If you’ve laced up your running shoes this spring, you may have noticed an unwanted companion on the trail: hip pain. Since the hip joint plays a crucial role in balance, momentum, flexibility, and power during running, it is one of the most reported areas of pain for runners. Strength imbalances, hip alignment issues, injuries, and other chronic pain conditions can all play a role in causing hip pain. Luckily, there are ways to prevent and manage hip pain from running. We’ll discuss what causes hip pain and then talk about the six stretching exercises that could help you, as well as more advanced pain management options.
10 causes of hip pain from running
Hip pain from running can be difficult to diagnose, because many of the causes share similar symptoms. The hip is also a complex joint, so pain in the hamstrings or back of the leg could actually indicate issues in the hip.
The most common causes of hip pain from running include:
- Strength imbalances
- Hip alignment issues
- Hip bursitis, either trochanteric or iliopsoas
- Piriformis syndrome
- IT band syndrome
- Hip flexor strains
- Femoral acetabular impingement (FAI)
- Groin pulls or tears
- Hip tendonitis
How hip pain from running occurs
The hip is a ball and socket type joint. The “socket” is called the acetabulum, a shallow bowl-like feature that forms the pelvis. This lines up with the top of the femur, a “ball”-like mass of bone. These structures are coated with protective cartilage material. Cartilage is a resilient, flexible material similar to connective tissue. In addition, structures containing synovial fluid surround the joint. These protect the joint by reducing friction from direct contact between bony surfaces, act as a shock absorber, and blunt impacts on the joint.
Hip pain from running occurs when there are damage, disorders, inflammation, or injuries to any of these tissues or bones that comprise the hip joint.
Common forms of hip pain when running
The most common causes of hip pain from running occur due to strength and flexibility imbalances in the body. They can lead to hip alignment issues, or strains or tears that result in pain. Hip alignment issues in particular lead to more strain and force on one hip more than the other. This can even create a functional leg length discrepancy, as one leg overcompensates and experiences a greater impact and force, while the other “shorter” leg can experience issues related to plantar fasciitis or Achilles tendonitis.
Hip, or pelvic, alignment issues have a number of causes. They can be caused by:
- Poor posture, or leaning more to one side both during running and throughout the day
- Favoring one leg over the other due to prior injuries
- An improper running technique
- Running shoes that don’t work for you
- Cambered roads
Active.com describes one of the more prevalent causes of hip alignment issues: running on cambered roads:
“Since we have all been taught to run (or walk) against traffic, we tend to go to the left (in the U.S.) side of the street. This causes our left leg to have to reach down a little farther than our right, since roads have a slight camber to help water drain off.”
Thankfully, these causes of hip pain from running are generally easy to resolve with rest, careful attention, hip pain stretches, and strengthening exercises. We’ll describe some hip pain stretches and exercises later in this post, but for mild cases of hip pain, it’s important to check out your shoes, check out your form, and check out your route. If you’re following the same trail every day, try hitting a different road or track, or run against traffic to help fix the discrepancy.
Pain on the outside of the hip
If you feel pain on the outside of the hip during or after running, it could be due to hip bursitis. Hip bursitis has two forms: troncharetic and iliopsoas. You’ll feel troncharetic bursitis as an aching or burning sensation on the outside of your hip while running. Iliopsoas bursitis presents as a clicking or snapping sensation when the hip flexes. RunnersWorld.com explains the effects and treatments for hip bursitis:
“Bursitis is caused by overuse, or a tight hamstring or iliotibial band (the ligament that runs along the outside of the thigh). You may feel a dull ache, burning, rubbing, or popping sensation on the outside of your hip. Initially pain appears during or after a run. Reduce your mileage