Run-Specific Underwear: Wait What?

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A note: while this blog may appear to be primarily directed towards males, as my experiences ran along that vein, many of the basic principles addressed apply to female runners as well.

Is this for real?

This one may seem a little out there, but as running shorts without liners come back into style I felt it was important to bring up a very small, but hugely important, part of the running apparel world: run-specific underwear.

To be honest, I couldn’t have told you that there was such a thing as run-specific underwear until I worked at a running specialty store; and by that point I had already been in need of them on multiple occasions. In high school my mentality ran as such: shorts have liners, why add another layer? Tights are tight, why would someone wear something underneath? Silly coastal Californians, we know nothing of snow.

Costly Mistakes

One fateful day I headed into a frosty morning long run around the ponds of the Middlesex Fells Reservation near Boston, and I learned. Oh how I learned. Here’s what a young strictly-split-short-wearing Californian discovered: cold is bad. If I had to extrapolate: running on a cold day in slightly baggy tights without any base layer broke can break a person. First, everything froze.  The Seinfeld episode on shrinkage only begins to describe it, and it happened unbelievably quickly. The overall sensation was not so strange though, as I’d spent enough time in the Pacific to understand and move past the feeling, real or imagined, of a retractile teste. But then, everything chafed. Blood, entrails, and bile galore.  Alright, maybe just a little blood.  In any case, 12 hobbled miles later I emerged from the forest a new man, or less of one if you counted the effects on my anatomy.

A Psuedo-Education

On the ride home I asked my teammates how people lived like that. The initial response was wizened chuckling from the hearty New Englanders, who had long since been educated on such matters. After taking a fair amount of abuse, I received an answer that shows we were all less educated than we thought. To combat the problem, my peers simply wore standard split-shorts underneath their tights. So, being a blank slate, I began wearing shorts under tights as well. It was a half-baked solution, but it got me through the winter.


Had I been more willing to research and a little less cheap, I could have saved myself from uncomfortable bunching as well as the money spent on Body Glide by just buying a few pairs of run-specific underwear. It didn’t have to be run-specific underwear, as I could have just worn the right pair of tights, or half tights, or even tights with liners. But if you are like me and already have the tights, or liner-free shorts, or chafe-inducing shorts, then run-specific underwear is a great solution. Some of them are even windproof to maximize protection. Had I only known! They also have the added benefit of moisture wicking, so they won’t absorb sweat like that standard underwear that you are thinking of trying out. Don’t do it. Don’t you do it. Horrors, scales, and bleeding like you’ve never seen. Or, if you’ve seen some stuff, like you never want to see again.

As a summary: run-specific underwear is great because it prevents chafing. Additionally, it keeps the delicates warm. It can also limit chafing. And it helps disperse undercarriage sweat. Plus chafing. The list goes on.

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Will has been running competitively since high school, and is currently running with the HOKA Aggies, a post-collegiate club here on the central coast of California. With a preference for the humorous and the verbose, he enjoys playing the wordsmith almost as much as his daily runs.

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