If runners talk for long enough they will inevitably begin to share ‘horror’ stories, and it is more likely than not that one of them will involve chafing. This common issue involves the rubbing of fabric or skin on skin and can be quite a painful experience (especially when you hop into the shower). Also referred to as ‘chub rub,’ you can’t always predict when it will occur, though knowing common areas for chafing can help you in the battle.
“One of the strange phenomenons of chafing is it seems to always happen on race day and in places you’ve never had issues,” says Amanda Brooks, the voice behind popular website Run To The Finish. “Avoid this by covering every thing you can think of with anti-chafe!”
COMMON CHAFING SPOTS (AND WHY THEY HAPPEN)
There is good and bad news about chafing: It usually happens in a few localized spots. If you know where and why it occurs, you can take the proper precautions to make sure it doesn’t happen to you.
“Common areas [for chafing] are thighs, nipples, groin, where arms rub the body, where bras rub and tear the skin, our feet and toes, anywhere skin is rubbed by running gear, shoes and where skin rubs against skin,” explains Bill Sternoff, CEO of BodyGlide, known as the Original Anti-Chafe. “The friction causes rash, painful irritation, skin burns, raw skin and open wounds that can require medical attention.”
All of these places are in danger of having skin rub against skin or fabric rub against skin, and it’s that constant rubbing and friction that leads to chafing. Unfortunately, all it takes is a little friction to cause a lot of pain and the skin irritation can last for days.
Chafing can actually be worse during the summer months thanks to the potential to sweat even more than usual. More than just the salt content, it can add to the actual friction that causes chafing.
“The salt and fatty acids in our sweat [have] a ‘sandpaper’ effect on the skin,” reveals Rebecca Killian, a VP at sweatWELLth, which makes FRICTION FREE Anti-Chafing Spray. “Proper hydration before, during and after your walk, run, ride or other workouts are important to prevent chafing. This will allow you to perspire freely so the perspiration doesn’t dry into salt crystals and increase the possibility of chafing.”
HOW TO PREVENT CHAFING
A secret is that you don’t have to be actively running to chafe; as Killian notes above, because sweat can increase the chance of chafing, staying in wet and sweaty clothes after you run can cause the same problematic rubbing on your skin.
Of course what you do before and after you run matters just as much as the actual run. Before you hit the roads or trails, find a product, such as BodyGlide, sweatWELLth’s FRICTION FREE or even Vaseline to lubricate your skin so both skin and fabrics glide. Additionally, pay attention to how fabrics feel against your skin while shopping for running gear. This includes shoes and socks, as well.
“Your choice of clothes, socks, shoes, sports bra, the weather and best practices really matter,” notes Sternoff. “[For example,] what’s your moisture-management system for your feet and toes? Before you run, apply our Body Glide balm directly to your toes and feet for protection against the sandpaper effects, and wear socks that wick-away moisture. Together they’ll protect you around the clock, on the track and during a marathon.”
When preventing chafing in areas other than your feet, such as your armpits or thighs, you may want to take into account your grooming practices. Killian explains that shaving either area can actually increase your chance of chafing.
“Skin-to-skin rubbing or abrasion from a shirt are two causes of armpit chafing,” she adds. “If you shave your armpits, you may be prone to chafing caused by a shirt rubbing against hair stubble. Apply FRICTION FREE to your armpits and make sure you wear a shirt that fits properly.”
IF IT’S TOO LATE FOR PREVENTION
If you are already experiencing chafing, you can still use anti-chafing products to help keep the area lubricated. This keeps the area that has been rubbed raw from getting any worse. You can add other barriers, as well.
“Once chafing has started, try placing a piece of moleskin or a large band aid over the area to prevent additional contact with clothing or other skin that’s causing friction,” Brooks says.
Of course, you will want to make sure whenever you find yourself in damp or sweaty clothes, as mentioned above, that you change out of them and shower as soon as possible to help get the salt crystals off of your skin. Keeping the area clean will help it to heal more quickly.
“Treat chafing like you would a minor burn or diaper rash,” says Killian. “Cover the chafed patches with a sterile gauze pad that allows the area to breathe until it is healed. To give the injured area time to heal, you may need to take a few days off from the activity that caused the chafing.”