I was still on my post half marathon high, clutching my medal in one hand and banana in the other. The finish line photo was taken and uploaded to Instagram. I stumbled back to my hotel room to bask in my post-race hot shower. I will never forget that feeling when the water washed over me and I immediately felt a surge of pain. So severe that I let out a scream that caused my husband to come running in to check on me. No, there was no huge spider in my shower. I was screaming from the pain of chafing under my sports bra. Has this ever happened to you?
If you are a runner or avid exerciser, you have most likely experienced some sort of chafing situation at some time. If you have not yet, don’t worry it will happen. Chafe Happens to the best of us. How can runners avoid chafing? How can we treat it once we have it?
Chafing is the irritation of the skin to the point of soreness and tenderness. It caused by the friction between our skin and moisture and or a piece of fabric. Sometimes this abrasion can lead to bleeding or infection. It can happen anywhere from underarms to inner thighs, groin area, nipples, and under sports bras.
Why do we chafe when running?
Most commonly chafing while running is due to skin on skin rubbing. This happens frequently on inner thighs and upper arms. Irritation also occurs from skin repeatedly rubbing against clothing such as hemlines, sports bra straps, hydration packs, or phone sleeves. Chafing can happen to runners of all shapes and sizes and has nothing to do with weight.
Why does it happen more in the summertime?
Wearing less clothing creates more potential areas for skin irritation to occur. We sweat more in the summer heat and that moisture on our skin contributes to more rubbing. Running in the rain or with wet clothes can also lead to potential chafing.
What can you do to reduce chafing?
Wear sweat-wicking clothes that help to keep the moisture off of your body and stay away from cotton. Cutting tags out of your shirts and wearing compression shorts will help to alleviate rubbing. Make sure to wear properly fitting sports bras that will stay in place while you move. Check for any zippers that may rub or irritate you (such as on a half zip) and safety pin them down.
Pre-treat your chafing hot spots
Taking a few pre run actions can help to prevent chafing. Moisture is not your friend. Using a simple product such as baby powder on sports bra straps and inner thighs does a fantastic job of reducing moisture. That is the reason why it is used for diaper rash in infants. Petroleum jelly and products like Aquafor help to create a protective barrier. There are some products that are made specifically for runners and Body Glide for her is very effective. If you are prone to chafing in sensitive groin areas (as many cyclists and runners do), Butt’r is specifically designed to help. I’ve used it for years for cycling and love it. (This post contains affiliate links)
How to treat chafing after it happens
Despite our best efforts, chafing still happens sometimes. It is important to clean the area with gentle soap to get any dirt or germs out of the area. Dry the area completely post-shower. One of the best ways to treat it is to use a diaper rash creme. Yup, it’s a similar malady. Petroleum jelly is also a great option and very soothing. The area will most likely scab over and heal quickly. Consult a doctor if there is any sign of infection or significant bleeding.