Runner’s nipple is something that crops up in many joggers’ training routines – after a period of jogging or running, you start to feel your nipple getting sensitive and chafing.
Sometimes it can even lead to bleeding nipples as the chafing worsens and irritates the skin. It’s a horrible sensation to have to deal with while out on a run, and the best course of action – as always – is prevention.
Unfortunately, runner’s nipple chafing is not one of those things you can just ignore and hope it will go away.
If you’re experiencing jogger’s nipple, this article will help you identify it early on and learn some treatment methods to prevent it from happening again.
Let’s jump in!
What Is Runner’s Nipple?
Runner’s nipple is chafing and bleeding of the nipple when running; it happens when your clothes chafe and rub against your nipples during a run.
Why do the nipples get so irritated?
Because the skin around them, the areola, is thinner than the skin on other parts of your body which makes them more sensitive and prone to irritation.
Runner’s nipple doesn’t happen immediately. It comes on in a progression of events. When you’re focused on other factors during your exercise (running form, breathing patterns, staying hydrated, etc.), you might not notice this progression. That’s when you might end up with nipple bleeding.
The symptoms of jogger’s nipple go something like this:
- Sensitivity – You might start to notice the feeling of your shirt hitting your skin. Before that, you probably didn’t even pay attention.
- Redness – Of course, you can’t see this while you’re running but after a run you might notice it in the mirror.
- Soreness – If the sensitivity and redness go ignored, they will most likely turn into soreness. Even hours after your run, you could feel a lasting soreness throughout the day.
- Discoloration – This could show up in redness like the earlier symptom, but it could also be a light, dull color that is unusual for your typical coloring.
- Extreme dryness – The dryness could be hard to notice, other than some flaking skin on your chest.
- Skin cracking – This is when you really start to notice the dryness. When your skin is flaking and cracking, you’ll be feeling discomfort and pain that’s hard to ignore or overlook.
If the symptoms keep going without any treatment that leads to bleeding.
What Causes Runner’s Nipple?
The factors that contribute to jogger’s nipple are pretty straightforward. Here are the 4 biggest culprits.
Wearing cotton or other rough fabrics can be harsh on the skin, especially if you already have sensitivities.
Running In Cold Weather
When you’re out running in the cold, your nipples tend to get hard, which makes them rub against your clothing more.
Running (and Sweating) In Hot Weather
Running in extremely hot temperatures make you sweat more. When your skin is dry and cracked, the sweating irritates the wounds, by adding salt crystals into the open pores.
Bloody Nipples, Marathon Running
The two often go hand in hand. Running long distances like in marathon training will chafe your skin against your clothing. Combined with extremely cold or hot weather, we advise some proven treatment methods to prevent bloody nipples.
Treating Runner’s Nipple
If you’re experiencing nipple bleeding while running, don’t ignore it.
Take the time to get better before your next run to deal with the problem and prevent it from getting worse.
Bear in mind that the irritation might take a few days to heal – if you run through it, you’re just worsening the damage.
Here are the safest – and most effective – steps you can take.
Step 1: Rest and Recover Before Running Again
Runner’s nipple usually takes about 5-7 days to heal completely.
That time depends on how severe the bleeding was. Some people feel extreme soreness and find it hard to keep running, while others actually have blood running down their torso and spoiling their favorite running shirt.
Step 2: Use Antisceptic Lotion
Soreness can turn into an infection, so be sure to counteract with an antiseptic. It’s safe to use whatever you have lying around the house: Hydrogen Peroxide or any alcohol-based solution.
Step 3: Put Neosporin On It
Neosporin is a healing cream that moves the healing process along quickly with any infection. Dabbing the sore or cracked area not only helps it heal faster but also helps with moisturization.
Step 4: Cover the Wound With Breatheable Gauze
Keep unwanted dirt or particles from the air out of the infection. But still give it room to breath fresh air.
These steps may seem excessive, but if you’re suffering from bloody nipples during your marathon training, you’ll be happy to get the problem over and done with so you can carry on with your training plan.
Remember to always avoid washing infected areas with chemical-filled soaps. Natural, unscented soap is the best way to go.
How to Prevent Getting Runner’s Nipple in the Future
You’ll be happy to know that jogger’s nipple can be a one-time problem.
There are precautions you can take to avoid it in the future.
Wear clothing with soft, moisture-wicking material: moisture is one of the big culprits in nipple bleeding while running, so keeping that to a minimum will reduce your symptoms.
