The Correct Way to Foam Roll Your It Band

Often people get a tight or burning sensation down the outside of your upper leg when your running jumping. A common reaction to roll this area of the leg to stretch the IT Band and relieve the perceived tightness. So after 2 minutes of pulling funny faces (rolling your IT band is very painful), what have you achieved…well nothing really.

Don’t worry if you’ve wasted countless hours in the gym trying to roll out your IT Band, you’re not alone. Foam rolling the IT Band is one of the most recommended techniques for relieving hip, knee and upper thigh pain.

This is because you cannot change the structure of your it band by applying pressure. And continual rolling onto your IT band can do more harm than good.

Continue reading if you want to find out how to cater to this troublesome area.

First Up – What is the IT Band?

Believe it or not, humans we are not born with an IT band. We are born with a mesh-like layer called fascia which encloses the thigh muscles. This is known as the Fascia lata.

There are two muscles which blend into the Fascia lata, these are:

The Tensor Fasciae Latae (TFL) and the Gluteus Maximus.

As we grow we use these muscles to stabilize the pelvis to help us crawl, walk and run. The more we use them, the more they contract and overtime these contractions increase the tension in the Fascia Lata, causing it to thicken to support our movement patterns.This thickening tendon then turns into what we now know as the IT Band.

So Why Does My IT Band Feel Tight?

This is one of the of most common misconceptions about the IT Band, and although it might feel tight, the IT Band itself cannot shorten or lengthen the way a muscle would. If you do feel like your IT Band is tight, then its most likely that the connecting muscles located near the hip have become dysfunctional. This is a common problem with the TFL.

The reasons for this is as we sit down for long periods when at work, school, driving or watching tv, are hips are flexed. When this happens, the TFL shortens as it adapts to this position. The problem comes when we try to walk or run, as we extend the hip the shortened TFL pulls on the IT Band, causing the feeling of tightness and pain.

The other reason for tightness or pressure in the IT Band is to do with the Vastus Lateralis (the outer quad muscle) that is located underneath the IT Band.

Issues with pain in the It band area are often known as IT Band Syndrome.

Top 5 Causes of IT Band Syndrome

The following 5 reasons are the most common causes of tightness in the It Band area.

Why Does My IT Band Feel Tight?

Roll over for answer

Reason 1

Bad Footwear
(see Below)

Why Does My IT Band Feel Tight?

Roll over for answer

Reason 4

Tight Muscles
(see Below)

Why Does My IT Band Feel Tight?

Roll over for answer

Reason 2

Overuse Injury
(see Below)

Why Does My IT Band Feel Tight?

Roll over for answer

Reason 5

Weak Hip Muscles
(see Below)

Why Does My IT Band Feel Tight?

Roll over for answer

Reason 3

Poor Running Form
(see Below)
Bad Footwear Foam rolling, stretching and muscle conditioning can help improve most issues within your body. However, if you consistency wear ill-fitting or worn down footwear, this can create issues. Bad footwear can affect the way your foot strikes the ground if the angel your foot strikes the ground is awkward than this can stress the knee and hip joints.Also, ankle problems or problems with the arch of your foot can cause a negative effect on your running style. A solution for this can be orthotic shoes or insoles.Overuse Taking other factors and muscles into consideration, It band syndrome is, in fact, an overuse injury. Therefore, a change in repetition and training program may be in order after a sufficient rest period.Poor Running Form Common problems with your running style can lead to IT Band issues. Taking long strides, or crossing over your bodies midline when running can both lead to problems in this area. Having a physio assess your running style will help to counteract these problems.Tight Muscles As we mentioned earlier, tightness in the glutes and TFL muscle can lead to problems in the IT band.Weak Glute Muscles A 2005 study by the Stanford University School of Medicine found that one of the main reasons for IT band syndrome was a lack of strength in the glutes.

IT Band Foam Rolling Exercises

So as we’ve discovered, when targeting the IT Band with the foam roller, we need to work on the TFL and the Vastus Lateralis.Below is a great demonstration of how to foam roll the IT Band area:

How to Foam Roll Your TFL and IT Band

First off roll the TFL:
  1. Start of by laying in a side plank position and place the foam roller underneath the TFL. Use you elbow and other leg to support your weight.
  2. Once you have pressure on the TFL area, simply role forward and back around 2-3inches. The TFL is a small muscle, so large movements are not needed.
  3. When you find a tender area, stop and hold for 30 seconds, or until the tenderness has gone.
Remember to breathe throughout this exercise

Can You Really Stretch the IT Band?

Similar to foam rolling, there is a lot of contradicting information regarding stretching your IT Band. In theory, the IT Band is a tendon, so stretching this area will have no beneficial results.

However, a 2017 study published in the   International Journal Sports of Physical Therapy investigated this theory. They looked at the effect of stretching the area, with the results showed the upper area of the IT Band provided greater stretch than the lower region.
However, it is unclear whether the results are due to the change in the structure of the IT Band or the stretching of the TFL muscle which it connects to.

Therefore, we would suggest foam rolling and stretching the surrounding areas of the TFL, Glutes and Quad muscles.


Our website provides readers with content for informational and educational purposes only and does not replace medical advice from qualified healthcare providers. You must always consult a qualified healthcare professional when undertaking fitness, training or nutiritonal programmes.

© 2019 All rights reserved.  Privacy Sitemap

We use cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website.