No matter your body type or your size, chafing can happen. Whether you get thigh rub on a short jog or end up with chafed underarm patches after a marathon-distance run, chafing can be problematic for any runner. The good news is it’s mostly preventable — with some forethought, proper gear and a correct recovery protocol.
FIND THE RIGHT FIT
The first key to beating chafing is to find running clothes and shoes that fit. Most issues are caused by ill-fitting garments. When shopping, make sure the clothes are not too loose because they will be shifting with every stride. Alternatively, don’t get things that are so tight you feel like you’re running in a sausage costume. Also, make sure the seams are flat and don’t feel like they’re scraping as you move (do a run-in-place when trying clothes on). For shoes, make sure there are no ‘hot spots’ when you try them on, and give yourself time to break in new pairs. (Pro tip: Buy new shoes while your old ones still have a bit of life in them, so you can use short runs and walks to break in the new sneakers and keep using your old shoes until the new ones wear in.)
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TACKLE THIGH RUB
Thigh rub doesn’t just happen when you’re holding onto extra weight: It happens to even the highest-level racers. Triathlete Tyler Jermann swears by Body Glide for keeping his thighs happy. “I’ve got bigger thighs and they always seem to rub together causing not-fun skin irritation, so it’s a helpful tool for normal training and racing,” he explains.
If anti-chafing products don’t work, there’s a much simpler option: Swap out your shorts. Most thigh rub issues can be solved by swapping from shorts to capris, and there are plenty of options available for hot weather running, like Under Armour’s Heat Gear capri tights, which work to wick sweat while you run.
For long, hot runs, underarms can be another area of irritation. If you end up with small, red, painful patches, you have two options: Use anti-chafing products instead of normal deodorant, which can actually add to the irritation or skip tanks and sleeveless tops. Short-sleeve, fitted shirts, like the UA Streaker T-shirt, will add a fabric buffer between your skin and help avoid friction.
Coach Heath Dotson swears by Body Glide on the outsides of his feet to avoid friction in his shoes. Triathlete Kirsten Kasper uses it in her race shoes around her heels. But if you don’t want Body Glide on your feet, using moleskin pieces cut to the right size can keep your heels much happier if the backs of your shoes are tearing into your skin. Additionally, run-specific socks can be a lifesaver. The most important thing is to find proper-fitting shoes. If one type of shoe is chafing your feet every run, it’s time to switch your sneakers.
UMM … WHAT ABOUT NIPPLES?
Women luckily avoid the issue of nipple chafing by wearing proper-fitting sports bras. But for men in loose T-shirts, long runs can actually irritate nipples. If this has been a problem for you, there are two simple fixes: runner Jonathan Levitt suggests going with the ‘less is more’ approach and skipping a shirt altogether. If you’re more modest, try the classic bandage-over-nipple trick.
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LET YOUR SKIN RECOVER
The biggest reason chafing doesn’t stop is runners hate to stop in general — so despite sensitive skin, they’ll keep ticking off miles. If you’re trying to heal, take a day off, maybe do yoga or another form of exercise. Additionally, if your skin is truly rubbed raw, add antibacterial healing cream and try to air the area out.