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Synthetic vs. natural moisture wicking underwear: What is best for running?


If you’ve ever been out on a run and felt damp and soggy underwear, you know how uncomfortable and icky it can feel.

No one wants to deal with sweaty running gear, especially underwear.

The good news is moisture wicking underwear exists today to ensure you stay comfortable and dry on your run.

But what exactly are the benefits of moisture wicking underwear? And where can you buy it?

In this guide we’ll explore:

  • What is moisture wicking underwear?
  • What are the benefits of moisture wicking underwear?
  • What are the best moisture wicking fabrics?
  • Which fabrics should you avoid?
  • Moisture wicking underwear Q&A
  • What is the best moisture wicking underwear?


Let’s get going!

moisture wicking underwear

What is moisture wicking underwear?

You may be wondering: “What does moisture wicking underwear mean?”

Moisture wicking underwear is underwear made from fabric with the ability to pull moisture away from the skin.

When you go for a run or workout, you’ll know that sweat can build up and get absorbed into your clothing making it soggy and uncomfortable. 

The key benefit of moisture wicking underwear is that it draws sweat to the exterior of the fabric, instead of absorbing it, where it then evaporates. 

According to gynaecologist Kecia Gaither: “Ideally women should look for moisture-wicking underwear to help move perspiration to the outer surface of the fabric and away from the skin.”

Excess moisture can cause bacteria to grow, and potentially lead to infection, which is a big no no when it comes to keeping your vagina happy.

Related: How to stop vaginal chafing when running

What are the benefits of moisture wicking underwear?

As we explained earlier, the primary benefit of moisture wicking underwear is that it draws moisture away from the skin.

There are also a few other benefits of sweat wicking underwear which we explain more about below.

moisture wicking underwear

#1 Keeps your skin dry

Moisture wicking underwear keeps your skin dry, so chafing, itching and rashes become less of a problem.

When you workout, there is skin on skin contact or your skin rubs against your clothing or other materials. 

Add sweat and moisture into this mix, the rubbing and chafing can become worse.

Chafing typically occurs in warm, moist areas such as the inner thighs, groin, armpits, under your breasts and your butt. 

Moisture wicking underwear helps to reduce discomfort by keeping the skin dry around your inner thighs and groin. 

#2 Reduces body odour

Body odour happens when bacteria on your skin comes into contact with sweat. 

Your skin is naturally covered with bacteria, and when you sweat, the sweat and bacteria mix and can cause odour. 

Not all odour is smelly though. It can smell or have no smell at all – it depends on the individual. 

Moisture wicking underwear will help to reduce the amount of sweat on your skin, and will therefore reduce the chance of odour. 

It’s worth adding that body odour can be influenced by a few factors, such as your hormones, the food you eat and any underlying health conditions. 

So if you do notice a strong odour, despite wearing moisture wicking underwear, then you may want to get it checked out by a healthcare professional. 

#3 Helps to prevent vaginal infections

In the bikini area, bacteria and sweat can lead to irritation and fungal infection if not closely monitored. 

Moisture wicking underwear helps to prevent problems like yeast infection from developing in the first place.

This a huge win if you’ve ever had to deal with one.

Good moisture wicking underwear will also help prevent inflammation and itching in the bikini area.

#3 Improves athletic performance

Moisture wicking underwear helps to keep your skin dry.

This means you don’t have to worry about soggy underwear when you’re out on a run or at the gym doing a workout. 

With one less thing to worry about, you have more time to focus on smashing your run or workout. 

Related: Can running make acne worse? 4 skin secrets to help prevent runner’s acne

moisture wicking underwear

Related: Nude running: Everything you need to know

What are moisture wicking fabrics?

Moisture wicking fabrics contain two types of fibres:

  • Synthetic fibres
  • Natural fibres 

Each has their pros and cons which we explain more about below. 

Synthetic fibres

Synthetic fibres are man-made fibres and they are produced using a process called polymerisation. 

Compared with natural fibres, synthetic fibres are known for their increased durability, strength and resistance.

Here are the pros and cons of synthetic fibres:


  • Dry quickly
  • Are extra absorbent
  • Can be made into waterproof fabrics
  • Can be made into elastic/stretchy fabrics for swimwear and underwear
  • Can be blended with natural fibres to give durability and stretch
  • Less expensive than natural fabrics


  • Don’t hold up well with age
  • Tend to discolour when exposed to sunlight
  • When burnt they can produce poisonous gases
  • They are non-biodegradable, so they take a long time to degenerate 
  • The chemicals in synthetic fibres are not good for the environment

Here are examples of sweat-wicking synthetic fabrics:

  • Polyester
  • Polypropylene
  • Nylon 
  • Spandex
  • Lycra
  • Microfibre
moisture wicking underwear

Natural fibres

Natural fibres are created from fibres found in nature like plant seeds, animals’ coats, leaves, stems and minerals. 

