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  • Compression Athlete

What Should I Wear Under Compression Running Shorts?

A few options to keep comfortable and confident while you run.

Female track athletes competing in compression running shorts.

What to wear under those form-fitting compression running shorts—it’s a common question from runners of all stripes.


For starters, we get it. It’s not very easy figuring out what the best option is to wear beneath those snug spandex shorts that fall into a strange nexus of both underwear and outerwear. Not to mention adding running to this mix (legs pumping, hot weather, lots of sweat, etc.) things can get uncomfortable fast.


So, whether you’re just getting started or you’re a seasoned runner looking for a better option, you might be wondering what the common underwear practice is when it comes to compression running shorts.


Ideally, you want a solution that’s comfortable and allows you to stay focused on the task at hand. Here, we’ll cover common practices by professional runners and seasoned enthusiasts alike, as well as highlight some of the best running shorts and underwear choices available.



Do I Need to Wear Anything Under My Compression Running Shorts?


To kick things off, let’s address some basics about compression shorts. Compression shorts are designed to be worn right against the skin without an undergarment. This allows the compression fabric to function properly without interference: improving blood flow, stabilizing your muscles, wicking sweat from your body, and more.


So, the short answer: No, you don’t need to wear anything under your compression running shorts. Compression shorts offer all the necessary support, comfort, and functionality that you may need while sprinting or running for distance.


However, just because compression shorts are designed to be worn without an undergarment does not mean that you have to avoid underwear when wearing compression. If you’re someone that is steadfast about wearing an undergarment while you’re active, competing, etc. you absolutely can.


This is especially common when compression shorts are worn as outerwear (compared to under a garment as underwear) as is common in the case of running. Many women feel more comfortable opting for a pair of underwear beneath their compression shorts, whether to achieve a level of security, control sweat, eliminate camel toe, or any number of reasons.


Female track athletes competing in compression running shorts.


Best Underwear Options for Compression Running Shorts


For starters, it’s important to keep in mind that the best option is always the one that allows you to perform your best and is most comfortable to you. You’ll know what this choice is better than anyone.


In general, however, when running in compression shorts you’ll want to avoid underwear with pronounced seams and non-breathable fabric. The pressure from compression shorts can push seams into your skin, causing chafing and restriction. And non-breathable fabrics will trap in sweat and heat, causing discomfort and overheating.


The best underwear to wear with your compression running shorts will be a seamless option that is lightweight, breathable, and designed with activity and movement in mind.

As you consider different underwear options, be sure to steer clear of any non-breathable fabrics like satin. Cotton is a better choice and is more breathable, while sport-minded synthetic fabrics like polyester, spandex, elastane, (etc.) are even better when it comes to moisture-wicking.


Athletes wearing Under Armour Pure Stretch Thong and Under Armour Pure Stretch Hipster.

Shop at Under Armour: Under Armour Pure Stretch Thong

Shop at Under Armour: Under Armour Pure Stretch Hipster


For example, here is a great seamless option from Under Armour that’s designed for activity and is available in both a thong and hipster. This underwear has a nylon and elastane (spandex) fabric blend that feels stretchy and lightweight. Under Armour’s Pure Stretch underwear is also extra comfortable for extended wear and has sweat-wicking capabilities.


If you’d like to see more options like this, check out our top picks for the best seamless thongs and best seamless hipsters to wear under compression.



How to Avoid VPL When Wearing Compression Running Shorts


So, when you’re competing in an event or even if you’re just out for a run on your own, a visible panty line is certainly not the biggest worry in the world. That is to say, if you’re comfortable and able to perform at your best, it really doesn’t matter at all.


With that being said, a lot of women simply don’t like the look or feel of having a visible undergarment line. Unfortunately, because compression shorts are designed to fit like a second skin on your body, it’s unlikely that you can find an underwear option that will be completely invisible at every turn and movement of your body.


However, the good news is that certain underwear options definitely work better than others and can greatly minimize visible panty lines. In particular, if you’re looking to avoid a visible panty line under your compression shorts, look for seamless underwear options.


Check out our top picks for seamless thongs and seamless hipsters and briefs for under compression.


While a thong is typically most effective when it comes to eliminating VPL (think less fabric, less problem), some women also have success with boyshorts, hipsters, and brief options. What will end up working best for you may depend on personal preference or the style and fit of your compression shorts.


Track athletes competing in compression running shorts.


Choosing the Right Compression Running Shorts


Between the many activewear brands available today and their varying styles, fits, and lengths, you’ll find that there’s no shortage of compression running short options out there.


But with all this variety, it’s worth noting that certain options are simply superior to others, especially when it comes to wearing compression shorts for running. Inferior fabric or poor garment construction can not only mean that you miss out on the benefits that compression shorts offer your athletic performance, but it can also lead to painful chaffing, rashes, irritation, and more.


Also, note that many of the issues we mentioned above (VPL, security, camel toe, sweat pooling, etc.) can be solved or improved by choosing a high-quality compression short option with superior fabric and design.


Another thing to keep in mind is that whether you’re running competitively or just for healthy fun, it’s a smart idea to have a few pairs of compression running shorts handy. Even with their sweat-wicking fabric, it’s best to always opt for a clean pair for hygiene considerations.



How Should Compression Running Shorts Fit?


So, let’s take a look at how your compression running shorts should fit. When you try your compression shorts on, they should fit tightly on your body but not too tight that they restrict any of your movement. While you shouldn’t see any loose or baggy spots in the fabric, any bulging in the thigh area could indicate that the fabric is pressing too tight on your body.


One area in which you can make some adjustment with compression shorts is in the inseam. The 3” or 4” inseam is a popular option among track athletes, as it allows for greater leg mobility. For this reason, many athletes may also opt for race briefs (a.k.a. bun huggers).


For a slightly longer mid-length option, you can look to compression running shorts that fall in the 5” to 7” range.


Keep in mind, however, that as you increase the length of the leg some rolling up while you run is to be expected. There’s simply too much moving, hinging, flexing of the body in this area to eliminate it completely. But this is actually preferable, as the amount of compression required to eliminate it would greatly hinder your mobility.


There is also full-length compression running short options, known as a biker short length, that fall in the 8” to 10” range. At this length, the compression short will cover most if not your entire thigh. These longer options sometimes come with helpful features like a side pocket that allows you to store your phone securely as you run.


Remember, comfort is key here. Your compression running shorts should actually have a very pleasant and comfortable fit. You should have no problem wearing them for extended periods of time and you shouldn’t experience any restriction of your movement.


Finding the right pair of compression running shorts may take a little trial and error, as various compression fabrics, styles, and brands can fit differently on different athletes. But once you’ve found a stellar pair, you’ll know it. The shorts will offer you support, allow you to move freely and comfortably, and you won’t have to give them a second thought while you run.



Discover which brands your favorite US Olympic track stars choose for training and competition: Olympic Women's Track Gear.

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