The Best Workout Pants
“The Underwear I Exercise in Isn’t Comfortable”
Ditch the cotton undies—they soak up sweat, causing chafing and creating a moist, unhealthy environment, says Michele Curtis, a professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the University of Texas Medical School at Houston. Instead, choose a breathable fabric, such as microfiber, that also wicks away moisture. To banish panty lines, you can exercise your options with a stretch-mesh thong (try the Moving Comfort DriLayer thong, shown here in blue; $14, movingcomfort.com) or seamless shorts for extra coverage (like the patterned Commando micro-fiber girl shorts, $26, wearcommando.com).
“Aside From Fit, What Should I Look for in Workout Pants?”
Make sure they are activity appropriate. For example, flared legs create an annoying flutter during cycling or running; a drawstring is uncomfortable when doing facedown yoga poses. Then seek out the following.
Performance fabrics: Also called wicking or technical fabrics, these synthetic blends, such as Coolmax and Supplex, draw sweat away from the skin to keep you dry. To avoid bagginess, check the care label to see if the garment has at least 8 percent stretch.
Flat seams: Unlike lumpy stitches, flat seams prevent rubbing. Or try seamless pants (like hosiery, but thicker).
Bonus features: Hidden pockets, anti-microbial treatments to repel odor, reflective accents for after-dark workouts, and ventilation panels behind the knees.
“Do Compression Tights Really Work?”
The jury is still out on these skintight pants, which more and more professional athletes are sporting under their shorts. Manufacturers claim the tights increase blood flow and support muscles so you can exercise longer and recover faster, and a few studies may substantiate that: Australian researchers found that compression-clad Rugby players had lower levels of lactate, a chemical associated with muscle fatigue, than did those who went without. Other studies, however, found no effect, says Delia Roberts, Ph.D., an exercise physiologist at Selkirk College, in British Columbia, and a fellow of the American College of Sports Medicine. While more research is needed, what matters most for recreational athletes, says Roberts, is how the tights make you feel: “Since a lot of your performance is a mental game, if you feel a difference, go ahead and get a pair.”
Can’t get the stink out of your activewear? Get washing tips at realsimple.com/gymgear.