Soft Tissue Care For Runners [Foam Rolling, Stretching, Massage, Dry Needling]

Do you get tightness in your muscles or feel aches and pains during your running?  Do you know you should be doing stretching exercises to make you a better runner but you are not sure what you should be doing…😩?  We’re here to answer those questions and give you the best exercises to do in order to get stronger, faster and healthier as a runner.


The specific tips that I am going to share with you in this podcast episode and blog post are going to be the specific strategies that will translate to helping you crush your running goals 🏃🏻‍♀️

Click the video below to hear the LIVE training I did on this topic within the Healthy Runner Facebook Group




The last 4 blog articles we have been talking about the SPARK Blueprint and we’ve been discussing five principles. We’ve discussed the foundation of how to run stronger and healthier without injuries by strengthening 5 KEY RUNNING muscles, then we talked about adding plyometric or jump exercises into our training, and then finished up discussing the importance of training on one leg with your foot on the ground.


In the 5th episode of the Healthy Runner Podcast I wanted to cover the 4th tip for Healthy Running which is taking care of those muscles and tendons that log all those miles!


Why Should You Care?


The most common running related injuries are overuse injuries to the soft tissue. Whether it is hamstring strains, plantar fascitis, or iliotibial band syndrome (click the diagnosis in bold to learn more through a previous blog article!). All of these conditions involve some involvement to the soft tissue. Soft tissue refers to muscles, tendons, ligaments, and other connective tissue such as fascia. Treatment can be directed to the soft tissue as part of prehab to prevent injuries or may be provided during rehab following an injury.


What can you do to improve your muscle length or take care of your soft tissues to get rid of soreness or alleviate that tightness feeling? We are going to go from most conservative or least aggressive that you can do on your own and then progress to other techniques you can seek medical attention for. These can be broken up into 2 distinct groups. things you can do on your own in your home or the gym and then those that you can have a medical professional specializing in this area perform during a session.


Now let’s get into the 4 specific ways you can take care of your soft tissue or muscles to help you recover and perform at your best potential during your runs!


1. Foam Rolling


2. Stretching


3. Instrument Assisted Soft Tissue Mobilization


4. Dry Needling


Here are the common questions I hear often and that I include on the podcast and in the LIVE YouTube video training above:

Should I Add In Foam Rolling?


Foam Rolling For The Piriformis Muscle


Foam rolling is a soft tissue technique you can do in the comfort of your home or gym to help prime your body for your workouts or run. This can also be used after your runs to aide in recovery. Often times, foam rolling will “hurt so good” and most athletes I work with will feel looser after performing. I am acknowledging the research on why it feels good and the actual benefits are scarce in the research. Click here to read a nice article summing up the research and benefits of foam rolling.⠀⠀⠀


In the podcast episode, I take a deep dive into discussion the following talking points:

1. What does foam rolling actually do?


2. When should you perform foam rolling?


3. Should foam rolling be painful?


4. What is the difference between all the types of foam rollers?


5.Why you should perform foam rolling with active mobility



Listen to the Healthy Runner Podcast now in the player at the top of this article or on your favorite podcast player Apple Podcasts (iTunes), Stitcher, Spotify, Google Play


Want to learn how to foam roll your iliotibial band (ITB) or your calf muscles?  These are the two most common exercises I commonly give the runners I work with:



How To Foam Roll The ITB video CLICK HERE


Foam Rolling For The Calf Muscle


How To Foam Roll The Calf Muscles CLICK HERE


When is the best time to stretch? What types of stretching should I perform?


Static Stretching To The Hamstring Muscles


Stretching your muscles and soft tissue are important to do both before your workouts or runs to prime your body as well as after to restore your muscles back to their resting length. Remember to perform active or dynamic stretching as part of a warm up before you run. Save the holding for prolonged positions or static stretching for after your runs.


Whenever we exercise a muscle with strength training we are causing physiological changes to the soft tissue aiding in the remolding process. This helps tissues become more resilient to the stresses that occur with running. This is using the power of exercise to not only get stronger to to aide in the healing process of certain soft tissues. An example of this would be using slow lowering calf raises to help chronic achilles pain. The lowering phase of the exercise is stimulating load to the tendon and aides in the remolding of that tendon so it can withstand force and not be painful during a run.


In the podcast episode we also take a deep dive into some of these common questions:


What is the difference between static and dynamic stretching?


How often should I stretch?


What does the latest research tell us about stretching?


Does stretching prevent injuries?



Click the video below to learn a 10 min static stretching program for you to do after your run!


Need some ideas for what to do before your runs?  CLICK THIS VIDEO to learn how to dynamically stretch your muscles for some movement prep!


For those of you local CT runners keep an eye out in our healthy runner FB group for our signature SPARK warm up at local road races!  Here we are at the New Haven Road Race.



What are those metal tools?


IASTM To The Calf Muscle For Achilles Pain In This Runner


The use of instruments is called Instrument Assisted Soft Tissue Mobilization or Massage (IASTM) to achieve effects and benefits of soft tissue mobilization. Various tools designed for different body regions can feel more comfortable for a patient due to the uniform pressure applied with each of the strokes.


What is Dry Needling?



Dry needling is a skilled intervention that uses a thin filiform needle to penetrate the skin and stimulate underlying myofascial trigger points, muscular, and connective tissues for the management of neuromusculoskeletal pain and movement impairments.



