How to fix heart rate strap chaffing issues

A day or two ago, someone posted to Slowtwitch with an issue where they were getting chaffing issues with the Garmin soft strap, to the point of the skin being red and raw.  This was primarily in the area of the front transmitter pod (near the little plastic piece).

With the Garmin soft straps there are actually two editions of soft HR straps depending on what year you bought them.  In 2010 they started producing a slightly different variant that reduced issues with spiking/dropouts and made it such that the plastic no longer touched your chest – but rather was on top of the fabric.  You can see all the Garmin straps below:

HRStraps

And while you may think this is a Garmin strap issue, it actually isn’t.  In fact, it doesn’t just affect one-Slowtwitcher (there were others on the thread with the same issue) – it also affects two rather important folks.  Me, and The Girl.

In my case, I’m not always wearing a Garmin strap – for example, the last few weeks I’ve been wearing a Polar Wearlink strap – but it’s still been happening to me.  Now the oddity here is I can’t actually figure out why it happens and doesn’t happen.  Sometimes I’ll go months without an issue, and then other times it’ll take all of two runs to be rubbed the wrong way.  As you know, I’ve got literally dozens of HR straps to choose from – and no amount of swapping straps seems to fix it.  But yet, one day – it’ll simply stop.

The Girl meanwhile has less tolerance for being rubbed the wrong way, and simply devised a brilliant solution that works for both of us.  And, since that puts our success percentage at 100% – I figured I’d share it with you.

But the best part?  It only costs a few cents and seconds to implement.

See, she simply applies a small Band-Aid.  Though not to her – but rather, to the strap.

IMG_6072

She places it longwise along the bottom – wrapping both over the top, and over the edge of the fabric.  After all, it’s the fabric part that does the scratching/rubbing/chaffing – not the plastic piece.  You can see below how the plastic pod just ever so slightly pushes the fabric edge outwards – against your skin.

IMG_6075

This Band-Aid will last a rather surprisingly long time.  Like really long – weeks, sometimes months.  Assuming you apply it while dry and let it sit for a short bit before first use.  After that, you can make all the sweaty mess you’d like and it seems to stay there just fine.

IMG_6073

Note that you don’t need to put Band-Aids around the entire strap – just the part with the transmitter pod.  I suspect it’s because the pod slightly pushes down on the strap and into your chest.  And again, this applies to other ones as well.  In fact, The Girl actually uses a CycleOps strap/pod most of the time.  And over the past few weeks I’ve been using a Polar strap.

As for the exact type of Band-Aid used, they just came from one of those random travel packs of them.  We have one that says ‘40 items’ in it.  However, upon super-close examination it looks like these are the specific Band-Aids we’re using for this purpose.  They’re a water-resistant one, and clear as you can see above.  I’m sure other brands of water-resistant ones work well too.  These are just the ones that happen to be in our cupboard.  I’m sure your local drug store has them cheaper and in smaller quantities than the 30 pack for $3.

Now there are other solutions as folks have suggested – including some various forms of lubricants, Body Glide, or even just washing the strap to get rid of the salts.  I’ve tried the Body Glide (which helps some), and washing (sorta helps).

But perhaps others have suggestions as well – feel free to drop them below, I’d love to hear them!

And of course, as a general public service announcement, if you’ve got heart rate strap spiking/dropping issues – check out these three past posts (especially the comments in the third one):

- Troubleshooting your HR strap issues Part I
- Troubleshooting your HR strap issues Part II
- An interim solution using the Polar strap with the Garmin transmitter

Thanks for reading all!

60 Comments

  1. Leave it to a woman! She is SO smart! Thank you! ;)

    Sarah
    http://www.thinfluenced.com

    Reply
  2. Glad I am not the only one having this issue.
    I have opened a post on a running forum asking for help and these were the most popular tips :

    - Tighten the HRP to stop it from rubbing on your skin

    - Vaselline or bodyglide

    - Some people have reported results by sliding the sensor so its on their LH side with one electrode in front one side/backish. I even read people putting the sensor on the back. Apparently the HRM still works

    - Loosening the HRM and lowering it a bit

    - Put some athletic tape on your skin at the spots where there is the chafing

    None of the above worked, I shall try with your tip and report back.
    Note that in my case the chaffling occurs on the sides of the sensor. Have a look at what my chest looks like at the moment - warning, it's an Italian male hairy chest with abrasions :) - link to i.imgur.com

    (BTW English is not my Language and I would love to be able to edit my comments to get rid of typos)

    Reply
  3. Thanks for advice. Have the same problems on long runs. Especially with standard garmin HR band, chaffing with premium band is very reduced (though still happns - especially when it is hot and humid).

