The little hot spots that you feel when you’re running…
The raw wounds you discover in the post-run shower…
The online photos of bloody nipples…
Could it be… chafing?
Chafing occurs when our skin encounters friction: skin on skin, skin on clothing, skin on gear, etc. In addition, moisture can increase the likelihood of chafing (rain or humidity combined with clothing holding moisture) as can really dry conditions (sweat evaporates quickly leaving a gritty salt layer behind). The result may be a small rash, an open wound, or even an infection.
Chafing most frequently occurs in similar hot spots for most people, but some individuals are prone to chafing in unique spots due to their own personal biomechanics. The most common spots are:
- bra area (for the ladies)
- nipples (on the men)
How do you prevent chafing?
The most common method is the use of a product applied directly to the skin. Here are some topical chafing prevention products:
- BodyGlide: Applied like a solid deodorant from a stick
- Mission AthleteCare 5 Hour Anti-Chafe: Another stick deodorant-like product
- 2 Toms SportShield Liquid Roll-On: A roll-on applicator
- Lanacane Anti-Chafing Gel: From a tube, must be applied with the hands and spread over potential hot spots
- TriSlide: A spray-on application
- Vaseline: An old classic, but a thin layer spread on the skin can help.
These types of products should be applied before a run, especially if you know you are prone to chafing in certain areas or you just want to be extra safe, but they could also be re-applied mid-run if needed.
Wearing properly fitting clothing that wicks away sweat is also important. If your clothing is too baggy, the chances of friction and chafing increase. Quality technical gear will not only wick sweat away from your skin, but will also have flat seams (or no seams) to reduce the chances of being rubbed the wrong way.
Make sure you stay hydrated! Keeping your body well watered will allow you to perspire more freely while running, thus minimizing chances of a salty crust forming on the skin.
Sports tape or kinesio tape. If you are consistently getting chafed in the same spot, sometimes applying a layer of sport tape in that area can help, especially if you sweat through the topical products.
I’m already chafed! What now?
Treat the spot like a wound. Make sure you keep it protected if you are going out running again. Keep it clean and dry, and use an antiseptic product to avoid infection. You may want to spread a layer of A&D ointment or Neosporin on the spot, even just to get through your regular daily activities.
Nipple chafing is frequently the hardest to recover from. You may need to take a little bit of a break to give your skin a chance to repair itself. Constantly rubbing it and breaking it further open will prolong the pain, misery and potential for complications.
Once you’re healed, work on the prevention methods! Take note of where you chafed, maybe address that spot before every run or look into your clothing/shoes to see if they are causing the problem.