Did you know that over 60 million people run, jog, or trail run each year? Chances are, you're a runner to some degree. And if you're a runner or other endurance athlete, you've experienced the dreaded chafe.
If you've never experienced chafing while running, consider yourself lucky! Chafing causes large abrasions and rashes on the skin. It might sound like a small issue, but in reality, it can be a very painful experience that can impact your performance and your comfort.
In this article, we'll be discussing chafing, prevention tips, and recovery techniques. With just a few tricks you can prevent and treat chafing, so read on to learn more!
Chafing While Running
Chafing is friction that rubs and wears away the skin. The friction exposes the deeper layers of skin and begins to wear away at them, making them red, raw, and irritated.
Chafing causes large and deep abrasions, and occasionally even rashes. It can also form blisters in some areas.
Runners, cyclers, and other endurance athletes experience chafing due to repetitive movements, causing friction that builds up over time.
Skin chafing is worsened with the presence of water. So sweat, rain, and humid weather make it more likely for you to experience chafing.
Salt can also aggravate the issue, acting like sandpaper in the wound. Your sweat can therefore irritate the chafing further. If you're a triathlete, swimming in saltwater after running can leave your skin raw and stinging.
At worst, chafing can cause you to change your gait to compensate for your pain. An unbalanced running gait can make your muscles tighter, and can even cause some serious injuries.
For example, if you notice your armband is chafing your left side, you might automatically swing your left arm less than your right. This kind of compensatory behavior can impact your gait and make you susceptible to injury.
Where Does Chafing Happen?
You're probably already aware of your own hot spots, or areas that experience frequent chafing. However, if you're thinking of increasing your running load, it's good to be aware of the common culprits of chafing so you can prevent new hot spots.
Some areas chafe because your body rubs against itself as you move, while other areas chafe because your clothes can grate away at your skin. Therefore, chafing can be divided into two categories: skin-on-skin, and fabric-on-skin.
The thighs are the most common complaint among runners. When you run, your thighs rub against each other and can cause friction. They can also rub against the seams of your shorts.
Many runners also complain about groin chafing. Groin chafing can occur due to underwear that cuts too deeply into the hip flexor area and causes friction.
Men are susceptible to a condition called a runner's nipple. Runner's nipple is where the shirt rubs against the nipples so much that they become raw and can even bleed.
While sports bras allow women to avoid runner's nipple, the sports bra can chafe in other areas. The chest band can chafe around the ribcage and the straps can cut into the shoulders.
The armpits can also get irritated during a run. Skin-on-skin friction from arm swinging and the seams of your shirt can cause chafing. If you shave your armpit, you might also experience chafing from hair stubble.
How to Prevent Skin Chafing
Luckily enough, it's quite easy to prevent chafing while running. Through careful use of chafing salves and modifying your clothing choices a bit, you can eliminate chafing!
Cotton is one of the biggest chafing culprits. It retains moisture and can drag on your skin more than other fabrics. Instead of cotton, opt for synthetic, moisture-wicking fabrics.
If you can, avoid seams and tags on your clothes. These small lines can cause a surprising amount of friction.
Furthermore, if your thighs chafe, consider longer compression shorts or tights instead of running shorts.
These clothing tips won't completely cure chafing, but they can improve some of the trouble areas. Easily one of the best solutions to skin chafing is salves and creams.
A chafing lubricant keeps the area between your skin and your clothes smooth and slippery, so they glide off of each other with no friction. You can apply it to all trouble areas like the thighs, armpits, and around sports bra straps.
Many runners forget to use chafing cream on areas with lots of straps. If you wear a heart rate monitor, hydration belt, armband, or backpack, be sure to apply your chafing balm around the straps to prevent rubbing.
If you're going on a long-distance run, you can even bring a little chafing stick with you, and reapply as you go.
How to Resolve Chafing
If you've already experienced some chafing, while it can be painful, it can be simple to treat.
First, take a shower immediately to get the salty sweat out of the burn. Wash the area with lukewarm water. Hot water can exacerbate the burning sensation.
Then, gently wash the area with antibacterial soap to prevent infection. After showering, apply a healing balm. A restorative salve can make the area less painful, and help it to heal quicker.
If the burn is deep and tender, you can cover it with gauze. Otherwise, just wear loose comfortable clothes that don't rub the area.
Stop All Your Chafing Worries
If you're looking for the perfect all-natural chafing cream, look no further than Squirrel's Nut Butters. Our natural products keep your skin healthy by preventing chafing while running and healing damaged skin.
Take a look at our anti-chafing selection, and reach out if you have any questions!