Common Causes of Runner’s Back Pain and How to Address Them


Back pain is a common issue for many runners. Whether you are a beginner or a seasoned athlete, experiencing back pain can be frustrating and discouraging. Understanding why back pain in running happens and how to fix it can help you run better and stay pain-free.

This article will explore the common reasons runners get back pain. It will also provide practical tips on how to prevent and address this problem. By following these tips, you can enjoy running without the discomfort of back pain.

Common Causes of Back Pain in Runners

Poor Running Form

Having good running form is important for preventing injuries, including back pain. When you run with poor posture or technique, it can put extra stress on your back. Here are some common form mistakes:

  • Hunching Over: Leaning too far forward or hunching your shoulders can strain your upper back.
  • Overstriding: Taking steps that are too long can cause your lower back to absorb too much impact.
  • Lack of Core Engagement: Not using your core muscles properly can lead to a weak and unstable spine.

To improve your running form, focus on standing tall, keeping your shoulders relaxed, and landing with your feet under your hips.

Overtraining and Lack of Rest

Overtraining occurs when you run too much without giving your body enough time to recover. This can lead to muscle fatigue and strain, which may cause back pain. Here are signs you might be overtraining:

  • Persistent soreness
  • Feeling tired all the time
  • Decreased performance

It’s important to listen to your body and take rest days. Balancing your training with proper rest helps your muscles recover and grow stronger, reducing the risk of back pain.

Inadequate Footwear

Wearing the wrong shoes can also lead to back pain. Running shoes need to provide proper support and cushioning. If your shoes are worn out or not designed for your running style, they can cause problems. Here are tips for choosing the right footwear:

  • Get Fitted: Visit a running store to find shoes that match your foot type and running style.
  • Replace Regularly: Change your running shoes every 300-500 miles to ensure they still provide good support.
  • Look for Cushioning: Ensure your shoes have adequate cushioning to absorb impact and protect your back.

Muscle Imbalance and Weak Core

Muscle imbalances occur when some muscles are stronger or tighter than others. A weak core can also contribute to back pain. Here’s why these issues matter:

  • Imbalanced Muscles: If one side of your body is stronger or more flexible than the other, it can lead to uneven stress on your back.
  • Weak Core: Your core muscles support your spine. If they are weak, your back muscles have to work harder, which can lead to pain.

Strengthening your core and addressing muscle imbalances through targeted exercises can help prevent back pain.

How to Address and Prevent Back Pain

Correcting Running Form

Improving your running form can significantly reduce back pain. Here are some tips:

  • Stand Tall: Keep your back straight and avoid hunching over.
  • Relax Your Shoulders: Keep your shoulders down and back to prevent upper back tension.
  • Engage Your Core: Use your core muscles to support your spine.

Consider getting a professional gait analysis or working with a running coach to refine your technique.

Balanced Training and Rest

Balancing your training with adequate rest is key to preventing injuries. Here are some strategies:

  • Follow a Training Plan: Use a plan that includes rest days and varies your running intensity.
  • Cross-Train: Include activities like swimming or cycling to give your running muscles a break.
  • Listen to Your Body: If you feel pain or excessive fatigue, take a break to avoid overtraining.

Choosing the Right Footwear

Selecting the right shoes can make a big difference in preventing back pain. Here’s how to choose wisely:

  • Get Professionally Fitted: A running store can help you find shoes that fit your foot type and running style.
  • Check Shoe Wear: Replace your shoes regularly to ensure they provide proper support.
  • Prioritize Comfort: Ensure your shoes are comfortable and provide adequate cushioning.

Strengthening Exercises

Strengthening your core and back muscles can help prevent pain. Here are some exercises to include in your routine:

  • Planks: Strengthen your core and back muscles.
  • Bridges: Target your glutes and lower back.
  • Bird Dogs: Improve balance and strengthen your spine.

Incorporate these exercises into your weekly routine to build a stronger, more resilient back.

Stretching and Flexibility

Stretching can help prevent injuries and relieve tension. Here are some stretches for runners:

  • Hamstring Stretch: Loosen tight hamstrings that can affect your lower back.
  • Hip Flexor Stretch: Stretch your hip flexors to prevent strain on your back.
  • Cat-Cow Stretch: Improve flexibility in your spine.

Regular stretching can keep your muscles flexible and reduce the risk of back pain.

When to See a Professional

Sometimes, back pain needs more than self-care. Here are signs you should see a healthcare provider:

  • Pain that doesn’t improve with rest
  • Numbness or tingling in your legs
  • Severe or sudden pain

Consult a doctor or physical therapist like those from Up and Running Physical Therapy for a proper diagnosis and treatment plan.


Back pain is a common issue for runners, but it doesn’t have to be a part of your running experience. By understanding the causes and taking steps to address them, you can run comfortably and confidently. Prioritize good running form, balanced training, proper footwear, and a strong core to keep back pain at bay.

Remember, every runner is unique, and what works for one person might not work for another. It’s important to listen to your body and adjust your routine as needed. Consistency in practicing good habits and being mindful of your body’s signals can make a significant difference.

If you experience persistent pain, don’t hesitate to seek professional help to ensure you’re on the right track. Running should be a joy, not a pain, so take care of your back and enjoy the miles ahead.


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