In recent years, running shorts with liners have taken the sports world by storm. I find it a challenge to find linerless shorts anymore, they’ve become so popular! Their popularity is well-deserved; running shorts with liners are ideal for performance and comfort during training and racing. However, many runners are left confused about liners and how to pair their choice of underwear with their shorts. Do you need to wear underwear with running shorts, and if so, what is the best type?
In most cases, runners should avoid wearing underwear with their running shorts. Wearing underwear is only necessary when wearing linerless shorts to provide support and prevent chafing. The liner replaces the need for underwear in lined shorts. By wearing a liner or tight bottoms without underwear, chafing is reduced and comfort is maximized.
Read on to learn when to wear underwear while running, the best types of underwear for running, and the potential pros and cons of wearing underwear when running!
Should you wear underwear with running shorts?
Every runner has their preferred choice of shorts, a pair that is supremely comfortable in comparison to others. When you see this pair in your drawer, you jump at the chance to wear them again!
There are many similarities when it comes to the overall design of running shorts, but there are also many differences that make each brand and line unique. For example, many running shorts feature a built-in lining. But is that a replacement for underwear or just another layer of support?
Whether or not runners should wear underwear depends on the style of shorts they are wearing. In shorts that are loose and without liners, runners should wear underwear for comfort and support. In shorts with liners or tighter-fitting bottoms such as tights or compression shorts, it’s advisable to avoid wearing underwear entirely.
The main function of underwear is to support and protect your private area from either moving around or rubbing against other materials. Linerless shorts don’t have anything to replace this function, so underwear should really be worn.
However, in lined shorts, runners don’t need underwear. Why? Because the liner functions as built-in underwear.
I’ll go into the ins and outs of whether or not you should be wearing underwear with your running shorts later on, but here’s a handy reference chart:
|Type of running shorts||Should wear underwear||Should NOT wear underwear|
|Linerless shorts||X |
Boxer briefs or boyshorts are preferable.
Many companies put liners into their running shorts to satisfy the needs of runners; liners provide support, reduce chafing, and help with breathability and moisture issues. With these functions taken care of, underwear is redundant at best and counterproductive at worst.
These same rules also apply to running tights and compression shorts.
Lined running shorts
Lined running shorts are becoming increasingly popular. Every running brand is rolling out lined running shorts like nobody’s business.
If you buy into the hype, do you still need to wear underwear when running with lined shorts?
You shouldn’t wear underwear with lined running shorts. The liners in running shorts are there for support and improved comfort; in other words, they replace underwear.
The concept of running commando may be foreign to some, but I assure you it is completely normal. In fact, it’s recommended to ditch your underwear when running in lined shorts.
The entire purpose of the liners in running shorts is to add support, breathability, and comfort to the running experience. By adding underwear to the mix, these benefits are counteracted.
While underwear provides support, it increases the likelihood of chafing. Underwear also traps and retains moisture much worse than liners, so breathability is essentially destroyed.
Opt to leave the underwear behind when running with liners.
Unlined running shorts
Some runners – myself included – prefer unlined running shorts. In this case, should runners be wearing underwear under their shorts?
Runners should wear underwear when running in unlined shorts. Unlined shorts do not have the necessary support needed to support your private parts when running. Additionally, without underwear, runners may experience irritation from their shorts.
There are several important differences between lined and unlined underwear. Respectively, one has built-in underwear and the other does not. Without the liner, runners need to be wearing underwear.
Running without underwear in unlined shorts has various implications not limited to discomfort when running and possible self-exposure!
While nobody is going to tell you that you absolutely need to sport underwear under your shorts, do yourself and others a favor by throwing on some bottoms.
For cold, winter weather running, tights are your savior. Not only do they help you stay warm, but they’re great for muscle compression as well.
Should runners wear underwear under their running tights?
Underwear should not be worn under running tights. Running tights fit close to the skin; adding underwear is likely to make running tights uncomfortable from the added material.
