Wardrobe tidy – sports underwear cleanse
I had a seriously stupid moment this week, I can’t really believe it happened. After writing about sports underwear in general, and running underwear in specific I once again worked out with the wrong underwear – twice in one week! I thought I had experienced some severe chafing before, but this is the first time I’ve actually had two sets of friction burns which have scabbed at the same time.
On the upside this has really incentivised me to take a look at my sports bras, sports underwear and socks and do a proper inventory. Once I know what I have, and can evaluate what I need going forward, then I can start some testing and create some reviews!
Inventory like a Pro
So, how do I inventory my sports underwear? Firstly, don’t be put off by the word inventory it just means a complete list of items, but I’m not going to stop there. Its important to not only have a list, but also have the right items for the sports that I regularly pursue.
My sports underwear drawer contains:
2 pairs Mudgear trail running socks
2 pairs Quechua mid top mountain hiking socks
2 pairs Quechua high top mountain walking socks
2 pairs of knee-high compression socks
10 pairs of old low cut athletic socks
5 microfiber seamless hi leg bikinis
1 microfiber boy shorts
2 x Primark sports bras, 5 years old
2 x Decathlon sports bras, 1 year old
3 x LA gear sports bras, 2 years old
Activities I need to satisfy:
5 x CrossFit classes per week requiring high impact support for activities like box jumps and sprints and good shoulder mobility for Olympic weightlifting. The clothing will have to deal with temperature extremes (the gym is in an unheated / air-conditioned industrial building, so cold in the winter and hot in the summer) and is often programmed as burst of intensive activity generating lots of sweat.
5 x cycle commutes to work requiring moderate impact support, chafe resistant underwear and socks that cover the back of the heel.
2 x weekend walking / running / hiking adventures on the weekend, ranging from marathon training to mountain hikes and anywhere in between. A bra supporting high impact, chafe resistant, sweat wicking and low odour underwear and blister reducing socks required.
As you can imagine with this amount of exercise to clothing ratio, and the other associated thermals, and outer layers required I do a minimum of two loads of laundry per week. Being short of time once I’ve fitted in work, exercise and adventures, when I am at home doing laundry I have not necessarily been as careful I should be to follow the washing instructions, and thus some of my items have perished sooner than they should have. Also in undertaking this exercise, I have noted that most of the sports underwear I have was “good enough” for what I was doing at the point of purchase, but not designed with the activities that I now do in mind. Research from the University of Portsmouth has found that wearing the correct bra can actually reduce both muscular fatigue and risk of injury (and not just injury to the breasts).
Starting at the bottom – don’t forget the socks!
My current athletic sock collection requires a top up, although there is a strong foundation:
- the Mudgear ¼ crew trail socks are amazing for any endurance race involving mud, they have seen me through two ten mile events that included some pretty serious swamp and water crossings with no blisters, exactly what they’re designed for. They are also exactly the right height to wear with low cut hiking boots
- Quechua Midtop mountain walking socks are some of the best that I’ve had in terms of cut – they are high enough that the bottom of my Achilles tendon isn’t exposed and they seem less prone to sagging then the standard low cut sock that I had been wearing. They have enough cushioning to cope with running impact, keep the drafts off my ankles when cycling and have made a few blister free appearances in my hiking boots.
- Knee high compression socks, I originally bought these for long haul flights, but compression socks are also often used in running for assisting with recovery and blood flow / preventing lower extremity blood pooling. In addition, in CrossFit they have the benefit of providing some protection from scraps and bumps.
- Quechua high top mountain walking socks, the fabric is thinner than their Midtop cousins and don’t feel like they have the same level of comfort. With muscular calves I find the elastic around the top can be a bit uncomfortable. They are necessary in high topped hiking boots, but I’m not really feeling them else where.
Retire from Service:
- The old athletic socks are out, they have lasted a good amount of time, but they are now past it and sagging.
Options to test:
- Runderwear have some very highly rated running socks to try, like their cushioning no show running sock
- Sweaty Betty technical running socks have anti blister panels and a slightly higher cut to resist sagging
The nub of my chafing problem begins here… I’ve been avoiding investing in new workout underwear for a while because I’ve been on the look out for advice on the best underwear to suit both my extremely active lifestyle and muscular body type, but I’ve struggled to find any reviews to help – so I’ve taken matters into my own hands. I know all of my current workout underwear is on its way out, so I will use this as the opportunity to create the reviews!