    I have additional question... One of the screws holding together the HRM is damaged. Three can be unscrewed without a problem. I need to change a battery, but dont want to break or damsge HRM. Its actually not so cheap. Garmin shop just offered me a new strap for 60 eur :-(

    Reply
    • Leslie replied

      I had the same problem and same response from Garmin. So frustrating :-(

      Reply
  4. Anonymous

    My chafing occurs on the sides of my body, rather than in the front where the pod is located. Nothing seems to help, but I'd love to hear if anything is working for others.

    Reply
  5. Thanks for that Ray! I actually ended up bleeding down my white run short during 13+ mile run one Sunday. I have been wearing the classic strap now for the last month and it is just starting to heal up. For me it only happens with so-called Premium strap. Can't wait to give this a try.

    Reply
  6. Brian

    I've used duct tape for this same purpose myself (and yes, I've been rubbed raw/bleeding before I finally found this solution). Duct tape is cheaper than bandaids too!

    Reply
  7. I use Duct Tape, in the same fashion. I swear to you, it works, and stays longer. Maybe you use band aids for a sprint, but Duct tape for 140.6 :) Incidently, duct tape is also awesome on the inside of shoes that cause blisters! :)

    Reply
    • Teutate replied

      Thank you soo much! After a year of soreness duct tape did the magic...

      Reply
  8. Jen

    Thank you, Miss Bertie! You rock!

    I've been using BodyGlide for this exact problem, and while it works, my HRM strap eventually just gets gunked up, and Garmin says that actually dropping the strap in a washing machine is a no-no. With BodyGlide, the strap also tends to slip around and give me nonsense readings after a while, so this tip is golden.

    Reply
  9. Anonymous

    I was having this problem also, but fixed it by getting a Wahoo Fitness HRM.

    I was having terrible problems with the Garmin misreporting HR, tried a few different tricks and finally gave up on it when I discovered how difficult it was to get the screws out of the battery cover.

    The Wahoo Fitness model has none of these problems. It cost more, but I thought it was worth it for something that is reliable, doesn't irritate my skin and easy to change the battery.

    Reply
  10. by7

    I had the same problem and at first used Bodyglide, etc...

    I TOTALLY solved the issue using a Polar strap instead of the Garmin one.
    By the way, the Polar strap seems to be more "resilient" to sweat, etc and avoid the "fuzzy HR" which sometimes happens using even the latest "premium Garmin HR strap"

    Reply
    • Victor replied

      Like you, I switched to the Polar strap with the Garmin transmitter and have had no problems since.

      Reply
  11. I've been wraping my strap with athletics tape. Its just a mather of "bending" the edges of the strap away from your skin. I also had a problem with hair being slowly removed because they where caught between the strap and the sensor.. OUCH!

    Reply
  12. Anonymous

    Has anyone tried wearing the strap upside down?

    Reply
  13. Aye. Half the heart rate and still rubbing. So didn't work for me.

    Reply
  14. Only happened once. The strap was looser than normal. I tightened it a bit more and the chaffing disapeared.
    Easy one!

    Reply
  15. This was a timely post as I had pretty well given up on wearing a HRM on the run portion at Ironman Canada next week. Sadly I tried the bandaid on a short one hour run yesterday and the chaffing seems to be just as bad. Oh well, I'll wear the HRM on the bike and just go on perceived exertion on the run I suppose! I've had similar issues with the classic strap and the newest strap. :(

    Reply
  16. Thanks for the tip.

    Got this problem as well after switching to the latest Garmin "premium" strap. I have been using the previous versions for more than 5 years with no problems at all.

    Using tape on the chest works - but Yesterday I tried putting the tape on the HRM instead and it ended up bloody after a 12K run. Seems like a design flaw to me.

    Will try with duct tape.

    Reply
  17. I came up with a more durable/washable fix using a piece of mouse pad. Picture here: link to tinyurl.com

    Reply
    • Dave replied

      Kristian - Thanks for a great solution! I didn't have a spare mouse pad to cut up, so I used the removable liner from an old pair of running shoes. My Polar T-31 strap accepted a pad slightly smaller (2 x 3") than yours and fits comfortably in the hollow by the breastbone. No chaffing, comfortable, and free! The finished product looks just like your link.

      Reply
  18. Wow...that really worked. I was going to skip the HR sensor for Rev3 Cedar Point this past weekend. I still have the wounds from previous use (wondering why these are so slow to heal).

    I decided to give the band-aid a go for the race and it worked like a charm.

    Reply
  19. Shannon

    Just wanted to say thanks for this tip. Have been using it since the original post and it works like a dream!

