Sore Quads and Common Runners’ Injuries

There’s something so exhilarating about finishing a good run. However, recovery from a hard workout can be a different story. Once you hit “stop” on your watch after smashing your run, your body immediately begins the recovery process, which may or may not go as smoothly as the preceding workout.

What happens if you have sore quads after running? Why do you get sore quads from running? This guide will discuss why you might be getting sore quads after running and what to do about it.

What are the Quads?

The “quads” or “quad muscles” refer to the quadriceps, a group of four muscles along the front of your thigh between the pelvis and knee.

The quads work together to flex the leg at the hip, extend the knee, and stabilize the kneecap, and they work in opposition to the hamstrings, a group of three muscles that run down the backside of the thigh and extend the leg at the hip and flex the knee. 

Because your quad muscles are responsible for hip flexion and knee extension, they are involved in movements such as walking, running, jumping, squatting, and climbing and descending stairs.

Is it normal to have sore quads after running?

Having sore quads after running a race or a hard workout is relatively common. Beginners also tend to experience mild to moderate muscle soreness in the quads after running, especially in the first couple of weeks of starting a training program.

However, if your quads are routinely sore after running, there’s a good chance that your running form might need a little tweaking. 

Reasons for Sore Quads After a Run

You are new to running 

This may be an indication that your quads are weaker than your hamstrings from the get-go, meaning that the work required by the quads to support your run was relatively more challenging than for your stronger hamstrings.

So, if you have sore quads after running, you may either be using your quads more than your hamstrings and glutes, or your quads might be comparatively weaker than these muscles.

You ran on hilly terrain 

Many runners find their quads get sore after lots of downhill running because the quads are working eccentrically, lengthening as you descend, absorbing the greater impact, and working against the additional forces of gravity that would otherwise be trying to flex the knee.

This would be a case where your quads are sore after running because they worked harder than your hamstrings.

You just ran a race or had a hard workout

Increases in stride length, in particular, require additional work from the quads and hamstrings, which can result in quad soreness after running. 

Moreover, the faster you run, the harder you land with each step. Because the quads support your body weight and prevent the knee from collapsing when you land, faster running equates to stronger quad contractions to support your body weight.

Your form is off

Overstriding or improper pelvis positioning can cause sore quads from running. 

Having a more upright posture with your feet under your body (not overstriding with your foot well in front of your centre of gravity) will reduce the momentum of trying to flex the knee and thus reduce the workload on the quads.

How to Prevent Sore Quads After Running

Progress Slowly

If you’re a beginner or coming back to running after extended time off, progress gradually with a walk-run method or take alternative days off to give your muscles ample time to adapt to running.

Hydrate Properly

Staying well hydrated before, during, and after your run can help ensure your muscles receive adequate circulation to bring oxygen and healing nutrients to the cells.

Eat a Protein-Rich Snack Within 30 Minutes After Your Run

A snack or meal with a 3:1 or 4:1 ratio of carbohydrates to protein has been shown to aid recovery and may reduce the risk of DOMS or sore quads after running.

Limit Downhills

Downhills increase the workload on your quads, so avoiding them can help prevent soreness from eccentric contractions. Another viable strategy is to run more downhills to help your quads adapt. But, if you’re going to employ this training technique, progress slowly.

Try Ice Baths or Heat Therapy

Evidence suggests that both ice and heat can potentially reduce the pain associated with delayed-onset muscle soreness (DOMS). 

Ice baths have been shown to reduce the severity of DOMS. Moist and dry heat therapy can also reduce the severity of DOMS to varying degrees. 

Strengthen Your Quads

Strengthening the quads can correct muscle imbalances and develop the strength for running. Exercises like squats, lunges, step-ups, and leg extensions can build quad strength.

Increase Your Cadence

Shortening your stride and increasing your cadence can reduce the strain on your quads and reduce your risk of injury.

Activate Your Glutes

Learning to properly activate and recruit your glutes during mid-stance will help keep your trunk upright and reduce the workload on your quads. Exercises like bridges, deadlifts, and step-ups are great places for runners to start.

Stretch After Your Run

Studies have found that incorporating a stretching routine into the cool-down portion of a workout can ease muscle soreness and minimize the extent of delayed-onset muscle soreness (DOMS).

10 Common Runners’ Injuries

1. Gluteus Medius Tendinopathy

Where is the pain?

The outer hip and glutes


  • Pain, stiffness and weakness around the hip
  • Inflammation, redness or heat around the area
  • Pain and stiffness after prolonged periods of rest and first thing in the morning
  • Tenderness when sitting or putting pressure on the glutes


  • Trigger point massage to the glutes with the aid of a tennis ball. 1 minute on each side, 3 times daily.
  • Rest from running until symptoms reduce significantly. Maintain cardiovascular health through cross training which places a smaller load onto the tendon.
  • Strengthen weak hip and gluteal muscles through lateral side steps, clams and hip hitches. Use thera-bands to increase resistance.

2. Hamstring Tendinopathy

Where is the pain?

‘Sitting bone’ and/or along the back of the thigh


  • A vague aching, or soreness along or high up in your hamstrings, deep to the glutes’
  • Pain in the gluteal region, or in simpler terms – your bum. This can become particularly painful when sitting on hard surfaces
  • Stiffness and pain along the hamstring muscle – particularly in the mornings or after a prolonged period of rest
  • Pain and a perceived weakness on contraction – i.e. bending the leg against a resistance


  • Stop stretching your hamstrings! In the early stages try to reduce tone in the hamstring through foam rolling, massage or trigger pointing.
  • Cold compression: reduce pain and inflammation by applying an ice pack directly to the ‘sitting bone’– particularly after provocative activity.
  • When you return to training, reduce the length of your running stride and avoid hill runs.

