Chafing – treatment and prevention for this common running injury

How to stop chafing while running

Loose running tops can make nipples bleed from chafing if you’re not careful (Illustration: Peter Greenwood)

Chafing is a common problem for runners and triathletes, because the very nature of our training – repetitive and lengthy exercise – means parts of our bodies are continually exposed to rubbing.

Skin is rubbed raw from moving against another body part, or equipment, such as a wetsuit, trainer or saddle. Timothy Smith, sports physio at Bupa Wellness says: “It becomes very painful and causes you to alter movement patterns, resulting in greater energy expenditure or further injury.”

No discipline is safe! Although running is a particular danger sport for chafing – especially on the thighs, crotch, nipples and feet – you can also chafe on the neck and under the armpits while swimming and on the inner thighs on the bike.

Chafing – symptoms

  • Painful rash during or after exercise
  • Can lead to blisters or saddle sores


  1. Stay dry: sweat makes chafing worse as it increases friction, as the salt crystals in sweat are abrasive. But don’t pile on the roll on, as this makes armpits sticky and rubbing worse. Talc in shoes protects feet.
  2. Wear the correct clothing. Wear close-fitting clothing, as anything loose will be an extra area to rub against skin. Lycra is good, and anything that wicks away sweat. Avoid exposed seems.
  3. Use lubricant. Lubes keep skin sliding over areas, rather than rubbing. Use the right ones – lubes with petroleum jelly can corrode rubber and neoprene.
  4. Keep hydrated. Excess fluid loss from the body makes chafing worse, so drink more water to restore balance to the skin and minimise the dryness. Aim to lose or drink no more than 400-800ml an hour.

Find out more about common triathlon injuries or read more about how to avoid triathlon injuries on TriRadar.