The Best Underwear for Working Out


Recently, in a Facebook group of Peloton devotees, there was an extensive discussion about the best underwear for working out. Within an hour of someone posing this question, more than 200 people have provided their feedback on what they believed to be the best workout underwear.

In reading through this discussion–and adding my own opinions–a couple of things became clear. One, many people believe that the best underwear for working out is no underwear at all. Going natural. Naked. None.

Two, for others who did wear underwear while exercising, it was important to them to have no show underwear. They did not want any panty lines to worry about.

And believe it or not, these no show underwear fans didn’t all wear thongs. More about their choices shortly.

And third, many worried about that fun word–moisture. Not only moisture from sweating but from other bodily fluids that tend to plague women. So, for example, during that time of the month, they found it especially challenging to find good workout underwear to wear.

Why write about the best underwear for working out

This was such an intense topic in one Facebook group of Peloton users. By the time the day was over, nearly 400 people had posted their opinions about their choices for workout underwear.

I figured that if a small group of exercisers had such strong opinions, then this was probably something that many men and women wonder about, too.

So, in this piece I’m going to share with you the different kinds of underwear that you should or should not be wearing when exercising. I’ll talk about specific brands. And, I’ll talk about the importance of the underwear fabric for moisture wicking and keeping your cool.

best underwear to wear when working out pin

So, if this Facebook group was an unscientific sample of the exercise public, here would be the answer to the question, “What is the best underwear for working out?” And it would be no underwear.

Call it going commando if you’d like (although Commando is a brand of underwear that many women mentioned wearing to the gym. More about that brand in a bit).

But truly, many women found that going without underwear was best. This was true whether they were spinning, running or taking yoga classes.

What Peloton instructors wear while working out

Even Peloton instructors have recommended this no-underwear approach. For example, world champion cyclist and Peloton instructor Christine D’Ercole has repeatedly suggested that when wearing a padded bike short or a cycling short with a chamois padding in it, you should not be wearing underwear. Go au naturale.

Another Peloton instructor who wears padded shorts is Matt Wilpers. While I have not heard Matt mention the underwear situation or his recommendations, others have told me that he, too, goes underwear-less when wearing his bib shorts. Those are padded shorts that are like a sleeveless bodysuit.

Avoid friction while in the saddle

Serious cyclists wear bib shorts to avoid waistbands rolling down or the shorts moving around on them while riding. When things are moving around, then you run the risk of friction.

This article explains all about saddle sores.

In fact, one of the reasons that instructors like D’Ercole recommend not wearing underwear while cycling has to do with friction. That is, the more layers between you, the padded shorts and the seat, the more opportunities for things to rub the wrong way. And trust me that is a part of your body you do not want to be dealing with friction.

I address friction, padded shorts and more in this article on how to make the Peloton seat more comfortable.

The moisture factor and exercise underwear

Another biggie for skipping underwear is to avoid a build up of moisture. Many women have learned the hard way about what happens when you sit around in a wet bathing suit. Chances are soon thereafter you might end up with a yeast or other kind of vaginal infection.

That’s because yeast and bacteria like warm, dark places. And guess what the inside of your underwear is, if you’re exercising for a long time? I know I’m being explicit and it may sound gross, but it’s the truth.

So, even if you do decide that the best underwear for working out is no underwear at all, don’t sit around underwear less for long periods of time after your workout. Get out of your sweaty clothes and into a shower right away.

Also, get your sweaty clothes into the laundry right away, too. When wet workout clothes sit around in a ball, they become super smelly.

And it may seem impossible to get body odor out of them. Just ask any parent who has dealt with sports equipment or uniforms that sat in a gym bag for too long.

Here is my article on how to get the sweat smell out of workout clothes.

Moisture wicking fabrics

Another way to help keep you dry, um, down there, is to choose underwear and workout clothes with moisture wicking fabrics. What constitutes a moisture-wicking fabric? One that moves moisture away from your body and to the outside of the garment itself.

Guess which fabrics are the most moisture-wicking?

  • Polyester
  • Nylon
  • Synthetics

Even wool is moisture wicking.

Moisture-wicking fabrics are a great choice for helping you keep cool. They’re also quick dry and are ideal for athletic underwear.

So when you’re looking for the best underwear material for working out, think of synthetics like polyester and nylon. Even modal, which is a synthetic blend, can work.

Also good material for workout underwear? Bamboo. You may have seen that in sheets that keep you cool.

For example, the Cariloha brand is all about everything made from bamboo. This includes underwear that men or women can wear while exercising. In addition, Cariloha has a full line of exercise attire made from bamboo.

You can also find wool underwear, but it’s not itchy scratchy like you’re thinking. Brands like Smart Wool make clothing from wool that keeps you both warm and dry.

This kind of wool underwear is primarily for men’s boxer briefs. They are moisture-wicking and perfect for men to wear while exercising. But I’ll get to the best underwear for men while working out later in this blog post.

Many of the panties from underwear subscription boxes are made with moisture-wicking fabrics.

Guess which fabric is the least moisture-wicking?

Cotton. So while a clean pair of cotton panties might feel nice for everyday wear, ditch cotton underwear for the gym. Cotton gets soaked and stays that way.

This article from REI does a good job of explain how different fabrics work to wick moisture away. And how these fabrics do a good job of keeping you cool and healthy during exercise. 

Finally, if you do decide to wear undies while working out, skip the kind with lace or any other decorations on them. Lace edges or the like can cause friction in places you don’t want it.

