How to Deal With Muscle Soreness After Running

It's very common for runners to experience muscle soreness or stiffness 24 to 48 hours after running or other types of exercise, especially if they are new to running or have made an increase in distance or intensity. Delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) will go away on its own after a few days, but there are ways to help speed up the process.

Stretch After You Run

man stretching after a run

Verywell / Ryan Kelly

After your runs, especially hard runs or races, do 10 minutes of static stretching. Focus on your quads, hamstrings, calves, and hips, as well as anything that felt tight during the run.

Give Ice a Chance

Many professional runners use ice baths to reduce soreness after runs. Even swimming in cold water can help speed up your recovery. If you can't tolerate an ice bath, use ice packs on sore areas. Just don't overdo it—you don't need to ice any body parts for more than 10 to 15 minutes at a time.

Replenish Carbs and Protein

After running, especially a long run, you want to replenish energy as quickly as possible. Studies have shown that muscles are most receptive to rebuilding glycogen (stored glucose) stores within the hours after exercise. If you eat soon after your workout, you can minimize muscle stiffness and soreness.

A good rule of thumb for post-run food is a ratio of 1 gram of protein to 3 grams of carbs. Nutrition bars, such as Clif bars, Kind bars, or Power bars, are convenient, healthy options. Look for bars that have the 3:1 ratio of carbs to protein. Other examples of quick nutrient replacement: a bagel with peanut butter, a protein shake, a banana and yogurt, a fruit and yogurt smoothie.

If you feel like you can't stomach solid food immediately after a run, try drinking chocolate milk. It provides protein, carbohydrates, and B vitamins, making it a great recovery drink.

Keep Moving

Don't take off from exercise completely if you're feeling sore—that may actually make your recovery longer. Sitting for long periods of time can especially lead to more leg stiffness and discomfort. Active recovery works best, so try going for a brisk walk or easy bike ride to get your blood flowing.

Avoid vigorous activity until your soreness has subsided, but moderate activity is important. If you must sit for most of the day, try to get up periodically to move your legs.

Warm Up Before You Run

Always do a 5- to 10-minute warm-up before your run or workout. If you're trying to run after experiencing some soreness, do your warm-up, followed by some easy stretches if your muscles still feel sore.

Then ease into your run. You may feel some tightness when you first start running, but it should dissipate as you continue. If your soreness doesn't improve or gets worse as you keep running, stop your run and do some easy cross-training instead (assuming it's pain-free).

Practice Yoga

Yoga is a safe and relaxing activity to do the day after a hard workout or race. Keep it on the easy side. You can work yourself through several different poses, but don't do a long, intense yoga class.

Try Massage

Some research has shown that massage can help ease DOMS, so book a sports massage if you can. If you don't have the time or money for a professional massage, do some gentle massage with your hands or a massage tool such as a foam roller or stick.

We've tried, tested, and reviewed the best foam rollers. If you're in the market for roller or massage tool, explore which option may be best for you.

Don't Ignore Lingering Pain

If your pain lasts longer than about seven days, or gets worse, make sure you check in with your healthcare professional. You may have an injury that requires some physical therapy or other treatment.

2 Sources
Verywell Fit uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Murray B, Rosenbloom C. Fundamentals of glycogen metabolism for coaches and athletes. Nutrition Reviews. 2018;76(4):243-259. doi:10.1093/nutrit/nuy001.

  2. Guo J, Li L, Gong Y, et al. Massage Alleviates Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness after Strenuous Exercise: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. Frontiers in Physiology. 2017;8. doi:10.3389/fphys.2017.00747.

By Christine Luff, ACE-CPT
Christine Many Luff is a personal trainer, fitness nutrition specialist, and Road Runners Club of America Certified Coach.