Skin Application of 4% Menthol Enhances Running Performance in Hot and Humid Climate

Int J Sports Med. 2020 Mar;41(3):161-167. doi: 10.1055/a-1062-6520. Epub 2020 Jan 5.


Aerobic performance is negatively impacted by tropical climate due to impairment of thermoregulatory mechanisms. We tested the hypothesis that a torso application of a 4% menthol solution would have the same effect on a best performance 10-km run as an external use of cold water. Thirteen trained male athletes completed four outdoor 10-km runs (T=29.0±1.3°C, relative humidity 59.0±13.6%) wearing a tee-shirt soaked every 2-km either in a cold (~6°C) or warm/ambient (~28°C) solution, consisting in water or in a 4% menthol solution, (CTL, MENT-Amb, CLD and MENT-CLD). Run performances were improved from 4.8 to 6.1% in CLD (51.4±5.5 min), MENT-Amb (52.2±5.9 min) and MENT-CLD (51.4±5.1 min) conditions (vs. CTL, 55.4±8.4 min, P<0.05), without differences between these three conditions, whereas heart rate (177±13bpm), body temperature (38.7±0.6°C) and drink ingestion (356±170 g) were not modified. Thermal sensation after running was lower in MENT-CLD (vs. CTL, P<0.01) and thermal acceptability was higher in CLD and MENT-Amb (vs. CTL, P<0.05), but thermal comfort, feeling scale and rate of perceived exertion remained unchanged. The use of menthol on skin enhances aerobic performance in a tropical climate, and no differences in performance were observed between menthol and traditional percooling strategies. However, combining both menthol and traditional percooling brought no further improvements.

MeSH terms

  • Administration, Cutaneous
  • Adult
  • Athletic Performance / physiology*
  • Body Temperature Regulation / drug effects*
  • Drinking
  • Gait / physiology
  • Heart Rate / physiology
  • Humans
  • Humidity*
  • Male
  • Menthol / administration & dosage*
  • Perception / physiology
  • Physical Exertion / physiology
  • Running / physiology*
  • Tropical Climate*
  • Weight Loss / physiology
  • Young Adult


  • Menthol