The Best Stretches Every Runner Needs to Try

The Best Stretches Every Runner Needs to Try

Stretching is an important part of any fitness routine, but runners have special stretching needs.

The best stretches for runners both complement and counteract running, helping maintain flexibility in the hamstrings, quads, glutes, and calves, while opening the hips and helping relieve regular aches and pains. Runners commonly suffer from IT band pain, runner’s knee pain, tight hip flexors, and plantar fasciitis.

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Should You Stretch Before a Run?

Before running, you’re best served performing dynamic stretches. These will help warm up your muscles, improve flexibility and mobility, and optimize how your muscles can exert force during your runs.

The best dynamic stretches for runners include leg swings, high kicks with toe touches, and knee lifts to walking lunges.


The Best Stretches to Do Post-Run

Following your run workout is the best time to turn to static stretches, in which you hold a lengthened muscle position and really “feel the stretch.”

Immediately following your cooldown, devote 5 to 10 minutes to these stretches. You can also perform these stretches periodically throughout the day, whenever you’re feeling tight.

Stretches for the Quads

Some of the best leg stretches for runners focus on the quadriceps, which are worked to a high degree in running and can easily feel tight if left unchecked.

Standing Quad Stretch 

woman performing standing quad stretch 

  • Stand with your feet hip-width apart, using a chair or wall for balance if necessary.
  • Bend your right knee and lift your foot behind you, grabbing the top of it with your right hand.
  • Keeping the pelvis tucked and the right knee pointed toward the floor and aligned with your left knee, use your arm to pull the heel toward the glutes until you feel tension in the quad muscles.
  • Release your leg, and repeat on your other side.


Lying Side Quad Stretch

Lying side quad stretch

  • Lie on your right side with your legs straight and stacked on top of each other. Bend your right arm and use your hand to prop up your head.
  • Bend your left knee, and reach your left hand back to grab your foot.
  • Keeping your left knee aligned with your right knee, use your hand to pull your foot toward your glutes until you feel tension in the quad muscles.
  • Release the foot and repeat on the opposite side.


Lying Prone Quad Stretch with Strap 

woman on exercise mat performing lying prone quad stretch with strap 

  • Sit on the floor and loop a strap around the top part of your right foot. Using your right hand to keep tension in the strap, roll over onto your stomach.
  • Keep your left leg straight, bend your right knee. Pull the strap with both hands to bring your right foot toward your glutes until you feel tension in the quad muscles. Keep the hips pressed against the floor.
  • Release the foot and repeat on the opposite side.


Rear-Foot Elevated Quad Stretch 

Rear-foot-elevated quad stretch

Stand facing away from a knee-high bench. Place the top of your right foot on top of the bench and lower down so your right knee is resting on the floor and your left leg is bent at 90 degrees. Use a mat or cushion under your right knee to alleviate any discomfort.

  • Keeping the chest up and the glutes engaged, slowly press your hips forward to increase and release tension in the right quad.
  • Release the foot and repeat on the opposite side.


Stretches for the Hip Flexors

The hip flexors, situated where your thigh meets your pelvis and helping raise your knees for each stride, can feel tight and overworked in runners. Outside of running, when you are in a seated position, the hip flexors are shortened, further exacerbating tightness. Try these best hip stretches for runners.

Low Lunge 


  • Step one foot back as far as it will comfortably reach and let that knee come down to the floor.
  • Raise your chest as you reach your arms up and back. Ideally, you’ll gradually sink your hips deeper toward your front heel as your arms continue reaching up and back, creating an arch through the spine.
  • Hold, then repeat on the opposite side.


Twisted Monkey 


  • From your low-lunge position, let the opposite hand from whichever leg is forward come down to the floor. Reach the other hand straight up in the air and try to look back, toward your back foot.
  • If possible, bend the knee of the back leg, and reach back with the opposite hand to catch the foot. Pull the heel gently in toward your glutes. The more you sink your hips toward the front heel and the more you can pull the back heel in toward your butt, the more of a stretch you’ll feel. Place a mat or blanket under the back knee if it’s painful directly on the floor.
  • Hold, then repeat on the opposite side.


Stretches for the Glutes

Even though you’re running forward, your backside can take a beating in running. That’s because the gluteal muscles are responsible for helping spring forward with each stride while also stabilizing your body while you’re on one leg.


Pigeon Pose (Kapotasana)

Pigeon Pose - kapotasana

  • Get on all fours, with your hands shoulder-width and knees hip-width apart.
  • Bring your right knee forward, placing it on the floor behind your right wrist.
  • Slide your right ankle toward your left wrist, so your right shin crosses your mat at a comfortable angle.
  • Extend your left leg straight back and slowly lower your hips to the floor. The top of your left foot should be flat on the floor.
  • Keep your hips level, with your weight evenly distributed between them (avoid sinking into your right hip).
  • From here, you can either remain upright — keeping your hands on the floor in front of you, your chest up, and your core engaged — or you can fold forward, slowly walking your hands out in front of you and lowering your chest to the floor.
  • Hold, then switch sides and repeat.
  • To come out of the pose, tuck your left toes under, press into your hands, and slowly bring your right foot back to the starting position.


