Chafing Is Serious Business

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When you get a text message from a friend who ended up in the emergency room due to chafing, it’s never good. The consequences of fabric rubbing away at flesh can be devastating.  Fold that into the mix of ultrarunning, and you’ve got a potential recipe for disaster.  Here are some tips on preventing a well-known injury that commonly affects distance runners.

If you’ve ever stepped into the shower after a race, only to find out the skin on certain parts of your body has slowly been rubbed away, you’ll know why there is a common adage to never try out new clothes on longer runs.  While this is probably one of the most familiar rules we’ve had pounded into our heads through numerous avenues, it resonates.  One seam can kill your day out on the course, and when it does, you’ll do anything to make it stop.  I’ve ripped clothing off during the middle of my run, and tucked shirts under sports bras to stop the fabric-to-skin contact. Anything to get a break from the repetitive rubbing sensation that burns with every step. Fortunately, a bit of Body Glide can go a long way.

Adjust all your gear before your run.  There have been numerous times when I’ve gone out for a few hours, only to find my hydration pack was cinched too tight, or the collar of my jacket was discretely rubbing the skin on my neck, causing a blemish that could have easily passed for a hickey.  Test your gear on short runs.  Make sure that your jacket’s not too tight, and the hydration pack feels like an extended part of your body.  If you need to, add a barrier between the fabric and your body by applying mole skin or a simple band aid as protection. Duct tape also does wonders.

Finally, and I found this out the hard way, make sure to, ha-hem, wipe.  I was able to forgo any kind of squatting during my first couple of ultras, but I eventually had to break the streak.  When the time came, I quickly tucked behind a tree.  Unfortunately, the next 20 miles were spent with a small piece of bark in a very inconvenient location.  I discovered my error during a post race shower, and will never replicate the mistake.  Whenever you squat, wipe with TP or baby wipes.  Go for a leaf, and you might regret it.

All humor aside, chafing can be serious business. If the wound is not cleaned and properly cared for, it can easily be infected, turning from a bright pink raspberry into life-threatening in a matter of days.  Take proper precautions if you discovered too late that the minor irritation during your run was really a chafing party in your shorts. Care for your body and protect it, because small things can turn into big problems before you know it.  Pay attention to as you run, and deflect problems quickly.

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About Author

Amy Clark is the Editor of UltraRunning Magazine. She began her career at a small advertising agency in Bend, Oregon, where she enjoyed the fast pace and creative environment. For over 15 years, lunch hour runs were a ritual. Amy also joined the board of the local running club, became a race director and finished her first ultra. She has completed over 35 marathons and ultras combined, and continues to run long distances while encouraging both kids and adults to ignite their own passion for running.

2 Comments

  1. I read a tip once that if you do get chafing, applying Body Glide et al *before* you get in the shower can help reduce the pain.

    • Interesting… like coating it with a protective layer. Only if it’s not bleeding 🙂