Humans have been using natural fibres like animal skin for centuries.

Many natural fibres today though need to go through a long production process before they can be used in fabrics found in clothing.

Unlike synthetic fibres, natural fibres are considered to be more environmentally friendly, but they do require more maintenance over time.


  • Comfortable against the skin
  • Luxurious looking
  • Made from renewable fibres
  • Easy to dispose of
  • Do not cause any long term damage to the environment


  • More likely to wrinkle, compared with synthetic fabrics
  • Higher maintenance 
  • More expensive than synthetic fabrics
  • Chemicals are used to clean and bleach natural fibres which is damaging to the environment 

Here are examples of sweat-wicking natural fabrics:

  • Merino wool
  • Wool
  • Bamboo

The bottom line? Whether or not you buy synthetic or natural fabrics really comes down to personal preference. 

If you’re on a budget, then synthetic fabrics are your best bet.

If you’re more concerned for the environment and want clothing that lasts, pick natural fabrics. 

Related: Can you put shoes in the dryer? 7 running shoe cleaning do’s and don’ts

moisture wicking underwear

Which fabrics should you avoid?

Should you choose cotton for moisture wicking underwear?

The simple answer: no.

Cotton is a natural fabric but it does not have moisture wicking properties. 

It absorbs sweat and doesn’t allow it to escape, which after time can often become uncomfortable when worn for a run or workout. 

However, this doesn’t mean you need to discount cotton completely.

Cotton, or cotton blends, are great to wear for low impact exercise like walking and yoga. 

Related: 7 of the best websites to buy affordable running clothes

Moisture wicking underwear Q&A

Q: When should you wear moisture wicking underwear?

A: Moisture wicking underwear is designed to be worn during a workout or when you’re planning to be extra sweaty. 

It is not designed to be worn all day, and should not be worn overnight. 

If you’re prone to vaginal discharge or vaginal infections, it’s best to wear loose-fitting underwear or no underwear at all to allow your vagina to air out. 

Q: What is the best fabric for moisture wicking underwear?

A: Your choice of fabric will depend on your budget and personal preference. 

Opt for synthetic fabrics if you’re on a budget.

Opt for natural fabrics if you want a more luxurious feel and can afford to splash out a little.

Natural fabrics also have an added benefit in that they are more environmentally friendly in the long term. 

Q: Is moisture wicking underwear healthy?

A: Yes! Moisture wicking underwear has many health benefits.

It helps to prevent irritation and chafing by keeping your skin dry, and helps to reduce the risk of vaginal infection.

Related: How to find the right running shoes: A complete guide

moisture wicking underwear

What is the best moisture wicking underwear?

Now you know more about moisture wicking underwear, here are our top picks. 

#1 Best seamless moisture wicking underwear: Lululemon InvisiWear (£39)

If you don’t like the idea of having VPL during your workout, then the seamless underwear from Lululemon has got you covered!

Made from quick-drying and sweat-wicking fabric, these feel snug and help prevent slippage.

They also have added Lycra to help with shape retention. 

#2 Best moisture wicking period underwear: Modibodi Classic Bikini Briefs (£21)

These bikini briefs from Modibodi are a godsend for when you’re on your period.

They are made from breathable bamboo fabric and feature Modibodi’s patented Modifier Technology.

They absorb your period, pee, sweat and more, meaning you stay fresh and dry. 

#3 Best moisture wicking thong: Balanced Tech Seamless Thong (£31)

These thongs from Balance Tech are lightweight and super comfortable with a seamless fit.

Made from polyester, nylon and elastane, they are perfect for when you’re on the go.

Even better, they’re breathable and quick drying.

#4 Best moisture wicking boy shorts: Boody Boyleg Brief (11.95)

The boy shorts from Boody are an all-round winner when it comes to comfort, style and eco-friendly credentials. 

Made from premium bamboo fabric, these boy shorts have a wide waistband, mid-rise finish and gentle stretch.

#5 Best high waisted moisture wicking underwear: Lululemon UnderEase Ribbed High Waist Brief (£45)

These briefs from Lululemon are soft, stretchy, breathable and quick-drying. 

They also feature a high, smooth waistband with flat seams that doesn’t dig in. 

So if you’re on the lookout for chafe-resistant, high-waisted underwear, these are for you!

#6 Best Merino wool moisture wicking underwear: Dilling Merino Wool High-Waisted Shorties (£18.99) 

These shorties from Dilling are 100% organic Merino wool, meaning they are comfortable, breathable and itch-free. 

Merino wool is naturally moisture-wicking, making it a soft product to sit next to the skin. 

So if you’re looking for underwear that are more eco-conscious, these are for you!

Caroline Geoghegan