Runners Nipple AKA Joggers Nipple: What it is and How to Avoid it

When running, there are many opportunities for injury. It’s hard to believe but sometimes, tragedy can strike when you least expect it to. Runners or joggers nipple is one of those things that is likely to occur with inexperienced runners who don’t know how to prepare for such a thing. What is the runner’s nipple, and can it be avoided? Read more about nipple chafing below.

What Is Runners or Joggers Nipple?

Runners nipple happens when an athlete’s nipple rubs against course fabric. The nipple can get chafed, irritated, sore, and red. In some circumstances, the nipple is actually rubbed so raw that it bleeds.

Course cloth from either a cotton or a cheap performance shirt can contribute to this problem, as can wearing an ill-fitting shirt that is more likely to rub. Most racecourses first aid tents have Vaseline on hand for a possible nipple emergency, but by the time you get to that point, the damage can be done.

Prevention

Jeff Hettrick has paid the price of bloody nipples more than once. After the first time, for the most part, he was vigilant about always having bandaids on hand to protect himself against nipple chafe. On one run, he was chafing so badly he stopped at a donut shop, took off his arm sleeves and tied them around this chest.

Runners nipple story
Jeff Hettrick

Jeff says, “If you aren’t certain that you’ve chafed, you know for sure it has happened when you hit the shower!!”

Bandaids

Ask any man who has experienced nipple chafing i.e. bleeding nipples during a race if anything helps, and you may hear bandaids come into the conversation. The problem is, sometimes you get a wardrobe malfunction mid-race.

Kevin Cleary & joggers nipple
Kevin Cleary

Kevin Cleary had his bandaids firmly in place for his marathon. Unfortunately, due to sweat and shirt rub, his bandaid fell off and resulted in his bleeding through his shirt. Did he finish the race? You betcha he did!

Tough-Strips

The tough-strip is actually a type of bandage. It’s a heavy-duty bandaid made to take a beating. This bandage withstands the rubbing of a shirt and is also waterproof. It can hold up to sweat and also survive a torrential downpour.

Craig Moucka about runners nipple
Craig Moucka

Craig Moucka has an incredible tale of how wearing a cheap moisture-wicking shirt is not worth the money you saved. “Long runs require body glide or gold bond friction defense. Before that, I tried bandaids and actually had the cops called on me because a Good Samaritan thought I had been stabbed on the trails.”

Of course it has to be a true story – who could make something like that up?

Mark Ginocchio bleeding as he guts through the 2019 New York City Marathon. He was so incredibly focused on the race that he did not even realize he had chaffed to the point of bleeding until after the race.

 

Mark Ginocchio
Mark Ginocchio

 

After months of training, Ginocchio was expecting a Boston Qualifying race. Excited at the thought of this triumphant moment, he prepaid for all of his race day photos. He did not have the race he was hoping for, yet it was one for which many athletes would sacrifice a kidney.

Hitting a running wall around mile 18, Mark describes the remaining miles as a “death march” to the end, where he crossed the finish in 3:09. A personal record and stellar run, but short of his goal.

When all of his race photos came to him, there they were: 65 photos of Mark featuring the bright red blotch that was his bloody nipple.

Body Glide

Body Glide is a sport-specific lubricant used by many athletes. It comes either in a deodorant like solid or a tube with a lotion-like substance in it. Body Glide helps fabric slide properly so that you aren’t likely to chafe. Runners use it in many places such as along the bra line, on thighs, on fee,t and, you guessed it, on nipples.

One athlete recalled purchasing body glide and being told, “Come back for your lubrication needs when you run out.” Umm, awkward.

Nip Guards like NipEAZE

This is a bandage type item made specifically for covering nipples. NipEASE is known for holding up to sweat, storms, and will stay in place. Much like a bandaid but smaller.

Many men prefer these to bandaids because they are less likely to show through a shirt. Some nipple guards are even shaped to look like nipples for your self-conscious runner.

Quality Running Apparel

Over and over, while researching for this blog, I heard the same thing, “Wear quality running gear.” “Those cheap shirts they’ve away at races have no place in an actual run or race.” “Spend money on good shirts, they’re worth it.”

It seems that sometimes, you get what you pay for. And as far as nipple bleeding prevention, it’s worth every dime!

The Post-Run Shower Horror Show

The next most common phrase by men interviewed had the words, “the shower!” in them. Apparently, getting into a shower post-run with nipple chafe can be likened to someone stabbing you repeatedly in the chest with icicle knives.

How to Heal?

If you do make a fatal mistake and end up with bloody nipples, you will want to heal them. You can heal bloody nipples a few ways.

First, apply an ointment to promote healing and prevent further damage. You can apply an ice pack to help aid healing and ease discomfort. While healing, avoid anything that will cause further discomfort or rubbing.

Running Shirtless = No Bloody Nipples!

Sreeni Nair will tell you the only surefire way to prevent bloody nipples is to run shirtless. Even when running in the winter. Even when it’s zero degrees out. Even when everyone else is bundled up like Nanook of the North!

Sreeni Nair
Sreeni Nair

Seriously though. Sreeni runs shirtless in below freezing temps because he’s a badass. But it also prevents nipple chafe.

If you’re not quite that brave, there are plenty of other ways to prevent runners nipple. Remember: wear quality apparel. Perhaps invest in some sport-specific lubricants such as body glide or Aquaphor.

Keep bandaids or nipple guards on hand. And for god’s sake, don’t wear anything new on race day. Your nipples are depending on you making good choices.

Sources:
How to Treat and Prevent Chafing So It Won’t Derail Your Runs
Managing Chafing
Fissure of the nipple

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