Is Running Bad for Your Hips? What Runners Need To Know!


Many runners have heard some version of “but what about your joints?” by well-meaning friends or family. And while running is a high-impact sport, it doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll be subject to a life of pain and injury.

So how can you make sure your hips are strong for the long haul? We’ll go over some common injuries, what causes them, and preventative measures you can take.

Does Running Help Your Hips?

Running can be very hard on your hips, but it isn’t all bad. In fact, one study published in the BMJ Exercise and Sport Medicine journal found no significant hip difference between the non-runners and highly active runners (though there were some minor abnormalities). (Source)

While some runners experience hip pain due to running, there are ways one can prevent the worst of it.

Having strong surrounding muscles (core, hamstrings, glutes) can take the pressure off the hips. This means incorporating regular strength-training sessions into the routine to keep the muscles and joints strong.

Is It Ok to Run with Hip Pain? (Common Causes)

If you notice pain in your hips during or after a run, that can be a sign that it is time to take a break. While pain doesn’t always automatically equate to an injury, it can mean the start of one. You’ll want to avoid doing anything that could make it worse, even if the pain is mild.

You can spend your new free time trying to figure out the root cause of your hip pain. Here are a few common causes (Source):

Overuse

When you love to run, you want to do it all of the time – but this can lead to a slew of overuse injuries and the hips are no exception. Overuse injuries in the hips tend to form as bursitis, which feels like a burn or ache on the outside of your hip. It can also feel like a rubbing or popping sensation.

Usually rest, ice, and some ibuprofen will cure this after about a week’s time, though you’ll want to watch out for it in the future. You may need to scale back your mileage if it continues to act up, or you may have another underlying problem.

Strength Imbalance

We all tend to favor one leg over the other, which can lead to imbalance issues that your hips take the brunt of. If you suspect this may be the case for you, you can reach out to a medical professional and they’ll be able to assess your strength.

If they find that you have an imbalance, they can give you some exercises to make your strength more equal. You can also incorporate yoga or pilates into your routine for some low-impact strength training.

Stress Fracture

If the pain is primarily focused on the inside of the hip and feels like a sharp pain, it could be a stress fracture.

It’s best to reach out to a doctor right away if you suspect this may be the case, as continuing to run could make it significantly worse. Expect about 6 to 8 weeks for healing; in the meantime, you should be able to swim or bike to maintain your fitness.

Regardless of what may be causing your injury, your best course of action will be to stop the moment you notice the pain. And always be sure to go through a full warmup before any run.

Do Runners Have Tight Hips?

Some runners experience tight hips, which is often a sign of muscle imbalance or weakness. This can result in stiffness of the hip flexors and it prevents runners from running their best. When running, the muscles are used in the same repetitive motion, which can lead to tightness. (Source)

You can also experience tight hips when your body is overcompensating for weak glutes or a weak core, causing your hips to do most of the work and bear the load.

Finally, you may have tight hips simply because you haven’t allowed yourself to properly rest and recover between runs. While it may be difficult to take time off, especially if you’re training for a specific goal or race, the recovery period will ultimately keep you running better for longer.

Why Do My Hips Hurt After a Long Run?

One reason for pain after a long run is from amping up the mileage too quickly. For example, if your last long run was 5 miles and you suddenly decide to push for a 10 mile run, that’s an increase of 100%. Instead, it’s better to focus on building your mileage gradually. The general recommendation is only to increase your weekly miles by 10%.

So if you ran 10 miles total last week, you could aim for 12 miles total this week. Your best bet is always to follow a specific training plan, which will have stages of building, peaking, and recovering.

Another reason your hips may hurt after a long run is if you didn’t properly warm up or cool down. Having a solid warm-up is key for any exercise as it allows oxygen-carrying blood to flow to your muscles before you start to work them.

A cool down is also important, but easy to skip (especially if all you want to do is shower and lay down). Having a few key stretches you do after every run can help prevent excess soreness or pain.

How Do Runners Protect Their Hips?

The primary thing to focus on is strengthening and stretching the hips. You’ll want to aim for 150 minutes of moderate weight-bearing exercise per week (Source).

Part of this should include strengthening exercises, as these are beneficial for your overall joint and bone health.

How Can I Make My Hips Stronger? (Exercises Listed)

There are a few exercises you can incorporate into your routine to make for stronger, more stable hips.

Here are nine options recommended by Training Peaks, all of which require minimal equipment and can be done at home (Source):

  • Heel activator
  • Hip abduction
  • Heel drop + hip hike
  • Knee drive with band
  • Lunges with med ball
  • Monster walk with band
  • Quadruped series
  • Heel drop
  • Split squat

In addition, you should make sure you do weekly strength training sessions in the gym to target all of your muscle groups.

Compound exercises like squats and deadlifts can be especially beneficial as they utilize both leg and core muscles, which leads to greater strength and stability.

We also recommend that you check out our post “Does Running Kill Muscle Gains? Or Does It Actually Help!

Can Running on A Treadmill Hurt Your Hips?

Yes, running on a treadmill can hurt your hips if you aren’t using proper form or are especially prone to hip injuries. The same causes of running on pavement or trail can lead to hip pain from running on the treadmill (overuse, muscle imbalance, stress fractures).

The treadmill can exacerbate some issues, though, because it can feel like an unnatural running movement and your body may overcompensate in ways it doesn’t off the treadmill. In addition, setting the treadmill at an incline can put extra force on the hip joints, leading to pain.

Also check out our post on “Is Treadmill Running Bad for Your Knees? What You Must Know!

Like with all pain, stop as soon as you notice it or ease back to see if it goes away.

Things to keep in mind

All activities come with risks and rewards, so it’s important to weigh the pros and cons. Exercise is important for overall health and wellbeing, but it shouldn’t come at the cost of injury or pain.

If you experience significant discomfort, take a break and try a different form of exercise. If the pain persists, consult a doctor. They can help find a solution that will fit your goals.

Aprill Emig

Based out of Duluth, MN Aprill loves to write about the outdoors, education, and all forms of adventure. You can find her mountain biking, running, or playing roller derby.

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