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How To Stop Runners Itch

No matter if it has a fancy name like “runners itch” or not, itches are just painful, and you want to get them to stop as soon as possible! In this article, we’ll cover everything that you need to know about runners itch, including how to get it to stop.

It’s more common for women than men (if you’re a lady reading this article, sorry!), and it usually occurs on runners legs.

But the good news? You can get it to stop!

Read on to learn how…

Stop Runners Itch

What is Runners Itch?

Quite simply, runners itch is a painful itch that slowly moves up your legs while you’re running. What likely happened is that you just started to get into a groove when suddenly you’re fixated on that itch.

You. Must. Scratch. Your. Legs. But you also know that the feeling of tiny ants on your leg is just your imagination, and you should keep going and keep running. Often, though, runners itch becomes so incessant that runners have to stop mid-run to scratch.

You don’t need to be alarmed if you have runners itch as long as you aren’t experiencing hives as well. In that case, make sure that you see a doctor.

Why Do Runners Get Itchy Legs?

Unfortunately, just because your legs feel itchy doesn’t necessarily indicate a cause, as there are several reasons for runners itch. When you’re trying to figure out which one it is for your legs, you might want to go through this itch and address one reason for each run to isolate the offending factor.

Dry Skin

If you naturally have dry skin or if your skin is drier because it’s the winter, this could be one reason for your runners itch. If you haven’t any problems in other temperatures or if you don’t have problems when you put on lotion, dry skin is likely the culprit.

Dry Air

If the air is really dry, this too can cause runners itch. If you happen to live in the humid South like I do and go for a couple runs in Colorado when you’re visiting family, and your legs start to itch, it might be due to the dry air if you don’t have problems at home.

Irritating Fabrics

Maybe you’ve never had a problem with itching before, but it’s been terrible since after Christmas and you can’t figure out why. Then you remember that you got new leggings (or shorts) that you love and have been wearing a lot. There is a good chance the fabric is irritating your legs and causing you to itch.

Getting into Running

If you’re new to running or if you’re getting back into it after taking a couple months off, your runners itch could be due to lack of exercise.

If you’re in shape, your capillaries stay open for longer, allowing lots of blood to pass through, but this doesn’t happen if you’re out of shape. Once you start running, your capillaries will begin to expand, stimulating nerves around them and telling your brain to itch.

The best thing you can do to get the itching to stop is to keep running and know that it will go away soon once you’ve gotten back into a routine.


Finally, sweating can make itching worse, so if you’re someone who sweats a lot, this also could be a reason for your runners itch.

Why is Runners Itch Worse in the Winter?

Running Itch During Winter

You’re more likely to experience runners itch in the winter because there is less humidity in dry, cold air.

You can even look on your iPhone or other smart phone at the Weather app to see what the humidity is like in your area for a particular day to see if you’re more likely to experience runners itch.

Although it seems paradoxical, dry air in the winter leads to dehydration and dry skin. You know that you need water in the summer, but you don’t feel the same need in the winter, and there’s a good chance that you are dehydrated.

How Can I Stop Runners Itch?

The good news is that you can stop runners itch through a variety of different ways. Once you’ve isolated the cause that is most applicable to you, pick the solution that will best fix that problem.

Do a Good Warm-Up Before Running

If your runners itch is caused due to lack of exercise, a good warm-up will get your blood flowing before you start running and hopefully help with that need to itch once you get started on your run. It’s much bigger to itch during a warm-up than on your run!

Drink Plenty of Fluids

It’s always a good idea to make sure that you’re hydrated, especially in the winter. So just start drinking more fluids, especially water. Establishing good habits is always hard, so make it easy to drink water.

Bring a water bottle to work and tell yourself that you have to finish it by the end of the day. Or go to the water cooler at the top of every hour and get a cup or two of water. Don’t let dehydration lead to itching.

Use Moisturizer

There’s a good chance that the dry air has been sucking the oils on your skin away, so using moisturizer and lotion will help return some oils to your skin so that your skin isn’t so dry and itchy.

Use Mild Soap When Showering

Make sure that your soap is working with you and not against you by using a mild, gentle soap. It might not be what you’re used to, but your legs will thank you.

Don’t Shower So Much

Shower for runners

If you’re someone who tends to shower twice a day, this is taking the oils away from your skin and making your skin drier. Instead, consider taking shorter showers at cooler temperatures.

If you’re like me and absolutely have to take a second shower after a run, make it short and quick. Fortunately, you’ll already be hot from your run so you likely won’t want the water too hot.

Shave (Even in the Winter)

This tip is for the ladies. It might seem like a hassle because you aren’t going to get to wear shorts, but sometimes itching can be due to the stubble on your legs from not shaving in the winter.

So, consider doing a quick shave in the winter. Fortunately, you don’t have to be as precise because you’re not wearing shorts, so it won’t take as much time, but it will still keep your legs from itching.

Use Mild Laundry Detergent

If you’ve tried a lot of different options, and nothing still seems to be doing it, you might consider changing your laundry detergent to something gentler. If your clothing is softer and smoother, it might irritate your legs less.

Continue Exercising

If you haven’t been exercising because it’s the holidays, you hate running outside in the cold, etc., just keep it up. Otherwise, you’re going to deal with itching legs all winter every time you decide to run, and it’s just going to be uncomfortable.

Eat Differently

Finally, you can eat several foods that will help alleviate your dry skin and need to itch. First, if you’re on a fat-free diet, you’re missing out on the healthy fats you need to combat dryness, so consider adding some to your diet.

These include oily fish like salmon, mackerel, and herring. I always find that salmon is a great running meal because it gives me just enough to eat so that I feel full but I don’t feel stuffed. Use your runners itch as an excuse to treat yo’self!

If you’re dealing with inflammation, flaxseeds and chia seeds are your go-tos. And don’t forget about rubbing some coconut oil directly on your legs. Chances are that your runners itch will almost immediately disappear.

In the end, runners itch is frustrating and annoying and might have impacted a couple of your runs. But it is totally preventable if you figure out what is causing your specific runners itch. Don’t fight through the pain if you don’t have to!

Rachel Basinger
The Wired Runner