Running tights are carefully crafted to retain body heat and compress the leg muscles. With this comes form-fitting tights.
Adding underwear under tights that are already close to the skin is likely to be uncomfortable for many runners. The tights may feel too tight, and the likelihood of chafing increases dramatically.
There is no one-size-fits-all answer! Of course, if you prefer, you can wear underwear under your running tights – you should test the underwear and ensure it’s sweat-wicking and doesn’t move around while you’re running.
Similar to running tights, compression shorts are a great tool for runners. They increase blood flow to the muscles, subsequently reducing muscle fatigue and boosting recovery.
With such a snug fit, should runners wear underwear with their compression shorts?
Runners should not wear underwear under their compression shorts. Compression shorts are, by nature, already very tight. Adding underwear to the mix may be uncomfortable, cause chafing, and retain moisture.
Compression shorts are similar to running tights in that they are meant to have a snug fit. They are, after all, supposed to compress the muscles to increase blood flow.
With this comes the caveat of underwear: runners should not wear underwear with bottoms that are already skin-tight. Doing this is only asking for trouble.
Adding underwear to the mix is likely to trap moisture and cause chafing, which makes for an unbearable run. Stick to going commando when it comes to training in compression shorts.
Why do some running shorts have built-in underwear?
Regardless of your preference, you must admit that lined running shorts have built a reputation for themselves. What is all the hype about, though?
Running shorts often have built-in underwear, or liners, to provide support and reduce chafing. The built-in underwear acts as a barrier between the skin and the shorts. As a bonus, liners also tend to help absorb and wick away moisture while providing lots of support.
One of the most irksome issues runners face is chafing. Chafing is super-duper uncomfortable, and I wouldn’t wish it upon anybody.
With built-in underwear, your shorts save you from the chafing misery. They also save you from having sweaty private parts.
Nobody wants to experience sweating down there, and built-in underwear promises a solution. Liners often keep runners cool and comfortable by absorbing sweat.
Liners are also more comfortable than separate underwear for many reasons. They are lightweight and usually made of a mesh-like material that gives runners’ private parts the support they require.
Men’s underwear options for running shorts (ranked)
If you thought there were a lot of options for running bottoms, you’re going to be amazed at the number of underwear choices. I think you’ll also be surprised to hear the importance that underwear plays in an enjoyable running experience.
Running in the right underwear can make or break a run. Luckily, or unluckily depending on your perspective, there are a ton of options that can accommodate everybody.
For my money, the order of preference for which underwear guys should choose to pair with their running shorts is as follows:
- Boxer briefs
- Thong or jockstrap
Let’s check each of these out so you can decide for yourself what underwear to wear with your (lined) running shorts.
Boxer briefs are our top pick for running!
Boxer briefs are a great hybrid between boxers and briefs, meaning they have some length in the legs but they provide the support that briefs often do.
Boxer briefs can often be found in moisture-wicking material as well! This pack from Reebok is just one example of boxer briefs made with athletes in mind.
Very similar to boxer briefs, trunks are a solid option for runners.
The main difference between boxer briefs and trunks is the length; trunks are slightly shorter in length, but they still provide support and coverage.
They are also available in moisture-wicking material.
Briefs are a great pick for running because of their phenomenal support.
While “tighty-whities” get a bad rap, they’re comfortable and tight enough to give runners support. The only downside is the lack of leg coverage; runners may be left exposed to chafing from their shorts if wearing briefs.
As with any sports underwear, try to find a pair made from moisture-wicking fabric.
Thong or jockstrap
Thongs are okay for running, but not preferable.
While they support the male genital area, that is about all they have to offer. There is no rear coverage, meaning running shorts will likely be very uncomfortable.
Additionally, thongs are typically made of cotton and will not be good for managing the moisture of your manhood.
Unfortunately, boxers are not a great option for running.
They are very loose and usually made of heavier materials, meaning they provide virtually no support or breathability.
They are also likely to be longer or looser than your running shorts, making for an awkward pairing.
