The 6 Best Foam Rolling Warm Ups for Runners

Running is one of the best exercises you can do because it works your entire body and burns a lot of calories. It makes your muscles sore, though, especially if you don’t stretch them out. One of the best ways to help your muscles recover is to use a foam roller.

The best foam rolling exercises and stretches for runners target muscles in the calves, shins, thighs, IT band, and glutes. Moderate to frequent runners benefit the most from using a foam roller every day. Foam rolling helps eliminate their soreness and reduces the risk of injury.

In this article, there are six foam rolling exercises that target the muscles runners use the most. We’ll tell you what they are, what muscles they work, and provide a step-by-step process for how to perform each one. Keep reading to learn how to best stretch your body after a good run.

1. Calf Roll

Our calves get worked hard when we run. Those who sprint know this better than anyone. Calves are prone to cramps, so it’s important to stretch them out daily.

This exercise helps relieve the tension that builds in the calves from exercise. If you’ve strained your calf muscle or you feel discomfort in your Achilles tendon post-workout, the calf roll exercise is ideal for you.

Steps to perform:

  1. Sit down with your legs fully extended out in front of you.
  2. Position a foam roller directly under your calves.
  3. Place your hands flat on the floor slightly behind your body to support yourself.
  4. Raise your bottom off the floor and shift your weight to your calves.
  5. Roll your calves over the foam roller slowly, starting and ending with the roller just below the back of your knee.
Calf Roll
Calf Roll

2. Shin Roll

Most runners are intimately familiar with shin splints. They occur after impact exercises like running. Typically, shin splints develop over time.

The shin roll allows more blood flow to reach the shins. The extra blood flow brings down inflammation, which is what causes the pain of shin splints.

Steps to perform:

  1. Get down on the floor on your hands and knees. Your hands and knees should be shoulder-width apart, with your hands directly under your shoulders.
  2. Put the foam roller under your shins.
  3. Raise your knees off the floor and shift your weight to your hands and shins.
  4. Roll your shins slowly over the foam roller. Repeat the rolling motion forward and backward.
Shin Roll

Related: Do compression socks help reduce shin splints?

3. Quad Roll

The quadriceps are large, strong muscles in the front of your thighs. You use them every day for all sorts of movement. Running works the quads hard, especially when you start running faster and farther.

The quads get extremely tight. Sometimes the soreness almost feels debilitating. This exercise loosens up the front of the thighs to give you back some range of motion.

Steps to perform:

  1. Lie down on the floor face down with the roller underneath you just below your hips.
  2. Support your body with your elbows.
  3. Using your elbows and feet, roll yourself forward and backward over the roller. Keep the roller between your hips and knees.
  4. Place your body at different angles over the roller to target all sides of the quad muscles for additional benefit.
Quad Roll (One Leg)
Quad Roll (Two Legs)

Related: Best Bodyweight Exercises to Strengthen Runners’ Quadriceps

4. Hamstring Roll

The hamstrings are the counterparts of the quads. They also get tight from running and other exercises.

This exercise is performed on one leg at a time. If you have one side that feels tighter than the other, you can spend more time rolling that hamstring at a slower pace.

Steps to perform:

  1. Sit on the floor with one leg bent and your foot flat on the floor.
  2. Place the other leg out straight in front of you with the roller under your thigh just above the back of your knee.
  3. Put your hands on the floor slightly behind your bottom for support.
  4. Lift your bottom off the floor and roll your body forward until the roller reaches the bottom of your glute.
  5. Roll your body back and forth to loosen the muscle and increase blood flow.
Hamstring Roll

Related: Can Running Give You Abs?

5. IT Band Roll

Serious runners suffer from pain in the IT Band. IT is short for iliotibial. It is located around the top and outer edge of the knee.

The IT Band is meant to be tight, but when you feel pain in this area, it usually means another muscle is inflamed or isn’t working as it should. The IT Band then gets overworked due to compensation.

Steps to perform:

  1. Lie on your side and put the roller under your hip.
  2. Straighten your bottom leg out and with your other knee bent, cross it in front of the bottom leg placing your foot flat on the floor in front of the straight knee.
  3. Prop your upper body up on your elbow with your hand flat on the floor.
  4. Roll your body up until the roller reaches your knee.
  5. Continue sweeping your body up and down over the roller several times.
  6. Switch sides and repeat for the other leg.
IT Band Roll

6. Glute Roll

Glutes are vital muscles for running and doing many everyday movements. However, they often get overlooked. They are often underdeveloped because of neglect.

When the glutes get tight, it causes a chain reaction to other muscles that tighten up, as well, due to compensating for the glutes. Stretch your glutes to optimize running.

Steps to perform:

  1. Sit on the floor with both knees bent.
  2. Place one foot flat on the floor and cross the other leg over your bent knee placing your ankle to rest on the knee.
  3. Position the roller under your bottom and support yourself from behind with your hands.
  4. Shift your body back and forth over the roller targeting the trigger points you feel in the glutes.
  5. Switch your legs and repeat for the other side.
Glute Roll

Related: Best Bodyweight Glute Exercises For Runners


Foam rolling exercises are excellent for runners. These stretches help keep your body in better shape, allowing you to get the most out of every run. Do them daily for the best results.

Trigger Point Foam Massage Ball
My go-to travel-sized massage ball!

If you are looking for an ultra-portable travel-size trigger point massage ball (acts like a mini foam roller) – check out my post – Trigger Point Massage Ball For Runners

Related: 10 Best Core Exercises For Runners

Coach Scott's Credentials: He has published over 20 books including, Beginner's Guide to Half Marathons: A Simple Step-By-Step Solution to Get You to the Finish Line in 12 Weeks! (Beginner To Finisher Book 3), which has become an Amazon International #1 bestseller. Scott specializes in helping new runners become injury-free race finishers. He recently completed his 17th half marathon race. 

 To sign up for a FREE half marathon training schedule, log sheet, and pace predictor CLICK HERE.

Recommended Running Gear

Recommended gear for runners

 Connect with me:




The 6 Best Foam Rolling Warm Ups for Runners

1 thought on “The 6 Best Foam Rolling Warm Ups for Runners”

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.