[Photo from The Run Commuter]
Chafe from running. We've all been there.
Who hasn't jumped in the shower after a summer run — and nearly jumped right back out again when the water hits a freshly chafed patch of skin? Some of us have also scared the heck out of our pets, spouses, or kids because of how loudly we screamed.
“It’s so impressive that you usually don’t notice chafing when you’re running but you get in the shower, there it is,” dermatologist Jennifer Gray says. Jenn knows about it firsthand. In addition to being an M.D., she’s also a mother runner. She has two kids, ages 12 and 15, and has been lacing up her trainers for 11 years in and around Stonington, Connecticut.
All chafe from run ning, she explains, is the result of friction and the shearing forces it causes, like sandpaper running over wood. This force breaks down layers of your skin, which can happen anytime there is skin-to-skin or skin-to-clothes abrasion. Add some moisture like sweat and humidity and the process picks up speed.
Jenn has some pointers for those looking to avoid the rub.
The most important step is to “address sweating. If you wear 100% cotton, you will not be very happy. Look for a wicking fabric and pay close attention to seams. Socks without seams are ideal.”
Change up your bra, she suggests, if there’s chafing between your breasts or around the straps. “In a proper bra, nothing moves. That’s important,” she says.
Antiperspirants — she recommends Certain Dri roll-on — can help because they shut down the sweat. Lubricants like Body Glide and plain old petroleum jelly are great, as is Aquaphor for those who aren’t sensitive to lanolin. You can usually find small sizes of all of these in the drugstore. Jenn carries a tube of running lube with her when she’s out for a sweat session, just in case.
Still chafe from running happens. When you jump in the shower, be kind to your newly injured skin. “People feel like they really need to scrub a wound but be gentle,” she says. If it’s in a place where it will still be rubbed by clothes, use a non-stick bandage or paper tape.
The spot should heal relatively quickly, Jenn says, but be sure to monitor for redness and swelling. “Clear yellow discharge is okay; cloudy yellow discharge is not okay.” And if you should start running a fever, get yourself to a doctor.
In addition to Jenn’s advice, we did a little crowdsourcing for tips and tricks for dealing with the dreaded chafing:
“I use Shea Butter Vaseline under my bra straps and heart rate monitor straps. Works like a charm and much cheaper than Body Glide.” —Amanda H.
“None of the glides or topical anything works for me. I use a lot of strategically placed large band aids.” —Anne O.
“A&D ointment does wonders and it’s cheaper than most of the recommendations. But I definitely agree a proper fitted bra will help, too” —Denée H.
“Shefit bra has helped me. The rib cage and shoulder straps are adjustable, plus it is easy to nurse in.”—Jill B., who is six months postpartum
“Chamois Butt’r. They also sell little 1 oz. packages that I put in my hydration vest pocket and reapply if needed during my run. It works much better for me than glide — and doesn’t leave grease stains like petroleum jelly." —Nicole R.
“I recently tried KT tape under my bra where it tends to chafe. It worked like a charm! Nothing else I’ve tried helped.” —Holly T.
“Coconut oil mixed with a drop of lavender oil for healing and long shorts for prevention.” —Jeanne B.
“Tri-Slide triathlon anti-chafe spray! But spray it on outdoors — if you get it on your floor, it will literally be slippery for weeks.” —Roberta S.
“Chafex. I like it more than Body Glide. I met the inventors at Hartford Marathon expo years ago. Great guys who really focussed on the science of eliminating as much chafing as possible. These hot days of summer training make chafing so tough!” —Kate P.
“I don’t go on runs longer than 6 miles without Sport Shield for Her. It’s a life saver. I also rub it on my toes and heels to prevent blistering before longer runs. I’m a DD so I chafed HORRIBLY before I found this stuff.” —Aryn S.
“Dove deodorant works so much better for me than the body glide and some other brands.” —Sasha M.