A little secret to running success? A good foundation. And no, we’re not talking about training blocks that build gradually: We’re talking underwear.
According to a Runner’s World State of the American Runner survey in 2016, 61 percent of runners are for going commando, while 39 percent can’t imagine running without some support underneath. But have those 61 percent actually tried it? Sure, we love everything about the idea of running without underwear—the ease, the breathability, the joyful freedom of springing lightly into motion without excess fabric to hinder our movement. But the sweaty, skin-chafing reality? Ugh. Not always so fancy-free.
Plenty of running shorts have built-in drawers for a reason—not only does down-there moisture feel gross, but it also harbors bacteria. Cotton, as we know, holds moisture, which can breed bacteria that can cause yeast infections and jock itch. Technical fabrics such as wool or those with antimicrobial treatments—like the ones listed below—will disperse sweat from your sensitive parts and minimize chafing with their seamless construction.
How We Selected
Every product here has been thoroughly evaluated and vetted by our team of test editors. We research the market, survey user reviews, speak with product managers, and use our own experience wearing and running in these products to determine the best options. Most models have been tested by our staff, and those that haven’t have been carefully chosen based on their value, technical fabrics, comfort, looks, and ability to wick away sweat and prevent chafing. Here are the best new picks for those times you’d like a little more fabric and support.
Running Underwear for Women
―BEST FOR ALL-SPORT WEAR―
Patagonia Active Briefs
Designed for hiking, these stretchy bikini briefs are ideal for trail adventures and all-day runs that lean more toward exploring than working out. The recycled nylon and spandex jersey fabric is soft and breathable against your skin, with an anti-odor treatment to offset its wicking strength.
True to its name, Runderwear makes seamless, chafe-free performance underwear for runners and triathletes. These comfortable, full-coverage boy shorts are made of breathable technical fabric that stays put while you’re in motion. If you want an even longer inseam, check out the brand’s 8-inch inseam “Long” shorts.
―LIGHTWEIGHT AND BREATHABLE―
EX Officio Give N Go Bikini Briefs
These budget favorites have only gotten lighter and more breathable since we first recommended them, with a barely-there nylon-spandex mesh fabric that’s ventilated for maximum airflow. The briefs’ wide band and four-way stretch provide plenty of support without squeezing, pinching at the waist, or giving you a wedgie—which is no small feat when it comes to underwear capable of crushing HIIT workouts.
―ABSOLUTELY NO LINES―
Reebok Performance Thong
Thong enthusiasts and other fans of minimalist underwear finally have an array of options in the active-wear market. These performance thongs from Reebok are among the best we’ve tried, thanks to an ultra-lightweight and breathable soft fabric that stays put, no matter how far or fast you’re running. You can also wear them under anything and trust they’re on your side in the battle against panty lines.
Balanced Tech 3-Pack Classic Seamless Panties
Two things stand out about these mid-rise hipster briefs: They keep you miraculously wedgie-free while your body is in motion, and they’re a stellar value for the comfort and quality. Cool, quick-drying nylon-elastane fabric staves off that swamp-pit feeling down south, while the seamless fit prevents chafing or digging in.
New Balance Ultra Comfort Performance
If you prefer a lower, hip-hugging rise, these bikini briefs from New Balance have the fit you’re looking for. They’re made from a stretchy nylon-spandex blend that feels soft and breathable against your skin, and stays put under athletic shorts. But be warned: They’re not quite as lightweight and seamless as promised, so you might contend with some VPL when wearing tights.
REI Co-op Active Hipster Underwear
Soft, stretchy, and comfortable, these hipster briefs are a great choice for summer travel—or in any other circumstances with spotty washer and dryer access. The polyester-mesh material is so quick-drying and lightweight, you can rinse them out in a campground sink and hang-dry. An antimicrobial treatment fights odors.
Running Underwear for Men
Under Armour 6" Tech Boxerjock
These boxer-briefs have been a longtime runner favorite for their high level of support and polyester-elastane blend that doesn’t chafe or hold moisture. The fabric feels soft against your skin, with a four-way stretch construction and no uncomfortable side or back seams. Plus, the boxers come in a two-pack at a great price, so you can stock up and ignore your horrifying mountain of laundry longer.
―ULTIMATE ODOR FIGHTER―
ExOfficio Give-N-Go Brief
On a running vacation? Rinse these gems in your hotel sink and they will be dry by the time your alarm goes off. And even if the farthest you travel from home is on your usual 10-mile loop, you still get flatlock stitching, anti-odor treatment, moisture-wicking magic, and a functional fly.
―BEST OVERALL DESIGN―
Saxx Kinetic HD
These performance boxer briefs have a semi-compressive fit, which means they’ll hold everything where you want it without restricting your movement. Runners on our test team have found these to be comfy for both working out and everyday wear, thanks to the quick-drying fabric, flat seams, and a just-right amount of support. We did experience a small amount of bunching at the cuff but not enough to stop these from becoming favorites.
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―SOFT AND WARM―
Smartwool Sport 150 Brief
From socks to base layers to briefs, Smartwool is practically synonymous with soft merino undergarments that keep you warm and cozy without any chafing or scratchiness. These light boxer briefs are soft against your skin while fighting odor and wicking sweat, so you can focus on the mile you’re in—not the underwear you’re in.
Feeling cool and dry in even one region of your body is a rare summer running luxury. You get what you pay for with these boxer briefs, which set a high standard for being not only light and cool-feeling but soft, comfy, and breathable while you’re in motion. The briefs fit snugly and smoothly against your skin, thanks to a merino wool blend with flatlock seams.
Runderwear Men’s Running Shorts
The company with the catchiest portmanteau in sports undergarments guarantees that these breathable, seamless briefs will keep you chafe-free—which is a pretty important promise when you’re dealing with friction in the groin area. We love how effective these are at wicking away summer sweat and keeping the air moving beneath our shorts.
The highest word of praise we can give to running underwear is “unnoticeable,” given that some of the other descriptive options are “bunchy,” “swampy,” and “an ultra-chafing nightmare.” These boxer-briefs are a favorite for a lightweight, unobtrusive fit and soft feel that disappears from thought once you start your run. The nylon-spandex micromesh vents heat and manages workout odor well; the legs and waistband do a good job at staying put and not riding up.