How to Prevent Chafing While Running

Run long enough and far enough and something will start to get annoyed. Maybe your hips, maybe your bra, maybe some random spot that has never been a problem on a 10-mile run but kills on a 12-mile run. Here’s how to deal with it.

Know what causes chafing

Rubbing is skin irritation caused by rubbing. If you think about how many steps you take each minute and how many minutes you run, it really adds up.

Moisture, including sweat, softens the skin and makes it more prone to rubbing damage. This is why irritation often increases during the summer months. If you have a habit of dousing your head with water to cool it down, or if you run across streams on your trails, be careful not to wet areas prone to chafing.

Everything can chafe, but oftentimes it’s what you least expect, such as the straps or seams on your clothing that are good for short runs. Anything you plan to wear for a long run should be something you’ve worn on long or at least medium runs so you don’t have any sudden surprises.

Lubricate

The quickest solution is to buy yourself a BodyGlide stick or a can of petroleum jelly and use it wherever you tend to chafe. (Vaseline can stain clothes and is not suitable for wetsuits if you are a triathlete, so BodyGlide is the best all-around product.)

Apply before heading out, and if it’s a long time, consider bringing some of them with you to re-apply while you’re on the road. During the second half of the course, marathons often provide you with petroleum jelly (a volunteer will give you some on an ice cream stick) at liquid stations or medical centers. Even while jogging, you can smear it on the affected skin, and this should prevent further chafing.

Dress strategically

If your thighs are chafing with short shorts, buy longer shorts. (Cycling shorts or compression tights are perfect for this.)

If you’re chafing at seams or straps, opt for seamless, tagless clothing. Tight-fitting clothing does not chafe because there is not much chafing. Sweat-wicking fabrics tend to keep you dry, which also prevents chafing.

Use tape, but thoughtfully

The tape can protect the skin, but with some caveats. It is best applied to nipples, which are often rubbed on in men. (Sports bras tend to avoid this problem for people with breasts. If you are wearing a bra and still chafing on your nipples, a better bra may fix the problem.)

Sticking the tape over already fragmented skin can irritate it even more, so consider nipple tape or nipple guards that are designed for this purpose and usually have a softer adhesive.

Tape can also cause chafing rather than prevent chafing, especially if the tape gets wet and then slips or wrinkles. And the surface of the tape can irritate the skin nearby. For example, one day I finished a long run before a half marathon, and I got rubbing on my shoulder, which I thought was due to armpit stubble. So, on the day of the competition, I put a piece of kinesio tape (free from my swag bag!) Over the rubbed place. My hand was fine, but during the race the tape rubbed against my armpit and eventually I got worse. In hindsight, I should have stopped at BodyGlide.

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