Experts debate: should runners wear underwear? - Women's Running

Experts debate: should runners wear underwear?

Author: Women's Running Magazine

Read Time:   |  January 6, 2022

We hear from the experts on some of the biggest running questions – this time, it's all about whether runners should wear underwear. Read on for their advice, and don't forget to join the debate on Instagram

We rarely discuss what goes on under our leggings with other runners, but we all have an opinion on it. Some of us wouldn’t dream of not popping pants on before a run, while others can’t imagine anything worse than a mid-jog chafe. So, we wanted to know – should we runners be going commando or no? Two experts discuss…

Say bye-bye to briefs


Daphne Kapetas is a chemist and founder of LAJOIE SKIN and Calmmé anti-chafe and soothing cream.

“I think we all agree that running wear needs to be flexible and not restrict your movement. It also has to allow your skin to breathe and encourage the body naturally to regulate its temperature when running. Yes, I’m talking about sweating!

“The trouble is, for a fabric to be both durable and elastic, it often has to contain a certain percentage of synthetic fibres. Unlike natural fibres like cotton and wool, synthetic fibres don’t allow your skin to breathe. The problem can be made worse if fabrics are treated with artificial dyes and chemicals, as they can cause an allergic reaction and result in contact dermatitis.

“Also, for runners with gynaecological issues, wearing underwear made from synthetic fabrics can exacerbate problems. Existing health issues combined with sweat and friction can also increase your chances of getting chafed, especially in those delicate bits.

“To protect against any potential infections, allergic reactions and skin sensitivities, I suggest you try going commando. After all, one less layer of non-breathable clothing equates to one less reason to ignite an adverse reaction. To help prevent chafing, try a soothing barrier cream; a long-lasting cream will work well in delicate spots that can go unnoticed at the start of a race but come back to haunt you afterwards.

“A good quality cream that helps prevent and soothe chafing is also a sustainable choice; a little goes a long way and the cream doesn’t harm our marine life by adding to the microplastic pollution every time we wash our clothes.

“Regardless of what you can afford for underwear, I think the issue is more about using the right cream to prevent chafing or any other type of nasty rash. When chafing results in a skin tear, you’re prone to infection and no runner wants that, as it requires time off doing what you love in order to heal.”

Find the perfect pants


Gemma Kersey is a garment technologist at BAM Bamboo Clothing.

“Being a semi-pro runner, I’ve tried lots of different runners’ underwear over the years. I’d argue it’s more down to personal preference than the issue of chafing alone.

“Chafing can also be caused by going commando because if the outside clothing is too rough or too tight, it’s going to rub against the skin. Pants can prevent this friction by creating a layer between your delicate areas and your sports kit. The key thing is to select the right underwear when running. If it’s too tight, the seams are bulky, or the fabric is uncomfortable, then chafing is a possibility.

“So, there are two things to consider: the design of the pant and the fabric used. I’d argue that seamless underwear is a good choice as there is less to rub and fewer bulky elastics that can dig into the skin. I think it offers the best of both worlds, avoiding chafing and enhancing comfort too. I believe that if you get the right pants, it’ll feel like you’re running with no underwear at all.

“The fabric needs to be breathable, good at regulating body temperature and effective at moisture wicking. Bamboo is ideal for active underwear as the natural fibre has a unique ability to breathe. The microstructure of bamboo fibre can absorb and evaporate human sweat. This keeps the wearer dry and comfortable during a workout. By reducing the chance of skin getting saturated with sweat, you’ll avoid chafing.

“And don’t forget, each wearer has different sensorial comfort (this is the sensation of how the fabric feels next to the skin). So for me, it’s an entirely personal preference.”

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Women's Running Magazine

NMA’s 2020 Lifestyle Magazine of the Year, Women’s Running provides expert advice on gear and training, motivation from your favourite runners and the latest running news.

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