Chafing and running – a familiar affliction for many a runner. No doubt, many of you will have suffered from chafing while running. If not then you are lucky but that’s not to say that you won’t at some point in your running journey. Usually chafing is worse in the summer when you sweat more or when it’s raining and you find yourself drenched mid-way through your run! But what can you do to avoid or prevent it? Is it entirely avoidable and are there steps you can take to stop it happening? We take a look at the following:

  • What is chafing?
  • Why chafing and running go hand in hand
  • What causes it?
  • What you can do to minimise or avoid it
  • How to treat chafing

What is Chafing?  

Chafing is an extreme skin irritation that occurs when something rubs against your skin. This can be an item of clothing or, in the case of “chub rub”, your skin against skin. It is exacerbated by moisture so introduce sweat, rain and water into the mix and it’s a recipe for a very stingy shower! The skin becomes sore from the friction leading to a red rash that is sore to the touch. After a few days, this rash turns to scabs and in extreme cases, scars. 

What Causes Chafing When Running?

Often chafing is caused by being overweight. The most common example, especially in women, is when the inner thighs touch and rub together while walking or running. Many women choose to wear leggings for this reason for fear of the discomfort that wearing shorts will cause as the thighs rub together. 

Ill-fitting clothing can also be a cause. This leads me to my own recent experience when the elastic had become loose around the bottom band of my trusted favourite sports bra. I tumble-dried it (groan) by accident and didn’t realise just how loose this had made it. I went out for an 11-mile sweaty run and came home to the most painful shower since my first brush with chafing many years ago.

The picture below shows you just how bad this particular chafing was. I sit here now with a giant graze across my chest. Thankfully bikini season is over for me for this year at least! Goodbye, favourite sports bra. No amount of Bodyglide is going to help this one! 

Getting wet while running can also lead to chafing when wet clothing is rubbing against your bare skin. The two major causes of this are rain and sweat. So weather it’s winter or summer, chances are you will suffer from chafing year-round if you are prone to it. Moisture-wicking clothing is best but it won’t altogether avoid it happening. We offer top tips for running in the rain here. 

avoid chafing when running

How to Prevent Chafing and Running

There are two main ways to avoid chafing. The first is to wear clothing that fits properly. If you do suffer from the dreaded thigh rub and can’t face wearing shorts, you can opt for leggings, capri pants or long cycling-style shorts. 

Also, make sure you choose a well-fitting bra. You don’t want any clothing that rubs against your skin.  Many other items of clothing or kit will lead to chafing too: 

Hydration backpacks – if they are not tight enough, or they make contact with your bare skin, they can rub. Areas like the side of the neck are vulnerable where your skin isn’t covered by your vest. 

Loose fitting vests – under the armpits can be prone to chafing depending on the type of vest you wear. This is also an area where you can get some sweaty skin-to-skin contact.

Nipple rub – one for the gents here. Only last week (the same time that I got my chafing), a very experienced male runner that was running with our group chose the wrong vest. There was blood all over it where the material had rubbed against his nipples until they bled. This makes me feel a little bit ‘ick’ – make sure you wear a fabric that is agreeable to your nipples and apply plenty of Bodyglide before a run. 

bodyglide for chafing

42g large Bodyglide

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pocket bodyglide

Pocket bodyglide – perfect for fitting in a pocket

 

Even with the best-fitting clothing, and the right fabrics, on a very hot and sweaty day, or during a rainy run, you can still get caught out. That’s where our second tip to avoid chafing comes in. It’s always a good idea to apply Bodyglide or Runglide to the vulnerable areas pre-run. Pay particular attention to the thighs, the area around the bottom of your bra, both front and back, and under the arms. Guys – put it on your nipples! Trust us, your body will thank you for it. There are two sizes of Bodyglide to choose from – the smaller one is ideal for popping in your backpack so that you can use it during your long run.

How to Treat Chafing

If you find yourself dealing with chafing after your run, brace yourself—it’s going to sting when you step into the shower. Despite the discomfort, it’s crucial to clean the affected areas thoroughly, so don’t shy away from getting them wet. Take a deep breath and moderate the water temperature; avoid using fragranced soaps. Gently cleanse the area and pat it dry with a towel afterwards. Applying a fragrance-free cream, lotion, or even Vaseline can serve as a protective barrier against further irritation from clothing.

You may want to avoid wearing a bra or certain clothing as they will aggravate the chafing . You can also try ice packs to soothe the area if really sore – not directly on the skin though, wrap in a tea towel or similar and pat the skin dry afterwards. 

In a couple of days, the chafing will start to scab over and will certainly stop stinging. Just be sure that you don’t make it worse when you go for your next run. Try different clothing and apply plenty of Bodyglide.  

Conclusion

In conclusion, chafing can be a painful nuisance for runners, however, with proper precautions and care, it can be managed effectively. Investing in moisture-wicking clothing, applying anti-chafing products before runs, and staying hydrated can help prevent chafing. If chafing does occur, it’s important to clean the affected area gently and apply soothing creams or ointments to promote healing and provide a protective barrier. By taking these steps, runners can minimize discomfort and continue to enjoy their runs with greater ease.