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Why Do Runners Get Itchy Legs?

You’re on a run and in a nice groove. Your runner’s high kicks in and you’ve shed a couple seconds off your pace. Then all of a sudden pain slowly creeps up your legs, like tiny ants are marching up and down.

One of the most common, overwhelming sensations a runner can experience is itchy legs. In fact, it can be so uncomfortable that you’ve got to stop to scratch your legs. We’ve all been there. It’s an annoying situations that can halt your run. And no matter how much you scratch, the itchy sensation doesn’t seem to go away. Sigh.

Unfortunately Coach Lora Erickson, owner of The Blonde Runner, has experienced the nuances of itchy legs. But thankfully for us, we were able to pick her brain about it and how to prevent the awful situation.

What Causes A Runner’s Legs To Itch? 

Ladies, watch out if you happen to shower more than once a day. Too many showers can wash away some of the skin’s natural oils that keep it moist, leaving your skin dry and itchy.

“Dry air is another contributing factor, especially during the cold winter months. Also something to consider for women is non-shaved legs. A lot of women don’t shave their legs in the winter, but that “stubble” can cause itching—especially when wearing running tights,” says Erickson.

Some fabrics can also irritate the skin and wick away moisture, leaving the skin even dryer. Laundry detergent may also be the culprit. Opt for sensitive skin detergent to avoid any irritation.

Runners itch also seems to be more common in those who are getting back in shape. If you’ve taken some time off of running and are just getting back into it, you may also experience uncomfortable welts or rashes. “I believe this is due to a change in capillaries’ action, often causing an itchy sensation. In severe cases ‘exercise-induced urticarial’ can occur, resulting in hives or raised “welts” during exercising,” shares Erickson. After a few work out sessions, your legs will get used to moving and the itch should subside. If you experience rashes or welts, after a week, you should speak with your doctor.

Why Do Legs Tend To Itch More In Cold Weather? 

Cold weather usually has less humidity, which means dry air. “As a coach, I see more dehydration in the winter because of the dry air. We lose most of our moisture through breathing and winter is rarely the time that we feel like drinking water. Replenishment is a struggle in the winter, leaving us in a dehydrated state, contributing to dry skin,” says Erickson.

What Can You Do To Prevent Itchiness?

Erickson says there are plenty of steps you can do to prevent itchy legs.

  • Stay hydrated.
  • Use moisturizing lotions after showering.
  • Consider changing your laundry detergent to something milder.
  • Keep exercising to allow the body to adapt.
  • Shave your legs! Yes, even in the winter.

Fara Rosenzweig

Fara Rosenzweig is a writer, editor, and certified personal trainer. She got her first taste of the gym at age 14 and fell in love with the fitness crowd. After suffering a back injury her freshman year of college, she had to set her ballet slippers aside and rehab her back. That’s when she found her passion for teaching fitness and helping others challenge themselves. Her senior year of college she ran in her first 5K and traded her ballet slippers for the latest (and brightest) pair of running shoes. Fara loves talking health, sports and fitness with any one and everyone. Her love for storytelling earned her an Emmy Award and has been seen in many other publications, such as Refinery29, Active.com, MyFitnessPal and Health.