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essential running stretches

4 essential stretches a runners should do every day

Need a good stretch? Integrate these four essential moves into your daily routine for instant benefit. Tender or stiff leg muscles is something most runners will be familiar with, especially in the first 24 to 48 hours after a hard run, but it doesn’t have to be so painful.

Try these four essential leg stretches every day – even on days you don’t run – to keep you running optimally and injury-free.

 The basics

  • Don’t stretch cold muscles – always wait till you’ve warmed up first to avoid injury
  • Stick to dynamic stretches lightly and gently before doing any speed training
  • Ease gently into the stretch: don’t bounce off the end point, don’t force it or push through that pain barrier
  • After a training session, your post-run stretch should be held for about 30 seconds
  • Always remember to stretch both legs!

These four stretches focus on the piriformis, gluteals, quadriceps, hamstrings and calves – all essential muscle groups for runners. They can all be performed on the floor, one after another in a short routine.

Piriformis and gluteal muscles

One of the most underrated muscles for runners is the little-known piriformis, which lies deep behind the gluteals and is responsible for the external rotation of the hip joint.

If your foot excessively pronates when pushing off, your leg rotates inwards. The piriformis acts as an external rotator of the hip (turns outwards) and contracts in reaction to each push-off.

This muscle can be a real pain in the bum for runners (literally) and is often the underlying cause of many aches and pains. Not only can it produce sciatic pain and muscle imbalance, it can stop you in your tracks.

Stretching the piriformis and glutes effectively

  • Lie on your back with your knees bent
  • Cross the right leg over the left, with the right ankle resting on the left knee
  • Slowly lift the left foot off the floor and towards you, while you apply gentle pressure to the inside of the right knee
  • Hold for 20 to 30 seconds, and repeat on the other side
  • Repeat on each side until you feel the tension release


Tight hamstrings also tend to be neglected and can lead you into a world of trouble if they’re not looked after.

They are based at the rear of the legs, starting right up by your bum and running all the way down your leg, past the knee joint and inserting into the tibia and fibula – talk about important! The hamstrings control your upper body, stopping you from falling forwards when your heel hits the ground. They also control how far forwards your foot is placed as your leg swings forwards.

 Stretching the hamstrings

  • Find a door frame, lie on the floor and place one leg up against it, then engage the hamstrings by straightening the leg out
  • Swap legs and repeat on the other side


Quads are one of the most important components of a runner’s stride, making them one of the hardest working muscles of your run.

While the quads take plenty of wear and tear from running, we just expect them to keep on going. If they are excessively tight or you’re overtraining, an improper stride or even a simple misstep can mean a real risk of injury.

 Stretching the quadriceps

  • Lie on your side on the floor, keeping your lower leg straight
  • Take the ankle of the other leg and bring the foot behind you, stretching the quad
  • To increase the stretch, push the pelvis forwards slightly
  • Repeat on the other side


Our calves take a beating with every run! Situated at the rear of the lower leg, the gastrocnemius (outer calf) and soleus (inner calf) are the first muscles to feel the impact when your foot strikes the floor.

Not only are our calves shock absorbers, but they also help with the push-off and stabilise your lower leg.

 Stretching the calves

  • Take a good step forwards, making sure your feet are both pointing forwards.
  • Plant the heel of the rear foot into the ground and lean forwards, feeling the stretch across the back of the legs.
  • To increase the stretch, move that front foot a bit further forwards.
  • Repeat on the other side

By Giles Gyer