Jogging is a fantastic way to keep in shape — it gets you out of the house, it’s great for your cardiovascular health and immune system, and it requires very little sporting gear to get started, but it’s not all fresh air and healthy hearts.
You’ll no doubt have heard various horror stories about the dreaded jogger’s nipple, an irritation that can occur during a run that can get, well… pretty dang painful.
You may have even seen a few pictures online of severe cases in which the shirt of the runner is marked by two large bloodstains on each side of the chest — alarming, I know! But don’t let this scare you out of enjoying your healthy hobby.
In this article, I’ll be discussing what jogger’s nipple is, causes, preventatives, and treatment!
What Causes Jogger’s Nipple?
Jogger’s nipple is a simple condition with a simple trigger… friction! When you’re running, your shirt is constantly moving against your chest, causing small amounts of friction with each step.
Over time, this friction, though minimal, irritates the sensitive skin of and around the nipple, leaving it incredibly sore and painful. It begins as a sharp pinching sensation as you jog, eventually intensifying into a raw, burning feeling — you may also experience some bleeding from the nipples.
As runner’s nipple is the result of repetitive friction, it’s most common in long-distance runners, but without appropriate running garb, it can develop over short bursts of exercise too.
What Causes The Friction That Leads To Jogger’s Nipple, And How Can I Prevent It From Happening?
Rough fabrics or embroidery can bring on a nasty case of jogger’s nipple in a snap. Any fabrics that are going to increase the frictional movement of a garment over your chest should be avoided like the plague!
Stay away from shirts that feature crests or any logos that interfere with the internal softness of the fabric. Synthetic fabrics with top-notch moisture-wicking properties are best.
Something like this Under Armour t-Shirt is perfect. It’s made from 100% synthetic materials, it’s insanely soft to the touch, it wicks sweat away, and dries incredibly quickly.
Alternatively, you can protect your nipples by covering them with plasters or perhaps even some high-quality sports tape. Petroleum jelly can help too, but it will wear away over the course of your run and eventually leave you unprotected.
Pro-Tip — Try to insert some soft gauze between sports tape and your skin for an extra layer of protection, and whatever you do, never use regular tape.
Loose fabrics aren’t always an issue if they’re nice and gentle on the skin, but they will be moving more against your body as you jog, and more movement means, you’ve guessed it… more friction.
Choosing a running garment with a second-skin fit will reduce excess shifting and friction during your exercise, keeping your sensitive areas protected!
For men, I’d recommend something along the lines of this DEVOPS compression base layer. It’s cost-effective, and in my experience, every bit as effective as the more expensive options on the market. However, if you were looking for a premium option, I can’t speak highly enough of the Under Armour HeatGear compression shirt.
Warm Weather and Sweat
Is there anything better than going for a jog on a nice warm day? I don’t think so… that is, of course, until you start sweating, which wets your shirt and increases fabric friction on the chest.
To avoid sweating your way to bloody nipples, it’s critical that you use garments with moisture-wicking properties. Fabrics with this ability remove the sweat from your skin and facilitate evaporation.
If it’s feeling a little… nippy out there (sorry, I couldn’t help myself), you’re at a greater risk of developing jogger’s nipple. This is because the cold leaves the nipples erect, which increases the friction against your shirt or sports bra.
The fix for this is to wrap up nice and warm, perhaps using the sports tape/gauze solution mentioned earlier as well.
In the same way that sweat can increase the weight of your clothing and exacerbate jogger’s nipple, so can the rain, so always make sure you’ve got some form of protection in place before heading out for a run on a drizzly day.
Running while pregnant is absolutely fine as long as you were running before your pregnancy. If your body is accustomed to the challenge, it can handle the strain, even when fostering new life!
However, bear in mind that you’ll likely be experiencing extra sensitivity in your nipples and breasts as the biological mechanisms that prepare your body for feeding your child are in motion, so you need to be particularly wary of jogger’s nipple.
It’s recommended that you invest in an appropriate sports bra (your older ones may not fit for the time being). My partner felt that the Under Armour HeatGear Mid Impact Crossback helped a lot during her pregnancy, but everybody is different, so don’t hesitate to shop around to find the right product for you. Features you should be considering include…
Level of Support
Larger breasts/higher impact exercise require more support.
Compression is best for women with smaller breasts, and encapsulation for those with larger breasts.
There should be no seams on the cup, and it should be breathable and soft.
Wide straps offer more support and prevent digging in.
Treating Jogger’s Nipple
Don’t worry if this article found you too late, and you’re already experiencing the wrath of jogger’s nipple, as the road to recovery is an easy one. All you need to do is…
- Gently wash the area with soft fabric, mild soap, and warm water.
- Dry the area carefully.
- Apply soothing ointment if necessary.
- Use gauze and sports tape to protect the area while it heals.
There you have it, my fellow pavement pounder — Jogger’s nipple is an irritation of the nipple caused by the chafing of fabric.
While it’s not a particularly serious ailment, it can be incredibly painful, so utilizing the preventative measures discussed here today is a no-brainer. If you jog smart, you’ll never, ever have to deal with this nasty issue — hooray!
We have another article on what to wear running. Read on to find out more!