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Should I Run with Sore Legs?

Should I Run With Sore Legs?

Running is a high-intensity and high-impact exercise, which means it’s also an activity that can cause soreness in the muscles. You’re bound to feel some aches and pains after a long run, and even running too often can cause issues.

If you don’t know how to recover from common running injuries that arise due to soreness, your training could end up doing more harm than good. In this post, we’ll provide a detailed overview of why running makes you sore and how you can care for sore muscles to stay active and fit.

First, let’s explore why running causes soreness.

Why Does Running Make Us Sore?

Generally, any type of high impact exercise can lead to soreness. For runners, sore thighs or sore quads post running are common. The combination of the downward pressure of gravity on each step with the repeated muscle contractions to create force in the opposite direction builds up lactic acid in your muscles and triggers pain receptors.

Moreover, DOMS, or delayed-onset muscle soreness, is another important factor in soreness for runners. DOMS is the reaction muscles have when they are unaccustomed to a certain workload. If you’ve ever started a weight lifting routine and felt stiff and sore all over in the following days, that’s DOMS. 

When you’re starting as an amateur runner or push yourself harder than you normally would on a run, the chances of experiencing DOMS are higher. In simple terms, soreness stems from the kinds of exertion often associated with running.

Is it Safe to Run with Sore Leg Muscles?

In most cases, running with sore legs won’t have significant repercussions for your lower body or leg muscles. However, that’s only true if you’re experiencing normal soreness and not an injury. There are some common injuries associated with running that you’ll need to watch out for, especially if you are a new runner. These include shin splints, plantar fasciitis, runner’s knee, and Achilles tendinitis.

While the symptoms of running injuries vary and may feel different for one person than they do for another, there are some common symptoms of discomfort that all runners may experience. Whenever you feel that your soreness and pain are getting in the way of your running or treadmill workout, try giving your legs a break. Don’t do any strenuous exercise and running activity for at least a few days.

As a runner, you must learn to pay attention to your body’s signals. Know the limits and needs of your body and be aware of any unusual discomfort that may be signaling an injury. If your stiffness and soreness do not subside with time, it’s time to talk to a doctor.

Can You Prevent Soreness?

With time, you can condition your muscles for strenuous activities such as running. This will reduce DOMS and create endurance. Generally, stressed muscles become less sore with time because they rebuild and adapt to cause less discomfort. Essentially, that’s what training is for.

While the adaptive nature of your muscles is something you can count on as you train, there is an exception to this rule. Aging makes us more prone to pain. That’s because inactivity and the general effects of aging make us lose muscle cells, so the ones that are engaged work overtime to get us to the finish line. Naturally, they suffer the repercussions: inflammation and tears.

Moreover, our body’s muscle-repair systems also slow down because of aging. The protective processes in muscles become less efficient, and our connective tissue doesn’t protect us the way it used to when we were young. Hence, even the most talented and experienced runners often find that they need to reduce session intensity when they get older. 

Another effect of aging is that the average individual loses more fast-twitch muscle fiber than slow-twitch fiber. Slow-twitch fibers are good for endurance activities, while fast-twitch muscle fibers are important for higher intensity tasks like sprinting. Since this loss begins earlier in life, sprinters perform at their peak in their early 20’s. However, slow-twitch muscle fibers generally don’t start declining until age 40. As a result, older runners often find that they don’t have as much capacity for short term power and speed.

None of this should discourage anyone from running at any age. It’s all about prioritizing recovery and maintaining a self-care routine after training to continue to enjoy the health benefits and other positive effects of running throughout your life.

How to Relieve Sore Muscles after a Running Session


Once your running workout ends, be sure to start hydrating within the first 15 minutes of your workout, especially after a tough or long run. You can lose a lot of fluids through sweat while running, so it’s important to replenish them. If you are running in warm weather, you may also benefit from a sweat loss calculator that determines the exact amount of fluid you must replace.

If you’re running longer distances, keep an electrolyte solution with you while you run. Electrolyte drinks and tablets can replace the salts you sweat out to keep your energy level up and avoid cramps.

Dynamic Stretching

Running requires continuous muscle contraction, so you can perform light dynamic stretching before and after your runs to help loosen up your leg muscles. When stretching, focus on major muscle groups such as your calves, hamstrings, quads, glutes, and hip flexors. Stretch for at least ten to fifteen minutes to relieve soreness or discomfort post running.

Indulge in an Ice Bath

Athletes and runners find ice baths particularly beneficial for relieving stiff and sore muscles. This form of cryotherapy is believed to reduce inflammation, which means less muscle soreness. As soon as you finish stretching, hit the ice bath for a refreshing and rejuvenating experience.

Use cold water to fill your tub and add ice until the water temperature reaches 50 to 60 F. A thermometer is recommended, but you can also judge temperature by how long it takes an ice cube to melt. In the proper temperature range, a standard ice cube should completely melt within three to five minutes.

Reading your favorite book or skimming through a magazine while taking an ice bath is a great way to unwind after a grueling running session. Submerse your entire lower body in the water, making sure the water level is up to your hips. 

