Runner’s Itch Causes

What is a runner’s itch? 

It's exactly what it sounds like. Runner's itch is a common phenomenon, where there is tingling and itching sensation usually experienced by new runners  or people who do strenuous exercises. Runner’s itch is usually caused by capillaries expansion during a workout by a new runner or after a long period without running.

Usually in the area, like the legs and stomach, there is an itching and tingling sensation that can become severe and can make you stop on track.

But the good news is that runner’s itch is temporary and usually subsides soon after the workout. Runner’s itch is also not guaranteed to occur in every new runner - or people doing strenuous exercises. 

Symptoms of runner’s itch

Among every symptom , skin itch is the most common to occur. 

The possible other symptoms are:

  • Itchy legs
  • Redness
  • Feeling of warmth in the affected area

Causes of runner’s itch

According to Cleveland Clinic,  the possible cause for runner’s itch is blood flow. As you start running, there is an increased amount of blood and oxygen that is delivered to the muscle, and  blood is filled with hair-like  thin blood capillaries that connect the arteries and veins.

As these capillaries expand due to an increased amount of blood flow in it, these capillaries bump into nearby nerve endings, resulting in the triggering of the itchy sensation due to the stimulation of nerve cells. Hence, it can be a response of the body’s vascular system toward a change in activity.

Other possible causes, according to Health-line for a runner’s itch are:

  • Sensitive skin: usually people with sensitive skin are more prone to runner’s itch. Allergies to any kind of laundry detergent, fabric softeners, or clothing materials can cause itchiness. And when there is a combination of sweating and dry skin, this can worsen the irritation leading to a runner’s itch
  • Exercise-induced  urticaria:  an allergic response that occurs when you experience itchiness along with hives or redness of the skin

Additional symptoms can include:

  • Stomach cramps
  • Headache
  • Difficulty in breathing
  • Swelling of the face, tongue, or hands
  • Exercise-induced  urticaria: Usually occurs during or after strenuous exercise, such as running or hiking, especially these activities occur  in hot or cold weather
  • Exercise-induced  vasculitis: It is also known as golfer’s vasculitis or hiker’s rash. Sometimes it is  called Disney rash since it often involves being physically active and exposed to sunlight on hot days, which is common at Disney amusement parks
  • Food allergies
  • Alcoholic drinks
  • Medications, including aspirin
  • Other allergic reactions

Risk factors

Some of these risk factors include:

  • Sweating: Excessive sweating during exercise can lead to increased moisture on the skin, which can cause irritation and itching
  • Heat and humidity: Hot and humid weather conditions can increase the likelihood of sweating and moisture on the skin, leading to a runner’s itch
  • Tight-fitting clothing: Wearing tight clothing during exercise can cause friction and irritation on the skin, leading to itching
  • Dehydration: Dehydration can lead to dry skin which when combined  with sweating during exercise can irritate  resulting in a runner’s itch
  • Sensitive skin: Skin sensitive to any external irritants, like laundry detergent or soap, may also be a potential risk factor for a runner’s itch


Runner’s itch can’t be prevented completely but one can reduce its  breakouts.Running regularly is one of the best ways to do this. A consistent running routine will help the body to be used to the increased flow of blood when it occurs at the time of running or strenuous exercise.

A journal can be used to track any foods or drinks that may contribute to the runner’s itch. It is also important to avoid certain foods or drinks before exercising. 

In severe cases of runner’s itch, one needs to have a prescription for an epinephrine auto-injector (EpiPen). This will prevent the symptoms from becoming life-threatening conditions. One should inject EpiPen as soon as symptoms develop.

Additional ways to prevent runner’s itch according to Healthline are:

  • Taking non-drowsy  antihistamines
  • Wearing workout clothing suited to hot or cold weather
  • Using numbing spray
  • Taking baths and showers with cold or warm water instead of hot water
  • Avoid  excessive sun exposure
  • Exercising during the coolest part of the day

Treatment and home remedies

Some of the home remedies one can use for runner’s itch are:

  • Take a warm bath with oatmeal, Epsom  salts, or baking soda
  • Apply aloe vera gel, hydrocortisone cream, or a cold compress to the area of itchiness
  •  Wearing compression stockings and elevate  the legs   for 15 minutes a few times per day to improve leg circulation

When to seek medical attention

Usually the runner’s itch subsides on its own, but if the symptoms continue and start getting worse then one should seek medical attention.

And if the itchiness is accompanied by dizziness, lightheadedness, difficulty breathing, and hives that occur along with severe pain, stinging, or burning and don't subside within 10 minutes, then one should reach out to the doctors for further examinations to rule out the cause.


This article has reviewed the definition of runner’s itch, its symptoms, causes, risk factors, prevention's, home remedies, and the condition fo r which one has to seek medical attention. Now it’s easy to understand that the runner’s itch is a condition that leads to itching of areas like legs and stomach more commonly. Many causes contribute  to the runner’s itch, more common  being irregular exercise routine leading to increased blood flow in the affected area, resulting in rhe  body being unable to  hold the fluid? and lead to a vascular reaction that is runner’s itch. 

Sweating, heat and humidity, tight clothing, dry skin, and sensitive skin are some of the potential risk factors for the runner’s itch. The runner’s itch can’t be prevented completely but one can reduce its breakout by maintaining a routine of regular running and exercise, by making a journal to note the food and drinks that act as triggering factors for runner’s itch, such as certain food and drinks should not be taken alongside, and thus should be avoided before exercise. 

In case of a severe runner’s itch condition, one should have a prescription for  epinephrine auto- injector (EpiPen). Other prevention that one can take to reduce the breakout of a runner’s itch is by using a numbing spray, doing exercise in the coolest part of the day, wearing clothes suitable for both hot and cold weather, avoiding  excessive sun exposure, taking  a bath with warm or cold water instead of hot water. 

Mostly the runner’s itch subsides on its own by following some of the easy home remedies like a warm bath with Epsom salts, baking soda, or oatmeal. Wearing compression stockings  and elevating legs for 15 minutes a few times a day can also be done. One should apply hydrocortisone creams, aloe vera gel, or a cold compress to  the affected area. But if the symptoms don't subside and are joined by dizziness, lightheadedness, difficulty in breathing, and hives that occur along with severe pain and stinging or burning sensation for more than 10 minutes, then one should see doctors for further examinations and tests to reach out to all the possible causes.


  1. ‘Scratching for Answers About Runner’s Itch’. Cleveland Clinic, 26 Nov. 2022,
  2. Runner’s Itch: Causes and Treatments’. Healthline, 9 Feb. 2021,
  3. Runner’s Itch: Why You Have It And How To Get Rid Of It. 31 Mar. 2021,
This content is purely informational and isn’t medical guidance. It shouldn’t replace professional medical counsel. Always consult your physician regarding treatment risks and benefits. See our editorial standards for more details.

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Akanksha Suryvanshi

Bachelor of Dental Surgery- BDS, Ahmedabad Dental, College and Hospital, India

Dr. Akanksha is a general dentist with over 1 year of experience children and adults to promote healthy dental habits. She is going to start her Master of Science in Clinical Epidemiology from Kent State University, Ohio, USA. She also has research experience. And currently also work as medical writer for Klarity to write medical articles for spreading awareness and also for providing health benefit knowledge to the community.

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