What’s ‘Jogger’s Nipple’ and How Can You Avoid It?

Spare yourself some painful chafing
man jogging outside

Whether you’re a running veteran or a novice who’s just getting started with regular running for the first time, you might experience some rather uncomfortable consequences in the form of chafing.

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In particular, you might find yourself with raw — even bleeding — nipples.

Don’t worry, you’re not alone. This kind of chafing is most common in long-distance runners and can happy at any time of year: it can be caused by sweaty shirts during hot summer runs or on cold winter days when nipples are erect.

There are plenty of solutions, though, and they can help lead to a lot less chafing and a lot more pleasant experiences while out for your jog. So we talked to family medicine doctor Sarah Beers, MD.

Change up your wardrobe

One big cause of jogger’s nipple is the friction caused by certain materials as they rub up against the skin. “Cotton shirts are notorious for causing this kind of irritation, especially as the shirt gets heavy and wet with sweat,” Dr. Beers says.

Fortunately, the last few years has seen an explosion in running shirts designed to prevent these issues. These clothes fit tighter meaning there’s less friction.

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They’re also made of synthetic material designed to be lighter and wick moisture away from the skin to prevent chafing and irritation. And they come in a wide variety of styles, colors and seasonal options meaning you’re covered (literally) the whole year-round.

Bandage up

“Another way to minimize chafing is an extra barrier,” Dr. Beers says. There are bandages and athletic tape designed just for this purpose, for both men and women, offering protection from irritation from clothes as well as support.

Just be careful when using athletic tape. If you can, see if you can fit some gauze as a layer between your skin and the tape to protect yourself even more. And do NOT use any sort of normal tape. Besides being uncomfortable, the adhesive of regular tape isn’t meant to be applied to skin which can lead to issues with the tape staying stuck or, in the other direction, causing more damage to your skin.

If you can’t find any of these specific products or would prefer something similar, band aids should also do the trick.

Sensitive application

If you’d prefer to bypass bandages, try using a lubricant on your nipples instead, like petroleum jelly or Vaseline, suggest Dr. Beers. There are even anti-chafing lubricants made specifically for runners that could also be gently applied before your next long run.

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If you log your run and wind up with chafed nipples, there are a few ways to treat them so you can heal and get back out there. Just remember to protect them properly next time.

First, be sure to gently clean the chafed nipples with mild soap and warm water. Don’t use any additional chemicals that could further irritate the already aggravated skin. Carefully dry the area and, if necessary, apply an ointment or petroleum jelly.

Finally, place breathable gauze on the chafed area and tape in place with athletic tape to give the area protection while it heals.

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