Itchy Legs When Running, Walking

One minor concern that I experience when running or walking outside in the cold (it’s not cold now, but I didn’t research it until now) is a mild itchiness on my legs around the thighs. It’s not serious enough to stop me from running or walking outside, but if I can prevent it then I can avoid a bit of the mild discomfort I experience.

It turns out I should count my lucky stars because some people get it a lot more seriously than I do. These two Ask Metafilter (1, 2) have some crazy stories from other people and links to things that are downright scary. A lot of the answers amount to links to conditions such as Exercise-induced anaphylaxis (as in Exercise-induced anaphylactic reactions, or allergic reactions) and cold urticaria. Being allergic to the cold seems a bit ridiculous, doesn’t it? I, like many, always thought it had to do with sweat coming out of pores and just being mildly irritated.

If those seem a bit outlandish to you, as they did to me, other explanations include:

  • Reaction to detergents – It could be that my body doesn’t like the detergent I’m using, though my itchiness is only in the legs and I wash all my clothes. 🙂
  • Blood circulation – Some have said that the itchiness just comes from blood circulation, that it goes away after the first mile. To be honest, I don’t really notice if the itchiness starts in the beginning and goes away, or persists for a long time. I have always ignored it and kept on going because it wasn’t that bad.
  • New to exercise – Another commenter stated that it happened a lot when he first started working out but less so now, I can’t remember if it was worse when I was younger… dang my memory is going too.

Oh well, either way I’m not taking any drugs for it because it’s only mildly irritating, so I guess I’ll just power on through.

119 thoughts on “Itchy Legs When Running, Walking

  1. I tried the Allerclear as suggested here and it seems to work ! Yay! It costs 14$ for 365 pills too. Thank you whoever suggested that. I’ve tried stretching, applying lotion, drinking more water, wearing cotton clothes, etc and none of them work! Try the antihistamine,it helped me! Thanks ! 🙂

  2. hi everyone,
    Like most people this has happened since childhood. As Nav Singh says I discovered stretching makes a massive difference. It’s as simple as if I stretch I don’t get it and if I don’t stretch I do get it. In cool weather I wear long pants when exercising otherwise I am more likely to get it. I rarely get it at the gym or doing gym classes. Could be because they always stretch before vigorous exercise and there is no wind chill factor!
    Please try stretching, it makes a huge huge difference.

  3. Yes!!! I knew the symptoms weren’t in my head, but after no doctor has ever taken my complaint seriously, I was starting to wonder. Like almost all of the other posters, although the itching and burning is most intense on my legs and thighs, my feet also itch. Once the itching starts, I can’t stand the friction from my clothes or shoes. Then, the nausea kicks in and I become a basket case. If there is somewhere I can sit down, closing my eyes and focussing on my breathing helps. Otherwise, I have to avert my eyes and try not to look at leaves, bark on trees, gum on the sidewalk, acne on people’s skin, etc. I wish someone could explain the link between the itching and filth aversion.

  4. OMG! I am a 48 year old black female and live in the UK and I thought I was alone in this hell.I have had this condition as long as I can remember complete with the overwhelming feeling of disgust when I see anything dirty as I walk, like soggy wet leaves, dog s@#+, forget walking on grass!!! It is been so bad that I have had to stand motionless with my body pulsating with this maddening itch, while which ever hapless companion I am with goes off to get a car to transport me home because I literally cannot move. My hubby signed me up for a 5 km walk a couple of yeas ago, he thought mind over matter, just do it….I limped in 2999th out of 3000 walkers/ runners. I stopped shy of starting divorece proceedings! Well after reading these posts in disbelief that I am not alone, I tried Benadryl WOW It has been my salvation I take one about an hour before I wrap up warm and go out. I walked about 3 km through a snow blizzard last week and returned home with nothing but a feeling of absolute elation!! Antihistamines rock! Yesterday hubby and I did 10 km in rainy typically British weather…I cried with joy!! Yes, Benadryl makes you tired but hey,, I deserve a snooze after briskly walking for an hour and half! I am signed up to do the 5 km again this year, I have a personal best to beat!!

  5. Well thank God I don’t have some weird disease.I have been suffering with this for years. I literally i’m paralyzed after 10 mins of walking, to the point where I cannot concentrate on any thing else. This itching and burning consumes my whole body, and now my two daughters have the same thing. Doctors can’t even explain it. I’ll be sure to try some antihistamine anything that helps.

