Running Tights for Men – To Cover or Not to Cover

Running Tights Instagram1

A couple of weeks ago I bought new running tights – Under Armour Extreme Coldgear Infrared, to be precise. I shared a selfie on Facebook and Instagram, and on Facebook got a rather snarky reply … which was a reminder that for women tights / yoga pants / leggings are a staple and running tights are pretty much standard issue for female runners, but when it comes to men the subject of running tights is often viewed as TMI. If you share that opinion, you might as well leave now – I’ll be talking about men, running tights, ‘man parts’ and everything involved with men wearing running tights!

Note: as we start the 2014/15 winter I have written about what to wear under tights in a post on Runderwear!

Last month at RunBlogger Pete brought up the (seemingly) age-old debate: if you wear running tights, should you wear shorts over them? It spurred a lively debate, but ultimately for me it came down to three things – temperature, wind and modesty. Let me take those apart for a second:

1. Wind

The original reason for the post at Runblogger was that Pete was out running on a cold and windy day and found that his running tights did an insufficient job of ‘protecting his man parts’.

Well, I started this draft actually the week before after coming back from one of the LEAST pleasant runs since I ‘got my groove’ in April 2012. The reason? Temperature was around 20F, but the wind was nasty and frigid, and well … ‘man part discomfort’. Ugh, sorry.

OK, TMI alert again … The bottom line is that a large number of men wearing running tights don’t wear anything underneath, and that most running tights do an inadequate job of providing wind protection.

I have said it again and again – wind chill is a royal pain and I find it much worse than cold temperature. So as much as anything this year I have really focused my clothing choices on what the winds are like as much as the temperature.

2. Temperature

I used to have a motto – when below 20F in the mornings I would put on running pants over tights. This year when I did that I really didn’t like the feel – I found it was bogging me down considerably, but not in a ‘harder to run through snow’ sort of way. It was just bulky.

But the question remains – how do you handle layering when it gets colder? At a certain point you need to pretty much throw everything at the problem! But like you top layer, on the bottom you start at shorts, go to tights, then to your heaviest layers. In between, shorts over tights give coverage and help with wind blockage as well.

3. Modesty

Here’s the thing – as noted many runners don’t wear anything under tights. And tights themselves can be a bit … um, revealing. So – for some runners wearing shorts on top has absolutely nothing to do with warmth or comfort and everything to do with coverage. In his post Pete mentions running through the college as one of those times, and I understand that.

Some runners feel that we have earned this body so who really cares, and if someone is going to look … so be it. Some people get downright incensed about others wearing shorts over tights. Personally I think that whatever works for you, go for it. When I tried it, Lisa told me I looked dorky with shorts over tights – and that is the only opinion I need. πŸ™‚

My Solution

As I noted before, my first run in tights was just after Christmas 2012, and it was quite a leap outside of my comfort zone to even wear them. But they were INCREDIBLY comfortable, much lighter and easier to run in than running pants, so I was quickly hooked. As mentioned, throughout 2013 I ran with pants over tights when temperatures got too cold, and kept warm as a result.

Warm Morning Run 12-135

After that one fateful ‘freezer burn’ run (sorry again!), I knew I had to do SOMETHING … and I realized that had a great pair of Under Armour compression shorts I had worn to run the PA Grand Canyon Marathon … so I put those on UNDER the tights!

Hooray – it was perfect!

Suddenly I had that ‘in between’ option that could take me beyond the normal range of the tights. And when I got the Under Armour Extreme Coldgear Infrared tights, I had yet another level. But for -20F wind chills or -15 air temperatures? Then I needed more.

So when I talk about my layering strategy for the bottoms at -15, it comes down to compression socks, Under Armour shorts and Extreme Coldgear Infrared tights. And that is it. Nothing else – and I have yet to feel cold anywhere but my hands!

What do you think about men in running tights? And for men – what is your strategy? Have you struggled with wind and cold?

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48 thoughts on “Running Tights for Men – To Cover or Not to Cover

  1. I like men in running tights! No shorts please.
    Same for women, can’t stand to see a woman running in tights and have a short over them, like they are embarrassed of the fact that it shows the shape of their butt or whatever….
    Running clothes have to be comfortable and functional, if they look good even better, but I’m not taking extra measures to make them look good / cover what doesn’t look good.
    Unless it’s for cold related reasons, tights alone are OK. And in that case (cold weather) I guess pants would be the choice to wear over tights, and not shorts which hardly provide extra protection.