Cow Face Pose (Gomukasana)

cow face pose gomukasana - odette hughes - yoga52

  • Starting in a seated position, bend your left leg so that your left foot comes to the right side of your hips and that your knee is facing forward.
  • Cross your right leg over the left so that your knees are stacked on top of each other with your right foot coming to the left side of your hips. Sit up straight and make sure both glutes are firmly planted on the floor.
  • With a flat back, lean forward until you feel a stretch in your glutes, and hold.
  • Sit up and repeat, switching the position of your legs.


Stretches for the Ankles and Calves

Calf and ankle stretches for runners should focus on moving the ankle through its full range of motion. By doing so, they can help to ease cramps as well as plantar fasciitis.

Against-the-Wall Calf Stretch

Calf Stretch

  • Place your hands on the wall and set your feet hip-width apart.
  • Step one foot forward so that your toes and the ball of your foot are on the wall and your heel is on the floor.
  • Lean into the wall until you feel a stretch in your calves.
  • Hold, then switch sides.


Down Dog 

downward facing dog micki duran yoga52

  • Start on your hands and knees on the mat. Place your knees directly below your hips and wrists, a couple inches forward of your shoulders, with your finger tips pointed toward the front of the mat. Spread your fingers apart wide.
  • On an inhale, tuck your toes and on an exhale press into your hands and lift your hips to the ceiling. Make sure your hands are shoulder-width distance apart and feet are hips-width distance apart. Look back at your toes and keep your ears in line with your arms.
  • Press your palms into the mat and create a straight line from your wrists, to your shoulders, to your hips. Press your heels down toward the mat and attempt to straighten the legs without locking them.
  • For an added stretch, take turns pressing one heel, then the other, down toward the floor.

Stretches for the Hamstrings

The hamstrings have two main roles in running: They help extend the hips as well as bend the knees. These hamstring stretches for runners can help keep the muscles relaxed between long, hard runs.

Single-Leg Extension 

woman performing aingle-leg extension 

  • Lie with your back flat on the ground and both legs extended straight.
  • Bend your right knee, placing a resistance band around the arch of your right foot.
  • Straighten your leg up toward the ceiling, holding the other end of the band in both hands.
  • Use the band to gently pull your leg toward your head while keeping your leg straight. Only go as far as you can without discomfort. To enhance the stretch, squeeze your quadricep and flex your toes back.
  • Repeat on your left side.


Seated Froward Fold 

Seated forward fold

  • Sit on the ground with both legs extended in front of you.
  • Keeping your back flat, abs engaged, and legs straight, reach for your toes until you feel a stretch.
  • You may not be able to touch your toes and that’s OK. This stretch should feel challenging, but never painful.

Stretches for the IT Band

The best IT band stretches for runners don’t actually stretch the IT band (it’s way too strong for stretches to lengthen it, anyway), but rather surrounding muscles that can cause the band, which runs from the outside of your knee to your hip, to feel tight and overworked. Find relief with these yoga stretches for runners.

Lizard–Lower Lunge (Utthan Pristhasana) 

woman performing the lizard–lower lunge

  • Step your left foot forward several feet in front of the right foot. Bend the left knee until it lines up perfectly with the ankle.
  • Drop the right knee to the ground. Keep the toes curled under on that foot to stretch the calf muscle.
  • Walk the left foot out to the side. Place both elbows on top of blocks on the inside edge of the left foot. Keep hips lined up parallel to each other. You are opening the right psoas muscle and the left inner thigh. To get deeper into the right psoas, lift the right knee into a high lunge.
  • Hold, then switch sides.


Half Lord of The Fishes Pose (Ardha Matsyendrasana) 

woman on yoga mat in Half Lord of The Fishes pose

  • Sit on the floor and extend both legs out in front of you.
  • Keep the left leg straight and bend and pull the right leg in. Line the right heel up approximately 2 inches away from the back of the right leg and 2 inches away from the left thigh.
  • Sit up very tall, avoiding sinking into the lower back. Wrap the left arm around the right leg, creating a spinal twist.
  • Move the left shoulder forward as you move the right shoulder back, and attempt to line up the shoulders. Take your gaze over the right shoulder. The Half Lord of the Fishes Pose is a great hip and lower-back stretch that will also stretch your glutes, spine, chest, shoulders, and neck.
  • Hold, then switch sides.


Frog Pose (Mandukasana)

frog pose yoga mandukasana woman

  • Start in tabletop position: Get on all fours, with your hands directly below your shoulders and your knees directly below your hips.
  • Slowly begin walking your knees out to the sides, keeping your feet flexed and your ankles directly behind your knees.
  • Keeping your spine neutral, let your pelvis sink as the inside edges of your feet touch the mat. Come down onto your forearms, if comfortable.
  • Let gravity do the work; just breathe and feel the stretch for five breaths.
  • To come out of the pose, gently rock your hips forward, walk your knees in, and press from your palms back up to the starting position.