    Reply
  20. Diana

    Long time reader and finally going to comment- used the same waterproof bandaid after this post through months of rinsing, 2 halfs, and a full IM without any chafing or bleeding. My scar from the last 2 years is still there, though! Can't thank you enough!!

    Reply
  21. Mike D

    I *knew* you'd have a solution for this -- used my 910xt for the first time w/ HRM yesterday, and have a nasty 'tatoo' from the strap rubbing. Will definitely try this before I run tomorrow. Thanks, this blog is the best.

    Reply
  22. JakiChan

    Since I have both the newer Garmin strap lying around as well as the Polar strap - if the newer Garmin strap helps with the spiking problems then is there any particular reason you still use the Polar one? I will admit, the Polar one feels "nicer" - the Garmin one still feels a little cheap.

    Reply
  23. John Doe

    First of all, I really appreciate your great website!

    I'm a happy owner of a garmin 310xt with a heart rate monitor. However, I have the chaffing issue a lot. First of all, I'm undure of exactly where to wear the device. The manual says "just under your breastplate" or something like that but I'm unsure what exact body part they're actually refering to (I'm not a native En speaker). I get the issue when putting it under "pectoralis major" - right under the main chest muscle where I would guess it should be. If I move it to under my ribs, I have no problems. However, I'd like my data to be as reliable as possible, still.

    Would you mind posting a picture of where it should be? Or maybe show it on an illustration?

    Thanks very much. I'll keep reading your site!
    - John

    Reply
  24. Carley Hyman

    I just switched to the newer Garmin 910xt after using the Forerunner for 3 years and I have the worst chafing under the plastic chest piece! No amount of body glide, repositioning or flipping the strap upside down has helped. I'll try the bandaid or duct tape tricks! NEVER had an issue with the old strap!

    Reply
  25. First hit googling, "garmin heart rate monitor rubbing," with exactly the problem I'm having, and what looks to be a perfect solution. Thanks for posting! It almost seems so obvious I probably wouldn't have thought to write about it, but I'm glad you did.

    Reply
  26. Magnus

    After 30km / 18 miles yesterday I have a red scar across my chest from the HR belt. Not so great.
    Thank you for the solution - I found waterproof tape in the bathroom link to i.imgur.com
    Picture taken with vintage Nokia E71 from .. 2005

    Reply
  27. ACheerfulGirl

    That was brilliant!!! My chaffing was where the sensors are on the new "comfort" strap which is a horrible name for such a torture device! Needless to say it was very, very painful. Thanks for sharing. That worked like a charm.

    Reply
  28. Greg

    Just got a 910Xt over the weekend and now have a nasty red welt under where the HRM sensor was. Why hasn't Garmin responded to this matter especially since this thread has been going on for almost a year. They have a product thats actually hurting and scaring their customers, seems to me they would respond and come out with a real solution.

    Are any of the alternative belts like the old Polar hard belts?

    Reply
    • Rainmaker replied

      To be fair, pretty much every HR strap on the market can (and does) do this to some extent (except the plastic ones you noted). I personally get it whether I wear a Polar strap or a Garmin strap.

      Reply
    • Rocio replied

      I bought the Garmin Forerunner 610 and the premium heart rate monitor hurts me while running (under my breast) .. What can I do??? I use it the way it seems to be weared.

      Reply
    • Rainmaker replied

      Hi Rocio-

      Have you tried the band-aide (or tape) as per above? Or is it that it's too tight and is restrictive?

      Reply
  29. Greg

    Do you know if there are any older style Polars or something similar that works with the 910?

    Reply
    • Rainmaker replied

      No, not with both the transmitter pod and the strap. The challenge is that even when you move the ANT+ transmitter pod to the Polar ones, it's actually the transmitter pod pushing against the strap that is the root of the issues.

      Reply
  30. Bernardo Delfin

    Garmin just released a new strap this month (June 2013). They claim to be the best heart rate monitor in the market. have you Heard anything???

    Reply
  31. Thomas

    late to the party but: I had the exact same problem with the Decathlon strap; needless to say this works perfectly!
    thank you! (or more correct, thank the girl :) )

    Reply
  32. Mariela

    Amazing how you always have the answer to everything!!! I thought this was happening because I would wear it and drive to the track (sitting down). Then I thought maybe I was a little overweight! So glad to see I am not the only one with this issue! I will definitely read your other posts as I had no idea we could use a Polar strap with a Garmin monitor.

    Reply
  33. Mariela

    Can you let me know which model of Polar strap I may use with my Garmin 910? Thank you!

    Reply
  34. jami

    Thank you.... I will be trying this on my next run. The sores from the rubbing are killing me! I wonder if moleskin (like for blisters) would work as well...

