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Ways to Help and Prevent IT Band Syndrome

Dear IT Band: You're Driving Me Crazy

If you're a runner, even just casually, this story may be familiar. After a few weeks of running, usually outdoors, maybe with a few hills, you start to feel a sharp pain on the outside of your knee. The weirdest part: it happens when you're running downhill, and walking down stairs. You may also experience pain radiating the length of your IT band all the way up to your hip. After a visit to my doctor he quickly diagnosed me with Iliotibial Band Syndrome (ITB for short), a common but painful running injury. It happens often to new runners or those who, like me, increase mileage too quickly.

After many visits to a physical therapist, I found the following tips to be especially helpful in treating and preventing ITB Syndrome:

  • Stretch. The first thing he asked me was how much I was warming up before running. Thinking back on my early morning runs where I'd hustle to fit in my five miles before work, the answer is: not nearly enough. He advised me to thoroughly stretch my calf muscles and hips before starting a long run to improve my stride.
  • Replace worn-out running shoes. You should replace shoes every 350 to 500 miles. If you're running 20 miles a week, that's every four to five months. Running in worn-out sneaks can cause poor form, leading to problems with your IT band.

Even how you sit at your desk can affect your IT band, to learn why


  • Don't cross your legs when you're sitting. This was one of the hardest directives for me to follow, given that I tend to cross my legs all day long at my desk. Turns out, sitting like that was wrecking my posture and causing even more pain. After making a conscious effort to stop, both my posture and running form improved significantly. If you have a hard time un-crossing, try sitting with your ankles crossed instead. It helped ease the transition.
  • Roll out your IT band. While this exercise using a foam roller will help to alleviate IT band pain, it also helps prevent problems from starting in the first place. It's painful, especially if you're already having IT band issues, but after a week or two of consistent rolling, you'll notice less pain.

Perhaps the most important tip of all is to keep up with these suggestions even if the symptoms go away. While a physical therapist helped me work through the problem the first time around, I recently fell back into my careless ways and experienced another IT band flare-up. And if you're a runner (beginner or seasoned), join the Running Sugar group and share your tips, experiences, and opinions.

Image Source: Getty
MendelPotok MendelPotok 7 years
Yikes, thanks for the heads up, I'll be more careful.
Food Food 7 years
These are great tips! I'm pretty sure this was the same problem that I've run into before. I love that FitSugar is more helpful than a sports medicine doctor!
itsallabouttheg itsallabouttheg 7 years
i have yet to master the foam roller, so i opt for stretches and "the stick" to massage the area. i like it's portable enough that i can take it with me when i travel.
chibarosa chibarosa 7 years
RE: pre-run stretching My running coach has our group do dynamic stretching before runs. Warm-ups include these 5 drills: 1. butt kicks 2. high knees 3. skips 4. skips with a kick 5. walking lunges Then after our runs, we cool down with a slow jog and then do static stretching. I also use the foam roller on a regular basis.
isabelle315 isabelle315 7 years
I've had chronic problems with my IT band but have managed to overcome it to run multiple half marathons and one full marathon. At the moment I'm running 20 miles a week, with one 10-miler a week. I am with some of the others in that I don't recommend stretching before you run. I don't. I make sure to stretch my IT bands in both legs AFTER every run though, to keep them loose - the stretch that I do is to put my right leg behind my left leg, and way over to the left, and then lean to the left - you'll feel the stretch on the outside of your right leg. Be sure to hold it for a little while as this stretch takes a bit of time to loosen the IT band itself. Then repeat on the other side. On my longer runs (anything 10+ miles), I also stop after I've warmed up (about 2 miles in) and do this stretch. If my legs feel tight, I'll stop and do it every couple of miles. One thing that's huge - if you run on the street, and you always run on the same side, the grade of the road will exacerbate the problem. If I'm running far, I pretty much have to run on the other side for a good portion of my run, or I'm pretty much guaranteed to start having pain (I try to do this on minor side streets, since running with the traffic isn't as safe). When getting ready for a race, I also find that it's crucial to only increase your weekly mileage/long run distance a little at a time, to let your body adapt. And, as hard as it is, if the pain hits you near the end of a long run, it is better to stop the run a little early and make sure to take a day or two off, and stretch it well, before running again. I also use a foam roller occasionally, especially when I'm training for something and running more. (Those rollers also feel heavenly as a back massage!!)
genipher85 genipher85 7 years
I keep hearing opposing statements when it comes to stretching before a workout. First I hear stretch, then I hear don't stretch beacuse that can cause injury, now I hear stretch again. What's the deal?
Brittneylb Brittneylb 7 years
@lydialee I asked a doctor who works with athletes that same question. I told him I had read lots of articles that advised not to stretch before. He was very adament that stretching before and after is important, and said to read articles on sites like webmd that are written by doctors. I still get advice from other places, but do try to check it with medical resources if I have a question.
lydialee_home lydialee_home 7 years
I am confused. There are lots of articles to tell us not to stretch before running as stretching cold muscle will lead to injury. Should I stretch before my run, or just warm up with a brisk walk before my run?
Amester3005 Amester3005 7 years
I was having this problem late last year along with some other leg and back problems. It got so bad I could hardly walk
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