A blog by runners. For runners.

Common female running problems: part one


Unfortunately, running isn’t always all fun and games. Sometimes discomforts and potentially dangerous health issues can pop up.

Here are some of the most common running problems – and solutions – women runners deal with (check out our piece on common male running problems here).

Problem: Chafing down there. Friction + sweat = chafing. Anywhere on the body where fabric touches skin. This can lead to very painful lady parts.
Solution: Your best bet is to stop chafing before it starts. Don’t wear cotton underwear – choose moisture-wicking clothing instead – and apply BodyGlide or a similar anti-chafing product before your run. If you already have chafing, use diaper rash cream to speed up the healing process.

Problem: Incontinence. If you have trouble “holding it” or you leak urine from time to time, know that you’re not alone. One-fourth to one-third of all women will deal with urinary incontinence during their lifetimes. Pregnancy, giving birth, and aging all weaken the pelvic floor and sphincter muscles. Running puts pressure on these muscles, too, which can further aggravate incontinence.
Solution: Regularly doing Kegel exercises can strengthen your pelvic floors muscles and stop leakage. To do these exercises, you’ll need to first identify the muscle you use to stop urine midstream. Lay down on your back and tighten that muscle, hold for 5-10 seconds, and then relax for 5-10 seconds. Repeat the sequence ten times. Do three sets of Kegel exercises per day and you should see improvements within a few months. If Kegel exercises don’t help, talk to your doctor.

Problem: Yeast infections. Female athletes, in general, don’t have the best feminine hygiene. This doesn’t mean we’re dirty – we just tend to hang out in our sweaty running clothes for a while instead of changing out of them and showering right after a workout. This is bad because moist environments encourage yeast to grow. Yeast is a fungus that’s normally present in the vagina, but when yeasts thrives, the balance gets thrown off and causes an infection. Yeast infections are extremely common — 75 percent of women will get one at some point.
Solution: Yeast infections are also fairly avoidable. When you can’t shower immediately after a run, make it a point to change out of your sweaty running clothes as soon as possible. If you get a yeast infection, see your doctor. Most yeast infections are easily treated with a prescription or over-the-counter medicine.

Problem: More injuries. Our body structure, specifically our wider hips and smaller feet, puts us at a disadvantage when it comes to injuries. Female runners are prone to hip bursitis, patellofemoral syndrome (knee pain), shin splints, and plantar fasciitis. 
Solution: Unfortunately, we can’t do anything about our anatomy. Wearing good running shoes, using proper form, and training smart can help prevent injuries. At the first sign of injury, step back from running to stop the injury from getting worse.

In part two, we’ll discuss some of the more serious issues facing female runners, like iron deficiency anemia and infertility.

Written by Jen Matz.