If you’ve been running for any length of time, you’ve probably experienced chafing at some point or another (or perhaps you just want to know how to avoid it!).
In this article, we’ll cover everything you need to know about chafing: what causes it, how to prevent, and how to treat it.
What is Chafing?
Chafing is when clothing or parts of your body rub together enough to cause skin irritation, causing discomfort and pain. It can be due to friction or moisture, and it usually occurs in the inner thighs and inner glutes.
In other words, if you feel pain where you’ve had some skin-on-skin rubbing, or where sweat has been trapped, you’ve experienced chafing.
Because moist skin is more likely to chafe, you’re at a higher risk for chafing in the summer and in hot weather. But remember that it can happen in all types of weather!
Common Areas That Chafe
As Runner’s World notes, chafing tends to be divided into two categories: skin-on-skin and fabric-on-skin. For the former, the most common areas where skin rubs together are the thighs and armpits. For the latter, it can come from a sports bra, shirt, or shorts lining.
Ways to Solve Common Chafing Spots
In order to solve chafing issues, you need to be prepared and ensure that you’re wearing the right attire and taking the proper preventative measures. We’ll cover some overall solutions as well as specific problem areas.
You can prevent chafing in a variety of different ways. We’ll cover some of the most common ones for any type of chafing.
Although it’s true that moisture and wet conditions make you more likely to chafe, you’re going to experience more chafing if your skin is dry rather than if it is well-moisturized.
So, if you’re having problems with chafing, you might try body glide or petroleum jelly to make sure your skin isn’t dry. Body Glide is a running-specific product that looks like, and has the constancy of, deodorant. Its advantage over petroleum jelly is that it’s easier and less messy to apply.
You can also use talcum powder for added dryness to make sure that there is less friction. Remember to focus on the areas that are most likely to chafe, including your thighs, armpits, and groin.
If you go for a run and end up getting drenched, whether from rain or sweat, make sure that you change out of that clothing as soon as possible so that you’re not keeping wet fabric clinging to you.
Wear the Proper Clothing
Finally, consider what clothing you’re wearing. It’s best to avoid cotton and cheap synthetic fabrics. Moisture-wicking clothing is your friend!
Similarly, cut off tags if they are irritating you. That’s the last thing you want—chafing from a random piece of fabric like a tag!
This tactic seems like a surprise, right? But it turns out that if you’re properly hydrated, you’ll perspire freely and easily, ensuring that your sweat doesn’t dry into salt crystals, which can actually lead to chafing. There’s yet another reason to make sure that you’re getting the fluid you need when running!
Chafing Solutions to Common Problem Areas
There are certain known body parts that are more prone to chafing than others. Let’s address specific ways to prevent chafing in these areas.
If you’ve had a lot of chafing around your thighs, try longer shorts or capris. This places the edge of the fabric lower down your leg, where there will be less contact. You might also consider compression shorts or boxer brief underwear.
I personally wear 2-in-1 shorts with compression shorts underneath, and I’ve never had an issue with chafing around my thighs. If you’re a female (and thus tends to have shorter shorts available to you for workout gear), you might want to consider something like this.
Although it’s never been super bad, I sometimes will have chafing in my armpits when I wear a tank for extended periods of time. If you want to avoid this pain, wear short sleeves instead of tanks or singlets.
But make sure that the sleeves aren’t too loose, either. You want the clothing to cling to your body. And if the chafing occurs on the seams, try seamless shirts so that you’re eliminating one more thing that rubs against your skin.
I’m sure most of us have watched The Office episode where Andy struggles with the dreaded runner’s nipple, and you definitely don’t want this to be you! Although it’s more likely in men than in women, you can use body glide and petroleum jelly to help.
One more time for everyone in the back: avoid cotton shirts! These are much more abrasive than tech shirts when wet. But sometimes even tech shirts – especially cheap, poorly made shirts – can still cause chafing.
In these cases, put on band aids or similar products like NipEaze to avoid pain—and embarrassment!
If your hydration pack is causing chafing, then first ensure the proper fit by adjusting all of the straps. Then apply Body Glide to help prevent chafing.
It’s important to make sure you buy quality sports bras, or you’re going to be in pain. Make sure it’s nice and snug, but not so snug that the bra begins to dig into your shoulder blades and rib cages.
On some sports bras, you can adjust the straps for proper fit. A rule of thumb is to be able to just barely get your finger underneath the back strap.
Also make sure that you replace old or cheap sports bras with new and high-quality bras. As females, we all know how important this is. Don’t skimp on your sports bras!
Treatment for Chafing
If you come back from a run and discover some serious chafing, don’t worry. Just hop into the shower where the water is lukewarm. You don’t want it super hot, or it will make the chafed areas even more uncomfortable.
Treat an area that is chafed like an open wound. Use mild soap or a simple saline solution and avoid alcohol or hydrogen peroxide. (Ever put hydrogen peroxide on an open scrape! Yeeeehaw!) You might consider using a gauze pad over the chafed area that allows it to breathe while it heals.
Runner’s World suggests using an antibacterial soap to keep bacteria away and ensure that you don’t have any additional skin issues. As you spend the next couple hours (or days!) recovering, wear loose fitting clothing to avoid aggravating the area and take some days off of running if you need to.
You might also want to consider patting your skin dry after you jump out of the shower to avoid rubbing and making the chafing situation worse. Applying an antibacterial ointment (even diaper-rash creams work great!) for extra healing power.
If you’re in pain, you can use an ice pack or cold pack for short periods of time to alleviate the discomfort. Make sure to pat the skin dry when you’re done.
A chafed area tends to scab over in a couple days and will fall off naturally with seven days or so, but the area will still be tender. So you need to be careful, particularly if you’ll be out in the sun and the area will be exposed.
While almost every single time you’ll be able to deal with chafing on your own, you should consider seeing a doctor if you notice a skin infection developing. Swelling, hot skin, blood, or an open wound that hasn’t scabbed over are all signs to see the doctor. Your doctor may prescribe a topical steroid.
At the end of the day, as Smokey the Bear would say, “You too can prevent chafing.” By following these tips and being prepared, you’ll find chafing happening a lot less than it would otherwise.