The Most Common Causes of Hip Pain from Running—And How to Prevent It

Sport & Activity

When you encounter hip pain as you run, your workouts can slow to a halt. Check out the most common causes of hip pain from running—and how to prevent it in the first place.

Last updated: 19 May 2022
6 min read
How to Prevent and Treat Running-Related Hip Pain

Whether you're working to run your first marathon or jog a mile, hip pain can sideline your training. Unlike cycling or swimming, running is a high-impact activity that can put stress on your hips, making it easier for some to sustain a hip injury.

And while it might be tempting to push through discomfort, it's always best to take a breather and check in with your doctor before jumping back in. But how can you prevent hip pain before it occurs? Check out the below on the common causes of hip pain—and how to avoid them.

Common Causes of Hip Pain

Where You Feel It: Inside of the Hip or Groin

Pain on the inside of the hip or groin area is usually due to problems within the hip joint.

  • Stress Fractures: these overuse injuries tend to be more common in women, older folks and people who are new to running. Stress fractures often occur after an increase in the frequency or intensity of exercise over a relatively short period of time.

  • Osteoarthritis: with osteoarthritis, the hip's cushioning cartilage gradually wears down. This can cause pain, stiffness, tenderness and swelling. As a result, the joint may become less flexible. While it's possible to run during early stages of osteoarthritis, make sure you check in with your doctor first.

  • Sports Hernias: strains or tears of the muscles, tendons or ligaments located in the groin region are known as sports hernias or athletic pubalgia. It doesn't cause a bulge like other hernias, but it does cause pain with exercise.

  • Hip Impingement: this injury happens when the femoral head or the ball of the hip joint pinches against the cup of the hip. It can cause stiffness and pain in the groin and front of the thigh that gets worse when bending. An X-ray may be required to diagnose the injury.

Where You Feel It: The Outside of the Hip or Buttock

Pain outside the hip, on the upper thigh or buttock is typically due to issues with the soft tissues surrounding the hip rather than the hip joint itself. These can include:

  • Hip Flexor Strain and Tendonitis: these are overuse injuries that cause stiffness and pain. More specifically, a strain is characterised as a twist, pull or tear of a tendon or a muscle. Doing the same motion repeatedly can lead to a strain, but it can also occur instantaneously during a contact sport, for example. Tendonitis, on the other hand, describes the inflammation of a specific tendon. Much like strains, tendonitis can be a result of one wrong move or repeatedly doing one motion, though the latter is more often the case.

  • IT Band Syndrome: the iliotibial band is the fibrous tissue extending from the outside of the hips to the thigh and knee, and the top of your shin bone. Friction can cause irritation along your IT band, which can cause tenderness and pain in the knee, thigh and hip. You may also hear popping or clicking with movement.

  • Labral Tears: labrum cartilage cushions the hip and keeps it secure within its socket. Repetitive movements that occur with running can cause it to tear. If that happens, you may feel stiffness and pain or hear a clicking noise with movement.

  • Hip Bursitis: trochanteric bursitis is the inflammation of the fluid-filled sacs or bursa that cushion the outside of the hip bones. The pain may be sharp at first but may subside into a dull ache. If left untreated, you may also feel pain in your leg and stiffness in your hip.

How to Avoid Hip Pain When Running

  1. 1.Talk to Your Doctor

    Regardless if you're currently experiencing hip pain, it's best to consult a doctor before you embark on a new exercise routine. That said, if you're beginning to feel discomfort—or have been navigating it for some time—it's crucial to get an expert opinion from a licensed professional. They'll be able to provide individualised recommendations and craft a recovery roadmap that might include things like rest, physiotherapy, Pilates, cross training or sleep.

  2. 2.Incorporate Strength Training into Your Fitness Routine

    Strengthening your hips can help to correct muscle imbalances and help you become less susceptible to injury. Some resistance training exercises for your hips include:

    • Clamshells or side steps with resistance bands

    • Weighted squats

    • Lateral step-ups

    • Single-leg deadlifts

    • Side leg raises

    Your physiotherapist may also have suggestions of exercises to minimise hip strain. Don't miss Try These 6 Yoga Poses to Boost Strength!

  3. 3.Warm Up Before Running

    Movements and drills like leg swings, high knee marches and arch taps can help loosen up your hips, improve your range of motion, and activate the muscles to reduce your risk of injury. See more ideas on warm-ups to do before you run. If you're working with a physiotherapist, they may offer specific warm-up exercises to do, too.
  4. 4.Pause to Stretch During Your Run

    For some, it might help to pause and stretch while out on your run. If you think this might help, double-check with a physiotherapist or doctor to determine the best stretches for you. And while you're out, make sure you stop somewhere well lit and out of the way of any traffic. Some simple stretches may include lifting your knee and hugging it to your chest or performing a standing figure four. If you're prone to hip problems, you might consider incorporating a few hip-focused yoga sessions into your week, though again, talk with your doctor about this as some movements might not be right for you.

  5. 5.Wear a Pair of Well-Fitting Running Shoes

    Comfortable running shoes with plenty of cushioning for shock absorption can reduce the stress on your knees and hips. You might opt for a pair with Nike React foam, which is as responsive as it is soft, or Nike Zoom technology, which is designed to reduce stress on the joints. And if you overpronate, you may need a pair of stability shoes to maintain your hip alignment when you run. Whatever running shoes you choose, make sure they fit properly, and replace them every 300 to 600 miles.

  6. 6.Rest When It Hurts

    Unless your doctor or physiotherapist has given you the go-ahead to run through hip pain, you might want to consider taking a break from running, if you're feeling pain. It's a great idea to emphasise your sleep quality, stress levels and nutrition to help recover. If the pain doesn't get better with rest, make sure you see your doctor or physiotherapist. In some cases, corticosteroid injections or surgery are necessary to resolve the issue.

Frequently Asked Questions

How Do You Relieve Hip Pain From Running?

Make sure you check in with your doctor to give individualised care and recommendations. For some, it might help to ice the area several times a day (make sure you cover the ice pack with a soft wash cloth or blanket). Gentle stretching or yoga may also provide some relief. If the pain improves, return to running slowly and decrease your distance and speed from before. If the pain returns, consult a sports medicine doctor or physiotherapist.

Is It OK To Run With Hip Pain?

It's typically not a good idea to push through the pain, unless a doctor is managing your condition and advising you to run. Many hip injuries are due to overuse and continuing to put stress on your joints can perpetuate the problem. Instead, give yourself enough recovery time for the pain to cease. If you want to continue to work out, you can do exercises to strengthen your hips, provided they do not aggravate your pain.

How to Prevent and Treat Running-Related Hip Pain

Go for an Audio-Guided Run outside or on the treadmill with Nike Run Club.

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