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Chafing is one of the most irritating things that could happen in the middle of the run. Not only that it is very uncomfortable, but it also affects the overall running performance of the runner. Therefore, it is wise for all runners to know how to prevent chafing when running.
To find out how to eliminate chafing, I’ve researched tips from other articles as well as asked some endurance runners how they prevent chafing and compiled them into this one article.
Chafing is easily prevented by avoiding cotton garments, wearing moisture-wicking clothing, applying the anti-chafe balm, and choosing the right size of all garments.
But we’re not gonna stop there. In this article, we’re gonna find out what chafing is, who commonly experiences it, where it commonly occurs and how to treat it.
What is Chafing?
Chafing is a rash-like irritation caused by frequent skin-to-skin or skin-to-material contact. A chafed skin appears red, tender, and may or may not bleed.
As your body sweats, it creates more friction against your skin or your clothing, creating microtears in your epidermis and exposing your dermis, which is where the nerve endings are located. Because of that, chafing can feel very uncomfortable and painful that can lead to a decrease in athletic performance.
Who Are Prone to Chafing
Chafing is common for endurance athletes like cyclists and runners because of the repetitive movements extended over long periods associated with this sport. However, chafing can occur even when you’re just walking or doing any repetitive task.
Most Common Areas of Chafing
Chafing is commonly found in between thighs, the groin area, nipple, underarms, and feet but can occur in any area where friction occurs.
9 Ways to Avoid Chafing
1. Wear Compression Shorts/Leggings
Chafing in between the thighs is easily prevented by wearing compression shorts. Compression shorts act as a layer that prevents your thighs from rubbing against each other which is the most common cause of chafing in that area.
Thigh-to-thigh friction is common among runners with thick thighs.
Personally, I like to wear 6-inch compression shorts like the Under Armor HeatGear compression shorts.
Similarly, I use Lixada 2-in-1 shorts. I’ve used them a lot of times for long-distance runs and trail runs and I never experienced chafing.
In general, choose compression shorts/leggings that are made of sweat-wicking material such as nylon, spandex, and polyester that is tight-fitting. Avoid shorts/leggings made out of cotton.
2. Skip The Underwear
Briefs and panties create friction between your groin and the band which can be very uncomfortable.
The easiest way to avoid chafing in the groin area is not to wear underwear underneath your compression shorts/leggings. But of course, this is a case-to-case basis, especially for female runners. If you need to wear underwear, stay away from cotton material and make sure your underwear fits you well.
3. Use Nipple Protection
Joggers nipple is the term used for chafed nipples. Though it does not easily happen for short distances, it is very common among long-distance runners.
The best way to prevent a jogger’s nipple is by wearing nipple protection. They are very easy to find on Amazon and are very affordable.
4. Wear Running Specific Shirt
It may seem like a small thing, but wearing a running-specific shirt will go a long way in making you feel comfortable.
These shirts are made with lightweight materials like wool, nylon, or polyester that are designed to wick away sweat and avoid chafing. In addition, they have seams that are strategically placed to move with your body and reduce friction.
An example of this high-tech running shirt is the Nike TechKnit cool. They have perfectly placed seams, very cool to the upper body, and are knitted to reduce friction. However, they are very pricey.
A cheaper alternative is the Under Armour Qualifier Iso-Chill, which is almost half the price but works really well in preventing chafed areas.
5. Apply an Anti-Chafe Balm
A cheap way to address most chafing issues is by using an anti-chafe balm. They work by adding a protective layer that allows your body to glide with less friction. They are mostly cheap and comes in various brands.
To use them, simply apply to the area where friction commonly occurs before wearing your clothes.
In my experience, brands don’t matter that much. They work pretty much the same so I recommend getting the cheapest one you can find.
Alternatively, Vaseline works the same way.
6. Wear Less Clothing
If the weather and your city allow it, go shirtless (if you’re a guy) or run in a sports bra. The less material you have on you, the lesser chance that your skin is gonna rub with something.
7. Consider The Fit of Your Garments
Before buying any running garment, consider how it fits your body. If you feel any uneven tight spots like in your armpit area for your tops and groin area for your compression, that’s an indication that it’s too tight. In contrast, having lots of wrinkles in your compression shorts or too much excess fabric in your top is an indication that your garment is too loose.
8. Wear a Running Specific Socks
Running specific socks have seams strategically placed to avoid friction. Plus, they are made with wick-away sweat really well.
They come in various lengths, technologies, and designs but in my experience, they all work well in terms of performance.
I’m a simple guy and I’m not too fancy with my socks. A simple and affordable ankle sock from Saucony works well for me. If you’re still looking for running socks, go check them on Amazon.
9. Wear a Properly Fitted Shoe
Nothing can be as irritating as a chafed feet that can lead to blisters when running. Most of the time, it occurs because of improperly fitted shoes.
Ideally, running shoes should be snug in the heel and midfoot and has a half thumb’s leg allowance in the toe. If you want to know how to find the right running shoe fit, I made an article explaining exactly how. Be sure to check it out.
How to Treat Chafing
No matter how small, Chafing can lead to problems like blisters, extreme discomfort, and even infection if left untreated. Therefore, this simple irritation should never be ignored.
To treat chafing, you have to clean the area with mild soap and warm water right after your run. Then, keep it try and free from irritation. You can apply natural ointments such as aloe vera to soothe irritated skin. Applying antibacterial ointment helps prevent infection as well.
Chafing is never a pleasant experience and must be avoided at all costs.
At some point in your life as a runner, you’re going to experience chafing. But once you know where chafing occurs, you can use these simple tips to prevent chafing.