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Why, How and When of Self-Massage for Runners Explained

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Running and running injuries go hand-in-hand. Regardless of your level of running, you must have encountered an occasional sprain or strain during your training, or during a race. Of course, your resting periods help immensely for recovery, but there is nothing as relaxing as a massage. It is awesome if you have a regular message, but if you don’t have the time or inclination to go for a professional massage frequently, you should learn the correct way of massaging yourself. Self-massage for runners is an extremely useful skill that saves them from a lot of injuries, improves circulation and keeps them running optimally.

We all would agree that professional massage sessions, though as refreshing and relaxing they are, don’t come cheap. If you know the art of self-massage, then you not only save a lot of money but also get the benefits whenever you want.

This is why a knowledge of self-massage technique is vital for runners and professional athletes. We have compiled all details that you need to know.

Self-Massage for Runners: Important Body Parts to Target

As a runner, you use some muscles much more than the rest. This is why these muscles have a higher tendency to show wear and tear, are more prone to injury and require regular care. In the same way, certain areas of your body are more actively involved in running.

Massage for Runners
Self-Massage for Runners - DIY

The following sections describe the major areas that runners should target by self-massage.


For runners, hips muscles have a very important role to play. Your running technique will not yield fruitful results unless your hip joint and hip muscles are in prime shape.

Taking care of the hip region is especially vital because the sciatic nerve passes through this region. If the hip muscles get too stiff, they may compress the sciatic nerve, that may, in turn, result in excruciating pain.


Healthy thigh muscles directly translate into a great running performance.

Calf muscles, especially soleus and gastroc, can become distended and cause foot pain.Self- massage strategies for runners should definitely focus on the calf muscles. Also, the IT band should never be missed out.

Lower back

Lower back is the most important area of your body when you bend. Any distention or pain in muscles here is sure to result in a hindered performance. This is why all tutorials that demonstrate self-massage for runners include lower back massage techniques.


Our feet literally take the burden of our movements and weight. It is only natural that every session of self-massage should include feet to ease out the stress and stiffness that accumulates there. Foot massage for runners is needed not only to keep their feet in good shape but also for a positive effect on their running performance.

Now that you know the focus areas of self-massage, it is important to understand how much pressure should you exert while massaging them. This will ensure that you don’t end up injuring yourself more than before.

Check out When and Why Should Runners Get a Deep Tissue Massage

Self-Massage for Runners: Optimal Pressure

When you go for a professional massage, you don’t have to worry about the pressure they put on your body. This is because a professional and certified massage therapist judges the pressure according to the severity of the ailment.

However, before starting self-massage, runners should understand the importance of applying only optimal pressure.

Self-Massage for Runners Pressure
Self-Massage for Runners: Optimal Pressure

It is not recommended to put pressure on a single point for more than 120 seconds at a stretch. Also, if you feel that upon applying pressure, the muscle or body tissue if becoming red and more painful, it is best to stop.

Also, don’t forget to stretch the massage area to pep up the muscles for action.

Tools for Self-Massage

Let us now look at the various tools that make important components of self-massage for runners. These tools are easily available and are not very expensive. We recommend that you purchase these tools for a more effective self-massage session.

Massage Stick

This tool is important for self-massage sessions where quads and calves are targeted. You don’t need special training to learn how to use a massage stick. You just have to grab the stick with both hands and rub it on the muscles with a little pressure. You apply this pressure by your arms. A rolling pin also serves as an excellent tool for self-massage.

massage stick
A rolling pin - An excellent tool for self-massage

Foam Roller

The foam roller is perhaps one of the most widely and commonly used tools in self-massage for runners.

Considered to be most effective for the IT band, this roller is placed beneath the body and the pressure is applied by putting body weight on it while rolling it. You can control the pressure by altering the body weight that you put on it.

self massage for runners foam roller
Foam rollers for self-massage (source)

Tennis Balls and Golf Balls

These two are considered to be the best self-massage tools for plantar fascia.

