Prevent nipple chafing when you run

This post was originally published on on December 16, 2008 and was one of our top-read posts of all time. As a result, we have moved it here.


In almost any marathon, you can watch as spectators at the finish will pick out a runner, point at them, whisper something into their friends’ ear, and then such a look of pity as you can’t even imagine will cross their face.

It’s the face of one runner seeing another runner suffering from nipple chafing.

Men, you have to protect yourself! This can and will happen to you if you don’t take the proper precautions!

“What’s the big deal?” you say. “I’m not scared of a little chafing.”

Again, ouch.

Again, ouch

Guys. A nurse I know compared the first shower after severe chafing to the feeling of nursing a baby with a full set of teeth. Women get chafed from the bottom band of their sports bra, guys leak blood from their nipples.

Any man who’s had the unfortunate experience of running in a cotton t-shirt, in the rain, for more than ten miles, has probably experienced nipple chafing. It’s caused by the repetitive friction caused by your shirt rubbing on your chest. Since the nipples stick out a little (and their “defense mechanism” is to stick out even more, apparently) they get the worst of the friction. The skin on your nipples is basically the same stuff on your lips … sensitive.

To prevent it, you have plenty of options. Kevin Sayers’ Ultrarunning site “UltRunR” has a great collection of the favorite chafing-prevention methods of ultra marathoners. Here are a few of the more common options … try them out and see what works best for you!

An Adidas campaign addressed the issue.

1. Vaseline or Bodyglide

2. Waterproof Band-aids

3. Duct tape (with or without vaseline)

4. Nip-Guards

5. Go shirtless

Take the proper precautions, and you can prevent this from happening to you!

Once it’s already happened, though, you need to give the wound the proper attention.

This will hurt.

nipple-chafing-andy-bernardFirst, rinse off with warm water. Best place to do this is in the shower, so you don’t have to apply pressure with a washrag or some other torture device. Then — sorry — you SHOULD clean the wound with hydrogen peroxide. Think about it. Your sweat, along with whatever particles that were in the air as you ran, have been marinating your raw nipple. And I’m pretty sure you’d rather put up with ten seconds of pain than let your nipple get infected. (“Hey, boss, I have a doctor’s appointment this afternoon. My nipple’s infected.” Right.)

Afterwards, you’re not going to want to put on a shirt for a few days, but that’s probably also not an option. Put on some Neosporin, then cover the nipple with sterile gauze (use a new gauze pad every day!) and use athletic tape (or, if you’re MacGyver, band-aids) to attach it to your chest. Note: you might want to do a little trimming first.

So guys, help your fellow runners out. Send them this information so they won’t cross the finish line with crimson racing stripes on their shirt.

Got a chafing story, solution, or better yet, picture? Send ’em our way!

About Author

We started the Run Oregon blog in February 2007, because felt like running in Oregon and SW Washington deserved more positive coverage. We also wanted to level the playing field so that small, non-profit races could compete with big events; and to support local race organizers.