What To Wear Under Running Shorts?

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Have you ever wondered what to wear under running shorts? I have! And it’s all because of a bad experience I had with chafing when I did not wear the proper underwear.

I was new to running when I decided to join a 21 km trail run. I wasn’t really trying to compete on a high level, but I just love the fact of discovering scenic views while running with my girlfriend and some close friends who signed up for that same event. As a matter of fact, it was the longest distance I ever ran on both road and trail. 

I never really thought of what to expect from running such a distance so I wore what I usually wear in the gym, regular cotton briefs and breathable moisture-wicking shorts. 

Halfway to the competition, my thighs started to feel really uncomfortable from rubbing. And the more they rub against each other, the more I felt discomfort and pain. 

As I got home, I researched what could be the reason for my chafing. And I found out that it has something to do with my underwear. 

Moving forward, I tried several ways to avoid chafing by trying to run with the suggestions I found from other runners until I was able to figure out what’s best for me. 

I found out that not wearing any underwear when wearing lined shorts and tights is the way to go. But if your shorts don’t have a built-in liner or don’t provide enough support, wearing compression shorts or athletic briefs made from moisture-wicking fabric works really well. 

Ahead, we will talk about the types of fabric you can wear as well as give you suggestions on the brands that worked really well for me. We will also touch base as to why having the appropriate underwear when you’re running is vital to your performance. 

What Do Runners Wear Under Their Running Shorts?

To gather this information, I went through forums, interviewed both recreational and professional runners within my community and called some of my friends who have been competing for years. I asked them what they wear underneath. Here’s a compilation of the most common response I gathered. 

Going Commando

Going commando means not wearing anything at all underneath your running shorts. This is a popular option for runners wearing running shorts with a built-in liner. This gives you maximum comfort and breathability down there which is why many runners love it. 

There are a few cons about going commando though. One is that if you’re wearing running shorts without lining, there’s very little support for your genitals (a very bad idea for male runners) and it usually leads to chafing in the thighs.

Two, if you’re not wearing any underwear and you’re using leggings or tights that are very thin, your private area or at least the lines of it are very exposed. 

Three, if you’re going commando with very loose split shorts, it’s very easy to see your private areas in between the collar of your shorts.

This is why I recommend going commando only when you’re wearing lined shorts or compression shorts/pants with thick fabric.

By the way, I just bought 2 pairs of Lixada 2-in1 running shorts and so far I’m not having any problems with chafing or lack of support when running commando. Best of all, they’re way cheaper compared to big brands. You can get them from Amazon for less than $20. 

If you have no idea what lined shorts are, this article will give you some background on lined shorts.

Compression Shorts

I know a lot of athletes wearing compression shorts underneath their shorts, not just in running but also in other activities like Crossfit, Basketball, Soccer, Football and almost all other vigorous sports. 

Compression shorts are very popular among professional athletes for a reason. They provide muscle compression, wicks away moisture (because most are made of polyester and other moisture-wicking fabric), eliminate chafing, and are very light. 

If you have compression shorts made of moisture-wicking material like polyester and spandex, you can wear them underneath your running shorts or wear them as it is.

I know some people who wear cotton briefs underneath the compression shorts which is funny to me because it totally beats the purpose. There’s no need to wear underwear under compression shorts. The compression should replace your underwear.

If you’re looking for high-quality compression shorts with great fit and are really comfortable to wear, I’ve tried the Under Armour Heatgear and I have 0 complaints about it. 

Another option on the cheaper side would be the Neleus performance compression shorts I found on Amazon. They sell for around $22 for 3 packs which are way less than other branded compression shorts. 

Sports Underwear

Sports underwear comes in many forms. Panties, briefs, boxer briefs, even thongs. The common denominator amongst all is that they’re made of moisture-wicking materials like polyester, nylon, and spandex.

Aside from helping to reduce chafing, underwears with moisture-wicking capabilities decrease heat and moisture that is good for sanitary purposes.

I guess we all know that bacterial build-up is caused by heat and moisture which is the common case for cotton underwear.  

Various sports companies sell these types of underwear. From big brands like Nike, Under Armour, and New Balance, to very running-underwear-specific brands like Runderwear

One problem that could arise, however, is getting wedgies from running with underwear. Sometimes, after a few miles, your underwear may start to ride up leading to a wedgie. 

To avoid this, go for underwear with long seams like this chafe-free running underwear from Runderwear. It is available on Amazon

Good Old Speedos

To be honest, I never really thought of this. But after reading a bunch of forums from triathletes and runners about what they wear under their running shorts, I was surprised to find Speedo not once but a lot of times across multiple forums. 

So I grabbed my Speedos and started running. To my surprise, they feel very comfortable when you’re running at night or during cold weather. I did not experience chafing whatsoever. 

The only downside, and it’s a substantial one during summer, is that they tend to be very warm inside. I’m not sure if it’s just for the model I’m using but it is not breathable at all. 

Well to be fair, I kinda expected it to be warm because it’s used for swimming. So it’s usually thicker than compression shorts or active underwear even though they’re made with similar materials. 

