There are many stretches for runners, and more often than not they’re done at the end of a run. At PhysiOptima, with many years of experience treating runners with injuries, we’ve found that the most useful stretches are those that can be done outside, after a run and in standing.
Here’s our top 7 that we recommend but certainly not exclusive and if you are suffering with a specific pain or injury, we would always advise that you see one of our physiotherapists for a thorough diagnosis and treatment plan that is tailor-made for you.
CALF STRETCH (for Gastrocnemius and Soleus) – With the foot behind you that you wish to stretch and your weight on this back foot (make sure your back foot is pointed straight ahead), arch gently lifted, knee locked straight, and hips pointed forward. Place the other foot forward in a lunge position and slowly lean forward. It’s always preferable if you can do this leaning onto something like a wall or fence in front of you. The stretch should be felt anywhere from the back of the heel up to the back of the knee.
TOP TIP: If you let the arch drop, then the stretch gets transferred to the arch as opposed to the calf.
HAMSTRING STRETCH – Put the leg you want to stretch in front of you (as if you are going to take a step) with heel in contact with the floor. Keeping your back straight, slowly sit back with weight onto back leg letting back knee bend as if you are sitting down in a chair. Keep front knee locked straight. The stretch should be felt in the back of the front leg anywhere from the buttock to the back of the knee.
TOP TIP: Keep your low back straight. Many runners try to stretch the hamstring by propping the leg up high on a ledge and letting their lower back bend (flex) which puts too much strain on the spine and doesn’t isolate the hamstring.
GROIN STRETCH (for Adductors) – Stand with both legs further than shoulder distance apart. Keeping hips pointed forward, lunge to one side allowing that knee to bend and keeping the opposite leg straight and outstretched to the other side. The stretch should be felt in the inner thigh of the outstretched leg.
TOP TIP: Keep you bottom tucked under you and back straight to isolate the stretch to the groin.
THIGH STRETCH (for Quadriceps) – Balance on one leg and take the foot of the leg you want to stretch in your opposite hand behind your buttock. Draw the heel toward your buttock, keep the leg in close to your midline and in line with your other leg. The stretch should be felt in the front of the thigh.
TOP TIP: For an extra stretch, once in this position, gently squeeze your bottom muscles (gluts) to intensify the stretch.
BUTTOCK STRETCH (for Gluteals) – Balance on one leg and place the ankle of the other leg you want to stretch above the knee of the stance leg. Slowly sit down (in mid-air) until a stretch is felt in the buttock of the leg that is crossed.
TOP TIP: You may need to use a surface to hold onto for balance.
HIP FLEXOR STRETCH (for Iliopsoas) – Stand in a lunge position with one leg in front of the other. Bend both knees slightly. Tuck your bottom under and then slowly lean forward through the hips to feel a stretch on the front of the hip/groin area of the leg behind you.
TOP TIP: Don’t cheat by letting your lower back arch or your pelvis tip forward.
ITB STRETCH (for the Ilio-Tibial Band – tissue involved with Runner’s knee) – You will need a wall to lean against for this one. With your back propped against the wall and both feet about 10-12 inches from the wall, lock both knees straight. Then, keeping the knees locked, slowly tuck the bottom under pressing the small of your back into the wall.
TOP TIP: Unlike other stretches, the ITB is a fibrous band with very little muscle thus very little stretch is felt with this one. To progress the stretch, turn both feet out slightly before doing the stretch.