Simply rolling them under your feet as you apply pressure from your body by pressing against them, is the best way to ensure a massage for your sole. The tennis ball may also be used for hip muscles and glutes.

massage for runners golf balls
Self massage for plantar fascia

Screwdriver Handle

The cylindrical shape of a typical screwdriver handle makes it ideal for massaging bony areas of the body.

Also, the hind end of the handle can be used vertically to put pressure on specific points of the body, just as a massage therapist would use the thumb.

How to Self Massage

In addition to the above-mentioned tools, self-massage for runners also requires some hand-work.

It is important for you to know how you can massage your legs with your own hands:

Here are a few pointers:

  • Spread your hand wide and simply glide them over the muscles that need a massage.
  • You may start with your feet and gradually bring the gliding movement towards the thighs. In the process, you should exert a little pressure.
  • By altering the pressure, and changing the direction of gliding from straight to circular, you will be able to soothe tension and pain.
  • Simple pressing and squeezing of areas like toes, heels and different parts of your legs can impart the effects of a good massage.
  • Thinking of your legs as a drum, you should tap the palm of your hands on them.
  • Start from the ankles and bring the drumming tap upwards.

You can vary the intensity and speed and find out what combination works best for you.

Self Massage Techniques To Help Feel Better

selg massage for runner foam roller

Now that you have the basic understanding of how self-massage works, it is time to look at some very simple self-massage techniques that are sure to relax your sore muscles after running.

Technique 1: Self-Massage For Plantar Fascia

As described above, a golf ball is the best way to massage your soles. You have to stand and place one foot on a golf ball, making sure that your body weight is not put on the ball.You may use a support bar or handle to maintain your balance.

Now, you should put some more body weight on the ball and roll it below your sole, from heel to toes. Make horizontal rolling movement too. The pressure can be varied for massage of different intensity.

Check out about Running Injuries: How to Recover from Torn Plantar Fascia

Technique 2: Self-Massage for IT Band

Lie down on top of the foam roller such that one side of your leg is on top of it, just near the hip.

Use your arms for supporting your body weight and roll the foam roller down till the knee and back up again. The body weight that you exert on the roller can be varied.

Check all about How Can Runners Avoid IT Band Pain

Technique 3: Self-Massage for the Glutes

 A screwdriver handle is your best friend when you want to massage the glutes.

Use the hind end of the handle and put vertical force on the specific point that you want to massage. Don’t put pressure longer than 10 seconds at a time. Repeat for other spots. However, if you feel that the pain has intensified, then it is best to stop.

Technique 4: Self-Massage for the Calves

You can use the rolling pin or massage stick for this purpose. Rolling pin massage is very effective in relieving soreness and pain from calf muscles.

Hold the pin or stick at their ends, with both hands, and rub them with pressure over your leg.

Check all about Calf Pain After Running- Ways to Treat and Prevent it

Technique 5: Self-Massage for the Hamstrings

The best way to go about a hamstring massage is by using a small roller or tennis ball. You may also tie two tennis balls in a sock and use them together.

Check all about Hamstring Strain: How to Treat a Pulled Hamstring

Technique 6: Self-Massage for Better Breathing

Runners rely on efficient breathing for improving their running performance. You should massage the pectoral muscles with a foam roller for this purpose.

For massaging the diaphragm, you should wrap your fingers at the bottom of your ribcage and press gently. You can use a foam roller on the rib region below your underarms to improve the flexibility of muscles in this region.

Check all about How to Breathe While Running: The Best Techniques to Follow

The above-mentioned self-massage techniques are very simple and easy to perform.

Also, they are not complicated, so you won’t have to devote a lot of time to them. However, if you include them in your regular workout routine, you will surely benefit from them.

Despite being very careful while running or working out, runners are prone to injuries. Expert intervention should always be sought in case you fall or if you suffer from continuous soreness, aches, and pains in joints or muscles.

self massage for runners guide

However, self-massage for runners is becoming a very important practice that helps them to keep their muscles relaxed. Therefore, you should try it out too. We hope that the simple self-massage technique mentioned above will ease your port running pains.

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