Do You Wear Underwear with Leggings?

Woman standing in gym
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Deciding what to wear under your workout clothes brings up concerns of appearance, comfort, support, and even panty lines. What you usually wear probably won't serve you as well at the gym. Just as you choose your workout clothing to move with your body, you need underwear that will also perform and not hinder you.

Sports Bras

A sports bra is a logical choice for people with breasts to wear during aerobics, running, and any activity that involves jumping. But you will also find it a good choice for Pilates, yoga, and almost any exercise activity. Sports bras give support to reduce bounce and uncomfortable motion. They are designed to move well as you twist and bend.

Sports bras have come a long way over the years and you can find them in just about any style you need to accommodate your shape and the cut of your tops. While the original styles were compressing, you can find styles that give support without flattening you completely.

Select sports bras made of breathable, sweat-wicking fabric rather than cotton. This will help prevent chafing and will be more comfortable during exercise.

If you have small breasts and no problem with bouncing, you may want to exercise without a bra, be aware that nipple chafing is a common problem that a sports bra can prevent. The area under your breasts is also prone to chafing, so select a bra that has smooth elastic in that area and use anti-chafing preparations if you still have problems.


Deciding what type of underwear to wear on the bottom may take some experimentation. Every woman has a different shape and style. You may find that your thong, briefs, boy shorts, or bikini ride up or irritate you when you exercise and it's good to experiment with what style of underwear works best for your activity and body shape.

The first rule is that moisture-wicking and breathable fabrics are preferred for workouts. While cotton rules for all-day wear, for workouts you may want fabrics that are better at transporting the moisture away from your skin. Cotton does breathe, but it may not be able to keep up when you get sweaty.

Exercise can increase irritation from your underwear, so choose smooth fabrics rather than lace and avoid designs that have trim. Elastic around the hips and leg openings should not be so tight that you end up chafing as you move.

Wearing a thong is a popular choice for the freedom of movement and avoiding panty lines. But you will need to ensure it isn't rubbing you the wrong way and causing irritation in your crotch. In the worst cases, that might increase your risk of a vaginal infection. You may want to look for designs that have a wider waistband for comfort.

Many designs of running tights and exercise shorts have a built-in liner and don't require wearing underwear. That may be a comfortable choice.

To prevent irritation and risk of infection, change into clean, dry underwear after your workout. Keeping your skin and genitals dry is the best way to avoid these problems.

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  • Helm MF, N. Helm T, F. Bergfeld W. Skin problems in the long-distance runner 2500 years after the battle of marathon. International Journal of Dermatology. 2012;51(3):263–270. doi:10.1111/j.1365-4632.2011.05183.x.

By Marguerite Ogle MS, RYT
Marguerite Ogle is a freelance writer and experienced natural wellness and life coach, who has been teaching Pilates for more than 35 years.