The Runners Guide To Treating & Preventing Chafing While Running

If you have never experienced the irritating effects of chafing while running, then you might be one of the few lucky ones.

While mild chafing is no cause for concern, if ignored, your might end up ruining your whole running experience.

Would you like to learn how to put a stop to chafing while running?

Then keep on reading.

In this article, I’ll explain what chafing is all about, as well as how to stop it in its tracks.

More specifically, I’ll look into:

  • What is chafing while running?
  • The causes of chafing
  • Where chafing occurs the most in runners
  • How to treat chafing?
  • How to prevent chafing
  • And so much more

Sounds exciting?

Let’s get started.

What is Runners Chafe?

First things first, what is chafing, and why it occurs?

Chafing is irritation to the skin caused by friction—mostly repetitive rubbing against something, usually skin-on-skin or clothing-on-skin.

Medically known as irritant contact dermatitis, the constant friction will cause enough damage that will injure the skin barrier, resulting in blisters, rashes, or raw skin.

The chafed region can be painful, and often a bleeding scratch mark will form where the salty, sweaty skin has rubbed against itself or against your clothing.

Some of the most chafe-prone areas in runners include the inner thighs, the crotch, the neck, nipples, and armpits.

The more miles you log in, the higher the chances of suffering from a patch of irritated skin, especially when your body temperature increases and you sweat more.

Though chafing is by no means a serious injury, it can put you out of commission for a day or two.

Ignored, it may turn into an infection—then things are bad and the reason you should never leave a chafe untreated.

For these reasons, it’s key to learn how to treat and prevent chafing so you can stay comfortable and happy while running and evade infection.

The Leading Causes

Chafing can occur anytime you perform some sort of repetitive movement, but it’s much more common during long-distance running.

Some of the main culprits that either cause or contribute to chafing include:

  • Poor-fitting clothing
  • Being overweight
  • Having large muscles
  • Sensitive or dry skin
  • Hot weather
  • Humidity
  • Excessive sweating
  • Fabrics that don’t wick moisture

The Main Symptoms

Early detection is what’s going to save the day.

Chafing begins with the formation of a hot spot. Therefore, as soon as you feel it forming anywhere, stop running and check out the area.

Next, clean the affected region with soap and water, pat dry, then bandage it.

Must keep going? Then at the very least, cover it with tissue or paddings, lather on a protected lubricant, such as petroleum jelly, to help prevent any further damage.

female runner doing Tabata Workout routine

How To Treat Chafing While Running

Although some of the preventative steps below help with chafing, sooner or later, you might find yourself left with a painful and raw rash.

In fact, chafing happens to everyone—sooner or later.

But don’t worry.

There are few steps you can take right away if you got back from a run with a raging rash. These should help soothe the pain and speed up your recovery.

Let’s dives into the main ones.

Wash The Chafed Area

As soon as possible, clean the affected area. When you get into the shower after a run, make sure the water is lukewarm rather than hot, as the latter can only make the burning sensation worse.

No Chemicals

Avoid using hydrogen peroxide or alcohol on the wound since these may make your pain worse. It might look dry on the outside, but the inflammation inside is still going on.

Antibacterial

Use some antibacterial soap and moisturizer to prevent bacteria from creeping into the exposed skin. This helps lower the risk of common infections such as folliculitis.

Do Not Rub

Once you’re out of the shower, be sure to dab—not rub—your skin dry. Next, apply an antibacterial ointment such as A+D Zinc Oxide or Desitin to soothe the damaged skin. Ceramide cream might helps if you don’t want to go straight to an antibacterial agent.

Cover The Region

Cover the affected area with a bandage or gauze pad that allows the wound to breathe and heal while providing a protective coat

You can also apply a light later of petroleum jelly, such as Vaseline, to help protect the chafed region and keep it moist while it heals.

And never sue an antibiotic ointment on a  region that already shows signs of infection.

When To See A Doctor

Although most cases of chafing aren’t risky, sometimes, you might need medical attention.

The irritation from chafing may pigment or darken the skin in the affected area.

Additionally, chafing may break your skin’s defensive barrier against bacteria and infection. This may cause open sores and infection in severe cases.

Consult your doctor if there are any signs of skin infection developing. These include:

  • Discoloration
  • Swelling
  • Crust
  • Blood or pus exuding from the affected area
  • Hot skin
  • Redness spreading away from the initial affected area

To stop the infection from spreading, your doctor may prescribe antibiotics or antifungal medications such as antibiotic ointment or a steroid to soothe the skin and speed up recovery. For further cases, a pills prescription might be required.

How To Prevent Chafing While Running

The best way to deal with chafing is not to have it in the first place.

Fortunately, there are many steps you can take right now to reduce your risk of chafing while running.

When it comes to avoiding chafing, your strategy should revolve around soothing friction and reducing moisture. Let’s discuss a few.

Apply Lubricants

Though chafing is worse in damp conditions, it’s actually dry skin that sets the stage for rubbing that eventually leads to chafing.

The best way to keep chafing risk at bay is to create a layer between your skin and your running gear. This is especially the case during long-distance running

Applying moisturizer or any other lotion such as a hypoallergic balm or petroleum jelly will lower the intensity of friction, so you run comfortably and chafe-free. If you are not comfortable with the thickness of the balm, try a ceramide cream such as Aveeno.