  2. Tights for ladies = good. Tights for men… you better have a rockin’ body. I agree with you – TMI. I wish they’d bring back the semi-fitted pants, tapered at the bottom, loose around the bottom, fitted through the thighs. But I can’t seem to find them anymore…

    • Times are changing!! Equal Rights go both ways. It is not always about S____ appearance! But just ones own comfort and pleases in exercising choice. You “may” have a Hot Bod! But you mind set is very prejudice and sad! Catch Up, Lady!!!

  3. I have a similar debate with myself in the opposite direction-summertime running. I don’t have the best abs in the universe, but sometimes it’s hot enough when I run that wearing just a sports bra and shorts is the best option. The shirt’s just there to cover me or get really sweaty, and why add to my laundry? I feel pretty self conscious in that getup, but usually people only see me for a few seconds and don’t remember my face anyway, so I got over it pretty quick.

  4. My husband always wears running tights especially in the winter. I think it all depends on what type of tight you are wearing. Some are better than others – I have found that Brooks, Mizuno and some of the other running brands have really good mens running tights. Most of his friends wear them as well so I think they are OK for guys as long as you pick the ones made for running.

    To Laura’s point, I think it is a lot like the “should women run in just a sports bra.” I too run when it is REALLY hot in just a sports bra because it feels SO much better – hey men run without shirts all the time! I also am very self conscious when I do it but after I get going it is so worth it.

    My thing is – wear what you feel comfortable in! If others don’t like it well that is there problem πŸ™‚

    • Definitely agree, Sara – and for subzero I HIGHLY recommend the Under Armour Extreme Coldgear Infrared. It is amazing how comfortable I am with a single layer over my knees and barely more over my entire lower half.

      Perhaps not surprisingly based on my history, I don’t run without a shirt on. Heck, I don’t walk around the house without a shirt on. I’m not even sure if there are pictures of me older than 10 without a shirt on!

      But your point is completely correct – do what works best for you! πŸ™‚

  5. I have been running with compression shorts under tights for several years. It serves the purpose of protecting things from wind chills and providing a bit more modesty, along with protection from chaffing, which happens in running with out compression shorts for me. I have two styles of tights, one heavy duty winter pair, that work in pretty much all temps and then the racing tights or ones I wear when it is in the 20-40’s.

    For a while I wore short over the top for modesty and then decided, what is the big deal and why bother with the extra laundry. Now I just use compression under my running tights. Works for me and it seems to work for you :-).

  6. So, I am a gal, but I think the men in tights debate is simply ridiculous! If TNT is more comfortable, wear them! I much prefer that, as a matter of taste, too shorts that are too short on either sex!

  7. I realized I should clarify my comment – I completely understand why someone would debate wearing running tights – but making a comment because someone else did. That is ridiculous! πŸ™‚

    • Exactly – it is too easy to hop on the judgmental train πŸ˜‰ Funny with the shorts – I grew up in the ‘Larry Bird Era’ of basketball and you look at those guys now, and realize what we ALL wore for ‘gym shorts’ back then. Not pretty! I do have a couple of 5″ pairs for summer runs, but the 3″ splits … I am already self-conscious enough about my post-weight extra skin …

  8. Short version of the story: IMO to each his own. Cover up, compress to invisibility, show it to the whole world. We’re athletes, do what works for you.

    For my own experience, this is the first winter I took running seriously, and therefore invested in some tights. When I first got them I was both intrigued and appalled at my reflection in the mirror. After some pondering, I came to the conclusion that this is a functional garment, not a fashion statement.

    I tried some runs with shorts over the top of the tights, it just didn’t feel right so I gave that up.

    After a few months of experimentation, I ended up with compression shorts as the base layer, for comfort and function, independent of appearance. I just like the way it feels better. None of my tights feel right (front and back) without something underneath to organize how everything aligns.

    When I run down busy streets in the city, I certainly get a fair share of awkward looks, but I really don’t give a hoot, I’m working out! Don’t like it, don’t look at it.

    • I figure the only feedback that really matters is from my wife – and she tells me I look ‘hot’ (and my kids say ‘eww … get a room’) … good enough for me! πŸ™‚

    • Thank So Very My Wise Lady. I love wearing my leggings year round. I do wear large sweatshirts or tee shirts for decency! But, i just the love the comfort of wearing my leggings for comfort and pleasure. Plus, I hate the cutting feelings of blue jeans! Dang! Thank You for you for wise words. You have restored my faith.

