Chafing is one of the worst things about running. It’s distracting and painful, and it can affect any part of your body. What’s worse is it can take a long time to go away, making it difficult (if not unbearable) to keep running while you heal.
It’s also a very personal issue. No matter where you chafe, it takes some product testing in various conditions to figure out what works best for you. That also makes it impossible to definitively name a product the best anti-chafe solution available.
Instead, I tried six popular anti-chafe products and used them during several runs longer than 6 miles in various summer-weather conditions. I evaluated them on price, ease of use and effectiveness in my chafe-prone areas. I also tested each directly on a running shirt to see if the substances left stains after being washed.
Body Glide – $10; 1.5 oz Stick
What I like: True to its branding, Body Glide’s original stick is never messy. You have to apply a little pressure to make sure the balm transfers from the stick to your skin, but once it’s on, it stays put. It’s smooth to the touch, and the size of the stick also makes it easy to apply. I also really like that it travels well, though the cap pops off in transit, occasionally. Body Glide is the most affordable anti-chafe-specific product on my list, and one stick lasts for a while.
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What I don’t like: In my experience, Body Glide loses its effectiveness somewhere between an hour and two hours of running, with humidity shortening the time frame. It has not been effective in preventing chafing from my heart rate monitor or waistbands in double-digit-mile runs. And in very humid conditions, I find Body Glide to be more sticky than smooth.
The stain test: Body Glide left a noticeable stain on the shirt. However, it doesn’t transfer to fabric easily, so you shouldn’t have an issue unless you’re rubbing it directly into your clothes.
What it’s best for: Runs up to an hour. It’s worth buying this affordable product to have on hand in a drawer at home or in your gym bag.
Friction Free by Sweatwellth – $18; 3.3 oz Spray Can
What I like: Friction Free is very easy to apply, it goes on very light and it kept me mostly chafe-free on a two-hour, 12-mile run in nearly 90-degree heat. I wore shorts, a tank top, a running pack and a heart rate monitor and walked away with only minor chafing around the waistband. However, I reapplied to my thighs at mile 7. I like that it’s easy to re-apply (that’s tricky with stick balms and sweaty skin), though that’s not an option on most runs. I purchased a travel set that included Friction Free, and the 1.3 oz spray can meets TSA carry-on restrictions. It’s also easy to transport and doesn’t leak.
What I don’t like: While I had no issues on some chafe-prone areas over the course of 12 miles, Friction Free lost its effectiveness in some places after about an hour. The full-size can is not air-travel friendly and it is expensive.
The stain test: You don’t have to worry about spraying on Friction Free around your clothes, because it doesn’t leave a noticeable stain.
What it’s best for: Humid runs up to an hour long, or in situations where you can re-apply to high-friction areas after an hour.
Son Of A Bitch Anti Chafe Stix by Bitchstix – $20; 0.5 oz Stick
What I like: After a 10-mile run in the low 80s wearing shorts, a cap-sleeve tee, running pack and heart rate monitor, I had no chafing. Son Of A Bitch is like Body Glide in that it is easy to apply but requires some pressure to transfer the balm to your skin. It’s creamier than Body Glide, which may be why I found it more effective. I like that the container is extremely portable (it’s like an oversized lip balm) and that Bitchstix uses sales proceeds to support victims of domestic abuse and sexual assault.
What I don’t like: Because of its small size, thoroughly applying Son Of A Bitch takes a long time, and it’s hard to adequately cover hard-to-reach spots. Like Body Glide, it feels a little sticky in high humidity. And despite the good feelings that come with supporting Bitchstix’s mission, $20 is a lot to pay for less than an ounce of product.
The stain test: Son Of A Bitch left a stain similar to (but lighter than) the one from Body Glide. But like Body Glide, it’s only an issue if you apply Son Of A Bitch directly to fabric. It doesn’t leave a residue when transferring from skin to clothes, in my experience.
What it’s best for: Precision application for runs up to two hours. Son Of A Bitch is also a good buy for people who like to make a statement with how they spend their money.
Sport Shield by 2Toms – $13; 1.5 oz Liquid Roll-On
What I like: Sport Shield glides on easily, and because it glistens, it’s easy to see if you have full coverage. It has kept me chafe-free through several run commutes, up to 15 miles (shorts, running pack, heart rate monitor and a cap-sleeve tee) in high heat and humidity. I’ve also used it during two marathons (not in the summer) with complete anti-chafe success. The $13 container lasts a long time.
What I don’t like: Despite its small size, Sport Shield does not travel well. It leaks on everything, and the exterior of the bottle is always slick. I wrap it in a paper towel or put it in a plastic baggie at all times.
The stain test: Sport Shield soaks into fabric immediately, making it seem like it will leave a stain, but it washes out easily, barely leaving a trace.
What it’s best for: Long, humid runs when you need a lot of protection.
TriSlide by SBR Sports – $16; 4 oz Spray Can
What I like: Not only is TriSlide reliably sweat- and waterproof, it’s effective in Doomsday-like chafe conditions. The spray bottle allows you to hit a lot of surface at once. I actually covered my whole body before a soaking-wet half marathon, and I finished without chafing. I also used it before an Ironman and re-applied halfway through the marathon—I was out there for more than 13 hours and didn’t chafe at all.
What I don’t like: It’s messy and super slippery. Unless you need to lube up your whole body, it’s excessive. And at 4 oz, this container isn’t carry-on friendly.
The stain test: Like Sport Shield, TriSlide looks like it’ll stain your clothes when it gets on fabric, but it washes out very well.
What it’s best for: Large-area coverage in long races or extremely wet conditions.
Vaseline – $3; 2.5 oz Tube
What I like: Vaseline (the brand name for petroleum jelly) is super cheap and great at protecting already-irritated areas from further damage. I like to carry a small container of it with me for emergency application.
What I don’t like: Vaseline is very messy, greasy and permanently stains clothes, but it definitely works to avoid chafing.
The stain test: Hands-down left the worst stain.
What it’s best for: Emergency chafe protection. It’s also an effective pick if you want to spend very little money and don’t care about stains.
Christine DiGangi has been an avid runner, cyclist and triathlete for more than a decade. From obstacle courses to marathons, she is willing to try any weird athletic thing once, as long as there’s pizza afterward. In between runs and rides around NYC in search of good food and drink, DiGangi works as the managing editor for MagnifyMoney.