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Why Do My Legs Itch When I Run?

Itchy Legs With Running — What's the Deal?

So what if it's been a while, and you've taking a break from running? You're finally inspired to lace up your sneaks and go! A few minutes into it, you start to experience an itchy sensation all over your legs, and it's so overwhelming that you have to stop running to scratch. What gives?

As your heart rate increases, blood flows faster, and the millions of tiny capillaries and arteries in your muscles begin to expand rapidly. The capillaries stay open to allow for maximum blood passage when you're fit, but if you're out of shape, your capillaries tend to collapse, not allowing as much blood to pass through. When your capillaries expand, the surrounding nerves become stimulated and send messages to the brain, which reads the sensation as itching. Unfortunately, your itchy legs are the price paid for falling off the exercise wagon. So if you want to prevent itchy legs, keep up with your regular exercise routine.

Just like a red face during exercise, itchy legs are no cause for alarm, that is unless the itch is accompanied by hives. Exercise-induced urticaria is in a sense an allergy to exercise, and if you're also experiencing stomach cramps, swelling of the face or tongue, or difficulty breathing, seek medical attention immediately.

Image Source: POPSUGAR Photography
Join The Conversation
hmporritt hmporritt 5 years
I can totally testify to this. I have fell off the workout wagon and went hiking today. My legs were itching so bad that I could have itched the skin off. I was going crazy. It happened to me once before when I had been a bit lazy and not working out but it is true. Just workout regularly and it won't happen.
bushra bushra 7 years
and FTR am not a devout follower of Tracy.
bushra bushra 7 years
i work out at home and noticed this. and then i read Tracy Anderson's tip of working in out in a heated room, which seemed to do the trick.
kscincotta kscincotta 8 years
This has happened to me a lot in the past and I never knew why. what you posted seems to jive with what I've experienced: it's always close to the beginning of a new exercise regime and it seems to be worse when I'm not hydrating properly. Really interesting!
nikegranada nikegranada 8 years
i used to have this happen too all the time... it was worse when i was out of shape, but it still happened when i was in shape. i went to student health, and they said it can actually be an allergic reaction called cholinergic urticaria ( take some claritin 1/2 hour before you work out and it won't happen!
pink-pirate pink-pirate 8 years
I also experience this from time to time despite being active - 3 workouts per week and an active, urban lifestyle (walking, going up/down stairs to get in/our of the subway). Yet I tend to get this when I'm wearing shorts rather than leggings. Taking an anti-histamine eliminates this problem. I do not think it is due to being out of shape, I've had these even when training for a 10K.
sparklestar sparklestar 8 years
I work out all the time and still suffer from this. I don't think exercise is a factor at all.
nuttmegs17 nuttmegs17 8 years
I'm with #13...I run around 5 miles 3x a week, play soccer once a week, walk everywhere (I live in a big city), take the stairs in my office and bike for hours on the weekends...I don't believe that being unfit or off the excercise wagon is to blame...I never understand what causes it, it happens about once a month - I push through it, bc it eventually stops but its so annoying and it creats unsightly claw marks on my legs from where I've scratched it..
insanitypepper insanitypepper 8 years
This happens to me in hot tubs.
mwmsjuly19 mwmsjuly19 8 years
I workout most days, and run several miles a week, and am running my second half marathon this weekend. I get itchy legs and I am not out of shape (overweight, flabby, weak) or off the exercise wagon. I take a Claritin every day, which has totally stopped the itching...
adelaidekay adelaidekay 8 years
My chest gets really itchy sometimes. But I don't think it is for the same reason. I think it's because my boobs pull my skin A good bit when I jump & stuff. It sucks.
mscc mscc 8 years
Thanks for the info! This is really interesting. I just assumed it was because of the humidity, which might be another reason. It seems a lot of of people say they thought it was because of the cold - my explanation for that maybe it's all related: When it's cold, your body's capillaries contract (when it's hot, your capillaries expand and get closer to the surface so that you can cool down), but when you exercise, your capillaries have to expand again. Anyone else know if this is correct?
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