Women’s underwear options for running shorts (ranked)
Women have it even more complex than men. There are a million different types of underwear to choose from.
With lots of different styles, and then different fits of every style, it might feel impossible to find the right pair for you.
The best women’s underwear options for wearing with running shorts are:
- High briefs
While trial and error is the best way to find your perfect pair of underwear for running, let’s take a look at some basic information before you starting trying them out.
Hipster-style underwear is a blend between a bikini and boyshorts.
This underwear provides full coverage and is very comfortable, making it the perfect option for running.
Boyshorts are like boxer briefs for women, making them a great option for running.
They won’t ride up and give you a wedgie; they’re breathable and provide full coverage to reduce chafing!
High briefs are a style of women’s underwear with a high-waist fit; they are comfortable and offer adequate coverage.
In addition, high briefs can be found in athletic material as well; they are definitely worth a shot.
Named after the swimsuit the cut mirrors, bikini-style underwear can be a good running choice.
Bikini underwear provides a slim fit and a minimum of fabric while also covering all the important bits you don’t want exposed if your running shorts move around.
Unfortunately, that’s about all the bikini underwear covers. Make sure to get this in a performance fabric as the fit can be quite snug!
Mid-rise underwear is okay for running, although there are certainly better options.
They may be comfortable for sedentary activities and even low-impact workouts, but the cut may ride up and cause discomfort and irritation during runs.
Thongs are not great for running.
They can be too tight for women and may end up irritating the skin. Additionally, they can often cause infections from germ build-up; not fun!
If you want to wear thongs with your cute leggings, save them for leg day.
Potential benefits of wearing underwear under running shorts
Even though we recommend that in most scenarios, ditching underwear is the way to go, there are still a couple of benefits to doubling up on your bottom layers.
Potential benefits of wearing underwear under your running shorts include:
- Extra support
- More coverage
Let’s dive into these benefits a little bit.
Running shorts with liners offer a bit of built-in support but, let’s face it, it’s not a whole lot.
Wear underwear in running shorts with liners will only add to the pre-existing support levels.
This is especially important for men; it’s quite uncomfortable to be running around without your manhood secured in place!
Wearing underwear definitely provides more coverage than liners.
Since liners are built into shorts, they are comfortable, but their coverage is minimal.
Adding underwear under your running shorts can provide the coverage that running shorts lack for personal comfort and for the sake of others.
Potential problems with wearing underwear under running shorts
Wearing underwear under lined running shorts or tight-fitting bottoms is less-than-stellar of an idea.
Potential problems with wearing underwear under your running shorts (especially those with a liner) are:
- Moisture retention
- Uncomfortable fit
- Skin irritation
Nothing is worse than chafing during a run!
With all that extra material under your running shorts, the likelihood of chafing increases dramatically. Materials tend to rub together and then rub the skin, leading to subsequent irritation.
The best way to avoid chafing is to minimize the amount of fabric and moisture that come into contact with your skin during your run. This means fewer layers, smaller layers, and moisture-wicking fabrics.
Wearing underwear under running shorts hinders the moisture-wicking abilities of running shorts.
Liners and compression shorts are crafted with breathable materials to allow your private areas to air out. Underwear only ensures this will never happen; cotton traps and retains moisture like nobody’s business.
Of course, wearing performance underwear can help mitigate this problem, but you’re still adding layers that will require extra time to dry.
Wearing underwear with tight bottoms such as running tights or compression shorts can be extremely uncomfortable.
These form-fitting bottoms are already skin-tight, so underwear only makes them more constricting.
For the ladies, this is merely an extension of chafing.
Doubling up bottom layers leads to more rubbing down there, as well as trapped moisture. This is a recipe for disaster!
- About the Author
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Joshua Bartlett is a professional amateur when it comes to running – basically, he takes his mediocre running ability very seriously.
As the Editor-in-Chief at Saltmarsh Running, it is his job to make sure that readers get only highly-researched and comprehensive questions to all of their running questions.