How to Prevent Chafing When You Run

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Picture this: you’re mid-way through your race and you are on PR pace. You’ve worked hard, trained hard, and the race is going better than expected.

You treated yourself to a new race top at the expo last night, and you are even rocking those race photos. Then it happens…

You begin to chafe and your body burns.

Whether it’s thigh chafing, armpit chafing, or even nipple chafing, it can happen to any runner! Believe it or not, chafing is preventable.

How do you prevent it?

First, don’t race in anything new. It’s one of the best pieces of advice for preventing almost anything! That includes an injury, blisters or chafing.

As runners, we still do it. We buy something new at the expo and race in it. I’m no stranger to this. Make sure to test any new products before actually racing in them!

A few basic ways to prevent most types of chafing:

Cotton is rotten. Cotton absorbs sweat and moisture. This causes things to rub, creates friction, and a sandpaper effect. Rubbing can cause both blisters or chafing.

Make sure to look for moisture-wicking fabrics, especially where most people chafe the most (sports bras, underwear, and pants).

Cheap technical fabric also creates friction. Most runners, as well as race organizers, don’t realize that low-quality technical fabric will create chafing as well. Often times cheap technical fabric can be worse than cotton.

Saving money is great, however, the cheap material can cause just as many problems. For runs you know you will sweat, make sure to wear moisture wicking, and seamless fabric.

Fit matters in everything. Ladies: Too-snug of a sports bra can dig into your armpits and create armpit chafing or chafing around the band of the sports bra.

Baggy shirts can rub against your skin and create nipple chafing or armpit chafing. The same goes for too tight of shirts.

Common chafing spots

Nipples. This is often ignored and rarely talked about but it happens. Your nipples do not have to chafe or bleed.

It’s caused by:

  • Bad-fitting shirts that rub against the nipple
  • Cotton shirts, or low-quality shirts that create a “sandpaper effect”

How to prevent it:

  • Quality, smooth, and seamless shirts.
  • Products such as “NipGuards” or Band-Aids that create a barrier over the nipples

Thigh chafing. Most runners have been there, and thigh chafing is painful. Thigh chafing is more prevalent in rainy conditions as well as heat.

What causes it:

  • Bad-fitting pants: Too tight or even too baggy
  • Moist conditions: If your legs are rubbing together

How to protect your thighs and legs

  • Apply a lubricant such as BodyGlide, petroleum jelly, or even deodorant. If you are prone to thigh chafing, keep some in your pocket.
  • Make sure your pants fit well. Sometimes that also includes length!

You don’t have to chafe, and you certainly don’t want to. So share some of your secrets to stay chafe-free!

Hollie Sick is an avid runner who’s completed more than 40 half marathons. Read her blog, or follow her on Facebook.

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