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Running Pain Guide: Should I Run with Pain?

runners knee pain

Running Pain Guide: Should I Run with Pain?

As runners, we often encounter aches and pains that can make us question whether we should push through or take a break. Understanding the difference between normal discomfort and potential injury is crucial for maintaining long-term health and performance. In this guide, we'll explore common running pains, when it's safe to run through them, and when it's best to rest. We'll also provide insights from research to help you make informed decisions about your training.

Understanding Running Pain

Pain during running can stem from various sources, ranging from muscle soreness to more serious injuries. It's essential to listen to your body and differentiate between normal discomfort and signs of injury.

Common Types of Running Pain

  1. Muscle Soreness

  • What It Is: Generalized soreness often occurs after intense workouts or long runs.

  • Safe to Run?: Yes, if the pain is mild and improves with a warm-up, it's usually safe to continue running.

  1. Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS)

  • What It Is: Soreness that appears 24-48 hours after a new or intense activity.

  • Safe to Run?: Yes, light activity can help alleviate DOMS, but avoid high-intensity workouts until the soreness subsides.

  1. Joint Pain

  • What It Is: Pain in the knees, hips, or ankles can indicate inflammation or overuse.

  • Safe to Run?: Maybe, joint pain that persists or worsens with running should be addressed by a medical professional.

  1. Sharp Pain

  • What It Is: Sudden, sharp pain can signal a more serious injury like a stress fracture or tendonitis.

  • Safe to Run?: No, stop running and consult a healthcare provider.

When to Push Through and When to Rest

Knowing when to run through pain and when to rest is vital for preventing injuries and promoting recovery. Here's a guideline based on research and expert advice:

  1. Mild Discomfort (1-2 on pain scale)

  • Description: Muscle tightness or minor aches that improve with movement.

  • Action: Continue running but monitor the pain. Ensure proper warm-up and cool-down routines.

  1. Moderate Pain (3-4 on pain scale)

  • Description: Persistent pain that doesn't improve with movement.

  • Action: Reduce intensity or switch to cross-training. If pain persists for more than a few days, seek professional advice.

  1. Severe Pain (5+ on pain scale)

  • Description: Sharp, localized pain or pain that causes limping.

  • Action: Stop running immediately and consult a medical professional.

Research Insights

Research highlights the importance of listening to your body and taking appropriate action to prevent injuries:

  • A study published in the Journal of Orthopaedic & Sports Physical Therapy found that continuing to run through severe pain can lead to chronic injuries and longer recovery times (Hreljac, A. 2004).

  • According to the American College of Sports Medicine, distinguishing between discomfort and injury is critical. Pain that alters your running form or persists despite rest requires medical evaluation (ACSM, 2014).

Tips for Managing Running Pain

  1. Prevention First: Incorporate strength training, proper warm-ups, and cool-downs into your routine.

  2. Use PEACE & LOVE: Immediately after a soft tissue injury, do not harm and let PEACE guide your approach.

3. Listen to Your Body: If pain persists, changes your gait, or is sharp and localized, seek professional help.

4. Cross-Train: Engage in low-impact activities like swimming or cycling to maintain fitness while allowing your body to heal.


Running through pain is a common dilemma for many runners. Understanding the type and severity of your pain can help you decide whether to continue or take a break. While mild discomfort (<3 ) may be part of the training process, persistent or severe pain should never be ignored. Prioritize your long-term health and performance by listening to your body and seeking professional advice when needed.



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