How To Avoid Chafing And Blisters In Triathlons? Prevention & Treatment Tips


The most dreadful experience for any triathlete is experiencing excruciating pain that comes from parts of your body rubbing together or against any piece of clothing.

As a triathlete, you might feel raw and sore due to chafing. This causes you to alter your body movement, thus leading to the exertion of more energy. This scenario is a disadvantage to every triathlete as it causes so much discomfort and deprives you of the opportunity to make it to the finish line.

The lengthy and repetitive nature of the triathlon sport makes it easy to chafe or have blisters on the skin. So, every triathlete ought to know the basics of how to prevent this.

But, what is an effective way of preventing you from chafing which might eventually lead to blisters? One of the most effective ways is LUBRICATION. Vaseline is an inexpensive remedy for lubricating chafed skin areas. The lubricant keeps the skin from rubbing against each other allowing the skin to glide easily against each other.

Apart from lubrication, other methods will be discussed. But first, let’s find out what chafing is, how it occurs in triathlons, how it leads to blisters, and some other information you should know.

On a side note, also check out How Do Triathletes Go To The Bathroom While Racing? Tips and Tricks

What Are Chafings And What Do They Look Like?

Chafing is a skin injury caused by continuous friction and rubbing of the skin such that it leads to tears on the outer layer of the skin.

This leads to an exposure of the inner layer of the skin, causing excruciating pain.  Here are some sample photos

Chafed feet
Chafed Hip


Chafing can lead to blisters when the rubbing or friction becomes excessive, leading to swelling, bleeding, and formation of crusts on the skin, especially when blister gets infected. (Source)

The common places prone to chaffing for any triathlete regardless of the discipline include:

  • The groin
  • Thighs
  • Nipples
  • Underarms
  • Under breasts
  • Feet

What Are Blisters And What Do They Look Like?

Blisters are pockets of raised skin that contain fluid formed due to damage to the upper layer of the skin. They vary in size and may occur singly or in clusters.


When the upper layer of the skin gets damaged, fluid forms underneath the skin, cushioning the tissue that lies beneath. The collected fluid helps to protect the tissue from further damage thus, promoting good healing.

Toe Blister


When such blisters become infected or inflamed, it becomes filled with pus or blood. When such blister becomes infected or inflamed, you need to seek immediate medical care.

How Do Chafing And Blisters Occur In Triathlon?

In Triathlon, participants are always making frequent, continuous movements that cause friction between the surfaces of the skin or clothing pieces.

In the swim leg, the underarm is prone to chafing as constant friction occurs when you try to propel yourself in water.

In the bike leg, chaffing occurs at the inner thighs. They are prone to chaffing as the repetitive paddling causes friction between the saddle and the thighs.

Also, the tension that comes from pedaling causes the tri suit to rub abrasively on the skin.

In the run leg, chaffing occurs at the feet especially, for those who don’t wear socks. With running, there is a constant rubbing that occurs between the running shoes and your feet, leading to the soreness of the feet.

The underarms and thighs are also affected because while running, there is a constant swinging of the arm and rubbing of thighs that cause friction and eventually chafing.

When chafing gets serious in these cases, blisters are prone to occur, which can become infected eventually.

What Leg Of Triathlon Causes Them Most Chafing And Blisters?

It is not possible to say what leg of the triathlon chafing and blisters occur most. This is because each discipline involves frequent movement and rubbing of the surfaces of the skin, equipment, or clothing pieces.

But one can say that the run leg is the danger zone where chaffing occurs, particularly at the feet, thighs, and underarms. (Source)

How To Avoid Chafing And Blisters In Triathlon?

Apart from using a lubricant, like Vaseline on the chaffed areas to ensure the sliding of the surfaces in contact and the prevention of friction, there are other methods to help avoid chafing and blisters in triathlon. They include:  (Source)

  • Wearing the right clothing pieces

As a triathlete, you should avoid wearing too loose clothing as they give an extra surface for rubbing against the skin thereby, causing chafing. Close-fitting wear (not too tight) that delivers sweat away from the body and reduces irritation, should be worn.

Seamless clothing pieces are also recommended as they reduce irritation.

This blog post on What to wear for triathlons (Everything you need to know about trisuits and wetsuits choices) will give you a better insight on the right triathlon clothing pieces for you.

  • Staying hydrated

The extensive activity of a triathlete causes so much sweat. This would result in dryness of the skin and loss of skin integrity. So taking the right amount of fluid would help restore balance to the skin.

  • Avoiding any form of underwear beneath your bike shorts

Along with wearing cycling shorts that suit you, you should avoid wearing any underwear beneath your bike shorts so as they prevent the excessive rubbing of your groin against an extra piece of clothing while cycling.

  • Using a saddle that fits your body.

A saddle chafing could occur if the width of the saddle is not properly adjusted as a saddle that is adjusted too wide, or set too forward can lead to chaffing.

  • Wearing properly fitted shoes and well fitted, seamless socks.

