…Underwear? Am I really going there? Yes, I’m going there.
Underwear is literally the foundation of your workout outfits. Even if you’ve got the fanciest leggings ever, wearing an ill-fitting, sweat-soaked pair of underwear is going to make your workout miserable. Selecting an appropriate pair of underwear can also save yourself from a lot of potential embarrassment. Sure, going commando is an option, but for those of us who prefer the protection and clean feeling of an extra layer, selecting an ideal pair can be a challenge.
Thongs for workouts: do or don’t?
First, let’s talk about coverage. What’s the “right” amount of coverage for workout underthings? Whenever you search for “sport underwear”, almost every result is some sort of bikini, hipster, boyshort. A lot of people seem to balk at the idea of wearing anything other than full-coverages undies for working out. There are a few thongs out there, but not many. On top of that, a lot of the thongs cut in such a way that the seams are visible when worn, which kinda defeats the purpose.
What I’m getting at here is that just because something is labeled “sport” underwear doesn’t mean it’s actually ideal for fitness, and just because you’re working out doesn’t mean you should be wearing special “sport” pairs. Now don’t get me wrong, not just any underwear will do, but there’s plenty of “normal” underwear out there that can work just as good or even better than sport underwear. Plus, I’m all about versatility anyway.
With that in mind, there are two main considerations when I’m evaluating underwear for fitness purposes: comfort and visibility.
For the first one, ideally I shouldn’t even be aware of my undergarments when I’m working out. If I am, it’s usually a bad sign. I want underwear that fits well and stays in place. I want a lightweight, breathable fabric. I buy nice activewear with high-performance fabrics, and covering all that up with a heavy, vaguely damp layer of cotton is just a bad idea. In most cases, I don’t really recommend cotton when it comes to workout underthings, since it’s not usually that good at managing moisture.
For the visibility side of the story, it’s really important to me that my underwear isn’t visible to my fellow gym-goers in any way, shape, or form. Even if your pants are totally opaque, some underwear have ways of showing lumps, bumps, and lines that make it totally obvious what you’re wearing, especially on more clingy or lighter colored bottoms. No thank you. That’s why I end up being pretty biased toward thong styles. A lot of full coverage styles create an obvious seam across my bum, or worse yet, actually cut into my bum and create a lovely “quad-butt” effect. Ugh. Not to mention, the more coverage your underwear offers, the more you have to worry about fabric choice. I generally prefer to bypass both of those issues and go straight for minimal coverage.
If you think thongs are uncomfortable, here’s my secret: size up!! It really reduces the, er, “flossing sensation”. I normally wear a size XS or XXS in normal clothes, but I am almost always most comfortable in size S thongs.
On the sizing note, one more general tip before we dive in: as a general rule, I steer clear of “one size fits all” underwear. Every single pair I’ve gotten that’s sold as one size has fit like absolute crap. All pelvic regions are certainly not created equal, and it takes more than just stretchy fabric to accommodate that variety.
With that out of the way, let’s get to the reviews. In order to keep this G-rated, I’ve linked each item’s header text in lieu of posting photos. ;) Also, keep in mind that preferences and fit vary considerably in the intimates department, probably even moreso than they do for activewear. So, take my opinions and experiences with a grain of salt.
The sport thong is seamless at the edges, with invisibility being the goal. On that note, these do “hide” pretty well under my bottoms, but the sides sometimes do roll, which I have to fix to get the benefits of their seamlessness. They fit well in a size XS, though after a few wears, they started to tend to shift a bit, which made them not as comfortable. The fabric is nicely lightweight. They’re similar to lulu’s light as air thong (which seems to be discontinued), but half the price. I actually hated everything about lulu’s light as air, but I think these are much better. Overall, a decent economical option. If they didn’t shift, I would be more inclined to buy more.
As I mentioned above, I’m usually not fond of hipsters or bikinis because they’re rarely invisible. And I rarely love seamless styles because the material tends to roll or shift. So, what’s a girl gonna do?
Enter the string thong. Although they’re certainly not a universally loved style of underwear, string thongs are consistently one of my preferred options when it comes to what I wear under my activewear. The right string thong 100% disappears under my activewear, totally eliminating the VPL issue, but still provides the protection and general cleanliness I’m looking for.
