A blog by runners. For runners.

Boxers, briefs, or commando: running underwear for men

Running underwear (or lack there of) for menMy first pair of real running shorts had this fantastic supportive liner inside the light polyester outer fabric. While I was sure this supportive liner served some function it confounded me: Do I wear underwear under these shorts or not?

There’s no right answer here, and the scientific debate of the actual performance benefits of compression gear is mixed. 

I asked a few male runners their thoughts on the topic. One said he always wears Under Armor compression shorts. Another, an avid distance runner and triathlete, prefers New Balance Game On compression shorts under running shorts. And yet a third – a running coach – goes commando with shorts that have a liner.

Turns out, it’s about personal preference and you might not know what you like until you try it.

Personally, on warm days (65 and above), I prefer to go commando in a good pair of running shorts with a liner. Compression shorts meant as a base layer or underwear worn underneath a pair of running shorts can get a little bunched and crowded and that combined with some oppressive heat, isn’t fun for anyone. On cooler days, though, I like the added layer.

Tips and recommendations

  • Chafing is bad and it can make you walk like you’ve just had a prostate exam that ended with somebody saying, “Oops, sorry.” It can be made worse, particularly on the sides of your scrotum, when you go commando. Lube that bad boy up – along with the tops of your inner thighs – with some quality anti-chafing cream. Aquifer works OK, but my go-to product is Mission 5-Hour Anti-Chafe Cream Pro Series
  • If you are going to wear running shorts with no underwear, feel the inner liner. Some brands have a much softer material and others are more of a subdued mesh. Softer is better in my experience. 
  • If you are going with compression shorts, I have a go-to brand that provides the right level of support without being too tight: The 6” Under Armor original boxer jockReebok compression underwear is also great. 
  • Length matters! I have a pair of compression shorts that look more like hot pants and the things scrunch up into my groin way too fast. You want the legs of the shorts to hold onto your thighs to stay in place.
  • Cold, windy conditions, even when wearing winter leggings or winter pants still leaves your manhood exposed to piercing cold. Smartwool makes a pair of wool compression base layer underwear with a heavier layer of wind-blocking fabric right in the front of your most vulnerable zone.

Experiment, figure out what you prefer, and then stay faithful. (Good rule of thumb for below the belt, am I right?).

Written by Rob Haneisen.