3. Iliotibial Band Syndrome

Where is the pain?

Outer knee


  • Pain on the outside of the knee made worse by bending and straightening the leg
  • Pain on the outside knee when running (particularly downhill and on heel strike), which resolves after a short period of rest, only to return to activity
  • Popping, snapping or squeaking on the outer knee; often when bending and straightening the knee between 30-45º
  • Redness or swelling at the outer knee


  • Like many others, this is an overuse injury so the best way to prevent symptoms from becoming chronic is to rest immediately. When you do return to running, increase mileage gradually!
  • Foam roll: target the outer thigh (IT band), quads, glutes and hamstrings. Stretches to the same muscle groups will also be beneficial. Try to do these twice daily.
  • Cold compression: reduce pain and inflammation by applying an ice pack directly to the outer knee – particularly after provocative activity. (10 minutes on x 5 minutes off: repeat 3-4 times).

4. Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome

Where is the pain?



  • Sharp pain and discomfort beneath, around or below the kneecap
  • Pain when running uphill
  • Pain when walking up or down stairs
  • Aching at the front of the knee when sitting with knees bent for prolonged periods
  • Grinding, crunching or ‘catching’ of the patella
  • Buckling or giving way of the knee


  • Kinesiology tape can be applied to encourage patella alignment and reduce symptoms.
  • Correction of muscular imbalance: reduce tone in the outer quads (vastus lateralis) and hamstrings through foam rolling and stretching. Strengthen the inner quadriceps (vastus medialis or VMO exercises) working the last 20º of knee extension through resistance.
  • Modification of gait: shortening stride and landing with the knee slightly bent can reduce patella loading by up to 30%.

5. Shin Splints

Where is the pain? 

Along the inside of the shin


  • Pain in the middle, lower and inner side of the shin, which can feel like pressure building inside the lower leg
  • Tenderness or swelling along the lower leg


  • STOP running. Sorry to say it, but it’s a necessity, if you continue to run, your symptoms will not resolve. Eventually, return to activity and build up cardiovascular health with ‘off weight bearing exercise’ – swimming, cycling etc.
  • Cold compression: apply an ice pack as regularly as possible for 10-20 minutes at a time. Consult GP for anti-inflammatory medication if severe
  • Consider gait analysis. There’s often an association with overpronation at the ankle.

6. Achilles Tendonitis

Where is the pain?

Achilles tendon


  • A mild to moderate ache along the Achilles tendon which is typically worsened by activity
  • Redness or swelling along the back of the ankle
  • Tightness or pulling at the base of the calf
  • A thick nodule within the tendon, or a snapping sound with ankle movement (this would suggest a large build-up of scar tissue over a substantial period)


  • Cold compression: reduce pain and inflammation by applying an ice pack directly to the Achilles– particularly after provocative activity.
  • Short-term symptomatic relief with the use of a small heel lift. This enables the calf muscles to be taken slightly off stretch and so can reduce the aggravation of the tendon
  • Avoid forceful stretching in the early stages. When the acute pain has reduced, prevent relapse by strengthening the tendon via eccentric loading – heel drops from a step.

7. Ankle Sprain

Where is the pain? 



  • Varying degrees of swelling, stiffness, instability, pain and bruising
  • Ankle instability
  • Red flagsevere pain, inability to weight bare, substantial bruising with loss of function – don’t simply assume it’s ‘just a sprain’, you could have a fracture, so get yourself to A&E without delay.


  • Immediate action: R – Rest – avoid further damage, be sensible and rest up I – Ice – cold applications regularly for the next 24 – 48 hours. 10 minutes at a time C – Compression – apply a compression bandage immediately to reduce swelling – Elevation – use a few pillows under the affected ankle to reduce inflation in the area
  • If there is a complete inability to weigh bear and swelling or bruising is severe, rule out the potential of a fracture and visit A&E.
  • Improve the stability of the ankle to reduce the potential of a reoccurrence via proprioceptive and balancing exercises.

8. Planter Fasciitis

Where is the pain? 

Sole of the foot


  • A very tender, bruised feeling in the sole of your foot, but predominantly at the base of the heel bone
  • Particular pain during the first few steps in the morning, or after prolonged periods of rest
  • Discomfort when barefoot, or wearing unsupportive footwear.


  • Apply a moderate degree of pressure and roll the sole of your foot over a frozen water bottle for five minutes at a time, five times a day.
  • Stretch and foam roll the calf musculature regularly! Studies have demonstrated strong links between the tight calf muscle and plantar fasciitis.
  • Avoid non-supportive footwear such as pumps and sandals. Your practitioner will be able to assess foot mechanics and advise whether orthotics are necessary.

9. Stress Fractures

Where is the pain? 

Anywhere along the entire leg or foot


A small degree of swelling and pain that’s aggravated by activity and may subside with rest.


  • For the next six to eight weeks, or until you’re free of pain, avoid load-bearing activities. If you exercise again too soon, you could delay the healing process.
  • A walking boot, brace or crutches may be necessary to reduce stress to the bone and speed up recovery time.
  • Seek investigation and address the potential of any predisposing factors. As formerly discussed, nutrition, hormones, and some long-term medication (to name a few) can all cause weakness in bone structure.

10. ‘Joggers’ Toe’

Where is the pain? 

Toes and toenail


  • Pain in the toes with blackened/bruised nails


  • Avoid downhill running.
  • Keep good hygiene – don’t wear sweaty socks and allow your trainers to air after each run!
  • Make sure your shoes are a good fit and are laced up at the right tension. If you have to stop to retie a loose or over-tight shoe, do it – don’t risk toe trouble! Runners’ toes do take a serious beating, and they’re unlikely to be your loveliest feature, but look after them and they’ll do you proud.


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