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When you gear up for a workout, you check all the essentials off your list: headphones, sneakers, water bottle, and a killer playlist. As for underwear? You probably just throw something on without a second thought.
Your undergarments do play an important part in your health and hygiene when you work out, though, but no one ever really talks about them. In turn, we went to the experts to find out everything you need to know about choosing the best undies for working out.
First and foremost, when you exercise, go for a breathable pair of underwear made of absorbent material like cotton, since your body will produce a lot of moisture while you move, recommends Suzie Welsh, RN, fertility nurse and founder of Binto women’s vitamins.
To help absorb excess moisture or discharge, you can try moisture-wicking underwear made from polyester, nylon, or spandex. Ideally, you’ll want to make sure they’re not manufactured with additional chemicals, Welsh notes. “Since your vagina is the most absorbent part of the body, it's critical to choose underwear that's free of chemicals.”
In addition, watch out for elastic in the groin (think G-strings) or abrasive lace in all the wrong places, which can cause irritation, rashes, itching, and discomfort particularly with more intense activity.
Prefer to go commando? It’s up to you. “I feel better wearing undies, but it’s a personal choice,” Welsh says. “Just make sure you wash your underwear between each wear to prevent bacteria build-up and irritation that will lead to uncomfortable yeast infections.”
If you choose to work out sans panties, just make sure your leggings have a gusset—aka the diamond-shaped area in the crotch of your workout pants, Alyssa Dweck, MS, MD, FACOG, a New York City-based gynecologist notes. "The purpose of the gusset is to eliminate a central seam, which can irritate the vagina."
Meet the Expert
- Suzie Welsh, RN is a nurse, educator, women’s health advocate, and the CEO and founder of Binto, a tele-health and subscription box company that focuses on female reproductive health.
- Alyssa Dweck, MS, MD, FACOG, is a practicing gynecologist at the CareMount Medical in Westchester County, New York. She is proficient in minimally invasive surgery including robotic surgery. Dweck is also an assistant clinical professor in the Department of Obstetrics, Gynecology, and Reproductive Science at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine and a consultant at Massachusetts General Hospital, Vincents Memorial Ob/Gyn Service.
Bottom line (pun intended): “No matter if we’re going to the office or the gym, we want our underwear to feel comfy, fit well, and allow for aeration—and we surely don’t want to give up style and feeling [great] to find this,” says Dweck. As difficult as that might sound, it’s more than possible in today’s retail landscape.
Below, find six options that successfully check all these boxes: