You are a runner, so you know chafe… If you’ve run anything more than 5km with badly fitted shorts. If you’ve ever worn a sports bra. If you have thighs that even vaguely meet in the middle. If you have run a marathon. If you have run an ultra. If you have run through sand. If you have done a salty water crossing. If you ran in the wrong undies. If you have not tightened the straps of your hydration pack correctly.
And you usually find out just how bad that chafe is when you get in to the shower post-run, and then even the neighbours know about it! So what are the hacks to prevent chafe from sucking the joy from your trail time? We rounded up some good advice and product info. If it’s not on this list, it probably isn’t worth trying.
First, examine your gear. Cotton is the king of friction when damp; so run in technical, moisture wicking fabrics only. Turn them inside out and check for rough seams, tags, or bands that will transform in to evil cheese graters after a few hours. You’ll be the cheese.
Check the fit of your gear. If you have gained or lost weight, you will need to ditch certain items. Tight shorts are just as dangerous as baggy running tees when it comes to friction. Friction is the enemy here.
Many runners swear by a fitted pair of tights below their running shorts to keep it all where it needs to be. We fight friction with every weapon available to us. On the subject of covering up, the bleeding nipple look is the surest way to kill your cool factor. Use plasters, guys.
Sean Falconer, editor of Modern Athlete, “I never run without tights under my shorts, because thanks to the combination of my stocky stature and my soccer-playing days, I have 'thunder thigh' quads that seem to rub each other up the wrong way! And then some anti-chafe lube cream as well for those 'tender bits.'”
There are many anti-chafe products on the shelves, and one in just about every race goodie back on the planet. How to choose your go-to-goo? We asked a few runners for their feedback.
Renata Bossi, “Vaseline for the sports bra chafe, works like a bomb.”
Cailine McCann, “Sports bra chafe is the worst. Bees wax or Vaseline.”
Desmond Deary, “Vaseline, and plasters for the nipples.”
Vaseline got a lot of love in our poll, but when is that pot of gold… not so golden? WHEN COMBINED WITH SAND! If you’ve ever done a desert race, or a multi-day beach run, you’ll know what we mean here. Fine men and women have fallen due to this small glitch in race preparation. Vaseline and sand bond immediately to become an unbelievably painful, and difficult to remove, layer of hell-for-skin. You’ll wish you had gone with an alternative such as Sudocrem barrier cream (buy a giant pot of it at Clicks) or one of the baby bum cream alternatives.
Armand du Plessis, a trail runner with many multi-day and 100km+ events to his name can tell you what does not work. “I once used leaves on Diagonale des Fous out of desperation. It didn’t work well. Luckily it wasn’t poison ivy but it was sort of like… palm leaves I stuck into my shorts to try and reduce chafe…”
Brigette Melly, “Good ol' cheap vaseline. Works for sea swimming and running!!! And for the more sensitive areas (bumcheeks!), coconut oil.”
Naomi Brand, “Squirrel's Nut Butter works like a charm”
Lesyl Potgieter, “Bennetts baby bum wax-based lube, is my go-to remedy for anti-chafing”
Pamela Paton, “Zam-Buk. But for mid run then I use Vaseline as those Zam-Bukk lids are impossible to get off when tired/sweaty.”
Whilst running, treat chafe as soon as it begins. Crossing the finish line with your arms in the air should be a victory dance, not an “I cannot put my arms down my pits are raw I’ve run like this for 2 hours” situation. Carry a small sample of your favourite anti-chafe remedy in your pack or in your pocket and apply it to the burn zone before it worsens. Asking a fellow runner to share his or her lube is not really the done thing, but alright if the situation is dire.
So what do you do when it’s too late?
Richard Alexader Wagener, “My big secret is Calasthetic Cream. Get it at a pharmacy over counter to put on chafed skin. It’s an antihistamine, anaesthetic, and antiinflammatory all combined, should be included in every medical kit.”
Shower immediately after running, and keep the water tepid (while you scream the house down and frighten the kids… you may want to warn them prior). An antibacterial soap will help to prevent infection of your damaged skin. You can also treat your chafe with antibacterial nappy-rash creams. Oh, and when you leave the shower, dap, don’t rub!
Wishing you a chafe-free summer!
Words by Kim Stephens