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Chafing is a common skin concern among people who run or jog.

In a small 2014 study, 42 percent of road runners reported experiencing chafing, and chafing was the second most common running issue after blisters.

Chafing can happen when your skin rubs against fabric or when it rubs against other sections of skin. In either scenario, chafing eventually causes the surface of your skin to break down, which can lead to symptoms, like:

  • rash
  • itching
  • pain
  • swelling

These symptoms can cause lingering discomfort as they heal — not to mention, they can make you feel less comfortable about going for a run in the future.

Why do runners chafe so easily?

Well, jogging tends to make your skin hot and sweaty. What’s more, the constant movement makes it easy for your skin to rub together, or rub against your clothes. All that friction, heat, and moisture makes the perfect recipe for chafing.

Chafing generally isn’t dangerous, but it’s not pleasant, either. Here’s the good news, though: You can often prevent chafing before it happens.

Below, you’ll find seven tips to help protect your skin and prevent chafing, so you can get back to enjoying your regular jog.

Every piece of your running outfit should fit your body closely. Your clothes shouldn’t restrict your movement, but they should be snug enough that your skin can’t slide against the fabric.

Loose clothing with plenty of airflow, like a T-shirt and gym shorts, could also work, if that’s more your style. You’ll just want to make sure your clothes don’t allow any skin-to-skin contact as you run, since it can also lead to chafing.

If you wear a sports bra for running, make sure it’s tight enough to hold your chest steady. If your chest has room to move around inside your bra, you run the risk of “jogger’s nipple,” a painful friction burn.

If you have a larger chest, consider a sports bra with encapsulated (divided) cups to help prevent rubbing and friction as you run.

Check out our top picks for running sports bras.

The fabric of your running gear is just as important as the fit.

Some fabrics, like denim and cotton, absorb moisture too easily to make good workout material. Plus, they’re heavier, and that extra weight means more pressure against your skin.

To avoid chafing, opt for fabrics that draw sweat away from your skin to help keep you dry, including moisture-wicking fabrics such as:

  • polyester (or recycled polyester)
  • nylon (or recycled nylon)
  • bamboo

In search of sustainable activewear brands? Find our picks here.

The inner seams of your running clothes can rub against your skin as you run. Add some sweat, and you’ll likely feel the burn later.

Avoid seam chafing by doing a quick check of any jogging shorts or shirts you plan to buy. Opt for clothes with flatlock seams, which are less likely to irritate your skin because they lie flush against the fabric rather than poking out.

If you want to go the extra mile, don’t forget to cut the tags off your new outfit. Tags may not always chafe, but they can certainly make you itch.

Chafing can happen anywhere your body folds, bends, or bulges.

Some of the most common chafing sites include the:

  • armpits
  • inner elbows and knees
  • chest
  • groin
  • thighs

Adding an extra layer can help protect your skin.

You can often cover smaller areas, like your nipples, with bandages or sports tape. Your clothing can help shield larger areas, like your thighs.

Do your inner thighs often chafe during runs? This generally happens when your bare skin rubs against itself.

Try longer running pants, on their own or under your shorts, to help ensure the friction happens only between fabric, not your skin.

Another chafing solution? Get slippery before you head out to the track or trail.

Many joggers apply petroleum jelly to sensitive areas before a run. Other options include specially designed anti-chafing creams, balms, and dusting powders.

Get our picks for anti-chafing products here.

If you tend to chafe in your armpits, it could help to refresh your antiperspirant before a run. Not only can it reduce friction, but it can also help cut back on sweat.

You’re more likely to experience chafing in a hot or humid environment. That’s why runners tend to chafe more often during spring and summer.

Before taking your jog outside, make sure Mother Nature is on board with your plans. If the heat index is above 98.6 °F (37°C) and the humidity is above 70 percent, it’s best to stay indoors.

Running in extreme heat won’t just raise your risk of chafing — it could also cause heat stroke.

During the warmer months, consider moving your running route to a treadmill, in an air-conditioned building. You can also try jogging in the early morning or evening. You know, when the sun isn’t roasting the surface of the Earth.

Sometimes, as hard as you try to stay dry, it’s not always possible. Maybe you end up running through a sudden rain shower. Or perhaps you simply tend to sweat a lot, especially when you really pound the track.

Leaving damp clothes on after your run could lead to skin irritation and chafing, even though no you’re longer in motion.

So, as tempting as it can feel to rest after a long run, take a quick shower and swap your running gear for dry clothes before you kick back and relax.

When to get medical treatment for chafing

The pain and redness from chafed skin usually goes away by itself in a few days, but it’s important to keep the area clean and dry until it heals.

If you continue running, or any other activity that chafes your skin, before it has time to heal, you run the risk of infection.

You’ll want to reach out to a healthcare professional for treatment if:

  • chafing symptoms don’t improve after a few days
  • the chafed area feels very painful or irritated
  • you notice inflammation, pus, or other signs of infection
Was this helpful?

Generally speaking, the best way to handle chafing is to prevent it from happening in the first place.

To help keep your skin protected and healthy, wear comfortable workout clothes that fit well and give high-friction areas of your body extra coverage.

Taking extra time to prepare can help keep your run fun, not to mention chafe-free.

Emily Swaim is a freelance health writer and editor who specializes in psychology. She has a BA in English from Kenyon College and an MFA in writing from California College of the Arts. In 2021, she received her Board of Editors in Life Sciences (BELS) certification. You can find more of her work on GoodTherapy, Verywell, Investopedia, Vox, and Insider. Find her on Twitter and LinkedIn.