Chafing? How to Stop this Irritating Problem
While we runners often tend to portray running as this beautiful, transcendental activity that allows us to become better, fitter, faster, and healthier versions of ourselves, we deliberately choose to not talk about the less glamorous side of the sport — and in particular, chafing.
Think about it: when you’re running, you’re propelling your body through the air in a generally-forward motion. Even if you’re a fit individual, chances are high that something — some part of your body — is going to rub against another part of your body. Couple that with the fact that you’re moving at a fast-for-you rate of speed, and yeah… things can get uncomfortable, if not altogether painful, really quick.
Below, we’ll describe in detail some methods that will help you stop the irritating (and painful!) problem that is chafing. It’s not a runner’s rite of passage; avoid it like the plague, if you can!
Chafing dilemmas solved
- The problem: You see a gentleman running his race with a painful grimace splashed across his face. Nothing seems wrong — he looks like he’s strong and in control — but what’s on his shirt? If you’ve seen male runners mid-race with what looks like two red lines running down the length of their shirt, you’ve seen it: bloody nipples. It’s as uncomfortable and painful as it sounds. Plus, if you’re wearing a light-colored shirt, one that makes the bloodlines visible, it’s embarrassing, too.
- The solution: Fortunately, fixing the chafing problem that results from bloody nipples is a pretty easy fix. Some runners swear by putting band-aids or tape over their nipples so as to create a barrier between their nipples and their shirts (though be mindful when you remove them post-run, as we all know how unpleasant it can be to tear off body hair on accident!). Other runners like to apply some sort of balm or oil over their nipples pre-run, like Body Glide or Vaseline, to provide a protective element. Whatever method you choose, males, be sure to protect your nipples before you run or be prepared to be really uncomfortable, really fast.
- The problem: inner thigh chafing. While social media might have tried to popularize the “thigh gap” a few years ago, the fact of the matter is that many runners have very muscular (read: big) legs that rub together when they run. When your thighs rub together while you’re running, the pain and irritation can add up quickly and make you want to quit.
- The solution: To rectify inner thigh chafing, runners can do a number of things. My first suggestion is to find a pair of shorts that are comfortable and that stays put while you’re running. This will likely involve a lot of trial and error — be sure to read your stores’ return policies! — but it’ll be worth it. Personally, once I’ve found a pair of shorts that work for me, I’ve gone back to buy several pairs of the exact same short. What works well for you may not work for someone else, but it can be helpful to talk to runner friends and get their recommendations about their favorite shorts.
Another suggestion to deal with inner thigh chafing is one that’ll bear repeating for just about every place on runners’ bodies that gets chafed: lube up. Fortunately, the market for running products is deep right now, so it’s just a matter of time before you can find something that’ll work for you. Many runners love using products like Body Glide or Gold Bond, but if you don’t want something name brand, you could even use coconut oil or petroleum jelly. The idea here is that by applying a protective layer of the product on your skin, you’ll be protecting it from the seams of your clothing and/or from other parts of your skin when things rub.
- The problem: all-over bodily chafing. If you find that you’re chafing a ton, all over your body, when you run, something else is likely going on. I’d suggest that you check out the tags on the clothes you’re running in and check out what materials your clothing is made from. If you find that your clothes are made primarily or exclusively from cotton, you’ve found your culprit.
- The solution: invest in some wicking clothing for running. When running was experiencing its first “boom” in the 1970s, runners almost always wore cotton tops and shorts and big, cotton tube socks. Fortunately, the running clothes landscape has changed considerably since then, if for no other reason than fashion! When you wear cotton when you run, the material tends to hold on to the moisture instead of pulling it away from your body. As a result, the wet cotton tends to just sit on top of your skin and can act as an irritant, resulting in blisters, chafing, or hot spots.
For example, if you’ve worn cotton socks while running, you’ve likely experienced this firsthand. You go for a run, and your feet sweat, as feet tend to do. As a result, the sweat “hangs” in your cotton socks — making them wet — and while you run, the wet cotton rubs against your feet, which are in turn rubbing against your shoes. Oftentimes, an unfortunate result is callused, blistered, or chafed feet that have suffered the indignity of getting rubbed the wrong way — literally — by wet, sweaty socks.
With running’s surging popularity now, it’s easy to find wicking clothes — clothes that pull sweat away from your body — without breaking the bank. Aside from running specialty stores, runners can find wicking clothing at any major big-box retailer and from a lot of discount stores, too. Wearing wicking clothing is arguably the single best way to prevent chafing in the first place, so it’s definitely worth the investment.
A little can go a long way when it comes to preventing chafing. Whether you choose to buy wicking clothing — which I’d strongly recommend — or simply to apply some sort of skin lubricant to your body’s “hot spots” before you run — which I’d also strongly recommend — think of preventing chafing as an investment in your body. Even doing a little, such as applying some lube pre-run on your hot spots, or wearing a pair of socks that you know won’t result in blisters or chafing, can go a long way.