Best women’s underwear for working out

When it comes to the best women’s underwear for working out, opinions differ. As I mentioned earlier, for some people, no-show underwear or seamless underwear is the best. For others thongs are the best–I guess because they are also no show and, frankly, seamless.

And as we’ve established, for some the best women’s underwear for working out is no underwear at all. But what if you’re looking to buy exercise underwear and aren’t comfortable going commando? Well, I’ve got some answers.

I’ll break down the best women’s workout underwear based on the type of underwear. So this will be sports panties, sports thongs, boy shorts, seamless, no show, thong, etc.

I’ll also include materials suggestions as mentioned above. Again, think synthetics or naturally moisture-wicking fabrics, such as bamboo and wool.

Finally, women face a special challenge during that time of the month. You don’t want to skip the gym or a Peloton class, but you may not want to have to worry about sanitary products either.

So, I’ll address period panties or menstrual undies or leak-proof underwear that you can wear while exercising. This also addresses a subset of women for whom stress incontinence is a real barrier to working out comfortably.

Here is my article on period panties.

Best seamless underwear for working out

When it comes to the best seamless underwear, let’s put no show underwear in this category, too. Many lingerie brands market seamless underwear as no show–because there are no seams to cause panty lines. It is no wonder many women prefer these while exercising.

When I’m talking about seamless, no show underwear, I’m talking regular bikini or hip hugger panties. I’m not talking about thongs. They have a separate section.

As far as brands that make great seamless, no show underwear that you can wear while working out, people recommend Victoria’s Secret, Reebok seamless hipster, Soma vanishing edge and Aerie no show, among others.

Also, Bombas now makes seamless underwear. I recently purchased some for myself.

Best Seamless Underwear for Working Out

Women who are looking to wear seamless underwear when they're working out are really thinking about no-show panties, hipsters and brief. They want things like a vanishing edge. Here are some brands that meet that demand.

Best thong underwear for working out

While I’ve never been a thong wearer, I know plenty of people who are. Their biggest reason for choosing a thong? Getting that no-show look.

I mean, you don’t have to worry about panty lines when your underwear has no lines. I do get the attraction.

So it’s no surprise that women that wear thongs everyday want to wear them when exercising. And just like other kinds of underwear, you want to choose thongs made from moisture-wicking fabrics.

Because even though a thong doesn’t have a lot of material, you still want it to be quick dry and able to keep moisture away from your skin.

Here are some of the favorite thong brands that women prefer to wear when exercising.

Best Thong Underwear for Working Out

Women who wear thongs regularly want to wear wear them when they exercise, too. Here are the best brands of thong underwear for working out.

Exercise clothing with built in underwear

One of the ways runners get around the whole issue of what kind of underwear to wear when exercising is to wear shorts with underwear built in. Turns out even non-runners do this.

Many people doing Peloton bootcamp classes or other non-cycling classes are choosing to wear shorts with built-in underwear. Of course, if their shorts have a mesh or other kind of panty already in the shorts, they don’t wear an extra pair of underwear, too.

You can find these kinds of built-in underwear running shorts from brands like Nike and Lululemon.

If you search for this kind of short, look for the phrases “interior liner” or “integrated boy shorts” or “built-in liner” or something like that. I’ve found that the manufacturers don’t always refer to them as having built-in underwear or anything like that.

I’ve highlighted a few examples here.

Lined Running Shorts with Built In Panties

What is the best underwear for working out during your period

As I mentioned earlier, with so many women choosing not to wear any underwear while they exercise, they face a challenge when they have their period. This is especially true if they normally wear a sanitary pad, for which you need underwear.

The best option–and the best underwear–for working out during your period is to invest in period panties or leak-proof panties that women wear for leaking (aka light incontinence). These are designed to pull moisture away from you anyway so can work well for exercise.

Best Underwear to Wear for Working Out During Your Period

When it comes to what underwear to wear when you've got your period and you want to exercise, well the answer is obvious: invest in menstrual lingerie or period panties. Here are some examples.

Best underwear for men working out

Hands down men find that the Smartwool performance boxer briefs are the best underwear for men while working out. They are loose enough to let everything, ahem, down there breathe. At the same time the wool fabric is moisture wicking to keep him dry and cool.


You can buy Smartwool moisture-wicking men’s underwear at a variety of retailers, including Amazon and Backcountry.

In addition, like with women’s underwear, men should look for boxer briefs made of synthetic fabrics. You will find these from companies like Duluth Trading and Bombas.

Finally, you want to look at men’s underwear that provides the support he needs without being too tight. Again, breathable and moisture-wicking is key.

So, what is the best underwear for men to wear when working out? Boxer briefs that help things, um, breathe down there.

Wool Boxer Briefs Best Underwear for Men Working Out

Believe it or not, wool is a moisture-wicking fabric. That makes is one of the best materials for exercise underwear. Men I spoke with swear by Smartwool and Icebreaker brands of boxer briefs as the best underwear while working out.

Final thoughts on the best underwear for working out

When it comes to the best underwear for you to wear while working out, it’s all about preferences. Are you comfortable going commando i.e. buck naked under your bike shorts or yoga leggings or running shorts?

If you’re not, then I think I’ve presented a wide range of options for you. This includes those that wear thongs versus those that wear panties.

And I’ve included men in the mix. Because they deserve to know the best kind of underwear to wear when exercising, too.

If I’ve missed anything in this blog post or you have a suggestion to make, please post a comment to let me know. And if you’re a Peloton person like I am, I’m #Leah_is_Pawsome on the LB. Give me a high five if we end up in class together.

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