There are three key aspects I’m looking for in my daily sports underwear:
- Comfortable Fit – they need to stay in place, not sag or try to crawl anywhere that they shouldn’t be, no matter how much running, jumping or cycling I am doing. I often find this quite difficult as I need a generous cut around my hips and glutes tapering to a small waist.
- Robust construction – both my shape and choice of activities put a lot of strain on fabrics, and when I’m spending money on sports specific gear I am very conscious of getting value from my purchase.
- Appearance – I want my underwear to work with my body and my clothes, I find VPL to be very annoying and I want underwear that will minimise its appearance while allowing for free movement (yes, I appreciate that this might be a pipe dream!). I also need underwear that won’t gape at the back leaving the top of my bum exposed to drafts.
My current sports underwear is displaying the following signs of being no longer fit for purpose:
- sagging and crawling
- elastic looking wavy rather than laying flat
First up options to test:
- The yoga community is keen on Zobha’s Boyshort panties, reviews suggest they stay in place well and with laser cut edges they are invisible under yoga pants.
- Commando produce a full line of anti-VPL underwear, with their cotton bikini reviewed highly on both comfort and fit.
- Runderwear produce a line of running specific undergarments for men and women for which they have won a number of industry awards and have significant numbers of positive reviews. Their tag line is “For a chafe free, moisture-wicking running experience”. Check out our Runderwear women’s g-string running thong review!
- Under Armour have a number of thin, anti-VPL underwear designed to stay in place while working out.
And finally, the sports bra!
Sports bras, like underwear and socks, have a finite lifestyle. Experts suggest that for every pair of running shoes you replace, you should be using 3 sports bras. Considering that the standard advised life of a pair of running shoes is only 1000 km (approximately 620 miles) that means all of my bras are well out-of-date! If you aren’t a regular runner, sports bras are, like all bras, subject to the 6-month replacement rule, or even more frequently if you wear them very regularly or the fail any of the tests below.
- Are the elastic bits still stretchy and return to lying flat after being stretched? If not, replacement is on the cards.
- Are there areas where the fabric is looking worse for wear? Frayed bits, discoloured elements or faded fabrics indicate that its time to replace it.
- Are your new bras the same size as your old ones? If not your old ones have either stretched, or you’ve changed shape and need a bra to suit.
- Does it pinch, rub or gape? Are the straps uncomfortable or refusing the lay flat or stay put? All signs that a new one is required.
My sports bras fail all of these tests, so they also need a refresh giving me the opportunity to try a number of new brands and fabrics and create reviews for you. While working through this process I have removed the worst offenders – which were annoyingly the newest purchases!
Options to test :
- Syrokan come high up on CrossFit specific reviews, I am keen to try their high-impact molded sports bra with no underwire and excellent support, breathable mesh panels with minimal padding.
- Nike and Nike Pro – I love the leggings, I have 3 pairs that have been used and abused for the past two years and the only regret I have is purchasing basic black instead of the slightly more pricey (and visible) patterned options.
- Under Armour HeatGear High support with gel coated underwires, adjustable straps and hook and eye closure. I’ve never had a sports bra with this much adjustment, I’m looking forward to feeling the differences!
- Runderwear running support bra with breathable and moisture wicking fabrics but they’ve stayed away from those nasty irritating labels. This is another bra with adjustment at the back via hook and eyes and soft feel but adjustable shoulder straps
I need to get better at keeping on top of my sports underwear, and when I end up with chafes, rubs, blisters or sores I need to address the root cause immediately. I also need to acknowledge, much as I don’t want to, that my body shape changes over time, level and type of exercise, season, state of hormones, etc and that I have to take this into account when selecting my workout attire.
Another area I need to improve in is the care of my underwear. Its really easy to wash everything, together and then put the full load in the dryer, but its often the hardest thing on the fibers in the fabrics and accelerates their demise.
What are your favourite sports undergarments? I’m in dire need of sock suggestions so please leave me your recommendations and comments!