Feel the burn, but not that kind: How to prevent chafing when running

With the cooler months providing perfect weather for those longer runs, we decided to tackle that burning question around chafe and what you can do to prevent chafing when running.

Running is one of the best cardio exercises. Even running for as little as 10 minutes a day can significantly improve your heart health along with many other benefits like improving bone strength, building muscle, reducing stress and anxiety, boosting confidence, and releasing endorphins which help you feel happier.  Along with the benefits, there are certainly some downsides to running like shin splints, blisters, knee problems, back pain, and of course the dreaded chafe. 

What is chafed skin?

Medically speaking, chafed skin is a rash that occurs when your skin rubs against another part of your skin repeatedly. However, it can also occur when your skin rubs against clothing or another material.

If your skin is chafed, you may experience pink or red skin and your skin can feel hot or sting.  Once the chafing starts to heal, it may start to flake or create red spots. 

In the worst cases, when chafing is left untreated or not cared for, you may even experience swelling, blistering, bleeding, or crusting of the affected area. In rare cases, this can develop into bacterial or fungal infections and a doctor should be consulted.

What causes chafe when running?

Friction, heat, and moisture are key ingredients when it comes to chafing and as we all know, running makes your skin warm and sweaty. The constant repetitive motion that runners endure, creates the perfect environment for chafing, whether it’s your own skin rubbing together or your clothing rubbing against your skin. Running in hot and humid weather can also exacerbate and contribute to chafing. 

step one chafe shorts

Common places to experience runner's chafe:

The most common places that runners experience chafing is:

  • Inner thighs – generally caused by skin rubbing against skin, chafing here can also be caused by loose or ill-fitting clothing rubbing against your skin.
  • Groin – another area where chafing will be caused by skin rubbing against skin – often more common with males, because, you know… dangly bits.
  • Buttocks – if you’re experiencing chafing here, your clothing might be the issue.
  • Armpits –  chafing under the armpits could be caused by skin-to-skin contact as well as clothing rubbing against the area.
  • Under the breasts or the nipples – Chaffing here is usually caused by loose sports bras or shirts rubbing against the chest. 

How to treat chafed skin:

There are plenty of at-home treatments, over-the-counter creams, and medicines for chafed skin.

Home remedies for treating chafe:

Aloe Vera is easy to grow at home and has a variety of uses including chafing and sunburn. If you have a plant at home you can break a leaf off and use the gel inside. You can also buy the gel at any grocery or drug store. It can help reduce the irritation and inflammation that occurs during chafing.

Coconut Oil is another home option for chafed skin. A small amount applied to the affected area can help kill off bacteria and help soothe the chafed area.

Corn Starch can be used to soak up any extra moisture as well as reduce any itching that may be occurring.

Shea Butter can help calm inflammation and helps soften and nourish the infected area.

Over-the-counter products for treating runner’s chafe:

  • Skin Strong – With a range of products from sprays to creams, Skin Strong is designed to prevent chafing by applying it before you run. However, it’s also great at soothing the chafe that has already occurred.
  • Megababe Thigh Rescue – This award-winning product comes in easy-to-apply stick form and uses Aloe, grapeseed oil, and vitamin E.
  • Bepanthen Antiseptic Cream. A staple in most nappy bags, this product is available in pretty much any chemist or supermarket. Commonly used for nappy rash, you could probably ask anyone with a pram and they will be able to sort you out with Bepanthen or a similar product that can offer some relief from chafe.
  • Neat 3B Action Cream – tried and tested, New Zealand-born company, Neat Feat, has been creating body products since 1992 and has got the chafe issue sorted!

If you start to notice chafing after a run, shower in lukewarm water, use antibacterial soap, and then pat the area dry and cover it with gauze or something similar to allow the area to breathe. Wear loose-fitting clothing for the next couple of days.

neat feat anti chafe

Tips to avoid runner's chafe:

There are numerous ways and products to avoid chaffing while running. These include:

  • Wear tight but stretchy clothing – wearing tight clothing reduces the chance of friction caused by clothing rubbing against the skin. You might also want to avoid garments where there are seams that sit on the inside of your thighs as this can increase the chance of chafing.
  • Anti-chafe underwear. Most women are comfortable donning a pair of running tights, but those figure-hugging garments can leave some males feeling a little exposed. Consider investing in some chafe-resistant underwear that can be worn under a loose-fitting pair of shorts to protect your skin. Aussie underwear kings, Step One have some great options in their range and cater to all shapes and sizes.
  • Use a barrier cream. Similar to the chafing bands, a barrier cream creates a layer for the skin while simultaneously treating any skin that is already chafed. Check out Squirrels Nut Butter or Aussie-owned Woohoo’s Anti-Chafe sticks. If you’ve left your favourite anti-chafe cream at home and your resources are limited, petroleum jelly is a great alternative too!
  • Stay hydrated – being hydrated allows your skin to sweat, flushing away any salt crystals that may dry out the skin.
  • If you are gearing up for a big running event, it’s also worth considering the timing of your hair removal routine. Prickly regrowth from shaving can cause irritation and chafe, plus skin that has just been waxed can be raw and sensitive, which leaves it vulnerable to becoming irritated on that long run. Preparation is key!
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