Enhance Your Run: Discover the Benefits of Nasal Strips

This content is not sponsored or paid. All opinions are my own. 

TLDR: Do nasal strips help with running? Yes, nasal strips can help with running by promoting better nasal breathing, reducing nasal congestion, and possibly improving overall regulation of oxygen intake.

If you want to improve your running, there’s no denying that correct breathing when running has a significant part to play. It’s fascinating how something as simple as breathing can impact our running performance so profoundly. Whilst there are many different types of running aids out there in this post I will be discussing my experience with a less well-known one – Breathe Right Nasal Strips.

Breathe Right Strips and similar brands of nasal stripes are primarily designed to help reduce snoring during sleep. At a glance, these strips might seem unassuming, but they carry a promise of enhanced breathing, which can be of huge benefit, particularly for the runners among us.

Functionality of nasal strips

How they work

Nasal strips are ingeniously simple in their design. They act like an external dilator, which gently pulls open the nostrils when placed on the nose to allow more air in and out. The idea is to facilitate better nasal breathing, which can lead to improved performance.

Another function is the reduction of nasal congestion. Often, nasal congestion can be the unseen hurdle to a comfortable run. Nasal strips reduce nasal congestion, making breathing through the nose much more effortless.

How to apply nasal strips for runners

Applying these strips for running requires two extra steps to ensure they stay in place for the duration of your run.

Step 1: Wash your face with a non-oil-based soap or cleanser. I use only a small amount of fairy liquid on my nose to remove skin oils or dirt. This ensures a clean surface for the adhesive strip to stick to.

Step 2: Wipe your nose with an alcohol wipe just like those your health care professional uses before they give you an injection. This will ensure your nasal strip stays stuck even when you get sweaty.

Step 3: Peel off the protective paper being careful not to touch the sticky side of the strip with your fingers, place it across the bridge of your nose, and push down firmly on the two ends on either side of your nose bridge.

Step 4: Take a breath and notice the immediate difference in how much easier it feels to get the air in through your nose.

My breathing instructor’s top tip

Not sure if nasal strips will benefit you? Place your index fingers on either side of your cheeks just where your nose ends and apply a slight stretch to your skin. If your nasal passages suddenly open, nasal strips will help you.

When to use nasal strips

Whether heading out for a casual jog or a competitive race, these strips could be your newfound companions, especially during those cold mornings when nasal congestion is more likely to strike.

Personally, I use them for longer Zone 2 runs when I want to focus on keeping my heart rate low as nasal breathing is a natural pace moderator, especially when starting out. I will also use them during events from 5K upwards as even though I primarily still breathe through my mouth, I find it helps me keep as much airflow as possible. It also helps with my warm-up and warm-down which is all nasal breathing focused.

breathe right nasal strips for running

Benefits in Running

Improved Breathing efficiency

Nasal breathing helps enhance Oxygen regulation. The potential for improved oxygen regulation while using nasal strips is compelling. Whilst the focus is often on getting as much Oxygen into your body as possible during physical activity, the respiratory system operates best when adequately balanced.

Enhanced Oxygen regulation

The relationship between Oxygen AND Carbon Dioxide is critical to enhanced Oxygen uptake within the blood and cells. This is called The Bohr effect. It describes haemoglobin’s lower affinity for oxygen secondary to increases in the partial pressure of carbon dioxide and/or decreased blood pH. This lower affinity, in turn, enhances the unloading of oxygen into tissues to meet the oxygen demand of the tissue.

What does this mean? Without the right balance of CO2, your blood cells find it harder to release the oxygen they carry to cells meaning less energy is available to your muscles. Mouth breathing often results in a lowering of CO2 within the blood whereas nasal breathing promotes a much better balance of Oxygen and Carbon Dioxide.

More balance between Oxygen and Carbon Dioxide in your blood means your muscles are better fueled for the long run or hard effort ahead.

illustration of haemoglobin blood cells

Potential Increase in Endurance

By promoting a better overall balance in your respiratory system there is potential to increase endurance. With better oxygenation, it’s conceivable that your endurance could see a boost. Using nasal strips when running might unlock that extra mile you’ve yearned for. It can also help promote faster recovery.

Reduction in Nasal Congestion

This is important for runners as nasal congestion relief isn’t just about comfort; it’s about maintaining an optimal breathing pattern while running. It’s incredible how you can time your stride to perfection with proper breathing.

I’ve been using nasal strips for just over six months now and ran my first long run (16km) breathing exclusively through my nose. This had several benefits, including feeling less fatigued throughout the run and needing less fluids than usual due to not having a dry mouth and fast recovery. I also felt less muscle soreness and general fatigue over the following days.

Possible Performance Enhancement

Studies, Research and Expert Opinions: Although more research is warranted to establish a direct correlation between these strips and enhanced running performance, the preliminary observations are promising.

The benefits of nasal breathing during exercise are much more well-studied. One study by Hostetter K, McClaran SR, Cox DG, and Dallam G at Colorado State University, examined the effects of nasal versus mouth breathing on the VO2 max of triathletes. The study found that the ability of highly trained competitive triathletes to adapt to breathing restricted to the nose during running at both a maximal effort and a subsequent high-level steady-state effort was possible without a loss in performance or peak aerobic capacity and could be used as a means of inhibiting EIB (Exercise-induced bronchospasm) which happens when the airways in your lungs narrow when you exercise.

Concerns and Considerations

Who can benefit the most from nasal strips?

Anyone, from casual joggers to seasoned marathoners, might find breathing benefits in these strips. However, individual experiences may vary.

Are there any Possible Drawbacks?

Some might find the adhesive irritating or not sticky enough. Follow my application tips above for improved stickiness.

If you have a deviated septum then the strips may not be as effective. It’s all about finding what works for you and trying things.

How much do nasal strips cost?

Compared to other running nasal breath aid tools, Breathe Right Strips (other brands are available) are fairly budget-friendly and retail in the UK for around £10 for a box of 30. However, the cost may add up over time, especially for daily runners. The strips are not reusable so a new one will be needed for each outing.

Are there any alternatives?

There are other breathing aids and techniques out there which can be reused such as nasal dilators. These are relatively unobtrusive plastic nasal devices that you insert into your nostrils. It aids breathing by reducing resistance to incoming air. Essentially it works the same as the strips by opening the nasal passages but from the inside.

Personally, I am yet to try these devices and I am slightly sceptical in terms of how well these will work. My main concerns are they may fall out, get gummed up with nasal congestion (yuck) and be somewhat uncomfortable. I am going to give them a try though and I will of course report on my experience. Like all things, it might be worth exploring them to find what suits you best.

Do nasal strips help with running?

Nasal strips have carved a niche in the running community for a good reason. They offer a simple yet effective approach to tackle nasal breathing advantages and breathe better while running. While they might not replace a well-rounded training routine, they surely can be a helpful addition to it.

Struggling with breathing while running?

As a qualified breathing instructor, I can provide personalised guidance to enhance your running performance. Looking to get a new PB? Ask me!

Hostetter, K. et al. (2016) TRIATHLETE ADAPTS TO BREATHING RESTRICTED TO THE NASAL PASSAGEWITHOUT LOSS IN VO2MAX OR VVO2MAX, View of triathlete adapts to breathing restricted to the nasal passage without loss in vo2max or vvo2max. Available at: https://jhp-ojs-tamucc.tdl.org/JHP/article/view/70/pdf_23 (Accessed: 23 September 2023).

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