Question of the Week: Is there anything I can do to stop the chafing from my sports bra during long training runs and races?
May 21, 2011
Wow, this question brings back painful memories of the nasty, bleeding abrasions I got from my sports bra during my own first 26-mile marathon!! My longest training run leading up to the event had been 15 miles, and while I had some red marks afterward, NOTHING alerted me to the skin trauma I would experience in the full marathon.
My painful event happened way back in the Dark Ages of sports bras (1976) when women had virtually no choices! But even today with the latest, greatest sports bra on the planet, you put your tender skin at risk when you repeat the exact motion pattern during every running stride for 2, 3, 4, 5 or more hours of a run or race. Even one little itchy micro-nub on your bra strap can move slightly back and forth over your underlying collarbone a bazillion times and rub you raw! Your (usually) wonderful warm post-run shower will reveal and intensify every tender spot.
Well, there’s one word for the source of all of this trouble-making, and it is FRICTION! Friction is the enemy—but when you need to fight back, you have several strong weapons at your disposal:
- Be Finicky About Fabrics. Performance fabrics are naturally tougher than your outermost layer of skin, and in a “friction war” the bra is always going to win! So pick a sports bra made with the sleekest possible fabrics, inside and out. A key feature is a bottom band that’s completely lined with smooth, wicking fabric—avoid any exposed elastic here. All other seams and trims should be as soft and non-aggressive as possible. Check out any potential trouble spots by holding that part of the bra taut and rubbing it against your cheek to check softness. And don’t forget to wash a new bra first to soften fibers and remove any dye or residues from the manufacturing process.
-Move the Moisture. With summer approaching, chafing becomes more of a threat, as wetness from increased sweating can make your sports bra even more stiff and abrasive. Lean on sweat-wicking fabrics in your bra to help move moisture away from your skin so you stay drier and less chafe-prone.
- Fine-tune Fit. Flossing is good for your teeth, but not the tender skin over your ribs! So beware of any sports bra that’s so loose it can constantly shift back and forth across your skin, leaving a red trail of chafing. Another common trouble spot is the front of the armholes - make sure your bra isn’t cut so high that it digs and rubs.
-Lube Up. Just like the oil in your car engine keeps metal parts from grabbing, overheating and destroying each other, a sport lubricant can ease the contact between your bra and your body, cutting down on friction, heat and abrasion. While you can experiment with inexpensive basics like petroleum jelly, many runners swear by the sport versions of body lube specially designed to be more slippery and longer lasting in hot sweaty conditions.
-Layer It. An extreme anti-friction technique I’ve mentioned before is to create a physical barrier between your skin and your bra by wearing a thin, seamless tank top BETWEEN your bra and your body.
Hey, these are the basics of winning the chafing war, but if you’ve personally had good luck with a specific bra style, strategy or body lube, I really hope you’ll take a minute to share it with all your seriously striding sisters!
Have a great fitness weekend, and good luck (and a PR!) to all of you who are giving it your all in a road race!