Do Runners Need Foot Massages or Tennis Balls?

massage or tennis balls

When I go running, I tend to forget half the time to stretch afterward. My calves can get tight after a couple of days and then I know I need to do some stretching or use a roller to loosen my muscles up. 

Runners need to loosen the muscles in their legs and feet to ensure proper alignment of their bones when running. Both tennis balls and foot, leg, and even back massages can be helpful to loosen muscles to get things back into alignment.   

If you’ve experienced pain in your foot or have plantar fasciitis you know that a massage and using a tennis ball can be helpful to relieve some of the pain. We’ll talk about the pros and cons of each massage method. 

Tight Muscles

If you’ve ever had tight muscles, you may have experienced the discomfort and pain that can accompany it. Runners tend to get tight muscles after or during running. Getting the muscles to loosen can involve many techniques, but in this article, we’ll focus mostly on massage and the use of tennis balls.

If you exercise with tight muscles injury could occur from a pulled muscle or tendon tear, which may also affect the ligaments. A runner can get plantar fasciitis and misalignment of the bones due to muscle pulling bones out of alignment. 

To help remedy some issues, runners like to stretch, massage, and use tools such as roller and tennis balls to relax muscles and relieve discomfort. I’m lucky and don’t usually experience tight muscles for long, but once in a while, I do get very tight muscles I need to work on loosening.

How Massages can Help Your Running

Tight muscles are a problem for runners. Massage is on way to provide part of the solution. 

If you go to a regular massage business, they will be able to provide services to help loosen tight muscles and help relieve the pain that occurs in the fascia tissue that connects the heel to the toes. Getting muscles to loosen is key to running without causing injury. 

If you see a massage therapist should be able to further help you with issues you are experiencing. They can massage and stretch your muscles in specific ways to more accurately resolve issues for the types of problems that you are experiencing. They can give you advice and teach you what you can try at home. 

If you go to a physical therapist they can also be very beneficial, especially if you have had any injuries. They will be able to show you how to stretch, strengthen muscles, massage, and treat soreness with any issues you may have. They can help you determine if your bones are out of alignment and what can be done to get things back in alignment. 

Massages can help relieve symptoms and help prevent some problems from occurring in the future. Depending on the type of person you see, they may massage you in different ways and use other techniques to aid you so you can run without problems.

Massage – Good

Services Provided:

  • Reduce Muscle tightness
  • Reduce Stress Levels
  • Reduce Pain
  • Reduce Inflammation

Massage Therapist – Better

Services Provided:

  • Sport massage 
  • Specific focus areas to treat injuries
  • Manipulate muscles and soft tissue to treat issues

Physical Therapist – Best

Services Provided:

  • Help Restore functionality to legs and feet
  • Work on specific treatments for needs
  • Test movement and provide solutions for any conditions found     

​If you don’t have any injuries or issues that need to be treated, you can always massage yourself. I use a roller on my calves at times and have massaged my legs and feet with my hands when they were sore. 

A family member can help or you can do it yourself using your hands or a tool. If you’re like me, you can get a lot of benefits from regular stretching after running and by keeping hydrated.

I’ve read that providing your body with enough nutrients for your muscles can really help with muscle recovery after a run as well.

Runners need to make sure they get a massage if needed to loosen muscles when they are very tight, to prevent injuries. Massages, hydrating, heat, and stretching, can work together to help maintain healthy legs and feet. 

Runners should get professionals to help them when at-home techniques are not working. A massage therapist or a physical therapist will be able to work on techniques to resolve mobility and pain issues.  

How Tennis Balls can Help Your Running

Massage using your hands or getting someone else to help is one method of keeping your legs healthy enough to run. Yet many people find it easier to use tools at the gym or home to get a massage on their own. 

A tennis ball works well in small focused areas, like the arch of the foot. When I roll a tennis ball under my foot after running, I can feel a massage-like pressure that helps my foot feel better. (See Video)

This type of massage helps with pain relief. Although it doesn’t solve the issue, which is why the fascia gets inflamed in the first place. The tissue connecting the heel to the toes gets stressed and irritated when it has to take on too much pressure. 

One way that is similar to the tennis ball technique is using a frozen water bottle to roll under your foot. This can massage the tissues and reduce inflammation. 

But the best way to solve the problem is to find out what is causing the tendon to be put under the type of stress that causes pain. 

If your pain is sports-related, such as running, this video can give you ideas on what techniques you can use to help solve the problem rather than get a temporary fix. 

Sometimes plantar fasciitis will go away on its own, but it may take a long time. Remember that your muscles from your back all the way to your foot affect the way you run and the alignment of the bones. Muscles and bones need to be in the correct position to prevent problems.

Is a Message Better Than Using a Tennis Ball?

Massage is a good way for you to relieve some stress and loosen your muscles, and using a tennis ball for releasing muscle tension and massaging your fascia is helpful. When you compare the different methods for helping runners to meet their different needs, you might decide each one is beneficial in different ways.

What would you use after a run or if experiencing muscle tightness or pain?



