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Two athletes in compression gear working out.
  • Writer's pictureCompression Athlete

Should You Wear Underwear Under Compression Shorts?

Let's take a look at the factors athletes might want to consider.

Male runner wearing compression shorts as outerwear.

For starters, not an uncommon question at all.

Due to their feel, fit, and very nature, compression shorts fall into a strange nexus of outerwear and underwear all at once.

This can leave people a little confused as to whether there is a right or wrong answer to this question.

In general, compression wear is intended to serve as a base layer, meaning worn right against the skin.

So, if we’re just considering the intended design of compression shorts then, no, you’re not supposed to wear underwear under compression shorts.

This is the best way to ensure that you reap all the benefits that compression wear can offer you and your performance.

However, thanks to their increasing popularity, compression wear and other athletic wear varieties are becoming more and more prevalent in everyday wear.

This may blur the lines a bit as to how you feel most comfortable wearing the compression shorts and for what purpose you’re wearing them.

Truly, the best guiding principle here is to ask yourself the question: Am I wearing these compression shorts as underwear or outerwear?

If you’re wearing the compression shorts as underwear (i.e. a base layer) then you do not need to wear any additional garments beneath the compression shorts.

If you’re wearing the compression shorts as outerwear then you might decide you would like an additional garment under the compression shorts.

This leads us to the most important point.

Male and female runners wearing compression shorts.

It’s All About Personal Preference

Whether or not you should wear underwear under your compression shorts really just boils down to your personal preference.

Even when certain compression shorts are designed as outerwear, the athlete wearing them may prefer to forego underwear underneath them.

There’s no problem with doing so.

In their many varieties, compression shorts are typically very comfortable and supportive.

Key Takeaway: Opting to wear underwear under your compression shorts boils down to your personal preference as compression shorts don’t require an additional base layer but also don’t block you from adding one.

Again, it’s also possible to have compression shorts designed as underwear in which the athlete prefers wearing underwear underneath. This works too, of course.

However, in this case, be mindful that you may lose some of your compression benefits, as compression wear is typically designed to be worn as a base layer.

So, the simple and straightforward answer is that it’s up to you. As the athlete, you should wear what’s most comfortable and what will help you perform at your best.

There Are Athletic Benefits to Wearing Compression Shorts as a Base Layer

Due to the fact that compression wear is designed to be worn against the skin (i.e. worn as a base layer), wearing an article of clothing beneath your compression wear can hinder the very benefits that are supposed to come from wearing them.

This applies to wearing compression shorts, as well.

Consider the following benefits that wearing compression shorts have to offer you during physical activity and athletic performance:

2 female runners in compression shorts.

Improves Overall Athletic Performance

From start to finish, compression shorts can improve your athletic performance.

Whether it’s shortening your warm up by improving blood flow or elevating your endurance and muscle control throughout the competition, compression shorts can offer you a leg up.

Not only can compression shorts keep you active longer but they also assist in strain prevention, which makes for healthy and happy muscles.

Reduces Muscle Fatigue and Improves Recovery

Your compression shorts can actually help to reduce muscle fatigue thanks to the compressive pressure they apply to your muscles.

As you move and exert energy, your muscles require oxygen.

Compression shorts can improve your body’s blood flow, which is essential in muscle oxygenation.

Not only does this help with muscle fatigue but the improvement in blood circulation also helps with your body’s recovery process.

Offers More Comfort and Support

No matter your activity or skill level, no active person enjoys discomfort from his or her clothing.

Compression shorts are widely used by athletes as a comfortable option while training and competing, as they cut down on chafing and regulate temperature by wicking sweat away from your body.

Compression shorts also offer great support to your muscles and assist in your overall movement and control.

These are just to name a few.

If you’re interested in a more comprehensive look at the many benefits compression wear can add to your athletic performance check out our list of Compression Wear Benefits.

Here's the Common Practice Among Athletes for Wearing Underwear Under Compression Shorts

You probably have a good sense now of how getting the total benefits package requires wearing compression garments as a base layer.

However, if we take a look across the wide spectrum of the sports world, you might notice some grey areas when it comes to wearing compression shorts as underwear or outerwear.

For example, volleyball players, track and field competitors, and others often wear compression shorts as outerwear, yet there is often little to no distinction between the make and fabric of the shorts they wear and the compression shorts others might wear as underwear.

Similarly, compression shorts and tights are now commonplace among weightlifters, yogis, and gym-goers.

Volleyball player wearing compression shorts.

If you feel more comfortable wearing underwear underneath your compression shorts, that’s no problem.

In fact, there are plenty of great options available out there for wearing under compression gear.

While of course nothing beats your own preference, one thing to be mindful of are the seams of your underwear.

The pressure from your compression garments can cause chaffing and general discomfort.

So, you may want to consider a seamless underwear option, which has become a popular choice.

Many brands, including athletic brands, carry a seamless underwear option.

Again, it’s really a matter of comfort and personal preference.

Regardless of whether your compression shorts or tights are intended as underwear or outwear, it’s up to you what you want to wear or not wear underneath.

Remember, there is no compression shorts police.

Do what makes you feel good and what will help you perform your best.

Parting Thoughts: Proper Care for Your Compression Shorts

Regardless of whether your compression shorts are designed as outerwear or underwear, and regardless of whether you choose to wear underwear under your compression shorts or not, be sure to keep up with a frequent wash cycle for all of your compression gear.

Compression shorts and compression gear in general takes the brunt of all the sweating we do while active.

This makes it an ideal place for bacteria to thrive.

So, regardless of whether you’re wearing underwear under your compression shorts, keep those shorts fresh with consistent washing.

And if you’d like to keep your compression garments in tip-top shape for as long as possible, take a look at our Compression Gear Best Care Practices.


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About the author: Compression Athlete
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