This one from H.Dew pretty much checks all my boxes. It’s comfortable and fits me well in size S. Despite my trash-tacking cotton for underwear in general, for string thongs I don’t have a problem with it, since the area that’s covered by cotton is really small and therefore doesn’t create much of a sweat issue.
Tip: look for string thongs with a perfectly flat elastic side. Many strings have seaming on the sides, which can create some pretty apparent VPL, which of course is totally the opposite of what we’re going for by wearing them. Here’s a little visual aid showing the difference. Notice how the styles on the right are just plain elastic. They’re perfectly flat. The ones on the left also feel much thicker. The style of elastic on the right behaves a lot better: no rolling, no bunching, and no visibility.
I’ve heard Zobha’s boyshorts recommended numerous times and finally decided to try them out, despite my misgivings about full coverage styles. Although they’re not particularly pretty or sassy, they are functional to the max.
One common issue with boyshorts is that they tend to roll up when you pull tight pants on over top of them, making a gnarly little lump that you have to reach in and smooth out. Zobha’s boyshorts occasionally roll slightly at the sides when I’m putting on my pants, but aren’t nearly as bad as other pairs I’ve had and are easy to smooth out. They cover almost my entire bum, and don’t leave a seam. I bought these in a size S and XS. I prefer the S because it offers a bit more bum coverage and doesn’t roll as easily. The microfiber fabric is incredibly soft, lightweight, and comfortable. The rise also isn’t too low or too high; I haven’t had any issues with these peeking out the top of any waistbands.
The best thing about these undies? If you have a pair of leggings that might be a tiny bit see-through, but you convinced yourself to keep them anyway, the nude color of these boyshorts are perfect for adding another layer of coverage. Wear these, and you pretty much never have to worry about sheerness at all!
Overall, I would definitely recommend these for anyone who wants more coverage. I will buy them again. They’re an excellent companion to your workout bottoms. I’d also like to try Zobha’s thong version.
This style is nearly identical to H.Dew’s above. I like it for the same reasons. I bought an XS in this, but next time, I’ll order an S, since I think it will be more comfortable. The XS is a bit tighter than I like, so I’m kinda hoping it stretches out a bit!
At first blush, you might think that lace undies and activewear would be a pretty silly combination. Here’s the thing though: lace is breathable! It won’t hold sweat like other fabrics will, and instead passes off the sweat-wicking duties to your fancy spandex. Mesh has the same advantage. That said, it’s best to limit the lace just to the front panel like this pair, since lace in other places tends to show through. If you don’t want to go commando but don’t want to feel stifled by your activewear, lace or mesh are great options.
Another thing I like about this style is that it’s a T-back. Instead of the extra “V” of fabric in the back, the two pieces of fabric are sewn directly together. This reduces the number of seams as well as the amount of fabric, creating a completely VPL-free rear view. Again, I purchased this in XS but would like to try a size S instead.
The mula bandhawear are currently lulu’s flagship underthing option. I love the microfiber fabric–it’s very soft, breathable, and comfortable. They fit me well in size S. The big downside of this style is the seams. They can be a bit lumpy under some of my bottoms. I’ve had my pairs for a couple years now, and while they don’t fit quite as well as they used to, they’re still one of my preferred pairs. That said, these are one of the pricier options on the list and don’t offer total seamlessness, so I’m not sure I’ll buy more, or just stick to strings and Zobha.
Hanky Panky’s signature thong style has been a staple in my underwear wardrobe for ages. I have several pairs of these in my drawer that have been going strong for 5+ years. They’re very comfortable and quite pretty to boot. But how do they hold up for workouts?
As I mentioned above, lace is usually a nice option for its breathability, but the real downside of an all-over lace number like this is the show-through. Even if the pants I’m wearing are opaque, the texture of the lace is often visible. I definitely don’t want to be showing off my lacy undergarments when I’m at the gym, so this is unfortunately a big downside. I can only wear these under thicker pairs of tights that hide the lace. While a great pair of underwear that I would recommend for general life use, these have limited usefulness at the gym.
By the way, if you’re normally a size XS or smaller, I highly recommend Hanky Panky’s petite version here. The regular one size did not work for me, but the petite sizing is perfect!
To wrap up
I hope this gives you some ideas if you’ve been struggling to find a suitable option. If you already have a favorite pair, let us know about it in the comments! There’s still plenty of room in my drawer to try out some more!