Chafing can vary from a minor irritation to causing enough discomfort to stop you running altogether. It’s a very real, painful, problem for many, and can lead to the sport you love becoming a downright miserable experience. So, what causes chafing and how can you avoid it?
When the fabric of your running clothes (or shoes) rubs against your skin repeatedly, the friction can damage the outer layers. This is especially true when you are sweaty, for moist skin is more susceptible to damage than dry. If you are really perspiring hard, salt crystals can form, scarifying the skin more deeply. The resultant chafing can vary from a tender, red patch to an open, bleeding wound – ouch!
There are several actions you can take to prevent chafing; it may take some trial and error to find out which one, or which combination of solutions, works for you.
Consider your clothing and shoes:
· Think about the fabric your kit is made of. Choose soft, technical fabrics or wools; materials that will wick any sweat away from your skin. Avoid cotton at all costs - not only does it stay damp for longer, but it can also become quite stiff when wet and more liable to rub. Be aware, too, that as your kit becomes older, frequent washing may cause the fabric to stiffen and rub more; sports bra straps are notorious for this.
· Look at how your running clothes are constructed. Choose kit with minimal seams, flat stitching, or better still, none. The less joins you have, the less potential points for friction there are.
· Choose the fit of your clothes carefully. Tight-fitting or compression gear can reduce the movement between skin and fabric, and thus the potential for chafing.
· Make sure your running shoes fit you well. Whilst you don’t want them so tight that they cause you blisters and other problems, if there is movement between your foot and the back of the shoe, rubbing can occur. Lace shoes to keep your heel in place and avoid socks that are low enough to work their way down, leaving the skin on your heel exposed to the back of the shoe.
Take care of your skin:
· Know where your chafing trouble spots are and prepare them well before running. Key spots include between the thighs, under the armpits, the nipples (for men) and under bra straps (for women), and around the neckline and inside arm of t-shirts.
· Apply some form of lubricant to minimise movement between fabric and skin. Popular and effective choices include Vaseline and bodyglide.
· Try an application of talcum powder before setting off to help keep your skin dry. Apply some form of lubricant to minimise movement between fabric and skin. Popular and effective choices include Vaseline and bodyglide. Try an application of talcum powder before setting off to help keep your skin dry.
· If you shave, avoid stubble.
· Keep your skin in as good condition as possible
Check your hydration:
· Keep yourself well-hydrated, both during your runs and the rest of the time. If you’re dehydrated, the levels of salt in your sweat will increase, risking more irritation for your skin.
When it comes to chafing, a little time, thought and preparation before you run can make a world of difference, the difference between a comfortable run and some miserable miles.
Rachel Sheldrake is a UKA-qualified coach who also operates trail running weekends. Find out more here****.