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Experts explain what underwear will keep you cool and comfy during heated workouts

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

The best underwear for exercising | Underwear for workouts | How we chose | Meet the experts

Shop TODAY Snapshot

Best underwear for working out

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.

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

Underwear for workouts

Voenxe Seamless Thongs (Set of 5)

What we like
  • Over 55,000 positive ratings
  • Many say they're comfortable 
  • The fabric is breathable, per customers
Something to note
  • Some say they run small
  • Some say they don't last long

Material: Nylon, cotton | Sizes available: X-Small — XX-Large

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.”

Athleta Ritual Boyshort Underwear

What we like
  • "Fits so comfortably," per a customer
  • Many repeat buyers 
  • Many say they don't roll
Something to note
  • Some say they stretch out easily

Material: Nylon, spandex | Sizes available: XX-Small — 3X

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.

Lululemon UnderEase High-Rise Thong Underwear

What we like
  • "Softest undies ever," per a customer
  • Many customers wear them during workouts
Something to note
  • Some say they don't last long

Material: Modal, Lycra elastane | Sizes available: X-Small — XX-Large

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

What we like
  • Very lightweight, per customers
  • Soft, stretchy fit
  • Great under leggings
Something to note
  • May be too stretchy

Material: Nylon, elastane | Sizes available: XX-Small — X-Large

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.

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

What we like
  • Many reviewers exercise in them
  • Material is very lightweight
Something to note
  • Many customers say they roll easily

Material: Polyester | Sizes available: X-Small — X-Large

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 High Waist Briefs

What we like
  • Fabric is breathable
  • Design is smooth
Something to note
  • Many say they run small

Material: Nylon, spandex | Sizes available: Small — XX-Large

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.

Bombas Women's Cotton Modal Brief

What we like
  • Many say they're true to size
  • High-quality, durable design
Something to note
  • Some say they ride up

Material: Modal, cotton, elastane | Sizes available: X-Small — 2X

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.

Hanes Ultimate Women's High-Waisted Panties

What we like
  • Many customers say they're comfortable
  • Great price 
Something to note
  • Some say they shrink in dryer

Material: Cotton, polyester | Sizes available: 5 — 10

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

How we chose

The Shop TODAY team chose the best underwear for working out after talking with two experts (a board-certified OB-GYN as well as a clinical professor at Yale), who discussed the best materials and designs to shop for. We took their advice into consideration and included popular pairs we found that related to their feedback.

Meet the experts

  • Dr. Christine Greves attended University Of South Florida College Of Medicine, and she's a board-certified OB-GYN who's based in Orlando, Florida.
  • Dr. Mary Jane Minkin is a board-certified genecology at the Yale-New Haven Hospital. She's also a clinical professor at Yale University School of Medicine in the Department of Obstetrics, Gynecology and Reproductive Sciences.