Heart Hurts When Running – 5 Surprising Causes

One of the scariest things that can happen to you as a runner is experiencing a sharp pain in your heart while you run. Although such an experience is not unique, it can still mean you have an unaddressed medical condition.

The good news is it doesn’t always mean you have a heart problem. Let us understand better the five common causes of heart pain when running.


5 Reasons Of Heart Hurt
While Running

1. You Have Heartburn

This may sound like something serious but actually, has something to do with your digestive system. Heartburn or pyrosis is a condition in which your chest or throat has a burning sensation. It is caused when your stomach acid returns to your esophagus. (1)

When you are running or jogging, your digestive system experiences a lot of pressure. With the increase of tension in the abdomen, the muscle that keeps the contents in your stomach intact may relax.

When this happens, the stomach acid may back up into the esophagus causing the heartburn. (2)

Symptoms of heartburn: (3)

  • A burning sensation in the middle of the chest
  • Sour taste at the back of the throat
  • Difficult swallowing
  • Shortness of breath
  • Dizziness or cold sweat

Related problem with heartburn:

Heartburn can also manifest itself in a pain in the ears and even cause severe ear infections if not addressed.

  • During workouts such as running, the stomach moves about making the condition worse and ear pain more pronounced.
  • If you experience ear pain along with your heartburn, this is expected.
  • If your ear pain is not related to your heartburn, it may be due to a torn or ruptured ear drum or ear infection.

2. You Have Stable Angina

This condition is also called angina pectoris and is a predictable pattern of chest pain. The main cause of the pain is because of reduced flow of blood to the heart.

When your blood has a low blood flow, it lacks oxygen and cannot perform well. Running is one of the physical activities that may trigger the condition. (4)

The pain experienced is like a heavy weight is put on your chest and is squeezing you. Stable angina is a less serious condition but may be a symptom of a heart condition.​

Symptoms of stable angina: (5)

  • Sweating
  • Fatigue
  • Dizziness
  • Shortness of breath
  • Pain in the chest that may spread to the arms or other areas

3. You Have A Lung Problem

A condition called exercise-induced bronchospasm (EIB) is another possible cause for your chest pain. These spasms occur in the small airways of the lungs.

Normally, we breathe through our nose where the air can be warmed and moistened by the nasal passages. During exercises, you may find yourself breathing through the mouth which means the air is dry and cool. If your airways react to this change in temperature, they contract or spasm narrowing the airway. (6)

Symptoms of EIB: (7)

  • Shortness of breath
  • Tightness in the chest
  • Wheezing when breathing
  • Sore throat
  • Coughing

4. More Serious Lung Problem

A more serious condition that could cause your heart to hurt when running is called pneumothorax. It is also referred to as a collapsed lung and occurs when air enters the space between the chest and the lung. When you inhale, pressure builds up and may cause the lung to collapse. (8)

Symptoms of a collapsed lung: (9)

  • A rapid heart rate
  • Nasal flaring
  • Sharp chest pain
  • Shortness of breath
  • Fatigue
  • Chest tightness
  • Cough

5. You Have A Rib Muscle Cramp

Your rib muscles are located between the ribs and play an important role in keeping your ribs in place and helping your flexibility. The pain feels like a sharp shooting pain that many mistakes for a heart attack. These muscles are called intercostal muscles and can cramp during vigorous exercise. There are also other conditions that may cause a rib muscle cramp. (10)

Symptoms of the condition:

  • Sharp localized pain
  • Difficulty breathing

Preventing Chest Pains When You Run

The conditions mentioned above are the most common and less serious triggers of heart pain when you run. In most cases, they can be prevented by following some precautions:

  • Try to breathe using your belly
  • Avoid eating heavy meals before your run
  • Gradually enter running so as not to shock your body
  • Always do warm-ups and cool downs when you run
  • Consult your doctor if you experience stable angina
  • Wear proper clothing during cold weather. Since cold air is normally dryer than warm air, inhaling it for extended periods of time without proper clothing such as a scarf can cause problems. For example, you may irritate your nasal passages, damage your sinus and experience tooth pain due to sinus infection.


Experiencing heart pain when running does not have to hinder your running goals at all. Now that you understand the possible causes of the pain, analyze which is your trigger and take measures to prevent it. Always remember though that in some cases, experiencing heart pain is a symptom of underlying heart problems. Consult your physician if you suspect this is the case.

Did you find this article helpful? Have you ever experienced a heart pain when running? We’d like to hear your thoughts in the comments below. Also please share this information with others.