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! Over the years I have had my fair share of chafing. Even now I sit here with a massive graze across my chest from my most recent long run. More about that shortly. For now, let’s look at what chafing is and how you can prevent chafing when running.
What is Chafing?
Chafing is 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 on 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! Bye bye favourite sports bra. No amount of Bodyglide is going to help this one!
How to Prevent Chafing When 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 may want to 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 is going to rub against your skin. There are a number of other items of clothing or kit that 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 arm pits 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.
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 do get caught out, and finish your run to discover areas of chafing, we warn you now… it’s gonna hurt when you get in the shower. It’s important to clean it though so don’t try to avoid getting it wet. Grit your teeth and don’t have the shower too hot. Don’t use fragranced soaps either. Just gently clean it and pay it dry with a towel. You can apply a fragrance free cream, lotion or something like Vaseline as a barrier to stop your clothes rubbing.
You may want to avoid wearing a bra or clothing they will aggravate the chafing where possible. 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.