3 Ways To Prevent Chafing While You Work Out

Sport & Activity

Athletes of any size can experience chafing, but the right techniques can prevent the sting. With the correct clothing and anti-chafing products, you can move freely without the fear of irritation.

Last updated: 9 June 2022
5 min read
How to Prevent Chafing

When the sweat is flying and you're busting through reps in your workout, the feeling is incredible, even when you have to fight through the burn. But there's a different kind of burn that can be so irritating, you might avoid exercise (and miss out on the benefits) altogether. Chafing can occur any time moisture and friction are combined. It stings and burns, leaving your skin red and raw—the good news is, it's a common problem that is preventable.

Chafing usually shows up on parts of your body that are prone to rubbing together, such as your thighs, armpits and groin. While it's more likely to happen with people who are overweight, bodies of all shapes and sizes can experience the pain, especially during exercise and in hot weather. But we've got some tips to reduce chafing, or even eliminate it altogether, so you can get back to running, cycling and hiking your way to a healthier you.

The 3 Best Chafing Prevention Tips

  1. 1.Choose the Right Clothing and Gear

    You'll want to choose garments that have smooth seams and fit properly so as not to rub against your body. A snug fit is ideal, especially for inner-thigh chafing. You'll also want to choose fabrics that have moisture-wicking properties. Avoid cotton, which absorbs moisture and makes chafing worse. Instead, opt for Nike Dri-FIT fabrics, which are designed to disperse moisture across the fabric for quick evaporation. Some items that might be helpful include:

    • A pair of leggings or shorts with compression liners. Compression tights, leggings, and shorts with compression liners keep your thighs from coming into contact with one another, helping to prevent chafing. Just make sure you also keep your skin dry. Moisture-wicking fabrics can help with that, as can powders and deodorants.

    • A pair of moisture-wicking underwear. The groin is a common site for chafing, but most of us don't think about wearing performance gear down there. If your cotton underwear is causing groin chafing, switch to a pair made from a synthetic fabric blend that wicks moisture away from your skin.

    • A perfect-fitting sports bra. Getting the right fit is essential to preventing underarm chafing, especially if you choose a supportive sports bra, such as one that has underwire. Make sure you can slip two fingers comfortably between the straps and your shoulder, and that the bra band stays in place when you lift your arms. Avoid sports bras with seams that dig in, and opt for soft yet durable fabrics instead. If you don't know your bra size, it's a good idea to take measurements before ordering a bra online.

    • A perfect-fitting pair of shoes: Chafing at the back of the foot is common and can lead to painful blisters. To avoid this, get a pair of sneakers that fit properly from the get-go. Try them on in the evening when your feet are largest and wear the same moisture-wicking socks you'll use for your workout. Then take them for a test run or jog to make sure you don't experience rubbing anywhere on your foot.
  2. 2.Lubricate Your Skin

    Creams, oils and other skin lubricants can serve as a layer of protection in chafing-prone areas. For example, products like Vaseline can create a smooth surface that reduces friction. There are also speciality anti-chafe sticks and anti-chafing creams that are easy to bring with you and apply throughout the day. Just avoid products with fragrances and active ingredients that may irritate your skin.

  3. 3.Stay Cool and Dry

    Exercising indoors with air conditioning can help prevent chafing, as can changing into dry clothes halfway through a workout. You might also try antiperspirants and powders to help keep your skin dry in areas that typically chafe.

Recovering from Chafing

Don't try to exercise through the pain of chafing—it's a skin problem that only gets worse over time. Instead, make adjustments to your clothing to reduce friction, or change into a dry set of clothes. If chafing becomes severe, there are also some at-home treatments that can help:

  • Use an ointment such as A&D, aloe vera, coconut oil, shea butter or petroleum jelly on the area before bedtime
  • If your skin is itchy, try applying cornflour to the area, which can also help prevent future chafing
  • Apply cool air or an ice pack to the affected area
  • Avoid touching the area, and wear soft, loose-fitting clothing until it heals
  • Don't use soaps or lotions with fragrances or active ingredients that may cause irritation
  • Avoid friction-causing activities until the redness goes away

When to See a Doctor

Chafing, also known as intertrigo among dermatologists, is a skin condition that can become severe if left untreated, leading to sores and even bleeding. In most cases, at-home treatments will take care of the inflammation, but if the rash sticks around, it can provide an ideal environment for bacteria and fungal growth. If you're in a lot of pain or concerned about infection, you may want to consult your GP or dermatologist. A prescription for an oral or topical antibiotic or antifungal treatment should do the trick.

Frequently Asked Questions

How Do Runners Prevent Chafing?

Runners often wear tight layers, such as compression tights, or anti-chafing thigh bands to prevent friction. Some runners also apply lubricants or powders as a preventative measure. Wearing the right clothing is also critical, so make sure to choose fabrics that keep you cool, dry and comfortable for a chafe-free run.

Can Deodorant Prevent Chafing?

If you use a deodorant with antiperspirant, it can help your skin stay dry, which will reduce chafing. You can even try applying antiperspirant to other areas besides your underarms, such as your inner thighs. If it works for you, it may be more cost-effective than buying an anti-chafing product.

Related Stories

What To Do If You Get a Blood Blister on Your Toe, According to Podiatrists

Health & Wellness

What To Do If You Get a Blood Blister on Your Toe, According to Podiatrists

What Causes Shin Splints—And How Can You Avoid Them?

Health & Wellness

What Causes Shin Splints—And How Can You Avoid Them?

What Is Plantar Fasciitis—And How Can You Fix It?

Health & Wellness

What Is Plantar Fasciitis—And How Can You Fix It?

What's Kinesiology Tape and How Should You Use It?

Health & Wellness

What Is Kinesiology Tape and How Should You Use It?

Should You Work Out When You’re Sore?

Health & Wellness

Should You Work Out When You're Sore?