  6. Wow! I just stop walking got in the car and pulled my pants down and scratched away I couldn’t make it to the car fast enough.I’m setting in car decided to so many people wit h the same issue but no answer I tried bathing first ,pants, shorts, slow walking, fast walinking somebody tell me what to do please!

  7. oh so I m normal ,this itchiness has been screwing with me for a while now ,I remember being late for an exam because the itching was unbearable and I had to quit the basketball team because I wouldn’t keep up with the exercises.Will try all the remedies(trust me I will) till something happens ,,,THANK YOU INTERNET & THE POSTS THANK YOU GUYS!

  8. I never experience intense itching (sometimes mild, other times nothing at all) while exercising on an elliptical or a machine….but walking on pavement, YES! I can do 6 miles on a machine but half a mile on the pavement is terrible. It’s worse in shorts. I am very active too….and I take allergy pills. However, I have a mild case of genu valgum (knock knees) and my thighs always rub together. Next time I will try putting non-scented lotion on before exercising on pavement and see what happens. I suppose I run/walk with my thighs further apart on the elliptical than the pavement which is why I don’t have this problem.

  9. Hi Everyone, great to read this thread. I’m 31 and have suffered from this problem for over half my life.

    The level of pain and discomfort I can experience from the “itchy legs” is EXTREME. Break-down-and-yell pain.

    But not anymore since I’ve learned to manage it. From lots of observation and trial, here’s what I’ve concluded so far:

    1. It is NOT RELATED to physical fitness. I’ve never been a super fit marathon runner, but I’ve often been fit and active every day type person. I’ve had the itchy legs on afternoons when I’ve run miles in the morning.

    2. It IS RELATED to cold. Specifically, it happens when the outer surface of my legs is cold and gets excited.

    3. The “exciting” of the cold leg surface happens by a combination of heat and physical jarring. The heat comes from the working of the large leg muscles, and the heat builds within the legs, in the large muscle groups, and transfer outwards towards the skin. Simultaneously, if you’re walking or running, your skin is bouncing around from the impact of feet hitting pavement.

    4. I think it is the combination of these two things BECAUSE if I am having an “itchy leg” attack while walking, I can switch to biking and pretty much be alright. The heat is still there, but no longer the jarring.

    5. The jarring seems to be very important, because “itchy legs” is a huge problem for me when DESCENDING a hill or mountain in the cold.

    The way I manage the pain is to stop, rest, and go slow. Let the legs cool down a bit. Then try and warm them up gradually. It can take quite awhile. A 1 hour walk can easily turn into 2. But it’s worth it. If you’ve had to walk/run and are in a lot of pain, cool your legs down, as others here have suggested. Jump in a cold shower. Take your pants off and go play in the snow.

    I don’t know if claritin/zyrtec works for me. I am definitely going to try it out! I’ll do my best to experiment when I’m in cold weather again.


  11. thank you lord for making me look up itchy leg problem. I am 30, and in shape. the first time i had this ichy leg problem was once when i was 17 then again when i about 27, and again today. all while walking or running outside. i dont run or walk outside often but i’m very active and it never happens to me anywhere else. I will def. try an allergy medicine.

  12. I’ve heard baby oil does the trick. I use to use baby oil on my whole body for years and maybe that’s why i never experienced the itch leg so much. I’m going to start using it again

  13. I thought I was suffering alone. It’s so nice to hear that I am not so weird after all ;). It doesn’t seem to matter whether or not it’s hot or cold for me. Intense running will make me have a horrible itchy attack. I’ve scratched so hard that I leave claw marks all over my legs and tummy.
    I will try the non drowsy benedril or zyrtec before I go running next time. Thanks for the advice and support.

  14. I have experienced this problem for several years now (I’m 21) but today it was about 20 times worse than it has ever been. It was about 70 degrees outside and I was walking at a slightly faster than normal pace. I was wearing loose shorts, and first the part of my leg touching the shorts became itchy and burned, and it quickly radiated down my leg and to anywhere clothes were touching my skin. After a while, even my palms started to itch.

