Running is a fantastic exercise that offers numerous health benefits. It can even help you establish friendships with fellow runners. However, suffering from swollen legs after running can ruin your experience.

Running is a form of medicine for your mental, physical, and emotional health. When you run, your legs take a pounding as they support your weight. This fact is why it can be slightly damaging to the body and cause sore and stiff legs. Of course, running also causes swelling as well.

While many people choose to run to lose weight, their legs might temporarily appear larger when they start. Swelling is a problem many runners encounter, especially in warm weather.

This common problem should not bar you from starting a running regimen. While you may worry that swelling stems from some problem, it is not a life sentence and is preventable.

Cause of Swollen Legs After Running

Hand holding the leg

​Image Source: Pixabay

Before finding out how to prevent swollen legs after running, you first need to know the common culprits. This way, we can target the cause of your swelling as well as work on a solution.

Fighting gravity

Your body contains water and lots of water. It will hang on to this liquid if you do not make an effort to maintain your hydration level. Water retention causes you to feel heavier and less energetic.

When you run, gravity can cause water and other fluids in your body to settle in your legs, especially when you jog for an extended period. Because your body is in an upright position, gravity will pull fluids toward your legs. Swelling in the legs can also happen because of decreased blood flow.

Walking wounded

When you have an existing injury in your tendons, ligaments, bones, or muscles, you might experience swollen legs after running. You may not even know you have this type of injury. Swelling is the body’s warning system to take it easy.

A minor tear or bone crack can cause a little pain, but it often won’t feel like a severe injury. You may regard this sensation as normal pain or aches you feel after running. Your body’s inflammatory response is to draw excess fluids towards the area of injury, which causes swelling.

One of the most common injuries for runners is shin splints (medial tibial stress syndrome). This injury happens when your periosteum, the membrane around your bone, gets inflamed due to stress from high-impact and weight-bearing activities. Its most common symptoms include redness, swelling, and pain.

On the other hand, running can also cause strained or pulled muscles, just like any weight-bearing activity. These problems occur more regularly with running because it involves repetitive motion. When you cause damage to your muscle fibers, your joints and legs can swell up.

This common condition

There are also vascular conditions that cause your body to swell after running, such as chronic venous insufficiency. This issue occurs when the legs’ veins are damaged and are unable to return blood to the heart. Because of this, blood can pool in your lower leg region, thereby causing your ankles and legs to swell.

This not-so-common condition

Although cholinergic urticaria does not necessarily cause swelling in the legs, it may result in itchy rashes. If rashes develop, your legs can feel swollen. Rashes are an allergic reaction to a specific trigger such as varying temperatures, emotional stress, spicy foods, or exercise. You will immediately know if this problem is causing your swollen legs after running because your legs will be swollen, red, and have itchy bumps or hives.

This even rarer cause of swelling

While not many runners develop blood clots, this rare occurrence causes legs to swell. This condition involves a clump of blood that becomes hard enough to block your veins. Blood clots result in a variety of issues such as injury, inactivity, and even blood pooling.

Blood clots prevent your blood from leaving your legs. So this problem results in tenderness, redness, and swelling. Running with a blood clot is also very dangerous. If you suspect you might have a blood clot, contact your physician immediately.

Effective Ways to Prevent Swollen Legs After Running

Athletic woman stretching her leg

​Image Source: Reshot

There are various prevention methods to get rid of swollen legs after running.

​Move It

​When you exercise and stay active, your body heats up, and your blood flow increases. Exercising is an excellent option if you want to stimulate and improve circulation. Make sure you do some cool-down exercises after running. And on the days you don't run, you may want to take a short walk to improve circulation.

​Stretch Out

​Before you run, it is always a good idea to warm up your legs. By doing this, you would not just be preventing swelling, but also injury. Here are some exercises worth trying that will help with swelling and injury.


Your quad is the muscle group located at the front of your thigh. Since this muscle works hard when you run, you need to stretch it before you begin. Start by standing with your side against the wall. Then, place a hand on the wall to help with your balance.

Hold your outside foot with your hand and lift it towards your buttocks while keeping your knees and thighs together. Hold this position for a moment and move on to the other foot.


