Most athletes, especially runners, experience chafing at some point in their lives. Male runners taking on long-distance training may have the misfortune to experience nipple chafing. This occurs when the sensitive skin of the nipples is exposed to prolonged rubbing; breastfeeding can also cause the condition, as can friction from shirts and other substances, such as badges and logos. In severe cases, the skin is rubbed open and bleeding occurs, resulting in those red streaks spotted on shirts toward the end of long running events and an unpleasant, painful stinging—especially when water hits the area. Ouch!
Many runners work to find their own solutions to this uncomfortable problem. Some apply protection in the form of petroleum jelly, which can stain fabric, or in petroleum-free products such as BodyGlide; some use Band-Aids (which often come off when skin gets sweaty), and others even try tape, which can create a problem during removal. Three Austin friends decided to try to find a reliable and marketable solution to this annoyingly painful problem.
James Dodds, Stuart Frazier, and Travis Power met while they were in college at the University of Texas. The idea for their product, called NipStrips, came from personal experience and recognizing a need in the market. Dodds, who had often used a generic fix for chafing, said he wanted a lasting solution. “I was always fixing things with duct tape,” said Dodds, but he needed—and felt others would benefit from—a more reliable product, something that gave athletes one less thing to worry about on race day.
The team began product testing; this research took about six to 12 months, and some 25 to 30 different items were evaluated in the process. It was important to first identify the pros and cons of each version and materials; they then worked with 3M to find the right adhesive, which turned out to be silicon based, that limited pulling on chest hair. When it came time for wear testing, they found Austin’s running community ready to help. “Product testing is just connecting to people,” said Dodds. “It’s easy to start a running[-related] company in Austin.”
After raising $5,000 through a start-up campaign on Indiegogo, NipStrips was launched in the fall of 2013 with the slogan “tough runners, delicate nipples.” They’ve been on the market for about a year now, and it appears that local endurance athletes are discovering and using the product. Ultramarathoner and Grand Slammer Paul Terranova is an avid fan of NipStrips, using them in races such as the Run Rabbit Run 100 Miler in Steamboat Springs, Colorado. Terranova appreciates the reduced amount of trash that comes from only one application during an event. “The adhesive on the NipStrips is just the right amount of tackiness to ensure all-day protection yet still minimize the post-race ‘trauma’ associated with peeling normal adhesive strips off of your nips,” he said. “The last thing a serious trail runner needs is more pain after running for 20-plus hours.” Dodds said that he knew of one runner who wore the same pair of NipStrips for three days (even through showering).
Women are not as prone to nipple chafing during running as men, though Dodds said that some have found NipStrips useful in preventing rubbing from sports bras on their back. As a result, NipStrips is not currently targeting women with advertising, though this strategy could change.
The product, which comes in packs of 20, can be found at a variety of Austin-area shops. Dodds said that local running and cycling stores have welcomed NipStrips: “They brought us in because it’s a niche thing. It meets a direct need, and the product explains itself.”
Chafing can be a painful problem, no matter where it shows up or what sport is the cause. Some helpful tips:
• Wear better-fitting clothing. For thigh chafing, try compression shorts or a new style to decrease bunching.
• Check your detergent. Using too much detergent in the wash can be a problem (if you see foaming when you sweat, that’s why). Also, some may benefit from a hypoallergenic soap.
• Apply a lubricant. Before workouts, coat areas where friction is felt—thighs, nipples, underarms, under bra straps, and even the bottom of feet. Even after you’re chafed, apply a lubricant before you get in the shower to protect the area (and avoid shrieking in pain).
• Use a barrier. That’s where NipStrips and NipGuards come in. Try the two to determine which works best for you; NipStrips are flat and clear, whereas NipGuards are raised opaque octagonals.