Wear a compression vest: Tight clothing that is made for exercise reduces friction and discomfort.
Wear seamless bras: For women, seamless bras that fit snugly are a great way to prevent runner’s nipple. Reducing extra seams and stitching, keeping irritating issues to a minimum.
Use an anti-chafing stick: You’re not alone in pain or discomfort. Anti-chafing sticks (they usually look like deodorant) like BodyGlide will work wonders. If you can’t make it to the story in time, Vaseline will work as a substitute.
Apply baby powder: Starting out your run with a light layer of baby powder will create a buffer between your skin and your clothing.
Apply a Band-Aid or Running Tape: by sticking a Band-Aid or some kind of tape across your nipple, you’re effectively protecting it from any friction so removing the source of the problem. This is my preferred method for long runs – let me explain a bit more!
The Benefits of Running Tape
One of the most favorite methods of nipple protection for runners is running tape. Your first impulse might be to try regular packing tape or Scotch tape, but these won’t last long at all.
Runner’s tape is specifically designed for long runs. It’s made with adhesive material that doesn’t fall off when the friction hits the fabric. It’s also highly versatile, and is just as effective as an ankle support for running as it is in helping with runner’s knee. The moisture from sweat won’t affect it, as long as you’re sure to buy waterproof tape.
When you apply the tape before your run, make sure the area is clean and dry, apply your anti-chafing balm, then cover your nipples with the tape.
To remove it, get in a hot shower until it naturally slips off. Alternatively, use mineral or olive oil to loosen it the stickiness before ripping.
The Best Nipple Protection For Runners: Products To Prevent Runner’s Nipple
BodyGlide is a tried-and-tested Anti Chafe balm designed for athletes.
It’s handy in that you can apply it to any region that you’re worried may chafe – including the nipples – and unlike something like Vaseline, it’s dry and not gooey, so won’t seep into your shirt.
BodyGlide is often my first line of defense.
This stuff is an all-natural version of BodyGlide: it’s main ingredients are coconut oil, cocoa butter, beeswax and vitamin E oil.
If you prefer a natural solution to your chafing issues, this one gets full marks!
KT Tape is primarily designed to support muscles, joints, tendons, etc. when you’re suffering from a minor injury or imbalance.
For that reason, there’s a good chance that as a runner, you already have some of this around the house.
Cut off two small sections and apply to the area of concern!
NipEASE is a dedicated solution to the issue of runner’s nipple – it’s specifically designed for other runners and athletes to prevent nipple chafing while running.
NipEAZE is also transparent, so it’s practically invisible to anyone around you.
NipEASE gets great reviews from athletes for it’s ease of use and comfort.
For a cheap and fast solution, grab a couple of Band Aids and tape them over your nipples.
Band Aids are handy when you’re in a rush and don’t have anything else, because you’ve almost certainly got some at home.
However, they are more likely to become unstuck over time, especially when they get wet with sweat and may start to chafe themselves.
What About Chafing in Other Areas?
You’ll probably find that chafing rears its ugly head in other parts of your body as well. Here are some of the most common areas:
- Inner thighs
- Underarms, where your arms rub against your side
This appears in many forms, typically in redness or a rash. Again, the rash can get bloody if it is ignored. Chances are, you won’t be able to ignore it and will want to find a treatment right away.
The best cures for this chafing involve a change in fabrics. If the chafing occurs between your thighs, Spandex shorts will compress and protect the skin from rubbing against each other.
This will work for your arms as well. But when the weather is hot, you usually want to shed as much clothing as possible. If you prefer to run without a shirt, anti-chafing balm will do the trick.
If you’re running a marathon or any other long race, buy a small bottle (or stick) of the balm to bring with you in your running belt or running vest. Stopping to apply mid-race will save you when the pain appears out of nowhere.
Catching Up After Your Recovery Time
With these tips and techniques, it’s safe to say runner’s nipple will never bother you again.
If you’ve fallen behind your running schedule due to pain and soreness, a great way to catch up is through crosstraining. Schedule a day in the week to do some agility drills to build muscle and speed.
Incorporate some bodyweight exercises into your daily runs to build up extra strength and stamina.
If you’ve been running regularly but haven’t signed up for a race yet, we’ve got a free half marathon boot camp for you to download! It’s chock-full of facts, tips, and techniques to make your first half marathon a success.
Whether you’re going for short runs or long-distance training sessions, get out there and enjoy a comfortable, pain-free run!