When I began this active underwear review I expected it would take a couple of weeks. But in my goal to find the best underpants for sport and adventure I have now tested over thirty pairs, wearing each at least five times for a range of sports and activities.
It started off as a simple idea, to test a range of active underwear to decide which is best. But both the number of undies being tested and the detail in which I tested them grew way beyond my original plans.
Why conduct an active underwear review?
For many years I have put up with uncomfortable undies. They might be OK for a day sat in the office, and even passable for a walk. But as soon as I got active, sporty or adventurous they would rub, ruck and restrict.
I tried lots of different underwear. Cheap and expensive, own label and designer, brief and boxer, but nothing really worked for me. On a good day I’d get sweaty balls on the way to work, on a bad day chafed inner thigh from walking around a city for the day. When I got active it was even worse.
The turning point was in my thirties when I bought some sport pants from Marks and Spencer. My wife said they looked ridiculous, but having spent a week hiking in Ireland in uncomfortable undies I needed a solution.
They were a shiny silver material that I agree looked rather ridiculous, but I thought if a cloud can have a silver lining so can I. They were stretchy, supportive, wicked away sweat, and became my go to pants for active days.
The three pairs of end-of-line under pants I bought from a M&S outlet store in Belfast cost just £2.50 a pair. They lasted nearly a decade before finally falling apart. I wore each pair at least once a week – by my calculations around 500 times a pair.
I had climbed mountains in them, they had kept my junk comfy on many miles of running, they visited the gym as often as I did, and had regularly been subjected to my daily cycle to work. I’d snowboarded, mountain biked, rock-climbed, hiked and traveled extensively in them.
When the final pair went in the bin I decided to replace my old favourites with new sport underpants, but I was shocked at some of the prices. OK I had got an amazing deal on some end-of-line undies, but brands were charging up to £30 for sport underwear.
So I decided to find the best underpants for sport and adventure. To test a range of undies against each other to find out which was best and whether they are worth splashing out on.
Active underwear review: Criteria
To be included in this test, brands sent me pants they would like testing. Of course I haven’t tested underwear from all brands, or even all the pants a particular brand sells. But I have tested 31 different pairs of pants by 14 different brands, which is more than any other active underwear review I could find.
To make it as fair as possible, prior to wearing any pants for a day I tested all pants against each other for a number or criteria. I did this in front of a mirror (sorry no pics were taken!) to see what was happening and tried to make it as scientific as possible.
I also tested a pair of standard cotton boxer shorts. This was my ‘control’ underwear against which all other pants can be compared. Consider these as standard trunk style boxers, mine were from M&S, but over the years I’d had similar boxers from most major retailers.
I decided to test based on eight criteria which I rated from zero to five for every pair. I also awarded up to five bonus points, if I felt particular pants warranted them. I did the following tests:
Ruck & Bunch test
My biggest underpants problem has always been ruckage and bunching, which has in the past led to very painful inner thighs. Active underpants should stay in place, either gripping your thighs or not having having legs to become rucked, and the gusset should never become bunched between your legs.
To test this I did five squats and then five lunges with each leg. During this I kept an eye on the pant legs and gusset to see if they moved. No movement scored a 5, tiny movement a 4, and so on. So a score of 0 meant some serious ruckage and bunching.
For sport and adventure underwear the support provided is key to keeping your junk under control. Comfy loose pants are great for slobbing around the house in, but a nightmare down the gym.
To start I did five star jumps keeping an eye on movement. If my gear was kept rigidly in place with no movement at all they scored a five, firm with a tiny amount of jig scored a four. This was comparative testing so similar support got the same score.
If undies restrict your movement they are not going to be the best underpants for sport and adventure. I found there is a fine line between support and restriction, some pants hold it all in place amazingly well but as a result feel slightly restrictive.
I tested restriction based on the star jumps, lunges and squats which tested a full range of movement and any restriction meant they dropped points in this active underwear review. So if I felt no restriction they scored a five, a four meant minimal restriction and so on. A zero means they restrict basic things like walking and sitting.
Based on the moment you put on a pair of brand new pants how do they feel. Each pair starts off with five points – which is perfect pants – they then lost points for things that make them less comfortable.
Being able to feel seams, material being less soft, scratchy labels or a waistband cutting in would lose a point. Double points were lost if this aspect made them uncomfortable. So pants scoring under a two were uncomfortable, scoring a four was still comfy but perhaps I could feel a seam or the material was not as soft as others.
All day comfort
Starting with their score for initial comfort I then spent three full days wearing them (with machine washes between) including at least one brisk walk of at least two miles. I then decided if the all day comfort was better, worse or the same as my initial experience.
If better I added points and if worse I took them away. The maximum score of five applied, so if I scored five for initial comfort it meant they were perfect, so at best they can score the same after the all day test.
Next I went out for a run to test their active comfort. My normal route is off road along the cliff tops. Its about 8 kilometres with lots of hills and some steep slippery sections. It takes around an hour and is a great way to test the best underpants for sport and adventure.
As with the initial comfort test, every pair started with a five and dropped points for everything uncomfortable I could feel. Places that rubbed, areas that needed adjusting or were too tight, and whether I found any ruckage, bunching, lack of support etc when running.
Sweaty balls test
A lovely part of this active underwear review was seeing how sweaty my balls felt after the run. This checked how well the underpants wicked moisture away.
I also checked how damp the pants were, as the ideal pants will not only wick moisture away from your body but won’t hold the moisture themselves. So dry balls and pants scored a five, damp nads and wet undies dropped points proportional to wetness.
Built to last
The final test was after they has been worn and washed five times. I repeated the ‘initial comfort’ test and looked at the pants for any sign of wear or going out of shape.
If they were the same quality as when I began they scored a five. Points were dropped for losing softness, going out of shape, bobbling or other signs of wear. After all, the best underpants for sport and adventure need to last.
Some active pants go beyond what I felt was covered during this active underpants review. So for these I have given bonus points. Innovation, natural fibres and eco friendly credentials all got extra points.
Best underpants for sport and adventure
From all of these tests I could work out a total score out of 45 for each pair, to work out the best underpants for sport and adventure.
To complete this active underwear review, I also divided the total score by the price to give points per pound spent. This reflects value for money and was used as the second ranking factor if scores are tied.
Overall, the best underpants for sport and adventure were the Saxx Kinetic Boxer with an impressive 40/45. There were six pants that scored 39/45, from Baw Bags, Jockey, Bjorn Borg (with two pairs), New Balance and by Saxx again. To put it in perspective the lowest score was from the control pants which scored a nine.
Overall all but four pairs scored at least three times higher than the control pair, and even the lowest scoring active underpants scored more than double the control. To me this says it is always worth investing in sport pants as they are much better than standard boxers, even if you are not that active.
Active underwear review: Analysis
The table below shows the full scores across all criteria for every pair of pants. It also includes useful information such as material, price and a link (click on the pant name) to where you can buy them. The table is quite wide, you can scroll right by dragging across the screen, or using the bar at the bottom.
I have also written articles with a detailed write up for every pair from this active underwear review. I have broken these down into articles about boxer shorts, long boxers and briefs. In these article I have given both my opinion of them and the official marketing spiel about each pair.
I will put links to these articles here once I have published them. But for now take a look at the full table ranking all pants in order of best underpants for sport and adventure first.
Either use the bar at the bottom to scroll right, or you can drag across the table to see more columns of data to the right.