  • Releases muscle tightness
  • Pain relief
  •  Stress Relief
  • Allows the bones to better align, at least temporarily
  • Help reduce inflammation
  • Can address large areas in less time


  • May not address specific needs.
  • May not help injuries
  • Doesn’t address stretching needs
  • Can be difficult to do by oneself
  • You may need clear communication skills to address specific needs
  • May not always address deep tissue

Tennis Ball


  • Releases muscle tightness
  • Pain relief
  • Can target specific areas of muscle and fascia
  • Can be used by oneself accurately
  • Can take with you anywhere
  • Adaptable to many muscle areas 


  • Can’t be used with all muscle areas well
  • May not help with stress relief
  • May not address stretching needs.
  • May be less effective when sitting
  • May need a more profession ball to address massage needs
  • Need a water bottle to ice and roll inflammation

If you are having issues after running and need help, it’s possible that using self-massage or having someone else do it will address some of the problems with tight muscles. A tennis ball is especially helpful when addressing plantar fasciitis and targeting specific areas. 

Which method works best for you? I tend to use only stretching because I usually don’t have very tight muscles or plantar fasciitis. I tend to stretch when I go to the gym and sometimes after running. This is usually good enough for me unless I forget to stretch for 3 or more days. 

Along with massage, most people find stretching can solve a lot of the issues with tight muscles and bone alignment that has an influence on the fascia. We’ll talk more about stretching and massage in the next section.

How does Stretching Compare to a Massage and using a Tennis Ball?

While massage is great, stretching is key to preventing some injuries and keeping things operating well. Then runners can use massages and tennis balls to aid in recovery and problem-solving. After exercise hydration, nutrition, and stretching will help muscles to get back to a relaxed state. 

If muscles are tight though sometimes stretching doesn’t work to get out the knots and help muscles release from their tight state. An when the bones are not aligned as you run or during regular movement, pain and injuries can occur. 

All three methods of releasing tight muscles can be used to not only solve temporary issues, but with proper guidance, you can learn how to get the muscles to relax, stretch, bones realigned, and muscles strengthened if needed, to support the healthy leg and foot movement that is needed for running.

Stretching is like massage and tennis ball massage in the following ways:     

  • They help tissue release and relieve pain.
  • They can be done at home by oneself for the most part.
  • They need the runner to drink water in order to help the muscle wash out toxins and provide hydration.
  • They are aided by warmed up muscles (unless treating inflammation).
  • They need to done in periods of about 30 seconds to a minute.
  • They provide some pain relief at times.
  •  They help the runners to increase range of motion.
  •  They can help prevent further injury.
  • They can increase blood flow to areas treated.
  • They can help with flexibility.

While stretching by itself doesn’t solve some problems. it’s an important step in the process of getting issues resolved. Remember that stretching after an injury can cause further damage, so it’s important to see a doctor to find out what the problem is exactly.

In addition, sometimes during intense exercise, you need to either address stretching right away to prevent tight muscles or wait to stretch, such as after a marathon and let your legs heal first before stretching.

Stretching helps the muscle release, so they are not trying to contract all the time. 

How is Stretching is like a massage?

The goal of most stretching and massage is to help the muscles to loosen or release. You want your muscles to get nutrients and proper blood flow and if your muscle is tight, this can slow down that process. As muscle release, you can have a normal range of motion, prevent muscle tearing, and during running it can help with bone alignment for healthier leg and foot positioning.

Stretching and massage should accompany drinking plenty of water. The muscles need water to help them relax. When you rest at night, you are giving the muscle a break as long as they are getting the proper hydration and nutrients. 

Both stretching and massage usually involve a heat source, such as exercise or a warm wrap and hands to warm up muscles. The heat helps the muscles increase blood flow and get better hydration so they can relax. So when muscles are tight, doing low-impact exercise can get the blood flowing and heat things up, or you could go in the bath or hot tub.

They both can help muscles get rid of lactic acid. Massage using the hands to warm muscles, loosen up tight areas, and get the blood flowing. Stretching helps loosen muscles to get blood flowing better, and both require runners to hydrate with water to flush out the acid effectively.

While they both can have the same goal in mind, in some ways stretching can be different than massage. Stretching can lengthen the muscle and ensure muscles are flexible, and massage can pinpoint specific knots and areas that are not releasing with stretching alone.

When you’re trying to get the muscles to release, stretching will help but massage needs to treat some tough spots. It’s best to use both methods to get the most effective results. You can see in this article how I massage my foot with a massage gun.  

If you’ve experienced muscles that just don’t want to loosen until you apply deep pressure, you’ve experienced what many people have after forgetting to hydrate, doing intense exercise, or forgetting to stretch for a couple of days. That’s why a tennis ball, roller, or a personal message can help in these situations where stretching doesn’t.


Runners need to incorporate healthy practices into their running routine to help their muscles stay loose and healthy. Stretching and the use of tennis balls will aid in muscle release and the treatment of different conditions, such as plantar fasciitis, muscle knots, and proper alignment of the bones when running.

If runners remember to take the time to hydrate and stretch after each run, they will be more likely to prevent muscle issues from occurring and maintain good running form because of proper alignment of the bones. A little bit of care can go a long way towards a good experience while running and after.

Thanks for visiting


I enjoy many types of outdoor activities including running, hiking, and walking. I was a former elementary school teacher for 17 years and now enjoy writing and sharing my love of the outdoors.

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