Bloody Nipples Cause, Prevention, and Treatment

NipGuards can help men prevent bloody nipples during runs.

Some runners, usually men, get chafed or bleeding nipples, which can be extremely painful. Here's how to prevent and treat bloody nipples.

Symptoms of Bloody or Chafed Nipples

You'll feel a burning, stinging sensation and see blood on your shirt.

Causes of Bloody or Chafed Nipples

When men run, their nipples are constantly rubbing against their shirt. Over the course of a run or race (especially a long one), this sensitive area can be rubbed to the point of bleeding.

It most frequently happens when a man runs in a cotton shirt because the rough material rubs the nipples raw. Because women wear tight-fitting sports bras, this shouldn't be an issue for them.

Prevention of Bloody or Chafed Nipples

Some men learn the hard way how painful bloody and chafed nipples can be, but it's actually very easy to avoid that problem. Generously apply a lubricant like Vaseline or Body Glide to the nipple area before a long run and you should be fine. Some men will also wear products such as Nip Guards or Band-aids to protect the nipples. Also, for longer runs, make sure that you wear a synthetic-material (Dri-Fit, not cotton) shirt closest to your body. Cotton shirts will cause chafing and eventually cause bleeding in the area. Women should make sure their sports bras fit properly and aren't made of cotton. Synthetic materials will also dry faster than cotton, which is important because wet skin can make chafing worse

Treatment of Chafed Nipples

If you're in the middle of a run and start to feel pain in the nipple area, it's not too late to apply a lubricant and keep the chafing from getting worse. Some runners carry a small tube of Aquaphor or Vaseline in their running belt or pocket, so they're prepared for chafing issues.

If you're running in a marathon or other race with medical aid stations along the course, they'll most likely have Vaseline on hand.

Sometimes the nipples are more painful after you finish your run, especially once you take a shower and the hot water hits them. Make sure you clean the chafed nipples with water and dry them thoroughly. After cleaning the area, apply some A+D ointment or petroleum jelly. If your nipples are very painful, swollen, bleeding, or crusted, consult your health care provider, who may recommend a medicated ointment.

You may need to take a day or two off from running to give your nipples some time to heal from the chafing. Continued friction will not only be painful, but it could lead to infection.

If your skin chafing doesn't improve after trying these steps, make an appointment to see your health care provider. You may need a stronger course of treatment, such as an antibiotic ointment, if the area is infected.

Source:  "Skin Chafing Causes and Treatment",, accessed 2/23/16