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July 08, 2012

Ask the Practitioner - Chafing

Written by Dena Evans

Jen_E_MDAsk the Practitioner - Chafing
Jennifer Eastlack, MD


In this edition of Ask the Practitioner, we connect with Jennifer Eastlack, MD, a San Diego area dermatologist, former NCAA Division I athlete, and mom of five active kids.  Dr. Eastlack answers our questions about one of many runners’ most common post-race/ long run ailments: chafing.

rc: Many runners find red and raw trouble spots on various parts of the body after running long distances. What are some typical causes for this chafing?

JE: The cause of chafing is mechanical. It is due to repetitive motion of skin rubbing against skin or against other materials like clothing. It can be made worse by moisture, whether it is environmental (rain) or from sweat. The most common areas of the body on which it occurs are the inner thighs, underarms, nipples (men), and bra line (women).

rc: What are some preventative measures runners can take to avoid chafing?

JE: There are several things that you can do to prevent chafing, though none are perfect! First, before long runs apply a thin layer of Body Glide, Vaseline, or Aquaphor to the areas prone to rubbing. Second, the type of clothing you wear can make a big difference! The best pick is clothing made of synthetic materials such as Coolmax that wick moisture away.

Avoid cotton, as it stays wet once it gets wet and is also a rougher fabric that will generate more friction and therefore irritate the skin more if it does rub. Along these same lines, avoid loose-fitting clothing and opt for a more snug fit. If the clothes stay put, they are less likely to rub against the skin! It would also make sense then, to try to find seamless clothing if possible, this is more practical when looking for sports bras or bike shorts, but is another way to avoid an uncomfortable rub! Third, and finally, stay hydrated! This helps with lots of potential sports-related maladies, including chafing!

rc: Once it occurs, what can be done to get these chafed areas feeling better?

JE: As far as treatment goes, the idea is to form a barrier over the affected skin that both soothes and protects from further wear and tear, allowing the skin to regenerate on its own. I like triple-paste or A+D ointment. These are a little thick but really protect well and put vitamins and zinc on the skin, which aid in healing. You can place these on 1-2x per day, and it should improve in about 24 hours.

Last modified on October 04, 2012
Dena Evans

Dena Evans

Dena Evans joined runcoach in July, 2008 and has a wide range of experience working with athletes of all stripes- from youth to veteran division competitors, novice to international caliber athletes.

From 1999-2005, she served on the Stanford Track & Field/ Cross Country staff. Dena earned NCAA Women’s Cross Country Coach of the Year honors in 2003 as Stanford won the NCAA Division I Championship. She was named Pac-10 Cross Country Coach of the Year in 2003-04, and West Regional Coach of the Year in 2004.

From 2006-08, she worked with the Bay Area Women’s Sports Initiative, helping to expand the after school fitness programs for elementary school aged girls to Mountain View, East Menlo Park, and Redwood City. She has also served both the Stanford Center on Ethics and the Stanford Center on the Legal Profession as a program coordinator.

Dena graduated from Stanford in 1996.

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