How To Prevent Chafing While Running

Natalie Cecconi
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What is Chafing?

How do you prevent chafing? What is chafing? What are the primary causes of chafing?

Chafing is defined as the irritation of the skin that occurs as a result of rubbing one part of the body with another, or with a piece of clothing. The rubbing that results in chafing may happen in a wet or dry environment.

Chafing is also the inevitable result of repetitive or continuous rubbing. This can occur as a result of excessive, constant skin contact with another part of the body, or with an object.

Chafing is more likely to occur in wet conditions, because sweat or other bodily fluids make the skin more vulnerable to irritation.

A simple example is that of a runner, who becomes chafed on the inside of the thighs while running. This happens because the sneakers rub against the skin with each foot strike. Chafing can also occur between the back of the thigh and the bike saddle.

Common Areas That Chafe

Runners can really experience chafing in several parts of their body. Common areas that chafe when running may be:

  • Along the back of the thighs,
  • Inside the armpits
  • Around the waist line
  • Around the nipples
  • On the feet

Top Tips to Prevent Chafing while Running

Anatomically, your main problem is where the skin rubs against itself. Shorts and T-shirt rubbing against each other is a problem and, some people actually suffer from a form of dermatitis which is basically skin rubbing on skin.

If you can make the skin separate and slide against itself, you should be less likely to get chafing.

Anti-chafing products are sold widely and there are literally dozens of different products you can choose from. I like Body Glide Anti-Chafe Balm. It’s made from a vegetable wax and is designed to stick to your skin.

You smear a little bit on the areas which tend to chafe and this will act like a lubricant to protect the skin from rubbing on itself.

You can also use petroleum jelly but this doesn’t stick to the skin and so isn’t as effective. You will also have to keep applying it every time you run.

Ways to Solve Common Chafing Spots

Now that the summer running season is upon us, it’s important to remember not to let your post-run festivities keep you from paying attention to protection. While running may be fun and beneficial for you, the summer sun is sure as hell not.

And don’t misconstrue it, running in the heat is not something that you should just push through…it’s a serious danger to your health.

To help you reduce the number of runs that you have to interrupt, I’ve picked out and ranked a few chafing-prevention products to share with you!

What you use for preventative measures might vary depending on your current lifestyle, but here’s a few tried and true products that I’d recommend trying out first.

General Solutions

It is easier to prevent chafing while running than having to deal with painful blisters after a long and tough run. Fortunately, there is a lot you can do to avoid and prevent chafing.

Wear Clothing Suitable for the Activity

You wouldn’t wear a tank top to play basketball. And you wouldn’t wear tights to go running. Choose clothing that fits the activity. That way, you can also choose fabrics that are specifically designed for the task.

For running, wear loose-fitting clothing made from breathable materials like cotton, polyester, or silk.

Avoid at all cost synthetic materials such as polyester, acrylic, nylon, vinyl, rubber, or spandex. Men especially have it tough when it comes to running, because the equipment department isn’t exactly sensitive to our needs. Trying to run in even the best sports running shorts can be not the most comfortable thing in the world.

For you guys out there, it doesn’t mean that you should stick with traditional cotton gym shorts. There are a lot of companies that make excellent high-tech running shorts for guy. Find one you like and shop early in the year because running shorts are seasonal.

If you’ve ever had or seen chafing while running, you’ll know how painful it can be. It’s by far best prevented by wearing the right clothing, but we have all been there with new clothes that just didn’t work. In the end, it is just one of the things you have to learn how to manage.

So instead of having to suffer, put together a quick stash of items to have on hand that will allow you to get back on the road in a flash.

Since chafing is most common on your legs, tape your inner thighs with moleskin or some other anti-chafing pads. They help you to avoid painful red marks on your thighs.

Put anti-chafing gel or spray on your nipples, underarms and anywhere else that tends to rub or chafe.

Most importantly, if you do find chafing, don’t ignore it. Soak in a bathtub with Epsom salt, which will act as an anti-inflammatory.

Also, cool your inflamed areas with an ice pack and apply a soothing ointment.

Chafing Solutions to Common Problem Areas

Chafing is a painful skin condition caused by abrasion in the most commonly affected areas like the thighs, nipples, and armpits. While any kind of physical activity can lead to chafing, two of the most common reasons are running and horseback riding.

Before delving into the solutions, there are some factors you need to know and control to successfully eliminate chafing.

Eliminate sweat.

Sweat is one of the culprits behind chafing. It acts as a lubricant that can lead to chafing so it’s important to reduce sweating to eliminate chafing.

Luckily, your body regulates its temperature to stay cool during high activity and this often means sweating. To reduce the amount of sweating, the best way is to directly treat your body.

Try these:

Apply anti-perspirant containing aluminum chloride.

Wear light, breathable clothing so that you limit sweating and wash your clothes regularly.

Use an adhesive bandage to cover the "hot spots" like inner thighs and armpits.

Move before you feel pain.

It is almost impossible to tell if you are chafing without actually feeling for it. This means that you have to control your body, especially in the chafing prone area, before you start chafing.

Treatment for Chafing

Body parts that typically chafe include the thighs, nipples, and the inner thighs, but it can happen to anyone.

Just make sure you're doing the right things and wearing the right type of clothing to prevent chafing and blisters from happening during long training sessions, or a race.

Use skin lubricants

Most of these are based on silicon oils. Apply them on your skin where you think you will chafe ” typically the areas with friction. Two brands that make them are petroleum jelly (Vaseline) and BodyGlide. Apply them anywhere that will be chafed, preferably about 20 minutes before running.

Loosen up

Ensure you stretch before you run. This is a very important step to take to help prevent chafing. A good rule of thumb is to spend at least 20 minutes stretching before heading out the door.

Change your clothing

Change up the clothing you are wearing during a race, even if it's just a little. Common gear that people wear while running, like cotton shirts and shorts, can cause chafing. Try something else like silk shirts and shorts.

Expert recommendations

A few notable experts offer advice on how to prevent chafing and blisters on their websites.