Do you love the exhilarating feeling of a good run, but dread the throbbing headache that often follows? You’re not alone. Many people experience headaches after running, and while it’s usually nothing to worry about, it can certainly put a damper on that post-run high. Let’s dive into the causes of these headaches and explore some practical solutions to keep them at bay.

Headaches After Running: An Unwanted Workout Companion

Exertional headaches are a common type of headache experienced by runners. They’re usually described as throbbing and occur during or after strenuous exercise. A 2009 study found that 30% of nearly 2,000 respondents experienced exertional headaches after running. While these headaches can be a literal pain, they’re not usually dangerous. However, they can certainly make you think twice about lacing up those running shoes.

Dehydration: The Silent Trigger

Dehydration is a common culprit behind headaches, especially after running and in warm weather when more fluids are lost through sweat. A paper titled “Dehydration and Headache” defines dehydration and its relationship to pain physiology, including both primary and secondary headache disorders. So, remember to hydrate before, during, and after your runs. It’s not just about quenching your thirst, it’s about keeping those headaches away!

Sunlight Exposure: A Bright Risk

Did you know that direct sunlight during exercise can trigger headaches or migraines? Another paper “Migraine Headache Triggered Specifically by Sunlight” presents 16 cases of patients whose migraines were specifically triggered by sunlight. So, next time you head out for a run under the sun, don’t forget your hat and sunglasses. They’re not just fashion accessories; they’re your defense against sunlight-induced headaches.

Hypoglycemia: Hidden Headache Instigator

Low blood sugar, or hypoglycemia, is a common cause of headaches, particularly if you’re running first thing in the morning before eating. Consuming carbohydrates before a run is recommended to prevent hypoglycemia-related headaches. So, don’t skip that pre-run snack. It could be the difference between a headache-free run and a painful one.

Stress Free Running Form

Now, let’s talk about running form. Running with poor form can lead to tension in the neck and shoulders, which can trigger headaches. A case study titled “Chronic Exertional Compartment Syndrome Resolved With Running Gait Retraining” presents a female athlete who experienced symptoms similar to exertional headaches and was able to alleviate them through gait retraining.

Kinematic and kinetic analysis revealed increased step rate while step length, impulse, and peak vertical ground reaction forces decreased. A shorter stride, landing on the forefoot then mid-foot instead of heel first, lessens impact. Forefoot landing underneath the body’s center of gravity, naturally activates springs in feet and legs. By modifying your running technique over a period of six weeks you can be headache free.


Headaches after running can be caused by various factors, including exertional headaches, dehydration, sunlight exposure, hypoglycemia, and poor running form. By understanding these triggers and implementing the prevention strategies discussed in this article, you can enjoy your runs without the fear of headaches. After all, running is not just about the destination, but also about how you get there.

Bonus Tip: Running with your imaginary friend

Imagine this: You’re a puppet on a string, your body held long and straight. That’s how your posture should be when you’re running. Your head should be up, chin tucked in, your back straight, and your shoulders level. Your arms swing back and forth from your shoulder joint. All moving parts move as much in the same plane as where you’re going and that is forward.

Your legs, oh, they’re the stars of the show! But they can’t perform well without the support of your core. Keep your torso tall and erect, but relaxed. Your hips should be forward-facing, as if you’re being pulled by a string from your belly button. Add balance training to strengthen this area.

When it comes to your feet, aim to hit the ground with the ball of your foot, then let your whole foot touch down. Overstriding and landing on your heel can cause unnecessary stress on your knees. So, try to keep your stride light and quick, as if you’re kissing the earth.

Check out Earth Runners, footwear that protects but doesn’t restrict form >