How To Stop Chafing From Ruining Your Runs (And Your Life)

Photographed By Caroline Tompkins.
When it comes to summer running, sometimes it’s not about the chase — it’s about the chafe. Chafing is an uncomfortable skin irritation, which can occur when you run, bike, or walk. You may hear the most complaints about this pesky issue from your runner friends during the summer. “Chafing is caused when the skin gets irritated from rubbing too much against other areas of skin or fabric,” says New York City-based Sean Fortune, a former NCAA distance coach and founder of Central Park Coaching. “Sweat can exacerbate it. So can humidity, as it seems the body swells more and you're sweating more.” So, summer is prime time for runner’s chafing, especially since more skin is exposed, and friction is inevitable.
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One of the most common forms of chafing for women occurs when your thighs rub together when you run or walk, but skin to skin chafing can also happen in the groin area or in your armpits. A heart rate monitoring strap or a cell phone armband could also contribute to chafing.
If this irksome irritation is ruining your summer runs and fun, here are some expert-approved tips to help you deal when the chafe is real.
Lube up
Lube isn’t just for sex and cars. New York Road Runners coach Melanie Kann notes that one of the best ways to avoid chafing is to apply a lubricant. It comes in handy in the summer when women wear more tank tops and shorts, which can rub them the wrong way, Kann says. “When in doubt, apply your favourite lubricant to [trouble] areas before you head out for a run,” says Kann “You’re always better safe than sorry.”
Fortune recommends Body Glide’s anti-chafing stick, which an be applied to areas that are chafed by skin, clothing, or even footwear. You can also try applying Vaseline or regular roll-on deodorant to your thighs or other chafe-happy areas.
Wear the right outfit
Fortune says tight, synthetic, sweat-wicking apparel is the best kind you can wear to avoid chafing. Aside from preventing clothing to skin chafing, he says it provides a barrier against skin on skin friction — so you might want to wear longer shorts or leggings with this kind of fabric if you tend to chafe between the thighs.
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Kann says there are also fabrics to steer away from when you’re picking out summer athleisure. “Avoid cotton, since that really holds in moisture and will make chafing more likely,” she advises.
Fortune says getting a sports bra that fits “just right” is critical. If it’s too snug, it can rub against the rib cage or shoulders, causing discomfort. You can run into similar problems if it fits too loosely. Fortune says runners who don’t wear sports bras should be wary of the “notorious bloody nipple chafing,” which “generous amounts of Body Glide” can prevent.
If you chafe in the groin area, you may want to consider the kind of underwear you’re wearing, according to Quo active underwear founder Stacey Hunter Harrington. She says Quo underwear has sweat-wicking, and doesn’t shift around when you workout like some cotton panties will.
Hunter Harrington also advises people avoid running in clothing and underwear with many tags or seams, which can be chafing "hot spots."
Use powder
Kann says that if chafing has already started, the best thing to do is apply some petroleum jelly or powder. “After your run, dry the area thoroughly and use a medicated powder to keep the chafed area dry,” she says. You can also use cornstarch based powders such as Lady Anti Monkey Butt to prevent sweating in trouble spots.
Bandage the area
REI reported that one common anti-chafe technique for people who don’t wear sports bras is to place bandages over their nipples. Some are specifically designed to protect this area, and you may want to opt for those, rather than the bandages you have laying around in your medicine cabinet.
Kann says they can be helpful in other areas if chafing breaks your skin. “You’ll want to wear a bandage or keep the area covered up until it heals," she says.
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