After a few minutes, you’ll start feeling more comfortable. Kick your legs a little to stir up the water. Moving your legs will also circulate the warm water around your body to make things cool again. Enjoy the bath for fifteen to 20 minutes. Once all the water drains from the tub, take a quick warm shower at your normal temperature. 

If ice baths aren’t your thing, swimming in an unheated pool can also speed up recovery. However, don’t heavily exert yourself at this time if you’re trying to avoid soreness – your body and legs are already tired. Swim for fifteen minutes or less for optimal muscle relief.

Replenish Protein and Carbs

Runners should replenish their energy stores soon after running. Research shows that our muscles are most receptive to rebuilding glycogen reserves within 30 minutes after training. As a result, eating soon after running can contribute to a reduction in muscle soreness and stiffness.

Nutritionists recommend consuming a ratio of 1 gram of protein to 3 grams of carbs. Protein bars that meet this ratio are a popular choice, especially for runners who don’t have a significant appetite after training. If you feel ready to eat, you can go for a bagel with peanut butter, yogurt and a banana, or a fruit smoothie. Some runners have a hard time eating solid foods soon after a workout, so chocolate milk or a protein shake can serve as a great recovery drink instead.

Move Your Body

When you experience DOMS, often all you want to do is sit around and relax until it eventually goes away. However, avoiding exercise completely when you are feeling sore can make your recovery period take longer. A bike ride or a quick swim is an effective way to relieve sore muscles.

Avoid rigorous workouts until your soreness subsides. Focus on moderate activity that promotes blood circulation and does not overexert your stiff muscles.

Warm-up before Every Run

Fitness trainers and experienced athletes emphasize the importance of a warm-up before you workout or run. The same goes for when you are running with sore muscles. 

Start your running session with a warm-up, followed by a few stretching exercises. You may experience some tightness in the beginning. However, it should dissipate as you continue. If your soreness doesn’t begin to improve, stop running and try some lighter alternative exercise instead.

Practice Yoga

There is nothing more relaxing and soothing than yoga to speed up recovery. That’s why many famous athletes turn to yoga after a grueling day. Yoga can help to reduce DOMS, but remember to take it easy. Don’t opt for long or intense poses; stick to those that don’t put stress on your leg muscles or lower body.

Massage Therapy

Working with a massage therapist is another way to reduce DOMS. If you can’t seem to relieve your muscle soreness with an ice bath or to stretch, think about scheduling a professional massage. Don’t try to work out knots with your own hands, as this could be dangerous. However, you can use a massage tool such as a foam roller or massage gun for some quick relief.

OTC Medications

Pain medications such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen offer temporary relief from muscle soreness. However, don’t depend on over-the-counter pain-relievers to alleviate sore leg muscles regularly. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs delay muscle tissue repair, so they could end up slowing down your progress. 

If you have lingering soreness or joint pain, it’s a good idea to talk it over with your doctor. They can diagnose the issue and then suggest physical therapy or other medical treatment.

Fuel your Run to Avoid Sore Muscles

While hydrating yourself after a run is important, good nutrition also plays a crucial role in keeping a runner’s body fit and active. As your body recovers, it will rely on the nutrients you consume. 

If you like to run in the morning, breakfast can be a great way to fuel your body afterward. A meal consisting of whole-wheat toast, vegetables, and eggs along with some fruit can provide your body with the recovery fuel it needs. Oatmeal, pancakes, and yogurt are also good choices for a light snack or breakfast.

Lunch and dinner should include a high protein source such as meat as well as vegetables. Remember to have a good balance of carbs, proteins, and fats to provide your body with essential nutrients.

For an added nutritional boost, some runners also take glucose tablets after running. Since the tablet is pure sugar, it stimulates the insulin response in our body and promotes recovery. However, never use any supplement without your doctor’s approval. Always ask your doctor for a recommendation, especially if you have a sensitive stomach or other health issues.

Your doctor can also be helpful if you have sensitivities or allergies to any of the foods mentioned above. Food allergies can exacerbate and even cause inflammation issues, so identifying them and finding alternative nutritional choices can speed up training recovery.

Why Relieving Sore Muscles is Important

Some runners subscribe to the mindset that they need to push through their pain. However, this practice is not at all safe. Physical therapists and fitness trainers note that if a runner avoids treating an injury and continues to run, they may develop a pain-avoidance pattern in their stride. That is when the runner depends more on parts of the body that is not injured, leading to an asymmetrical gait that can cause other injuries. Besides light exercise, running through pain could make your injury, discomfort, or soreness even worse.


There are plenty of recommended ways to relieve and help prevent muscle soreness from running. When it comes to normal soreness that you recognize, some light running could be a good way to bring some relief. When pain is more severe, lasts longer, or feels different than usual, it’s time to check in with your doctor. Discomfort, swelling, stiffness, and other symptoms may signal an injury that requires medical treatment or physical therapy. Be careful to pay attention to your body and take the proper precautions to ensure that you can continue to train effectively.