Bargain vs Bougie: Do you need to spend £20 on gym underwear? Here's our verdict

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Welcome to Bargain vs Bougie,’s series pitting products at varying price points against each other.

Previously, we investigated how much you really need to spend to get a good sports bra.

This week, we’re looking at exercise underwear. 

When I started working out regularly for the first time in my life this year, it didn’t take Instagram long to cotton on. Soon, my algorithm was flooded with ads for leggings, trainers and… pants. 

I hadn’t considered that you needed a whole separate knickers drawer for when you were planning on breaking a sweat, but it turns out, you do. 

Dr Derrick Phillips, a consultant dermatologist and British Skin Foundation spokesperson, told ‘When exercising, underwear is an important consideration that is often overlooked. The choice of material has an impact on comfort, performance and hygiene.’

He explained that sweat-absorbing materials are brilliant for reducing chafing, friction rashes and general irritation – and that tight clothing that prevents airflow can cause issues with hair follicles and folliculitis. 

‘In addition, the moist environment can result in a common yeast infection called candida intertrigo,’ he added. 

Yikes – and I honestly just thought people just wore special workout briefs to avoid a panty-line under their leggings! 

So armed with a whole new gym fear, I put three brands to the test – ranging from £6.99 to £20. 

Decathlon Kalenji Breathable Running Briefs Coral – £5.99

There is no doubt that this is a good price for a pair of bloomers. I’d be happy paying this for bog-standard knickers, let alone ones designed with ’ventilated panels’ and the ability to stay in place as I sprint my little heart out.

As a size 12, I got these in a M/L. While some reviewers of the same size said they struggled with the fit, for me that couldn’t have been further from the truth. Both the coral and purple lay perfectly flat against my skin with no drooping or pinching. 

And you can see why these bad boys are made for exercise – they are lightweight, feel breathable when on, and offer great coverage without the obvious VPL that usually accompanies briefs. 

That’s not to say there is no visibility. For those that are keen on the ‘I’m not wearing any underwear under these leggings’ look, these will do a fairly good job but I could occasionally spot the seams through the back of my leggings. 

Also, one pair of these pants are pretty much neon orange so anything but opaque leggings will show them. Don’t be too deterred though as there is an option to buy them in black for the same price. 


Buy the Kalenji Briefs for £5.99 (was £6.99) at Decathlon.

Underdays – The Workout Thong – £20

Now this is the one that kept coming up on my Instagram feed. This was the pair of pants that convinced me I needed a whole new section of my wardrobe dedicated to sweat-wicking fabrics. 

The aesthetics of the whole brand: chef’s kiss. So I was very excited to get to try these. 

I did, however, have one concern. A worry that seemed to be echoed in the comments under all their posts: That gusset is bloody thin.

It turns out I shouldn’t have worried, as the pants, upon taking them out of their fancy packaging assured me: ‘We’ve got you covered’. And they did.

I ordered a size M and they fit like a glove. They felt tight enough to stay in place and lightweight enough to not notice their existence when on. I’ve enjoyed running in them and felt perfectly secure, but less so in intense HIIT classes involving star jumps and the like. 

They do the job they set out to do when it comes to sweat-wicking, and I like the fact that the crotch-region fabric comes with antimicrobial properties (not that I know what that means) and that they’re made from 84% recycled nylon.

While Underdays say the pants come with minimal VPL, I believe they are underselling themselves. I saw not a glimpse of them when wearing my leggings and even opted to wear them under a skin-tight dress I’d previously struggled to find appropriately discreet underwear for.

So yes, £20 is a bit steep in comparison to cheaper offerings, but I don’t see these as just workout pants. They’re £20 multifaceted pants. 


Buy The Workout Thong for £20 at Underdays.

Sweaty Betty – Sundown Soft Cotton Brief 3 Pack and Sundown Soft Cotton Thong 3 Pack – £35 each 

Speaking of multifaceted pants, I also found Sweaty Betty’s offering to be suitable for both fitness and fashion. Coming to under £12 each, these don’t cost the earth and feel high quality. 

I liked how much coverage both the brief and thong offered, without feeling like there was too much fabric. The sizing (M) was perfect, and the thick elastic band at the centre sat really nicely and offered breathing room. 

While the underwear was light and extremely comfortable, compared to the other offerings, it didn’t feel the most sweat-wicking. That being said, I didn’t feel soggy afterwards either. 

I felt very secure doing all sorts of exercises – weights, running and HIIT classes – in both sets and found they stayed in place, without the briefs riding up or the thong gusset slipping out of place.

Another thing the Sweaty Betty knickers were great for, was the lack of visible lines. The fact that the elastic band sits slightly higher up towards the waist, hides the seam, and both the thong and brief didn’t stand out under my leggings. 

For a lot of their reviewers, these multipacks have become their daily staples – whether exercising or not – and since they arrived it’s been the same for me. They’re the first pair I reach for every day. Even if my friend, upon seeing them, called them ‘grannyish’.

And even if I don’t think they’re as good as deflecting sweat as the other two, as Dr Phillips reminded me, you should be changing clothes – including underwear – as soon as you can after working out to stop bacteria getting trapped in fabrics. 



Buy the Sundown Briefs (3 pack) for £35 at Sweaty Betty.

Buy the Sundown Thongs (3 pack) for £35 at Sweaty Betty.

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