    I’m not a big runner but I consider myself fit enough. I get itchy legs in almost every condition in which I’m moving for more than 8 or so minutes, but they get worse if it’s chilly or if I’m wearing loose fitting clothing that brushes against my skin. Even carrying a bag over my shoulder will irritate my skin.

    Today was so bad that I wanted to cry and peel my skin right off! My mom has the same problem, but every time she goes to the doctor, they just laugh at her.

  15. Hi Ladies,
    I’ve had exactly the same symptoms for years now, I’m a black female from the UK and this happens to me during the winter and can be very crippling and make me feel like I’m losing my mind. I have had tests and seen many doctors about this condition and they all look at me as if I’m crazy! recently I’ve looked into my diet and have researched the affects of gluten or wheat in causing inflamation of the skin. I’ve since cut gluten out of my diet completely and i cant believe it but i don’t have this itchy leg dusgusted feeling thing anymore. i thought i should share this because i cant believe I’ve found a possible answer. many of us might be slightly wheat or gluten intolerant. i implore many of you to try this, it will help with this condition and also to be honest you will realise that with cutting out breads and pasta and stuff like that will improve your overall health. you will realise that you replace real foods for these things. look it up guys, it also makes sense because it links in with how many people get relieve by taking antihistamine, the allergy i think is an allergy to wheat/gluten. i hope this help you as much as it helped me 🙂

  16. Wow! I am so glad I’ve found people just like me to experience that intense itching while exercising and also the feeling of disgust when I look at dirty thinks when the itching starts. I even tried going to the gym in hopes to at least eliminate the disgusted feeling but I started to look at the trash and people sweating and then I thought about the nasty germs on my hand from holding on to the treadmill. Usually for me when I continue to exercise on a daily basis the itching goes away but It helps me to take an antihistamine an hour before workout. My doctor seems to think I’m making my conditions up but glad to see I am no where near alone in this. The itching is so bad I’ve left welps on my legs and lower back. It’s enough to drive you to insanity. I’m not fat either so that certainly doesn’t explain the itch!


  18. Guess many people experience this horrible feeling.I am only 18 and started having this problem when I was getting fade up cause I have to go with tears in my eyes for lectures and I don’t move about because am scared my legs and thighs will itch and burn.Will try all that you have suggested and thanks alot

  19. YOU ARE NOT ALONE! For me this has been going on for years. First noticing it in high school (now age 23). After putting on those college pounds I figured it was time to start getting into a more active lifestyle. When I first noticed this insanely itchy feeling and psychotic dirt panic I told my then doctor whom just laughed and said I was making it up (my what smart and understanding doctors are out there). Anyway about a week ago I got a new primary physician who I had gone to see for a annual check up and I mentioned to her how I love to run but it was unbearable for me because of “the itch”. I had tried the allergy meds and she told me I was probably ALLERGIC TO MY OWN SWEAT. Which after all my research never dawned on me. My own sweat, I thought. How prissy! Well I asked her what could be done for it and she told me nothing more than allergy meds. Now that idea definitely worked and has been working for years but that just meant I had to be dependent on allergy pills EVERYDAY, if I wanted to workout everyday. (I totally get it in cold weather too but luckily I moved from jersey to Florida). Oh well that’s life I’m sure there are worst drugs out there that I could be dependent upon. Anyway I was still on this mission to trim down so my boyfriend (who is extremely fit, who I’m determined to keep up with) recommended me to try his favorite thermogenic (fat burners). Now if you know anything at all about fat burners it’s that you will SWEAT 10x more than normal. Let me tell you….that workout had to be the workout from HELL. I was a little Leary about if I should take my allergy pill and the fat burner but I didn’t want to risk the chance of “the itch” messing up my new workout booster, so I took both. Good gawddddd!!!! I thought I was going to die right then and there. I couldn’t even run two blocks until it happened, “the itch”. I don’t know If it counter reacted or if I didn’t time my allergy pills accordingly or if my doctor was right about being allergic to my own SWEAT. One thing for sure was I have NEVER sweat that much and I have never broke out into hives from all the itching until today. Long story short…NEVER AGAIN. My boyfriend can keep those fat burners and I’ll be just fine with my wallergy (Walgreens brand allergy pills). Which btw doesn’t leave you feeling drowsy and crazy like Benadryl. Hope that helps answer some of your questions or save you from a very bad experience with fat burners.

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