Chafing is often thought of as just an irritating side effect of running, but that annoying itch can quickly turn into an open, bleeding wound that will have you thinking twice about your next race.
Chafing occurs by the combination of sweat and friction: either your clothing rubbing against your skin, or your skin rubbing together, like in between your thighs. There are a few ways to prevent chafing, however, and relieve its painful symptoms if the unfortunate happens to occur.
Friction is the chafing culprit, so lubrication is your best defense. To keep your skin from rubbing raw, apply a lubricant to notorious trouble areas, like your armpits, nipples and inner thighs. The tried and true favorites of avid runners are petroleum jelly, udder cream and bag balm, but any lubricant will work. Many athletes also put lubricant on their feet to avoid blisters.
You’ll also want to keep your affected areas as dry as possible to cut down on friction. Talcum powder and cornstarch are good to have on hand to soak up extra sweat and prevent chafing. Snug-fitting clothes are also preferred to loose-fitting because they stay put. To prevent inner thigh and groin chafing, spandex and bicycle shorts are your best bets, and skin tight tanks and tees with ‘sweat-wicking’ material will pull moisture away from your body and prevent any chafing up top. Also, never wear new clothes on a run, especially a long one, until you know how they fit and rub your skin.
If you do happen to get a bad case of chafing, treat the area like you would any other open wound. Wash with antibacterial soap and water, and cover with a sterile bandage until it heals. The area will be tender for a while, so make sure the wound is completely healed before trying another run with it unprotected.