Chafing occurs where your skin meets some kind of friction, this can be most commonly between your legs, but also under the arms, around bra straps/wire and nipples. The outer layer of the skin is rubbed and becomes red and irritated. It can be skin on skin or skin against a fabric.
The repetitive movement of running and the exercise-induced sweat, make chafing a common occurrence whilst running.
In the recent hot weather in the UK, I’ve been caught out a few times mid run where chafing has started and there is not much I’ve been able to do about it. I had to grin and bear it and then have a few uncomfortable days whilst it recovered.
Here a few pointers to how to prevent chafing –
Cotton absorbs sweat and stays wet creating irritation under friction. Synthetic sweat-wicking materials are much better, moving sweat away from the body. This includes socks.
Seams and tags
Use tops, bras and shorts that are seamless or have flat seams and do not have tags (or tags that can be removed easily with damaging the garment).
Take care with charity vests that tend to have trim under arms that forms a seam and sticks out. Check your finisher t-shirts before use.
Get the right size
Not too loose or too tight! Loose garments can increase the chance of chafing. Something too tight can ride up and cause extra friction. Buy a good pair(s) of running-specific socks.
Since I was in my teens I have worn compression shorts to prevent chafing between the top of my thighs. Also, Andre Agassi and Michael Jordan wore them too and it looked cool. This protects my thighs by avoiding skin on skin rubbing. They have to be seamless. A well-fitting compression top can do the same for the upper body. I used to swear by the Nike compression shorts, but the recent version has put a strange pocket in the frontal man area (apparently to provide support) and therefore, a further seam in the crotch that actually exacerbates rubbing.
Normally a race-specific item, but useful for long runs. Buy a box. If in doubt, stick some in your nipples. Bleeding nipples are no joke. They really hurt and takes a long time to recover. You can get a pack of 40 for £1 (that’s 5 pence per race).
I use Vaseline. It does the job, is cheap and a tub lasts forever. It does contain petroleum jelly which can stain clothing (not that many people see the insides on my shorts) and cannot be used not on neoprene wetsuits. Your hands obviously get super greasy and it’s not easy to wash off. One to use at home before you go.
Body glide seems to be a lot of peoples go to product (particularly triathletes). Its natural with no harmful chemicals, washes off easily and is easy to apply. The container is like a deodorant stick so you can apply it without getting greasy fingers. It’s fairly pricey and also comes with SPF 30 sunscreen version. WIGGLE LINK
Apply thoroughly between the legs and buttocks, under arms, under bra straps, waistbands, between toes.
Shower as soon as your home. Use antibacterial soap to defend against bacteria. Or a scent free or soap-free body wash to avoid irritation. Pat yourself dry with a towel, or the men’s gym changing room preferred method, air dry!
Apply a healing cream such as Savlon or Sudocrem that sooth, help healing, have a mild anaesthetic and reduce the risk of infection.