If you’re wondering what Speedo I used, it’s this model

How to Choose a Running Underwear

Since we’ve already finished what other runners wear under their running shorts, it’s time we take a look at how to choose yours. 

There are only a few things to keep in mind when choosing your running underwear. That is, the type of running shorts you wear, your preference and experience, and the fabric. 

The Type of Running Shorts

You do not have to look far to figure out if you actually need to buy new running underwear. 

Take a look at what you already have. If you have lined shorts (aka 2-in-1 shorts), compression shorts, or tights available at your disposal, then you might try running without any underwear. 

See if you’re comfortable doing it. Is there chafing? Are you comfortable going in public without any underwear? Does nobody notice that you have no underwear?

If the answer to those questions is yes, then you don’t need to buy running underwear. Go commando and feel the freedom.

If you’re uncomfortable using compression shorts or tights without any underwear, try putting on regular active shorts on top of your running shorts or tights. 

Personal Preference and Experience

Do you prefer that extra support in your front end? That extra compression in your thigh? Or do you prefer having support but without the extra compression on your thigh?

When it comes to choosing your underwear, you have to try different methods and find out which is most comfortable for you. Look out for signs of chafing and take note of the type and brand of underwear (or the lack of it) you wore. 

Once you nailed the type and brand of underwear, stick to it until you feel otherwise. 

If you want to know more about preventing chafing, I made an entire article about it. Make sure to check it out.

The Fabric

In choosing a fabric, you have to keep in mind that it has to be moisture wicking. That means, it has to have the ability to wick away sweat. 

This will help prevent chafing and bacteria build up in the area.

These types of fabric are often made out of synthetic materials like polyester, nylon micro modal, and spandex. There are also less popular materials like polyamide and elastane that are used.

The golden rule when choosing a fabric for your underwear is to stay away from cotton. 

Recommended Running Underwear

Now, if you’re not comfortable going commando or that you really need to wear underwear for an extra layer of support under there, we’ve got a few recommendations that you might want to check out. 

Some of the brands I recommended for men I have personal experience with. Obviously, I have no experience with women’s products so I had to read a couple of forums as well as chat with some of my friends who either run or are very active (a very weird thing to ask, by the way). 

For Men

Underwear ModelFabrics UsedFeatures
Runderwear Men’s Boxer Brief92% Polyamide, 8% ElastaneChafe-free, Does not ride up
ExOfficio Men’s Give-n-go Boxer94% Nylon, 6% Lycra spandexAntimicrobial properties reduce odor
Under Armour Men’s Tech 6-inch Boxerjock90% Polyester, 10% ElastaneSold in 2’s, Breathable, comfortable
Smartwool Sport 150 Boxer Brief54% Merino wool, 46% PolyesterWarm and soft, best for cold weather
NB Men’s Mesh 5″ No Fly Boxer Brief90% Polyester, 10% SpandexAffordable, sold in 3’s

Underwear Tips for Men

  • Wear an underwear with enough support for your manhood, it should not bounce around or expose itself 
  • Go for boxer briefs or anything long to avoid wedgie and chafing
  • If you’re wearing tights, compression shorts or 2-in-1 shorts, go commando

For Women

Underwear ModelFabrics UsedFeatures
Balance Tech Underwear92% Nylon, 8% ElastaneAffordable bikini Panties
Runderwear Women’s Briefs92% Polyamide, 8% ElastaneChafe-free brief
New Balance Ultra Comfort Performance Seamless Hipsters93% Nylon, 7% SpandexAffordable, sold in 3’s
Balanced Tech Seamless Thong92%Nylon/ 8%ElastaneQuick drying, breathable, seamless
Reebok Seamless Boyshorts92% Nylon, 8% SpandexPrevents chafing in inner thighs

Underwear Tips for Women

  • Lace is a big no-no
  • Try to look for underwear with flat seams
  • If you’re wearing loose shorts (like split shorts), wear underwear with long inseams to avoid chafing

The reason why I recommended panties for women is that usually women run with compression shorts, tights, or leggings. In that case, the extra fabric intended to reduce skin-to-skin friction between the thighs is no longer needed. 

Men, however, rarely use tights when running. That is why I usually use boxer briefs with long inseams and a layer of protection in my thighs and prevent chafing

My personal preference wearing no underwear when I’m wearing lined shorts. I also wear the Under Armour HeatGear compression shorts or Runderwear boxer brief under my unlined running shorts if I’ve used up all my 2-in-1 shorts.

I particularly like the Runderwear because it does not ride up and it is absolutely chafe-free. However, they quite expensive which is why I don’t have too many pairs. You can get them for around 30$ a piece on Amazon.

The Wrap Up

It’s fine to go commando under running shorts, but if you’re wearing split shorts or other types of loose shorts, you might want to wear underwear underneath. 

In choosing an underwear, stay away from cotton. Instead, go with moisture-wicking, breathable and light underwear with flat seams. 

This will prevent chafing and prevent bacteria build-up in the area. 

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