Ask-a-Salty – Chafing

Got questions? Just ask!
Got questions? Just ask!

Ask-a-Salty is the feature that answers your burning questions about running. If you have a question, you can contact us by clicking on the “Ask-a-Salty” above the R and U of the banner. Or for the convenience-lovers among us, you can just click here.

Today’s question comes from BG in California who asks:

Is there a way to heal anย under arm chafe fast … Ouch! How can I avoid this in future? Also, only one arm is chafing- is it possible it’s my form or is one under arm just fat?

Chafing is a problem for many of us, but lucky for you there is a solution. Read on!

There’s nothing like coming in from a great run and jumping in the shower. The water’s toasty, you step in and – OOOOOOOOWWWWWWEEEEEEEE – discover you have chafed. Oh man, no fun!

Chafing is caused by friction, usually when moist skin rubs against something else. It could be clothing like a sports bra neckline or shorts liner or another body part like one inner thigh against the other. The most common areas to chafe, are the sports bra neckline, under the sports bra, inner thighs and under arms. But anywhere skin rubs against something else can chafe.

To avoid chafing in the first place, the best thing to do is to apply some type of lubricant or barrier cream to the areas most prone to chafe on your body. You can use things like vaseline or aquaphor, but to me those things are pretty messy. I much prefer the commercial anti-chafing balms. Two always reliable choices areย Body Glide and Run Guard. These can be purchased at your local running store or online.

Sometimes, just putting the balm on your skin isn’t enough. If you’re still chafing after lubing your skin, put the balm on the offending garment too. I have a couple pairs of shorts that chafe me so badly, I have to smear the stuff all over the liner and my skin so I don’t chafe.

If you want to use this image, please mention ...
They look perfectly harmless, but without a little lube, this sucker bites! (Photo credit: Clemens Pfeiffer, Vienna)

If you have already chafed, I have some good news for you. Usually, although it really hurts when it happens, chafing will heal overnight and you’ll be fine the next day or the day after. To be on the safe side, just lube up the chafed area before running again to keep it from getting re-irritated. Of course, if you have a really really bad case of chafing, you might need to cover the chafed area and keep it from rubbing, lubed or un-lubed, until it is sufficiently healed. For instance, if it’s inner-thigh chafing, you can wear spandex until it heals. If it’s from your sports bra, wear a different one until it heals. If it’s your underarm, wear a shirt with sleeves until it’s all healed up.

As for your last concern, no! Chafing does not mean your form is off or that you’re fat. Just about every runner on earth has chafed at some point. Even Shalane Flanagan recently talked about chafing and she is the epitome of good form and the antithesis of fat. Larger runners may be more prone to chafing, but that’s just because there’s more skin to rub. But teeny-tiny to big and beautiful, since we’re all moving, sweating and creating friction, we almost universally chafe.

Where are you most prone to chafing? Any tips I missed?

Salty Running boss and mother of 3 little ones with PRs of 3:10:15 (26.2), 1:25:59 (13.1) and 18:15 (5k). I love to write about running culture, mental training, and fitting in a serious running habit with the rest of a busy life.

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  1. Two thoughts: first, to heal badly chafed skin, I tend to treat it like any other wound. I’ve found washing thoroughly and applying neosporin does a good job making it go away faster. I absolutely agree on remembering the glide before the next run!

    Second, I have a follow up question. I find stubble is my worst cause of under arm chafe. Glide alone doesn’t seem to cut it on long runs. Anyone have a good suggestion on how to avoid under arm stubble?

    1. Aquaphor is like gold for healing chafed skin too.

      As far as underarm stubble goes, try to shave every day and apply a layer of deodorant prior to running. That will help act as a shield too. Also be sure your shirt sleeves aren’t rubbing. If they are, you may want to try a different type of running top.

    2. You’re chafing in your arm-pit, then? When I underarm chafe it’s next to my armpit. I’d think the extra-sweatiness of your actual pit might counteract the lube. Does it happen when you wear sleeved shirts or just sleeveless? Is it worse right after shaving or with a day or two of growth? Do you apply lube before, after or without antiperspirant/deodorant?

  2. I am a big believer in using Body Glide, but I also think choice of running apparel is key to avoiding chafage. I used to love the Champion sports bras I could get at Target. They came in great colors and were inexpensive. But they also chafed me like crazy even on short runs. So I tossed them and ponied up for more expensive (but non-chafing) bras from Athleta (and I got them on sale for $20!). I also run my long runs in running tights or fitted/compression shorts (unlike those pictured) to avoid inner thigh chafing. This is a primary reason runners wear these (not because they think it looks awesome). If you can’t bring yourself to wearing running tights, check out the Gym Girl running skirt by Skirt Sports. It has compression shorts under a cute skirt. No chafage + cute = happy runner girl.

    1. I wear those bras from Target and have the same problems on my sternum and underneath my boobs. Plus, mine are all very old. I have a couple of nicer Brooks bras, but they don’t fit me at the moment. It’s on my to-do list to get real bras when my boobs are back to normal to stop the sternum chafing madness and for a better fit.

  3. What Mint said!

    I chafe. I could stop at that. I wear the compression style short because the fact is my thighs are big and rub together. If I lose 15 pounds maybe that won’t be true but right now it is. So I wear compression shorts and use body glide. I sometimes chafe along my bra strap on long runs so that calls for lube as well. And I’m not sure that blisters count as chafing but I also use body glide on my feet to keep from getting blisters. As you said, it does tend to heal quickly with neosporin or diaper cream.

  4. I swear I have the worlds most sensitive skin. I chafe all the time. There are times I wish I could just dip my whole body in a vat of body glide, but I’m not even sure that would help. I’ve never tried putting it on the actual clothing though so I’ll have to give that a try

    1. You might try a moisturizing your skin a little more in general. I tend to chafe in many more spots and I attribute that to drier skin. When I chafe in the summer, it tends to be more severe because I’m sweating more, though.

  5. I’m proof positive that stubble is a worthy foe in the war on chafing, but for me it’s on my thighs! I’ve taken to dry-shaving the top half of my legs before longer runs to make sure that my stubble doesn’t get the better of me–it can even chafe through Body Glide! You bet your butt I’ve got my eye out for a laser hair removal Groupon…

  6. Chafing is a hideous thing to go through and I dreaded summer and running due to the hideous pain that came along with chafing. I did find the perfect solution that keeps me from using creams and powders. I love to use Bandelettes ( ), they work fabulously.