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Are you wearing the wrong underwear for your workouts? Here's what experts say

Plus, they weigh in on the debate over whether you need to wear underwear when you exercise.
Kara Birnabum/ TODAY

Whether you're walking or logging a sweaty HIIT session, when you're in the middle of working out, you want to be completely focused on the task at hand. You don't want to be distracted by anything — and that includes the underwear that you're wearing.

But if you're simply reaching into your underwear drawer and grabbing the first pair you see, you could be in trouble. After all, if you choose an uncomfortable pair, like one that rides up or causes chafing, it can be enough to make you want to leave the gym early.

So we had to know: Is there really a right type of underwear to wear for a workout? And should we even be wearing underwear at all? (As it turns out, there may be a case for going commando.)

We tapped two doctors, Dr. Christine Greves, a board-certified OB-GYN in Orlando and Dr. Mary Jane Minkin, a clinical professor in the Department of Obstetrics, Gynecology and Reproductive Sciences at the Yale University School of Medicine, to get the details.

What underwear is best for exercising?

Here's the thing: There isn't really any data that points to a specific type of underwear being superior for sweating, so it mostly comes down to personal preference. But the experts did say that some materials may be better than others when it comes to minimizing potential problems.

"The most sensitive tissue in the body, skin-wise, is the vulvar and vaginal tissue, as far as people getting allergic reactions and irritative reactions," Minkin says. "So my attitude is, why bother with anything that has a potential for irritation? There are some people that get irritation from dyes or materials, so that's why I tend to say stick with the white stuff, white cotton ... cotton tends to be pretty non-irritating, as compared to some of the synthetic fibers."

For really sweaty workouts, you might find that cotton gets too moist, which is why Greves says that she likes materials that are soft, breathable, sweat-wicking and don't hold onto moisture as easily. That's important because moist, warm environments (like your groin area after a tough workout) can potentially foster yeast infections.

As far as the debate of thongs versus more full coverage options, it's really what you're more accustomed to. "If someone has been doing something forever, and it's her way and it's working for her, then I don't think you need to reinvent the wheel," Greves says.

The bottom line is that the underwear you choose should feel comfortable for you. "I tell people that you don't necessarily want to remember you're wearing underwear when you're doing an activity," Greves says. "So I think as long as that's not the focus of your workout, then that's a good thing. And given that we are all designed different, our bodies are all different, our activity levels are different and our metabolism is different, so there's not one [type of] underwear that's perfect."

And both experts agreed that more important than the underwear itself is making sure that you practice good hygiene after your workout and always shower and change your underwear to help prevent yeast infections.

Should you wear underwear while working out?

While some people might have some strong opinions about skipping underwear for a workout, many of the same rules apply: If it's something that feels comfortable to you and it's something that you're used to, there's probably no harm in it.

In fact, there could be one potential benefit: "Some people may actually say there could be a positive to going commando, because you don't have that extra piece of material that's moist and keeping that moisture and heat in," Greves says.

If you are going to try it, because you don't have the underwear as a guard, you want to pay close attention to the material of your leggings and shorts. Just like with your undies, Minkin suggests opting for bottoms made from cotton or a sweat-wicking material.

You also may want to avoid anything with seams in the middle, which could uncomfortably rub the area, Greves adds.

Most importantly, if you are going commando, you want to make sure that you're putting on a clean pair of leggings, to minimize the risk of bacterial infections or clogged pores.

Below, we rounded up some reviewer-loved options that could work for every type of sweat session.

Underwear for workouts

Under Armour Women's Pure Stretch Thong Underwear, 3-Pack

Under Armour says that these are "the perfect underwear for athletes." They're said to be made from an ultra-soft, stretchy and sweat-wicking fabric that has laser-cut edges, so there aren't any uncomfortable hems.

Amazon Essentials Seamless No-Show Panties

If you prefer something with more coverage, these seamless bottoms could be a great option. The brand says that they're made from a thin, breathable bamboo material with air holes to allow for increased air flow and speedier drying time.

Voenxe Seamless Thongs, 5-Pack

More than 40,000 shoppers have given these seamless thongs a five-star rating on Amazon, and many people note that they're good for working out. "So breathable and stretchy!" one reviewer wrote. "They don’t roll up and they stay put! Not constricting what so ever. Very seamless, can’t see them under my clothes. Tested them out at the gym today and I didn’t feel like I was being cut in half. I’m absolutely buying more, I love them. Fit perfect. No complaints at all! Best undies I have ever purchased."

Girlfriend Collective Shell High-Rise Brief

"I love the stretch and feel of this fabric," one reviewer wrote. "Very comfy underwear. I can’t feel them when I wear them, and they don’t show under leggings! I prefer these high rise briefs when wearing my high waisted leggings. Very comfy for athletic or everyday wear."

Athleta Ritual Boyshort Underwear

This pair from Athleta is designed to be stretchy, comfortable and sweat-wicking — what more could you ask for? They provide full coverage and hit right below your natural waist.

Bombas Women's Cotton Modal Brief

Made with cotton and modal, the brand says that these undies provide the best of both worlds: Softness, breathability and stretch. They also have a specially-designed comfort waistband that won't roll, dig or leave behind any uncomfortable marks.

Lululemon UnderEase High-Rise Thong Underwear

Made for yoga or daily movement, this Lululemon thong will carry you through your active lifestyle. According to the brand, they feature chafe-resistant flat seams and a smooth waistband to minimize discomfort.

Alo Yoga Airbrush Invisible Thong

Featuring Alo's lightest Airbrush fabric, you'll feel like you have nothing on when you slip this pair on for a workout. Reviewers say that they're perfect for workouts and are very comfortable.

Hanes Ultimate Women's High-Waisted Panties

It doesn't get more classic than Hanes. And these briefs are made from a 100 percent cotton material that the brand says wicks away moisture and retains its shape — even after washing.