Why Do Runner’s Nipples Bleed And How To Stop It

You might have seen long-distance runners with marks of blood in the nipple area of their shirts and wondered “how the hell did that happen?“. As weird as it is, it’s quite common. Here’s why a runner’s nipple bleed during a run…

A runner’s nipples bleed because the clothes create friction with the nipples which causes chafing. It’s common for runners who wear ill-fitted clothes or run very long distances. To prevent bleeding nipples, wear moisture-wicking clothes that fit right and use nipple tape during long runs. 

Is it normal? How do you treat it? And how do you prevent it? Ahead, we will get into more detail in answering these questions. So stick with me cause this is one weird topic that has to be discussed.

a man running

Why Nipples Bleed During A Run

The bleeding of the nipples during a run is also known as:

  • runner’s nipple
  • jogger’s nipple 
  • bloody nipple
  • nipple chafing.

It’s caused by the rubbing between the clothes and the nipple due to the repetitive motion nature of running which then causes chafing.

When you run, your body is moving up and down and your clothes move side to side as your arms swing thereby creating friction between the clothing and your nipples.

And since the skin around your nipples, the areola, is thinner than the skin on other parts of your body, it easily gets chafed during a long-distance run.

Bleeding nipples don’t happen in an instant. You’ll likely experience some symptoms before it starts to bleed. Symptoms include:

  • Sensitivity/Tenderness
  • Pain
  • Inflammation
  • Redness

4 Common Causes Of Runner’s Nipple

There are several causes of a runner’s nipple. Most of them are easily avoidable if you know what they are.

1. Wrong Clothing

One of the most common causes of a chafed nipple is wrong clothing. Be it a shirt that’s too tight, too loose, or made of rough fabric.

Cotton shirts are a bad choice of fabric for running. Although cotton is known for its softness, it holds too much sweat and moisture making it rough which causes chafing in your nipples.

2. Marathons and Ultras

Bleeding nipples don’t happen in an instant. That is why it is more common for those who are running marathons and ultramarathons because of their longer duration.

3. Running In Cool Weather

Running in cold weather makes your nipples erect which makes the probability of getting chafed higher.

4. High Weekly Mileage

Bleeding nipples may happen due to the accumulation of your total weekly mileage instead of a single long run.

According to a 2013 study, about 35.7 percent of runners who run 40 miles a week or more experienced a chafed nipple.

5 Effective Ways To Prevent Bleeding Nipples

1. Wear a Moisture-Wicking Shirt That Fits Right

The easiest way to prevent your nipples from getting chafed is to wear a shirt made of moisture-wicking material that fits right.

Make sure it’s not too loose that it moves around so much and not too tight that every movement causes friction on your nipples and other parts of your body.

If you need help choosing the perfect running top, check out this guide that I made.

Alternatively, you can choose a shirt from this list of the best breathable running tops for men. I have tested and reviewed the items on that list.

2. Wear a Good Sports Bra (For Women)

A sports bra creates padding between the nipples and the clothing as well as provides support.

Choose a sports bra that’s made for high-impact activities such as running and has a soft, seamless, and moisture-wicking fabric.

3. Use a Nipple Chafing Prevention Tape

My go-to in preventing chafing in my nipple is to use a nipple tape like NipEaze (link to Amazon). This tape is specifically made for running so they won’t fall off even if you sweat so much during your run.

I usually use this when I’m running in cold weather or when my runs exceed 10 miles (16km) a day.

4. Apply an Anti-Chafing Balm

An anti-chafing balm acts as a layer to prevent skin-to-skin or skin-to-fabric irritation. Apply a generous amount on your nipple area before putting on your sports bra or your shirt.

One brand that I particularly like is the Body Glide because it’s not as messy as cream or Vaseline and they’re long-lasting.

5. Run Shirtless

If you’re comfortable with running shirtless, then there’s no better way to prevent your nipples from bleeding than to run without a shirt.

Just make sure it’s legal within your area and the weather is appropriate. After all, you don’t want to get arrested or have frostbites.

How Do You Treat Chafed Nipples?

Treatment of chafed nipples is pretty straightforward.

  • Clean the surface with warm water and mild soap
  • Apply some antiseptic ointment to prevent infection
  • Put a bandage or nipple tape when going for a run

Is Bleeding Nipples Normal For Runners?

It’s normal for runners to experience bleeding nipples. Especially runners who run long distances such as marathons and ultramarathons. But it doesn’t mean you have to experience it. By using the prevention tips I shared earlier, you will be able to prevent bleeding nipples from ever happening.

Chafing On Other Areas On The Body

Aside from your nipples their are also other parts of your body prone to chafing. Some of these include:

  • Armpits
  • Inner thighs
  • Feet

Preventing chafing in this area is relatively easy. I have made an article that explains how in this link.

Nicho Mauricio

Running wasn't always my favorite sport. I was a CrossFit athlete and I loved every bit of it. But since the pandemic began, I was forced to stay away from the gym and train at home instead. Things got boring. That's when I decided to trail run with my friends. I instantly got hooked. So I started training and researching all things running. As a beginner, I want to buy only the best running gear and do only the best practices. This blog is where I share what I've learned in my journey and my experiences as a runner.

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