provide relief during and after the run. Compression sleeves, KT tape, or a simple wrap can all be of benefit.
Running hamstring strains can often feel quite painful after a run. If your pain is due to a hamstring strain, icing the area regularly, immediately after a run, can help keep pain at bay and encourage healing.
While these methods certainly won’t cure all running hamstring pain, they can at least help reduce the pain you experience during and after a run. If you’re looking to take things a step further, there are a few tactics to implement which can help prevent hamstring pain from reoccurring in the future.
How to Prevent Painful Hamstrings After Running
When hamstring pain finally disappears, most runners are willing to do whatever it takes to make sure it doesn’t reoccur in the future. Here are a few simple strategies to include in your routine that will help prevent hamstring soreness in the future.
- Warm up before running
- Regular foam rolling
- Strength train hamstrings and glutes
- Cool down after running
Taking the time to discover the cause and treat the pain is a great first step when dealing with hamstring pain on the run. Once the pain has disappeared, be mindful about the steps you take before, during and after a run to help prevent a reoccurrence in the future.