I can't say I ever thought about chafing before one memorable day when I was on a run and it was all I could think of. I started getting that rubbing, burning, painful feeling in the middle of my 18-mile run, and there was no escaping it. Since that painful moment (and, admittedly, a few more after), I wised up to chafing and learned to beat it — or at least keep it in its place. As warmer months approach and I gear up for more sweaty runs, I make sure to always do these four things to prevent annoying chafing during a run.
Wise Up and Gear Up
Because chafing is caused by friction of either skin on skin or clothes on skin, making sure I have the proper attire is probably the most important thing I can do to prevent chafing. This means I avoid cotton at any costs and focus on sweat-wicking gear that actually is designed to take on sweat and keep the body dry throughout workouts. Although chafing can occur anywhere and in different spots for athletes, I've wised up to my own "problem" areas: my thighs and chest. Opting for a quick-drying, lightweight knit short like the UA RUSH™ Run 2-in-1 Shorts ($70) ensures I'm dry and cool during my long runs so I'm setting myself up for a fresh and chafe-free run. Plus, the seven-inch compression bike short underlayer helps further minimize skin-on-skin contact.
Selecting a comfortable and proper-fitting sports bra is always important, but if that's an area where you're prone to chafing, it's essential. I always opt for a bra that offers maximum support to minimize movement, which can further cause rubbing and discomfort. The HeatGear Armour® High Support Sports Bra ($55) is a great option thanks to its mesh and ventilation system that helps keep air moving through this full-coverage, high-impact bra. Plus, wide chest bands like the one here help minimize skin exposure when paired with tanks. Trust me, the last thing you want is added irritation under your arm with each swing of the arms.
Check the Weather
I'm not a fair-weather runner by any means (yes, I do run in the rain), but I am more conscious of conditions when I have a long run on the books. Because I know long runs are usually when my chafing woes occur, I try to be strategic about planning these workouts. Heat and humidity are the perfect recipe for my active sweat glands, so if I can avoid a time of day or even a steamy day altogether in favor of a cooler or breezier day, I do so. And although I do enjoy a good summer rain run, water is also a major culprit to chafing. Either avoiding long-distance runs in rainy weather or making sure I'm wearing water-repellent clothing to keep sloshing and sogginess away is key.
Don't Forget the Little Things
Although I'd never head out on a run without my tracker or my armband for my phone, both areas have been known sore spots for me. There are some fantastic antichafing products you can use to target these small areas, but for me, the fix for these easy-to-forget areas is as small as a moisturizing deodorant and a soothing multiuse balm.
I generously apply Kopari's Coconut Deodorant ($14) to my underarm and surrounding area. The coconut-oil formulation might be off-putting for some, but for me, I find it silky smooth and absorbent. And while it doesn't keep me from sweating (it's a natural deodorant, not antiperspirant), it preps my skin so that when I do sweat, my armband, tank, and sports bra simply glide over the area as opposed to catching and rubbing against the skin. Lastly, for spots around the velcro portion of my armband or clasp of my fitness tracker, I opt for a tiny layer of Dr. Pawpaw's Original Multipurpose Soothing Balm ($8). The clear, natural formula is a surprisingly lightweight balm that's rich in papaya fruit, aloe vera, and olive oil to help minimize the risk of friction-based irritation.
Slow Down and Cool Off
I've run through enough aches and pains in my time to know that stopping is often a good solution when something hurts. If I've done everything I can before my run and still feel the itch of rubbing creeping up, one of the best midrun tricks I've found is to pause my tracker and just take a breather. I pat down the affected sweaty area and try to cool off for a few minutes. This allows me to attempt some damage control and cool off so I'm not overheating or pushing my body too hard. And if things get bad enough, there's no shame in putting a pin in the run and trying another day. It might be frustrating, but listening to my body and its pain cues has helped me maintain a healthy relationship with running for almost a decade now. If that means delaying a run or taking a day to heal, so be it! I run to help my body, not hurt it.