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Post-run stretches

Try these 5 healthy stretches after running

Two runners use a fence to help stretch after running.

It's easy to get tunnel vision when you first start running. After all, to be a better runner you just have to run, right? In reality, running can be complex — it stresses muscles you may not expect in ways that aren't always obvious. To build your fitness foundation, increase mobility, and help you avoid injury, try the following stretches after you run.

Why stretching matters

Before we get into specific stretches, it's good to understand why you should consider stretching after your runs, especially early on in your running career. I wish I'd learned this when I first started. I just sort of...ran.

What did I fail to understand? My already limited mobility created an unhealthy form. In turn, my muscles and joints experienced an unnatural amount of stress. Stretching after your run can encourage mobility and help develop healthier form. Increased mobility can improve running performance and reduce common running injuries.

Another benefit of stretching? It will help your body adjust to uneven and fickle running surfaces. If you run mostly on dirt trails and gravel roads like I do, you might find yourself with stiff ankles and calves or a host of issues over time. A regular routine of post-run stretching after running on uneven terrain helps make your joints more adaptable to any bumps in the road.

Two runners doing some stretches

5 post-run stretches to improve your mobility

Now that we've covered why you should be stretching after your runs, let's get to the reason you're here: the stretches. For each stretch, move slowly and breathe deeply. Tacking these on to the end of your workouts can help make sure your muscles are good and pliable for upcoming runs.

Note: The following stretches are what's known as static stretches, which should only be performed after your workouts. To limber up before your runs, consider dynamic stretching and warmups instead.

1. Toe touch stretch

  • Stand upright with your arms at your sides and your feet about shoulder-width apart.
  • Keeping your knees soft and your back as straight as possible, bend forward at the hips to slowly lower your head toward your knees.
  • Relax your neck and shoulders while you reach your hands toward your toes. Stop when you feel the stretch along the back of both your legs (your hamstrings).
  • Hold for 20 seconds before slowly returning to standing.

2. Standing quadriceps stretch

  • Begin standing upright with your legs together and your toes pointing forward. Slowly bend your left knee, and lift your left foot behind you. Place your right hand on a wall or bench if you need help maintaining your balance.
  • With your left hand, gently pull your left foot closer to your glutes. You will feel this stretch the muscles along the front of your left thigh.
  • Keep your knees together and hold for 20 seconds, then slowly return your left foot to the ground.
  • Repeat with your right leg.

3. Hip flexor stretch

  • Begin standing upright with your legs together and your toes pointing forward. Step your left foot forward.
  • Slowly bend your left knee while keeping your back straight and both feet flat on the ground. You will feel this stretch on the front of your right hip. Hold for 20 seconds.
  • Hold for 20 seconds, then slowly return to the starting position.
  • Repeat with your right leg leading.

4. Hamstring stretch

  • Begin standing upright with your legs together, your toes pointing forward, and your hands on your hips.
  • Keep your left leg straight and step it out in front of you.
  • Point the toes of your left foot up, slightly bend your right knee, and lean forward at your hips while keeping your back straight.
  • Bend toward your left leg until you feel the stretch along the back of the leg.
  • Hold for 20 seconds, then slowly return to the starting position.
  • Repeat with your right leg.

5. IT band stretch

  • Stand upright with your feet together and your hands on your hips.
  • Cross your left leg behind your right.
  • While keeping both feet flat on the ground, slowly lean to your right side, and push your left hip outward until you feel the stretch along the outer left hip and thigh.
  • Hold for 20 seconds, then slowly return to the starting position.
  • Repeat with your right leg.
Two runners doing some stretches

Better flexibility means better mobility

By incorporating a few simple stretches after running into your routine, you can build an even stronger running base than just running alone. Regular flexibility training will support mobility, develop healthier form, and help prevent injuries. Take 10–15 minutes after your runs to perform a few stretches — this time spent is one of the best investments you can make early in your running journey.

Our writer's advice is intended for informational or general educational purposes only. We always encourage you to speak with your physician or healthcare provider before making any adjustments to your running, nutrition, or fitness routines.

Written By
Jonathan Thompson

Fitness Nerd

Jonathan with a dog in the snow

My interest in fitness started young, primarily as the survival strategy of a scrawny asthmatic. After receiving my certifications as a personal trainer and nutritionist, I started writing fitness articles. At this point, running is a non-negotiable part of my life.