Why Do My Legs Itch When I Run?

That annoying itch can stop you in your tracks during a run. Find out how to prevent it.


You’re on a run and in a nice groove. 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. 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.

What Causes Itchy Legs While Running?

There are a number of reasons you might experience mid-run itchiness, but it 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, says running coach Lora Erickson.

As your heart rate increases so does your blood flow, which causes the capillaries and arteries in your muscles to expand. 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.

To prevent itchy legs, keep up with your regular exercise routine. 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?

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, says Erickson. 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.

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.

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.

It’s important to remember that just like your face turning red during exercise, experiencing itchy legs while running isn’t cause for alarm, unless the itch is accompanied by hives. If you’re also experiencing stomach cramps, swelling of the face or tongue, or difficulty breathing along with the itchiness, seek medical attention immediately.