As a result, apply moisturizer liberally before your runs. Make sure to cover all chafe-prone spots, including your nipples, armpits, groin, and thighs.

Are you going to run for more than 90 minutes? Consider taking a small tube of lubricant in case of chafing emergencies.

Choose Proper Fit

Pay attention to your clothing. This, after all, covers most of your body and has the highest risk of causing friction somewhere.

Here are the main rules:

  • Avoid loose clothes which will rub. If you like wearing them, then at least put on tight-fitting bands around chafe-prone areas.
  • Choose a snug fit. Compression clothing provides a skin-tight fit that keeps chafing at bay. Just make sure it isn’t too tight as that can irritate the skin and cause other problems.
  • If you have sensitive skin, choose high-quality materials that are softer on your skin. Cover all sensitive areas, such as your inner thighs and armpits, by wearing seamless and tight clothes.
  • All of your running clothing should be made of high-performance fabrics that wick moisture away. It should also fit comfortably—not too tight or loose—and without expressed seams.
  • Your running clothing should have flat seams or seamless in the areas that are prone to chafing.
  • Get rid of any interior tags, as this may help prevent skin irritation. Nobody wants to see your clothing tag anyway, except the laundry.
  • Run in proper socks. Good quality running socks help keep your feet comfortable and dry by absorbing sweat. These also tend to be softer on the skin and feature a bit of compression to support the ankle.
  • Try on new gear such as shirts, shorts, leggings, and bras on shorter runs.

Your Accessories

Your running equipment, such as hydration belts, backpacks, and heart rate chest straps, may also contribute to chafing as the strap creates more friction and heat against your clothing or skin.

The shifting and moving of a vest, running back, or waistband can cause chafing in various spots, such as your back, waist, and shoulders.

In other words, the more movement, the more chafing.

To prevent this, make sure your gear’s straps are securely tight to limit the amount of movement while you’re running.

What’s more?

Apply lubricants to any area of your skin covered by the gear.

Prone Areas And Specific Solutions

Here are some more specific chafing prevention measures for some of the most chafe-prone areas in your body.

The Thighs

The inner thighs – Especially in those who are overweight and/or have larger legs.

Thigh chafing makes it painful to log the miles or perform any other movement. Left ignored, the chafing may force you to stop running until it heals or even grows into something more problematic like a fungal infection.

  • Compress: Run in compression shorts or spandex tights. This will protect your skin from the effects of repetitive friction. Your legwear should be long enough to cover any chafe-prone areas, especially if you have a history.
  • No Seams – Avoid Running in leg wear that has seams on the inner thigh. Instead, opt for tight-fitting, but stretching, running gear rougher than loose or baggy shorts or pants.
  • Moisturize the inner thighs. I hate to sound like a broken record, but keeping things well moisturized is non-negotiable.

The Crotch Area

One of the most sensitive spots on the body; thus, even mild chafing can cause serious pain.

Prevent it by:

  • Wear the right clothing: If clothing is behind the chafing, check the fit and seams. You should also consider getting compression running shorts. These are designed to provide a skin-tight fit that will prevent chafing in the groin and thigh area.
  • Check Your Underwear: Most running shorts are designed to be worn without under to prevent chafing in the crotch area. But, choose proper underwear if you can’t do without it.  I’d recommend synthetic underwear, preferably polyester, that lets moisture through so the underwear stays relatively d
  • Keep it Neat: If you have shaved your ‘you know where’, you might experience chafing as the hair start to grow back. Thus, keep your pubic hair well-depilated or waxed to help ease the friction.
  • Avoid Bunching up: Choose running shorts that won’t bunch up around your groin. Seamless shorts are the best. It should also be made of breathable fabric.

Nipple Chafing

Nipple chafing is common for male runners, especially those who go the distance. Female runners are at less risk, thanks to the modern sports bra design.

Stop your nipples from chafing by doing the following:

  • Cover: To stop your nipples from rubbing against your clothing, coven them using tape. This can be done using an adhesive bandage or specific products such as NipGuards.
  • Keep it Dry: Keep your chest area relatively dry by using absorbent body powder or cornstarch.
  • Good fit: For female runners, choosing a properly fitting high-impact bra often provides enough protection from this. Just keep in mind that sports may cause chafing elsewhere.

Armpits

Armpit chafing is often blamed on skin-to-skin friction or rubbing from a running shirt. It’s also chafe prone due to the high density of sweat glands in the area.

Avoid it by doing the following:

  • Shave-armpit: Again, hair stubble can exacerbate chafing, so you have two choices—(1) either keep your hair well shaved without nicks or (2) let it grow. Don’t forget to use aftercare aftershave or wax or laser treatment. Armpits are super sensitive.
  • Good Fit – if you just got chafed armpits, check whether the shirt you’re using and see if a seam behind the issue. If it’s the case, wear a shirt with a different style and design. Ideally, choose seamless sleeves or those with flat seams.

Conclusion

There you have it!

If chafing while running something you have to deal with on a regular basis, today’s article should set you on the path for preventing it for good. The rest is just details.

Please feel free to leave your comments and questions in the section below.

In the meantime, thank you for dropping by

Keep training strong.

David D.