The Chafing Point

Running Bloomsday is hard enough, so do it in comfort.


Anyone who has run pretty much any distance has a story of chafing or blistering or getting sweat in his or her eyes. Depending on body type (like, say, mine), a person’s nipples can rub raw walking to the bus stop, and the hazards of friction, impact and perspiration only increase with distance.

Bloomsday is 7.46 miles long. If you’ve never rubbed anything raw running before, you will this weekend, we promise.

We spoke with Runner’s Soul’s Jared Cramer, who gave us a few simple implements and ideas to make the race as comfortable as possible.

Conquer Chafing

Raise your hands if your nipples have ever bled. Friction burns on your thighs? Bra-strap rubbing? Tender points on the foot? Underarms? If you answered “no” to all of these, then congratulations, you’re a skeleton. You don’t have skin that rubs on anything. For the rest of us, there’s chafing balm, which is just a super-slick, silicone-like substance that comes in a deodorant-like tube. Apply to problem areas before runs and never rub again.

Conquer Temperature Changes

Pre-race, when you’re trying to keep your joints and muscles warm, Bloomsday mornings tend to be cold and a little windy. Mid-race, just when you might appreciate a little cool breeze, things have warmed up considerably. Cramer says “keeping your upper body and core warm is important,” but carrying around a bunch of gear is a pain in the ass. Arm warmers are a good solution. Once the race starts, you can either push them down around your wrists or stow them somewhere. “They’re really packable,” Cramer says.

He adds that Northwest runners — more so than wussier runners in other regions — tend to just gut it out and wear shorts in colder weather. If your knee joints can’t take the cold, though, he suggests that the old tradition of wearing old sweats and then tossing them in a tree is actually probably easiest. (Clothing recovered from the race course is donated to charity.)

Conquer Sweat (and Smell)

This is a no-brainer but also kind of a paradox. Decades of sports marketing have ensured that everyone knows that, to stay dry, you need a Moisture-wicking fabric. The problem, however, is that after a run or two, moisture-wicking fabric takes on an odor somewhere between BO and rotting cabbage. Leave it long enough, Cramer says, and “it’s almost better to throw them away.” Is it worse to be weighed down by sweat or knocked out by the magnified smell of your own armpits?

The problem is that synthetic wicking materials use smaller weaves that catch odors, which are then trapped by the residue left by regular detergents. The solution is SPORT WASH, which apparently leaves no residue and can get in all the little woven crevices of your stinkiest shirts.

Conquer Impact

The wrong shoes can really cause problems. And not just discomfort. Honest-to-God injuries. “A lot of new runners get hung up on brands,” Cramer says, but brand isn’t the kicker, it’s how a shoe distributes impact. Each person’s natural gait distributes impact in different ways (called, technically, over-pronation, normal pronation or under-pronation). It’s hard to tell how you pronate by yourself. The answer to this is simple: Have your shoes professionally fitted. Generally speaking, you’ll also wear a slightly larger-sized running shoe than street shoe, to prevent your foot sliding into the front of the shoe and causing turf-toe. That’s another thing a professional can help with.

Conquer Blisters

“People tend to blame blisters on their shoes,” Cramer says, but that is a tragic, false accusation, like blaming werewolves on the full moon. The real issue is moisture, he says, suggesting two solutions. The first is gear-related: use sweat-wicking socks, either a synthetic material or wool, which has natural wicking properties. The second is special awareness, Cramer says: avoid running through puddles that build up near water stations. Nothing breeds blisters like puddle foot, and no amount of wicking is going to fix going ankle-deep in race water.

So keep your eyes open out there. Stay dry, stay

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About The Author

Luke Baumgarten

Luke Baumgarten is commentary contributor and former culture editor of the Inlander. He is a creative strategist at Seven2 and co-founder of Terrain.