How to Treat Embarrassing Running Problems

While running is a great source of exercise, elevating both the mood and energy levels, there are times when a runner can literally run into an embarrassing health situation. From rashes and acne to flatulence and hemorrhoids, here are the nine health conditions that can leave runners red-faced (and the ways to help treat or prevent them).


Excessive Sweating

Excessive Sweating
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Some runners will experience excessive sweating during their runs, especially on the hands, feet, and armpits. While perspiration is a perfectly normal process that helps keep the body cool, profuse sweating (hyperhidrosis) occurs when the body's cooling system malfunctions, causing sweat to literally pour from the body. There are certain treatments you can pursue if you are prone to hyperhidrosis.

  • Use an antiperspirant regularly. If your condition is persistent, you may need a clinical-strength antiperspirant prescribed by your doctor.
  • Get Botox injections to treat underarm hyperhidrosis. The injections temporary block a chemical that stimulates the sweat glands.
  • Take medications called anticholinergics that are sometimes used off-label to treat hyperhidrosis.
  • Explore surgical options for severe cases.

Leaky Bladder

Female runners will sometimes have problems with urinary incontinence, especially if they've just given birth. When the pelvic and sphincter muscles are strong, they can withstand the sudden pressure from a cough, sneeze, or exercise.

But when the muscles become stretched and weak, as can happen during pregnancy, any sudden jolt can inadvertently squeeze urine from the bladder. This can also happen as a person ages, both in women and men.

You can help alleviate the problem by practicing Kegel exercises designed to strengthen the pelvic floor muscles. The process is relatively simple.

  • Try to stop the flow of urine without using your stomach, leg, or butt muscles. When you're able to slow or stop the stream, you've located the right muscles.
  • Contract the muscles for 10 seconds and release for 10 seconds. Repeat this 10 times and do the same thing at least three to four times daily.

After around six to eight weeks, you should notice improvements in your bladder control. Losing weight can also relieve some of the pressure on the bladder.


Runner's Diarrhea

Running is a good way to maintain normal bowel function, but there are times when it can work a little too well. Runner's diarrhea—sometimes referred to as "runner's trots"—may be related to your diet but can also be the result of the reduced blood flow to the digestive tract when running.

Dehydration and low electrolytes may also contribute as can pre-race anxiety and the physical jostling of the organs themselves. To help prevent runner's trot, try these tips.

  • Avoid caffeine and high-fiber foods such as fruits, vegetables, legumes, and whole grains before working out.
  • Keep well hydrated by drinking 64 ounces of water every day. You'll know you are well-hydrated when your urine is a pale yellow color.
  • Sip a sports drink slowly during long runs to maintain electrolyte levels.
  • Snack on foods that are naturally binding such as bananas, plain bagels, rice, oatmeal, or pasta.
  • Refrain from eating two hours before a run so that your body has plenty of time to digest.
  • Plan long runs where public bathrooms are accessible if you are prone to diarrhea.

If the problem persists, see a doctor to explore other possible causes of diarrhea such as irritable bowel syndrome.


Black or Lost Toenails

Some runners, especially those training for long-distance events, can suffer from black or lost toenails. Black toenails are caused by the constant rubbing of your toe against the front of your shoe.

Because the resulting blood blister can't breathe as it would on the skin, it takes far longer to heal. You are more likely to get a black toenail in warm weather because your feet tend to swell when it's hot. There are several things you can do to prevent black toenails.

  • Make sure that you're wearing the correct size shoe—at least a half size bigger than your street shoes.
  • Trim your toenails regularly.
  • Keep your feet as dry as possible during runs.
  • Wear synthetic wicking socks rather than standard cotton socks.

If you get a black toenail, it is best to leave it alone. The damaged nail will eventually be pushed off and replaced by a new one. Do not force the old nail off as this can lead to infection. If you experience persistent pain, swelling, redness, or pus, see a doctor.


Acne on the Upper Body

Acne on the back, chest, and upper arms is a common problem for runners, especially women. It tends to appear where clothing comes into close contact with skin (such as under a sports bra).

The problem occurs when friction from clothing abrades the skin, allowing sweat and body salts to clog pores and cause infection. Makeup and sunscreen can further exacerbate the problem. Follow these tips to reduce acne.

