You put in the hard work for your training runs and push yourself to your limits. But an essential part of your training is the recovery process. Taking an Epsom salt bath for your sore muscles is a wonderful way to unwind and rest. But, there may also be some benefits of an Epsom salt for runners.
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Disclaimer – This post is for informational purposes only and is not for diagnosing or treatment. See your medical provider or Registered Dietitian for individual recommendations applicable to your health and health history.
Epsom salt, or magnesium sulfate, is a mineral compound found in nature. It’s been used for centuries as a home remedy for muscle pain and inflammation, so it’s no surprise that runners have taken to its use of an Epsom salt bath after running.
The most popular way to use Epsom salts for aching muscles is in a bath or soak. People use Epsom salt baths to relieve sore muscles or to prevent delayed onset muscle soreness.
But do Epsom salts effectively reduce inflammation and pain, like tart cherry juice? Are there true, scientific-backed benefits of Epsom salt for runners?
To learn if you should incorporate Epsom salt into your recovery, how to do that, and other uses for Epsom salt for athletes, read on!
What is Epsom Salt?
The chemical makeup of Epsom salt is magnesium sulfate. Magnesium sulfate exists naturally and is found in mines, lake beds, caves, and natural springs.
It gets its name from a spring in Epsom, England, where it was first discovered. Epsom salt is crystalized in form—kind of like a coarse pretzel salt.
While a common way to use Epsom salt is by dissolving it in water and soaking in it, you can also take Epsom salt by mouth.
Benefits of Epsom Salt for Runners
Here are some of the benefits of Epsom salt for runners. It’s important to note that not everything is completely verified by the research, but anecdotally, many runners and people report relaxation benefits by using Epsom salts.
For its relaxation benefit, I usually add it to a stocking as a gift idea for athletes!
May Contribute Magnesium to Diet
Since Epsom salt consists of magnesium, it is a potential way to increase the intake of magnesium for runners—whether orally or through the skin (transdermally).
Minerals like magnesium, iron, and calcium play a role in a number of the body’s functions, and it’s important that your diet is nutrient-rich in these micronutrients to support your running and overall health.
So, you may be wondering, can you even absorb magnesium through the skin, such as in an Epsom salt bath after running?
Some research suggests that magnesium may enter the lymphatic and circulatory systems through the skin and hair follicles, but this review warns that more research is needed to support transdermal methods for adequate magnesium levels.
Besides the benefits of offering extra magnesium, a very important micronutrient that aids in over 300 reactions in the body, there may be another reason to keep Epsom salt on hand.
May Aid in Normal Bathroom Habits
If you’re plagued with constipation, Epsom salt can be used as a laxative. Every runner knows how important bathroom habits can be, especially before a run.
However, if you’re someone with unpredictable bathroom habits or runner’s gut symptoms, you may be in luck. While runners gut usually involves emergency trips to the bathroom (if you’re lucky enough to have access!), some runners may deal with constipation or other issues.
Turns out there are actually proven benefits to regularly emptying your bowels (besides the fact it makes running more enjoyable).
This study showed that defecation prior to exercise improves performance by making changes to the availability of oxygen to the brain and lower abdomen.
But if it doesn’t, Epsom salt may be used to relieve your constipation.
Is Epsom Salt Safe?
As with anything, more is not always better, and that concept is necessary for runners and athletes to keep in mind. It’s important to use Epsom salt with caution.
Yes, it’s a natural substance, but you can get too much.
This usually occurs when people take dose after dose for long periods of time and become overly reliant on it.
Should I Take an Epsom Salt Bath After Running?
You can use Epsom salt in a post-run soaking session, but there isn’t a plethora of research to support the pain-relieving claims.
While the pharmacological form and IV magnesium sulfate form do seem to have some benefits in alleviating pain, the research is lacking specifically on Epsom salts and pain relief.
However, this doesn’t mean that it’s fruitless in helping your recovery after a half marathon, it certainly may help you feel better. And there are other benefits to a nice relaxing bath after a long run or race, too.
You can certainly include an Epsom salt bath in your recovery routine, your wind-down routine and more. But, it’s not a quick fix that will necessarily improve your running.
Make sure to pair it with proper nutrition, like eating after a marathon, taking in extra fluids and electrolytes if you’re a salty sweater, getting adequate sleep, spreading protein out throughout the day, and other wellness habits to support your running and overall being.
How Do You Use Epsom Salt?
How you’re using Epsom salt (ie- for a bath or as a laxative) will determine the dose.
- Depending on the brand, the amount you dissolve in water to consume for a laxative varies. Make sure you follow the package directions. In general, the oral dose for adults is 2-6 teaspoons per day. Epsom salt should be dissolved in 8 oz of water. Some suggest adding lemon juice to make it more palatable.
- To use Epsom salt for soaking in a bath, dissolve 2 cups in a gallon of warm water, or toss it in your bathtub. Soak in the bath for 15-30 minutes, although some people choose to soak up to an hour. Make sure to stay hydrated and not make the water too hot.
Best Epsom Salt for Runners
If you’re looking to test an epsom salt bath for sore muscles or just add it to your bath routine, here are some options for the best epsom salt for runners.
You can pick up Epsom salt at just about any grocery store or pharmacy. Epsom salt is inexpensive and with no expiration date, it has a long shelf life.
Many brands are available plain or with added fragrance and essential oils.
- Pure Epsom Salt
- Epsoak Sport
- Muscle Rehab with Arnica
- Lavender Epsom Salt Soak
- Eucalyptus Relax and Relief Soak
- Epsom Salt with Tea Tree Oil
- Epsom salt, or magnesium sulfate, is a naturally occurring mineral found in lake beds, natural springs, caves, and mines.
- Epsom salt can be taken orally or dissolved in water for soaking, and may help sore muscles.
- Oral Epsom salt can relieve constipation, but caution should be taken to avoid consuming too much.
- While a relaxing bath can be a great way to recover from training runs, there isn’t much evidence to support claims that Epsom salt relieves aches and pains.
- Epsom salt is widely available and affordable.
- Chandrasekaran NC, Sanchez WY, Mohammed YH, Grice JE, Roberts MS, Barnard RT. Permeation of topically applied Magnesium ions through human skin is facilitated by hair follicles. Magnes Res. 2016;29(2):35-42. doi:10.1684/mrh.2016.0402
- Gröber U, Werner T, Vormann J, Kisters K. Myth or Reality-Transdermal Magnesium?. Nutrients. 2017;9(8):813. Published 2017 Jul 28. doi:10.3390/nu9080813
- Wei CC, Condello G, Yang AL, et al. Defecation enhances cerebral perfusion and delays fatigue in elite triathletes. J Int Soc Sports Nutr. 2023;20(1):2206380. doi:10.1080/15502783.2023.2206380
- Bokhari SR, Siriki R, Teran FJ, Batuman V. Fatal Hypermagnesemia Due to Laxative Use. Am J Med Sci. 2018;355(4):390-395. doi:10.1016/j.amjms.2017.08.013
- Walker P, Parnell S, Dillon RC. Epsom Salt Ingestion Leading to Severe Hypermagnesemia Necessitating Dialysis. J Emerg Med. 2020;58(5):767-770. doi:10.1016/j.jemermed.2020.04.023
- Soleimanpour H, Imani F, Dolati S, Soleimanpour M, Shahsavarinia K. Management of pain using magnesium sulphate: a narrative review. Postgrad Med. 2022;134(3):260-266. doi:10.1080/00325481.2022.2035092