To hear if dry needling is the same as accupuncture click the video above to find out. If you are wondering what dry needling looks like and how it is performed for the calf muscle if you have tight calves or chronic achilles pain, plantar fasciitis, and shin splints.


Dry Needling To Target The Shin Muscles For Shin Splints


In this article we covered why you should be performing routine self mobility and soft tissue care (restore and recover from running).  We talked about the 4 types of care you can provide being foam rolling, stretching, instrument assisted soft tissue mobilization, and dry needling.  Remember this is Tip #4 within our SPARK blueprint and is strategically placed as the 4th tip because it is not as important as strengthening is for your body!  In the last blog post of the SPARK blueprint, we will cover how to keep consistent and train smart with proper progression.

If any of this resonated with you I ask that you copy the link to this article and share it with a runner friend that needs to learn how to take care of their body!


Thank you for taking the time to read and stay active, stay healthy, and just keep running!


Best regards


– Duane Scotti, PT, DPT, PhD, OCS


Do you want the learn what your body should be doing for Prehab like these exercises in order to stay healthy for your next half marathon?

At SPARK Physical Therapy , we have a unique treatment approach that focuses on solving these problems with our clients.


Our goal is to find the root cause of your previous running injuries and design a specific prehab program for your body in order to prevent that hamstring pain, achilles pain, or shin splints from coming back.


We do this by analyzing your running technique with video analysis and then take you through a full movement analysis and combine that information with your traditional muscle length, strength, and mobility tests to design a program that is specific to your body.

I have a commitment to you the runner at SPARK Physical Therapy

There are no long waits or multiple trips to providers’ offices every week.


I see you in a gym setting at a time that is convenient with your schedule.


One on one for a full hour with myself (a doctor of physical therapy, every visit.)


I provide you with a customized plan specifically designed for you, based off your unique injury and goals.


Full transparency in what you pay. You will never get a bill from us a couple of months after your visit.


Access and availability to you! Have a question about your pain or exercise program? You get an answer from me directly.


If you’re in the greater Hamden, CT area that has been dealing with pain or is looking to be proactive in your health of running and not reactive, I would love the opportunity to help! I’d love to chat for a few minutes and see if you are a good fit for how I help people.  Fill in this CONTACT REQUEST LINK  and we’ll set up a free 20-minute phone consultation with a doctor of physical therapy.




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“I developed IT band syndrome during my first marathon training cycle last year and ended up in physical therapy for about 3 months. I was told not to run if I had any pain at all. I lost so much time “recovering” that I ended up deferring my registration to the next year. I spent the next summer training for the same marathon when about 6 weeks out, that familiar IT band pain returned. I could barely finish a mile. I didn’t want to go back to my physical therapist because I knew what he was going to tell me. Stop running. I was so frustrated and started to feel like marathons weren’t for me. I stumbled upon the healthy runner podcast and learned that I don’t have to stop running in order to recover from injury! I was skeptical about an online physical therapy session. But I reached out to Dr. Scotti and he was able to give me the tools to mitigate my pain within the first session! I was able to complete my training cycle and made it to the finish line of my first marathon with his help! I highly recommend!”

Kendyl R. (Runner)

“I’d been dealing with Proximal Hamstring Tendinopathy (PHT) for about 4 years and had been doing PT, but still had lingering pains. I just figured I’d have to suck it up and deal with it because that was as good as I was going to get. But then, I came across a podcast of Duane being interviewed by Jason Fitzgerald on PHT and how he overcame the injury, and my curiosity was piqued. I met with him virtually and he has been a GODSEND! I’m able to sit as I type this! I can bend over and get in and out of cars without pain! And, I’m RUNNING again!!! It is amazing to be able to do things that I haven’t been able to do without pain since 2016!!! Thank you so much Duane for being an incredible PT!!”

Michelle D. (Runner)

“I suffered from IT band syndrome for four years before seeing Dr. Scotti in April 2020. Before then, I couldn’t run more than about 10 minutes without stabbing pain near my left knee. I’d seen various orthopedists, physical therapists, and chiropractors looking for some relief. My career needed me to run a mile and a half within a certain amount of time, and it was impossible to do so with the knee pain. I saw Dr. Scotti and he immediately got to work! That first visit, he helped me understand the anatomy and underlying cause of my knee pain (aka IT Band syndrome). Once I understood what was happening, the course of treatment made so much sense. Not only did he have online videos of all the recommended exercises to treat the problem, his “healthy runner” Facebook group, Podcast, and YouTube videos held a wealth of information and supplemented my plan. I soon understood that running wasn’t just a casual hobby – it’s a sport and one that deserves dedication and focus. Without his dedication to the sport and his community, I wouldn’t have realized this! Over the next few months, I had many ups and downs – victories and failures – and even some tears! Two steps forward and one step back. Dr. Scotti always checked in between appointments and tweaked my plan if needed. By August, I was regularly running 3-4 miles with barely any pain! If I did get pain, it was because my dedication and focus were lacking – and I quickly picked it back up and overcame. I’m so thankful I took another chance at having my knee looked at and trusted someone else. I run regularly now and am really enjoying it. I can’t thank Dr. Scotti enough and would highly recommend him to anyone having trouble.”

Tracy G. (Runner)

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