Chafing from running is not only frustrating, but it’s can be incredibly painful as well. What starts out as a mild irritation can quickly grow until it becomes a burning, consistent pain that won’t disappear.
What is running chafing?
Running chafing is skin irritation that’s caused by friction. This friction occurs from either skin-on-skin or fabric-on-skin contact. The repeated movements from running makes any tight quarters, loose fabrics or extra skin susceptible to rubbing – over and over.
What causes chafing from running?
The causes of running chafing are different for every person and individual run, however, they usually can be traced back to one of the following.
- Improper (loose) fitting clothing
- Hot weather
- Non-moisture wicking clothing
- Sensitive skin
- Large muscles
- Extra bodyweight or skin
In most cases, all it takes is one piece of clothing or exposed skin to be in the wrong place, and this repeated rubbing will occur. Chafing from running might start out as a minor annoyance, but with continued movement, it can quickly escalate before the runner has a chance to realize.
6 Ways to Prevent Chafing from Running
Perhaps the most effective way to avoid any sort of chafing from running is to prevent it before it has a chance to occur. In order to do so, runners need to be proactive about how they dress and prepare their exposed skin – especially in environments with conditions that are more likely to cause sweat.
Avoid loose layers
One of the most common culprits for chafing comes from fabric rubbing against the skin. Loose or ill-fitting clothing can sometimes catch at just the right spot and winding up rubbing on repeat throughout your run.
It may sound counterintuitive, but wearing tight fitting clothing actually helps minimize the risk of chafing. Be sure to try on your running gear prior to buying, and if something doesn’t land in the right spot or lay right against your skin, it’s probably not worth trying.
A simple way to be proactive and prevent chafing from running entirely is to use lubricant. Lube up those areas that are particularly prone to chafing to help prevent it from starting. When the weather is hot and humid, or you know you’ll be sweating in layers, taking this extra precaution is well worth the time.
Try powders as an alternative
Some runners avoid using lubricants because they don’t like the “oily” feeling – but luckily, there is an alternative: powder. Most types of every day powders are also effective at helping prevent the rubbing that leads to running chafing.
Your level of hydration can actually play a major role in how susceptible you might be to chafing from running. When you’re dehydrated, there is a higher salt content in your sweat – which can cause more discomfort and agitation on the run. Stay hydrated and make a point to consume water well before you feel thirsty, especially on those hot, humid days.
Avoid tags and large seams
Even with properly fitting clothing, running chafing can occur. Other areas that we might not consider as culprits for rubbing could be those from tags or seams. Be sure to check out the seams in any running clothes to make sure they feel comfortable, and cut off any large tags or those in uncomfortable places.
Adjust gear properly
Sometimes gear and gadgets are actually the cause of chafing while running. Handheld water bottles, belts, tapes, sunglasses, hats and more all have the potential to rub if they don’t fit right. Be sure to test out your gear while on the run to evaluate how it moves and make any adjustments that are necessary.
How to Stop Chafing While Running (in the Thighs, Nipples, Armpits and More)
More often than not, chafing from running catches us by surprise. Even with the best of intentions, our clothes or skin might settle in just the right spot to rub on the run. When this happens, it can be helpful to have some strategies in our mental toolbox to help minimize the effects and stop chafing while running.
Here are some of the most common areas for chafing – and what to do if you start to notice a problem. If you discover chafing in the thighs, nipples, groin, sports bra or armpits while running, try some of these strategies to stop it from getting worse.
Perhaps the most common area for chafing is the thighs. Unless you’re unusually lucky, you’ve probably experienced your thighs rubbing together when running or walking before. Combine that with loose running shorts that hit at the worst spot, and there’s bound to be chafing.
Try these three strategies to prevent thigh chafing from running:
- Powder your thighs
- Wear a tight layer beneath loose shorts
- Try compression shorts or leggings
Another common area for chafing, in both men and women, is the nipple region. Rubbing up against a loose shirt or sports bra can create a recipe for disaster.
Try these three strategies for prevent nipple chafing while running:
- Tape or bandage your nipples
- Use lubricant
- Get fitted for a sports bra
Both men and women can also experience chafing in the groin area. Chafing can occur here due to rubbing of underwear or shorts with the repeated movements from running.
Try these three strategies to avoid running chafing in the groin:
- Use lubricant
- Add powder to upper thighs
- Try form fitting workout shorts or underwear
Sports Bra Chafing
Chafing in the sports bra region, especially under the breasts, can be a real problem for women. The sports bra can dig in or rub continuously throughout a run, leading to some of the most uncomfortable stinging pains.
Try these three strategies to avoid sports bra chafing from running:
- Get fitted for a sports bra
- Look for moisture wicking fabrics
- Use lubricants
One other area that can really become an issue with chafing is the armpits. Whether it’s from the edge of a tank top, armpit hair or stubble, this region can quickly develop that all too familiar burning sensation.
Try these three strategies to prevent running chafing in the armpits:
- Use lubricant or extra deodorant
- Make sure bra/shirt isn’t too tight around armpits
- Shave any stubble
6 Ways to Treat Chafing from Running
Unfortunately, in many cases, chafing can feel manageable during a run – only for us to discover that it has actually created quite a wound. Many runners find themselves surprised by an open wound or rash that has occurred from running chafing.
Many times, runners are left trying to heal and treat chafing after it has already occurred. Luckily, there are a few strategies you can use to help expedite the healing process and ensure the wound doesn’t get any worse.
- Take a lukewarm short
- Thoroughly was the area with soap
- Protect the area with a loose-fitting bandage
- Apply ointment if necessary
- Stick to loose-fitting clothing while it heals
- Take a break from bothersome activities
As always, if something doesn’t feel right, or the area begins to look worse after a few days – check in with your doctor. Some signs of infection might be if the affected area begins to bleed or ooze puss after a few days, if it becomes hot to the touch or starts to swell. If you are unsure, always consult with your doctor.
In most cases, chafing doesn’t lead to anything more serious that a small rash or scab on the skin. However, that’s not to say it’s not irritating. Use these strategies to help prevent running chafing from occurring altogether – and if it does, taking quick action can help prevent any further irritation.