Running produces a pounding action on the hip each time the foot strikes the ground, straining the ball-and-socket joint and the surrounding soft tissues.

Learn what you need to know to protect your hips while running or jogging with these 4 points:

1. Minimize the loads on your hip joint and surrounding muscles

Running increases stress on 3 major muscle groups of the hip:

  • Hip flexors – the muscles in the front of the hip
  • Hip adductors – the muscles on the outer side of the hip
  • Hip abductors –the groin or inner thigh muscles

These muscles are heavily engaged during the lifting and swinging phases of each stride, propel the leg forward, and control side-to-side motion. Over time, weak hip muscles affect the surrounding soft tissues that support your hip joint, increasing the risk of hip labral tears, muscle strain, hip tendonitis, and hip bursitis.

Simple ways to reduce the loads on your hip joints and muscles while running:

  • Avoid frequent directional changes. Running on courses with sharp turns or sudden changes in direction increases stresses on your hip joint and surrounding muscles as they work to stabilize your body during changes in momentum.
    Opt for smoother, straighter running paths, or running on a track or a treadmill.
  • Run on soft terrains. Choose surfaces like dirt trails, running tracks, or a treadmill whenever possible, as these surfaces absorb more impact than hard pavement and reduce the stress on your hip muscles with each stride.

Dirt trails may have uneven ground, so be mindful of your surroundings.

Whenever possible, stick to flat terrains and avoid inclined trails. If you enjoy hilly terrains, opt for gradual inclines and declines to progressively challenge your hips, lower back, and legs.


2. Avoid stressing your lower back while running

Your body instinctively compensates for hip pain by altering your running form, such as taking longer strides, leaning too far forward, or striking the ground with your heel rather than your mid-foot area.

These altered mechanics put undue stress on your lower back muscles and ligaments and lead to lower back pain.

Simple ways to avoid your hip pain from causing lower back problems:

  • Perform hip stretches and exercises that target your hip muscles, such as the hip flexors, hamstrings, and buttock muscles.
  • Incorporate core strengthening exercises to strengthen your trunk, abdominal, lower back, and buttock muscles.

Well-conditioned hip and core muscles contribute to supporting and holding the body upright while running and jogging and minimize strain on your hips and back.

See Exercises to Lessen Back Pain While Running


3. Keep a balanced spinal posture to reduce stresses on your hip joints

Most runners and joggers tend to tilt backward while running. This posture increases the stresses on the spinal nerves, discs, and muscles – and distributes the loads unevenly across the hips.

Simple ways to maintain a supported posture to reduce stress on the hip joints while running:

  • Keep your back straight and avoid leaning forward or backward.
  • Swing your arms forward and back, not side to side, to avoid twisting the spine.
  • Take steady, deep breaths throughout your run.

A well-aligned spine acts like a shock absorber, distributing the compressive forces generated during running evenly across your hip joints, lower back, and core muscles.

4. Use warm-ups and cooldowns to keep your hip joints, muscles, and nerves conditioned

Pre- and post-run exercises prepare the hips for high-impact training and decrease the risk of running-related injuries.

Warm-up exercises

Pre-run warm-ups are gentle, low-impact exercises that set up your hips to bear the impact of running by:

  • Increasing blood flow. Exercises such as stationary biking, brisk walks, dynamic stretching, and light jogs increase blood flow to your hip muscles, delivering oxygen and essential nutrients to help your hip joints function smoothly.
  • Enhanced neuromuscular activation: Warming up with a gradual increase in activity level stimulates your nervous system to communicate more effectively with your muscles, leading to better coordination and control during your run.

In addition to warm-up exercises, applying a heat pack to your hip and buttock for 10 to 20 minutes before your run loosens the muscles around your hip joint and increases blood flow in the area.

Watch Gate Stretch to Help Prevent Hip and Groin Pain Video

Post-warm up stretches

Dynamic stretches are quick, repetitive stretches where joints and muscles go through a full range of motion.

After about 10 minutes of warm-up exercises, engage in a few dynamic stretches targeting your hip flexors, hamstrings, and buttock muscles. These stretches help loosen tight muscles, allowing for a wider range of motion at the hip joints and a smoother running stride.

Easy dynamic stretches to prepare your hips for a run are the lateral lunge stretch and leg swing stretch.

Cooldown exercises

Similar to warm-up exercises, cooldowns are gentle, low-impact exercises, such as brisk walks or light jogs.

Post-run cooldowns return your hips to a calm state by flushing out lactic acid, a byproduct of exercise that can contribute to muscle fatigue or delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) in your hips.

Cooldown exercises also allow your heart rate and blood pressure to slowly return to normal levels and redistribute blood from your muscles back to your organs and other tissues.

Post-cooldown stretches

Static stretches are stretches held for longer durations and help improve flexibility and reduce stiffness in the muscles and joints.

After about 10 minutes of cooldown exercises, engage in a few static stretches such as the horizontal squat stretch and butterfly stretch to reduce pressure on the hip joints by elongating the muscles around your hips, in your inner thigh (groin), and in your lower back.

These stretches also prevent muscle tightness that could lead to future discomfort.


Tips to reduce post-run hip pain and soreness

Here are some effective strategies to promote hip pain recovery and keep you running strong:

  • Apply an ice pack to your hip and buttock area for 15-20 minutes immediately after your run to reduce inflammation and pain. Wrap the ice pack in a towel or cloth to prevent an ice burn on your skin.
  • Stay hydrated throughout the day, especially before and after your run. Hydration flushes out toxins and reduces post-workout muscle soreness.
  • Use a foam roller to massage tight and tender spots in your hip flexors, iliotibial band (IT band), and quadriceps in the front and side of your hip and the upper part of your thigh. 
    Follow these steps to ease hip pain with a foam roller:
    • Initial position: Start by lying down, facing the floor. Get into a plank position by placing your forearms on the floor with elbows aligned below your shoulders.
    • Insert the roller: Place the foam roller under your left hip and bend your right knee to the side.
    • Gently roll back and forth: Roll through the front of your hip and upper thigh for about 30 seconds, focusing on tender spots.
    • Repeat: Return to the starting position and repeat the steps on the other side.
  • Soak in a warm bath after your run to promote muscle relaxation and improve circulation. Some people report that adding Epsom salts to the bath improves muscle soreness.

If your hip pain persists despite these measures, take a break from running until the pain subsides.

You can also consider switching to lower-impact exercises, such as jogging or walking, or cross-training with workouts that don’t require excessive hip movement, such as swimming or stationary biking.

If your hip pain worsens or spreads into your lower back or knees, consult a healthcare professional trained in the management of spine and hip disorders, such as an orthopedist, physical therapist, or sports medicine physician, for a thorough evaluation and a customized treatment plan.

Learn more:

Common Running Injuries: Hip or Thigh Pain

How to Run Safely with Back Pain

Dr. Scott Curtis is a sports medicine specialist at Princeton Spine and Joint Center, where he serves as the center’s Director of Sports Medicine, specializing in sports-related injuries and general musculoskeletal care.