Distance running (and hiking and cycling, for that matter) comes with its fair share of obstacles, both mental and physical. There’s the fatigue, cramps, dehydration, finding the right gear — the list goes on and on. Perhaps the most frustrating of them all, though, is chafing.
Athletes of all types and skill levels dread chafing, as it can happen at any time and to anyone, regardless of what sort of shape you’re in physically. Chafing is most common in the armpits, inner thighs, lower back, and chest, but it can happen in other areas as well, such as the feet or back of the neck. Essentially, you can experience chafing anywhere your skin makes contact with something, including more skin. Your hydration system, running belt, sports bra straps, or shorts are all prime chafe-causing suspects.
The good news is that, no, you don’t have to resign to deal with painful, raw flesh every time you want to go out and tackle a long-distance run. There are several clever anti-chafing products designed specifically for this purpose, ranging from salves and creams to sprays and gels. Even better, you don’t have to wait until you have a chafing problem to use these game-changing products. While some anti-chafing products are meant specifically to heal chafed areas, all of them can be applied proactively before there’s a problem (i.e., before a big race).
We’ve rounded up our top picks for anti-chafing products, so choose your favorite and get back to running — without fear of chafing.
Best Anti-Chafing Products for Runners
If one of these anti-chafing products doesn’t work for you, don’t be discouraged — this is a very subjective category. You may even find that you prefer a combination of two or more products, or that one works best on one body part and another is more effective somewhere else.
This straightforward, no-frills balm comes in a classic deodorant-style applicator and goes on just as easily. The hypoallergenic formula doesn’t contain any oils, petroleum, or lanolin, so it’s not at all greasy, and one application lasts for several hours. It’s also breathable and doesn’t clog pores, but does an excellent job of repelling moisture to keep you dry. The convenient applicator style also means you can keep a backup in your vehicle or training bag and easily apply on the go.
Body Glide is vegan-friendly, meaning not only is it not tested on animals, but the products are also all plant-derived. It’s worth noting that although we love the original Body Glide formula, there are other varieties available also, including “For Her” with added moisturizing properties and “Foot Anti-blister Balm.”
Pros/The easy, mess-free application
Cons/There isn’t a single one
Bottom Line/Whether you’re a distance or trail runner or simply experience occasional chafing, this is an excellent product that will stop it in its tracks. Buy two and keep one as a backup
With ingredients including cocoa butter, vitamin E, and beeswax, you may be as tempted to eat Squirrel’s Nut Butter as to apply it. You probably could, but we recommend sticking to using it as intended: one of the best anti-chafing products available.
The waterproof salve comes in a small tub and has a soft, smooth texture that falls between a cream and a pomade. It’s ideal for running, hiking, cycling, and more, and it can be applied anywhere. As a bonus, the gentle, all-natural ingredients mean it works well as an all-purpose moisturizer for dry skin or eczema, shaving balm and even diaper rash cream. We previously recommended Squirrel’s Nut Butter Anti-Chafe Sticks, which we love, but find the salve formula a bit better for multiple uses.
Pros/An all-natural — yet highly effective — ingredient list that sounds like our favorite recipes
Cons/If we have to pick something, it’s the tub – these types of containers are always challenging to get all the product out of
Bottom Line/We can’t recommend this enough, whether you use it as an anti chafing product or an all-purpose skin cream
Creams have a reputation as being messy and greasy, but that isn’t the case with Chamois Butt’r. The exact opposite, in fact — it applies like lotion and leaves behind no trace of greasiness whatsoever, making it the best anti chafing cream for runners.
Chamois Butt’r is also impressively long-lasting. Triathletes rely on it, as it’s known for holding up very well even after being in the water. When you’re done with your run (or swim, or hike, or triathlon), it washes off easily with soap and water. The mild formula is also fragrance-, color- and paraben-free. Finally, we’re huge fans of the fact that you can buy individual packets. They’re ideal for travel, keeping an extra in your running belt, or even just trying it out.
Pros/Fool-proof, mess-less application that will last for hours
Bottom Line/Chamois Butt’r is considered an OG among anti-chafing products for a reason
Although it has a silly name, Anti Money Butt Powder is a product that seriously works. It’s the only powder on our list of the best anti-chafing products, and it goes on exactly like you’d expect: sprinkle some out and apply it directly where you want to prevent chafing.
Monkey Butt Powder bills itself as an “anti friction powder.” Keeping in line with that, it creates a protective barrier in areas that create the most friction, like the underarms and nether regions. One especially unique thing about Monkey Butt Powder is that it contains calamine, an ingredient known for drying out and calming the skin.
Pros/Does an excellent job of keeping you dry (and therefore chafe-free), especially people who sweat a great deal
Cons/Application can be slightly messy and it’s scented. The scent isn’t a deal-breaker, but we do view it as a bit of a downside, especially with so many fragrance-free products out there
Bottom Line/If you don’t love the idea of creams and lotions, try this anti-chafing powder
Of all the anti-chafing products available, none have quite the reach that sprays do. TRISLIDE has the advantage of easily covering those hard-to-reach places, such as the back of the neck and arms.
If you’re worried that an anti-chafing spray is messy, rest assured TRISLIDE isn’t — at all. Spray it close to the skin and all the product goes exactly where you want it to. TRISLIDE is fragrance-free, lasts for hours and is both sweat- and waterproof. In fact, it’s highly recommended for triathlons and long-distance swimmers. As a bonus, it works wonders for helping to get in or out of a wetsuit quickly and easily.
Pros/We love the ease of the spray-and-go bottle
Cons/If you’re not careful during application, you could spray nearby surfaces and risk them getting slippery
Bottom Line/Regardless of whether you run, hike or swim, this spray is one of our favorite anti-chafing products
Lanacane Anti-Friction Gel goes on more like a balm or salve than what you might expect of a gel. It dries immediately and has a silky, soft finish that’s breathable yet water- and sweat-proof. The hypoallergenic formula is fragrance-free, non-greasy, and won’t stain your clothes. A little also goes a very long way, so the small tube will last quite awhile. Plus, it’s highly portable.
The best, and certainly most unique, feature of the Lanacane Anti-Friction Gel is that it can be safely applied to areas that are already irritated. So if you already started to chafe, it’s not too late — apply some of this gel and carry on.
Pros/The fact that it can be used where you already have chafing is a huge benefit
Cons/A minor gripe, but it doesn’t last quite as long as other anti-chafing products
Bottom Line/Even if you use other products to prevent chafing, this gel should be in your arsenal of running gear since you can apply it where you already have irritation
Much like Body Glide Anti-Chafe Balm, Gold Bond Friction Defense Stick applies exactly like deodorant. It’s an unscented, non-greasy wax-based formula suitable for sensitive skin. The Friction Defense Stick contains zinc oxide for both preventing and treating rashes, as well as aloe vera for moisturizing.
This Gold Bond stick is far and away one of the most affordable anti-chafing products of any type. It’s long-lasting and easy to reapply should you need to during the day. Several users also report being able to leave it in their vehicles or training bags without the consistency changing, which is nice specifically if you want to keep a backup on hand.
Pros/Super affordable and mess-free
Cons/Although one application lasts a few hours, it’s not as long-lasting as other anti-chafing products. In particular, it doesn’t hold up to sweat and water as well as others
Bottom Line/For the price and gentle-but-effective formula, you can’t go wrong
Taryn Shorr is an avid outdoor enthusiast, frequent traveler, and wannabe photographer based in southern Arizona. She lives for the opportunity to explore The Great Outdoors, both at home and in new destinations, and firmly believes that nature is a form of both therapy and religion.
Feature image by Lukas Budinsky, Shutterstock
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