The right shoes and seamless socks will help prevent any wear and tear on your feet, and this can help you reach the finish line without stopping.


Consider a double layer of socks because this helps to wick away the sweat from the feet, thus reducing friction and preventing chafing.

It is wise to choose synthetic socks over cotton socks. This is because cotton draws in the foot sweat that makes the feet vulnerable to friction. But, synthetic socks keep the feet dry by wicking away the sweat. (Source)

How To Treat Chafed Skin And Blisters?

Let’s consider both home and hospital remedies for the treatment of chafing and blisters. It is advisable to see a health care provider when it becomes a blister.

Chafing is said to heal on its own but, for a triathlete who is always in motion, it is best to know the home remedies that could help soothe the skin and also what you should expect to be given at the hospital if you ever have to go into one.

Home treatment

The first step is to wash the chafed skin with lukewarm water, then pat dry or leave to air dry.

Be careful not to rub with the drying towel so you wouldn’t make it worse. It’s always preferable to air dry. (Source)

The next step is to apply some home remedies that would help soothe the skin further. These home remedies include: (Source)

  • Coconut Oil

This is a must-have in every home. It can be used in making your favorite dish, moisturizing your hair, or moisturizing your skin.

Apart from these uses, studies have shown that coconut oil can help reduce inflammation, the risk of infection, and enhance wound healing.

However, this might not be the best home remedy as it is easily absorbed into the skin. So, it needs frequent application to produce the best results. It is causes stains on the skin too.

  • Aloe Vera gel

Good for you if you have the aloe vera plant somewhere around your house because this medicinal plant contains antimicrobial, antiviral, and antioxidant properties.

It also helps to reduce inflammation, irritation and promote wound healing in the process, improving the integrity of the skin.

This is a good home remedy for chafed skin. All you have to do is apply enough gel on the skin until the irritation stops. You have to be careful when using this, as people have experienced some adverse reactions.

It is advisable to do a patch test on the skin before using it on the chafed skin. Another drawback might be the sticky nature of this home remedy. But, if you have no problem with both issues, then the aloe vera gel is a good one to use.

  • Baby powder/cornstarch

This home remedy is readily available and inexpensive. It is used more on sweat-prone areas such as the underarm, groin, and inner thighs.

Sprinkling some amount of corn starch on the chafed area will help absorb excess moisture that causes chafing. It also has antibacterial properties which help prevent the occurrence of infection.

But a major drawback here is that it is a loose protectant and can be easily wiped off by the skin or clothing piece.

  • Argan oil

This is the most expensive remedy on the list. But it helps to improve the integrity and elasticity of the skin while soothing the chafed skin.

  • Vaseline

This helps to lubricate the skin, heal minor wounds and soothe chafed skin. This is a common go-to home remedy for most triathletes. But a major drawback is that it is excessively greasy and stains clothes. Also, it should not be used on a neoprene wetsuit because it could corrode it.

Hospital treatment

After using the home remedies listed above, you should see improvement. But if the chafed skin does not get better, or if it becomes an infected blister where you have a pocket of skin filled with pus or blood, you should visit a health care provider where you will be given the recommended antibiotics.

Chafing And Blisters Healing process

How long does it take for a chafed skin to heal?

If a chafed skin is given immediate attention using the recommended remedies and exposed to air, it can heal in a couple of days with a maximum of 7 days. But if the chaffed skin is left unattended, it can take a longer time to heal, leaving behind a permanent scar.

How long does it take for Blisters to heal?

When noninfected blisters occur, it takes a week or two to heal. But if infected with evidence of pain, redness, and colored pus/blood, it can take several weeks to heal. It is advisable to avoid bursting a blister because that could delay the healing process. (Source)

Some General Skincare Tips For Triathletes 

Aside from chafing, other skin issues could occur which include; sunburns, skin cancer, eczema, etc. Here are some general skin care tips to help prevent that. Source

  • Wear a good sunscreen to protect your skin from the UV-rays
  • Wear a cap while swimming to protect your hair from the damaging effects of chlorine
  • Wash your tri suits and wetsuits immediately after usage to avoid the buildup of bacteria
  • Have a good shower after any triathlon event.

Conclusion

It is better to avoid pain than to experience one. Chafing can be very painful especially when it results in blisters.

But regardless of the frequent activities, triathletes get involved in, it is possible to prevent this by Lubrication, wearing well-fitted clothes, wearing seamless socks, wearing properly fitted shoes, staying hydrated, and using a saddle that fits your body.

If there are reasons you couldn’t adopt these preventive measures, you can use home remedies like aloe vera, coconut oil, vaseline, and corn starch to help soothe the chaffed skin.

You are recommended to see a healthcare provider if the chaffed skin starts bleeding or turns to a blister where you will be given antibiotics.

Prevention is better than cure! So, it is advisable to adopt the preventive measures explained above.

Bonus article

Are you new to triathlon? Here is an article you could read. 50 must-know tips for every beginner triathlete.

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