    Reply
  35. stuart

    I had no problem at all with the Garmin soft strap for first 8 weeks, then suddenly it started chafing and was quite sore, this continued for a few days until the strap actually slipped down to my stomach which made me realise the strap had become a little loose (I've lost a bit of weight), so I tightened the strap and the last 5 runs have been fine

    Reply
  36. Lucy

    Garmin sent me what I assume is the latest and greatest HRM strap (they also included a new unit) about two weeks ago. I put it on for a short run and I'm still having the same problem. Basically, each one of the rounded corners of the unit rubs and cuts into my skin. The farther the distance, the deeper/bigger the cut/blister. Big, bleeding ones. I now have 5 scars. Thanks, Garmin. :(

    Reply
  37. Sarah Crowe

    I've been having the exact same problem this year, so just read this and will give it ago. Real bugbear with my suunto belt on long runs which means that I can't wear it during the week as it takes so long for the chaffed areas to heal.

    Reply
  38. Leslie

    So relieved to find this thread! After several years of no issues, I have had a blister rub every time I've worn it in the past month. Can't wait to try the duct tape or band aid, but I have to wait for the current blister to heal up first.

    Reply
  39. Scotty Mac

    I tried using 2 inch 3M™ Micropore™ Microporous Hypo-Allergenic Surgical Tape, this was extremely successful, I cut about a 4 inch strip of tape off and stuck it to my chest where the chafing was, and then put the belt on over the top of the tape, absolutely no problems after that. General info on the tape below.

    A paper tape that is gentle to the skin yet adheres well. An economical, general-purpose surgical tape, it is available in standard rolls, dispenser packs, and single-use rolls.

    Micropore tape is excellent for repeated applications on sensitive skin and elderly patients. It allows for moisture evaporation and skin to breathe and leaves minimal adhesive residue upon removal. Micropore tape is available in a dispenser pack for easy tear and convenience. Excellent for general-purpose taping. It is available in white or tan.

    Reply
  40. Dave Brillhart

    I had this chaffing issue on longer runs (never when cycling) and decided to buy the latest version, the HRM3 *new* fabric strap. That one solves the problem and have never had any chaffing issues. That was 6 months ago. It just failed. I took great care of it, hand rinsed it, never allowed it to bend much. But it still failed. I don't know what the failure mechanism is. If I squeeze the fabric to the left of the transmitter pod, it comes back to life for a few seconds. Apparently a short or open circuit?

    I can't afford to buy new straps every few months... Or rather, don't want to... so I think I'm going back to the indestructible older style soft rubber strap. Those are a little heavier and a little less comfortable, but will work for many years.

    You'd think Garmin could figure out a more resilient design.

    Reply
  41. Alan

    Random question... I've never used a hrm and wondered do you need a smooth chest for it to work effectively?

    Reply
  42. Stephanie

    I stumbled across this post completely by accident, and I am SO GLAD. My Polar soft strap was chafing the ever-loving HECK out of my chest. I went from skin so raw it was painful for almost a full week to absolutely ZERO chafing today (and it was a longer run). Thanks so much for this awesome tip!

    Reply
  43. awesome solution!!! I haven't had the issue until I started using the Timex Run trainer strap and I couldn't figure out why it would be different. I'm also hoping I can get that strap to work with my garmin since I've tried all the other tips and tricks and it keeps spiking and dropping.

    Reply
  44. Colina

    I tried the bandaid thing and it worked for the first two runs I did but then it just started chafing like it did without the bandaid.... :( :( :( :( :(
    I'm going to try the mousepad trick that I saw on this post

    Reply
  45. Toni Howell

    Thank you so much for this post. I have so many scars and cuts that when I went for a spray tan, the beautician thought that I had been self-harming!!! The cut that I got yesterday on a 15-miler (it as very warm) was one of the worse I've had in a long time.

    Reply
  46. Jeslyn

    Thanks. I find that when i rub vaseline at all the potential chafting areas and it's worked great for me.
    However, i noticed the electrodes portion coming off from the newer soft strap (2010+ version). Any remedies for that? Is there a specific glue i can use to stick it back or do i have to purchase a new heart rate strap?

    Reply
    • Rainmaker replied

      Hmm, I haven't seen any solution for the electrodes coming off. At that point it probably means a new strap (though not the whole transmitter, just the extra strap portion).

      Reply
  47. Kara

    Thank you for sharing this post! I purchased a Polar HRM a few weeks ago and am dealing with this same issue. I have the two areas on top and bottom rubbed raw but have been still working out and running with the soreness. Not fun! I LOVE the HRM, but this is the pits. :( I am SO hoping this helps me!!

    Reply

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