  • Change out of your sweaty clothes immediately after running.
  • Shower and cleanse acne-prone areas thoroughly. Acne formulated soap is especially useful for this.
  • Avoid wearing makeup during exercise.
  • Opt for an oil-free sunscreen formulated for the face and neck.
  • Use a gel rather than a cream-based sunscreen for the rest of your body.

Chafing or Hemorhoids

The problem with a chafed crotch or groin is that you can often see it in a person's gait. Beyond the abrasions from clothing, the buildup of salt on the skin can act like sandpaper, causing pain and redness where the underwear comes into contact with the joints of the pelvis.

By contrast, hemorrhoids may not be caused by running but can be exacerbated by the repetitive rubbing of tissues during activity. Here are some ideas to help prevent or treat these conditions.

  • Wear tight-fitting, non-cotton underwear designed to wick moisture away from the crotch.
  • Buy synthetic running shorts with "built-in" underwear.
  • Use spandex compression shorts instead of underwear.
  • Apply a skin lubricant like Gold Bond Friction Defense on the groin, underarms, feet, or anywhere where chafing or blisters can develop.
  • Apply a medicated hemorrhoid cream whenever you plan to run or place a soft pad in between your buttocks to avoid irritation.

If you experience severe chafing, develop an infection, or have painful, bleeding hemorrhoids, you will need to cease activity and seek treatment from a doctor.


Sore or Bloody Nipples

Some runners, usually men, can get chafed or bloody nipples after a long run. This happens when the nipples are constantly abraded against the coarse fabric of a shirt. Men are more prone to this simply because they aren't afforded the same protection that women have with a sports bra. Here are some ways to prevent this.

  • Apply a lubricant like Vaseline or BodyGlide generously to the nipples before a run.
  • Wear products such as Nip Guards or Band-Aids to protect the nipples.
  • Wear synthetic shirts rather than cotton for long runs. Women should avoid sports bras made of cotton.
  • Use an antiseptic cream on your nipples to treat the irritation and prevent infection.


Passing gas is something that everyone does but may be harder to control when you are running. The very ​act of running can flex the sphincter muscles in a way that releases gas unexpectedly. To help prevent this from happening, try these tips.

  • Avoid eating foods that cause gas at least two to three hours before a run. The includes sugar-rich and high-fiber foods such as fruits, vegetables, bran, and beans.
  • Resist the urge to rush when eating meals. Doing so causes you to swallow excess air which will eventually find its way of the body either through belching or flatulence
  • Keep well-hydrated. Dehydration slows the movement of the bowels and potentiates gas.
  • Take digestive aids like Beano or Beano Meltaway which help break down complex carbohydrates in gassy foods. (Antacids do nothing to prevent gas.)

If excessive gas continues or worsens, see a doctor determine whether there may be a medical reason for it.


Heat Rash

Some runners will occasionally break out in a red, itchy rash during their run. We refer to this as cholinergic urticaria (also known as heat rash). It is a condition triggered by the sudden increase in body temperature during activity, most often in hot and muggy weather. It can sometimes look blotchy and red or be more hive-like appearance. To prevent or treat heat rash try these strategies.

  • Take an antihistamine. Older generation antihistamines such as Atarax/Vistaril (hydroxyzine) appear to be more effective in treating the condition.
  • Avoid running on extremely hot and humid days or reduce the intensity of your workout.
  • Stop exercising at the first appearance of the characteristic rash.
  • Consider treating severe cases with anabolic steroids.

Heat rash should not be confused with exercise-induced anaphylaxis (EIA), a severe allergic reaction associated with exercise, or golfer's vasculitis. EIA is a potentially life-threatening, all-body inflammation characterized by breathing distress, nausea, vomiting, hives, bloating, diarrhea, rapid heartbeat, and cramps.

If left untreated, EIA can lead to shock, loss of consciousness, cardiac or respiratory arrest, and even death. Emergency care should be sought immediately if any of these symptoms arise following exercise.

5 Sources
Verywell Fit uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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  2. National Association for Continence. Don't Quit Exercising Because of Urinary Incontinence.

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Additional Reading

By Christine Luff, ACE-CPT
Christine Many Luff is a personal trainer, fitness nutrition specialist, and Road Runners Club of America Certified Coach.