Your calf (hamstrings) can be found at the back of your lower leg. To help you become a better runner and prevent swollen legs after running, you need to stretch these muscles. To start, put your right foot in front of you. Next, hinge at the waist and position your torso toward your extended leg while bending your other knee. Flex your right ankle until the toes pull up towards your body. Repeat with the other foot.


To do the standing hamstring stretch, stand with your feet crossed. Bend your knees and put your arms at your sides. Then, bend forward at the hips and lower your head toward the floor while keeping your body relaxed. Wrap your arms on the back of your legs and hold it for one minute.

Lower back

To target your lower back, as well as your calves, ankles, and hamstrings, do the supine leg stretch. To start, lie on your back and bend your knees with your feet flatly planted on the floor. Then, bend one knee and hug it towards your body. Kick the leg up slowly while pointing upwards, then straighten it and pull it toward your torso until you feel the tension.

Try this time-honored approach

​When all you want to do is kick off your running shoes and soothe your swollen legs, you can try yoga. There are tons of poses that help your legs such as downward facing dog, legs up the wall pose, and the supported butterfly pose.

Stand tall

​If your legs are swelling during exercise, it might be because of your posture. To prevent this, observe whether you are favoring one side when running or if your back is hunched over. By tweaking this minor mistake, you can get rid of restricted blood flow and say goodbye to swollen legs after running.

​Your gear

One reason why you experience swollen legs after running is that you're not using the right running gear. Invest in a good pair of shoes that are loose enough to give you proper circulation. The Asics Men’s Gel Kayano 25 running shoes are a great choice.

Also, remember to wear clothing that doesn't impede your blood flow. Leg compression sleeves promote blood flow too. If you are looking for a great pair, try the Sonthin leg sleeves.

​Take it lying down

Elevating your feet after you run will not only reduce leg swelling, it will also help maintain good foot health.

Start by removing your running shoes and socks. Then, lie on your back. Make sure that there is enough room for your body.

Use pillows underneath your ankles to raise your feet to the level of your heart. This position will aid in draining blood that has pooled as well as improve blood circulation. Keep your feet at this position for around 20 minutes to reduce swelling. You can do this as you are watching your favorite show or reading a book.

​Is it our diet?

​Salt is made up of chloride and sodium. Sodium binds the water in your body to sustain the balance of fluids in your cells. However, if you consume too many salty foods, your body will retain water. Before you eat something, make sure to check the ingredient list for excess salt.

​Treat yo' self

A massage does wonders to improve your lymphatic system. Either a deep or gentle massage helps sweep your body fluids towards your lymph nodes. This step will activate your lymphatic system and reduce swelling.

​Hydration Helps

While you may think that drinking water only makes fluid retention worse, it actually helps eliminate fluid in the body. Drinking water helps enables you to reduce swollen legs after running and gives you more energy and sharper focus.

If you get bored with water, you can add lemon, lime, oranges, or even cucumbers to improve its taste. It is a good idea to add natural diuretics such as licorice root, elderberry, dandelion, grapes, parsley, and green tea.

​Add this to your diet

​Foods that are rich in potassium such as raisins and bananas will help flush out excess fluid in your body. Aside from potassium, another mineral that helps prevent swollen legs after running are foods that are rich in magnesium such as nuts, dark chocolate, leafy green vegetables, and whole grains.

​let it take you way

​A warm bath after exercising makes you feel more relaxed and helps prevent swollen legs after running. Just throw in a handful of Pure Magnesium Chloride Flakes or Epsom salt, and you’re all set. Rubbing your legs while soaking also helps.

You Can Prevent Swollen Legs After Running

Woman stritching her leg

​Image Source: Pixabay

Swollen legs are not just disconcerting to look at. They are also uncomfortable and painful. Thankfully, you can get rid of this pressing problem. While edema or swelling may not result in serious issues, you need to get it checked out if you do not want it to affect your running.

Have your own experience in preventing swollen legs after running? Don’t forget to share it with us in the comment section below!

​Featured Image Source: Pexels

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