  9. So I’ve been running for months now, but this is the first time I’m running in cold weather. I just bought an Asics tight and I tried wearing shorts, but it didn’t feel right. Not wearing anything is too out there for me and also I often stop by at someplace to eat or buy something. And wearing my own undies would reveal the shape. So last option: compression shorts underneath? Is it comfortable for you guys? If yes, I might buy a pair or two at a sample sale nearby. Thanks.

    • I definitely think that going with some athletic compression underwear is the way to go. I saw some at Target last week for a good price and need to pick some up for this winter.

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  11. I have wondered the same thing. I wear white compression shorts for running. They are so comfortable. I hate the loo though of wearing shorts over top. The compression shorts aren’t really revealing. I mean, you can tell there is a “bulge” after all I am a guy. To prevent any specific revealing I started wearing thong underwear. That way you can’t see the panty lines like wearing bikini type briefs and it provides a layer in the front. Personally, I dress so that I am comfortable running. There are a lot of people who wear a lot less than I do. Gives thongs a try. They are really rather comfortable. After wearing them to run in, I liked them so much, that I started making them a regular addition to my underwear rotation. In fact, I liked them so much that I only wear bikini briefs and thongs. I completely got rid of boxers, which are so uncomfortable. Anyway, try thongs under your compression shorts. (And no one can really ever tell if you are wearing a thong.)

    • Thanks for that Scott! I have been wearing compression shorts under tights this winter and it has been perfect for me. I have never been comfortable with a thong, but definitely think it is worth trying for people … and something I never considered! Thanks for the suggestion!

      • This post is pretty old now, but it’s getting cold again and there’s not alot of good suggestions from other runners on this. I’m intrigued by this option, and I’m not “freaked out” by the prospect of wearing a thong for exercise. If it’s helpful, it’s helpful, and I’m comfortable enough with my “manliness” to not worry about what my underwear ‘says’ about me. Compression tights generally don’t support, and in my experience neither do athletic compression underwear – they just flatten, which still leads to awkward rubbing and moving around. I can see why a thong would be more similar to briefs or a jock, but without the lines.

        All that being said, do you have recommendations for what kind/brand to get? I’ve never seen this as an option at any running store, and I’m guessing it’s not a mainstream enough choice to start asking around without getting some serious looks. I’d assume something with more of a spandex-y type material, rather than the awkward-looking cotton things I’ve seen at department stores. I can’t imagine those would be comfortable for any reason, much less for running!

    • I use the compression shorts under and always have. Great support, but I still have a sizable bulge. Not as much of an issue when running outside ( I am usually on a trail or subdivision, so I am not running past hoards of people). The problem lies in the days I do an upper body workout at the gym and then want to go run a few miles afterward outside in the winter. I have always had this attitude that is doesn’t matter, and my wife tells me occasionally that it is obscene and I should wear a pair of shorts- as in running shorts with a liner. So I have done the compression short/tights/liner/running short as a layer. Awkward to say the least. The other option is to wear a longer pullover, although that is a problem as I am 6’6″, so finding longer pullovers is difficult. Thoughts?

      • In warmer weather I have lined shorts I use … and when it is colder I wear the heavy running tights that are looser at the waist area. But it is the in-between that I wear lighter (tighter fitting) tights that things are more ‘bulge-ish’. I tend to use my discretion, but ultimately decide “I don’t care”. Similar to that I don’t see a problem with women wearing running tank/bra in hot summer, nor do I have an issue with compression shorts for men. I am out for a run, have everything covered … and that is pretty much it.

        So there is really no ‘right answer’ … just what you feel comfortable with.

  12. I started wearing running tights a few montos ago and now wonder why I didn’t start sooner.

    I usually wear compression shorts under because I like the support, not for modesty reasons. Yeah, the bulge will always be there but a shirt covers it and, as long as you aren’t wearing them shopping or out to eat, no one should care.

    Running, for me is about wearing whatever the runner feels improves their performance and makes them comfortable.

    I went on a business trip a few weeks ago, forgot to pack shorts, and had to endure the hotel gym in running tights. There were a few people in there and absolutely no one seemed to care one bit. Proof, I think, that this is less of an issue than many people think.

    • Absolutely agree! I feel like the stigma is quickly fading – I have noticed a shift in what people wear and think these past few years, and I think now it is more a matter of guys feeling comfortable themselves.

      I also like the support of compression shorts underneath and now wear them all the time! Thanks for the comment!

    • yep-I feel the same way-I don’t have a problem with DD chested women running and expect them all to wear sweatshirts or 3 compression sports bras and I don’t expect men who are “XL” to only wear basketball shorts with multiple layers of compression for running. I would say joggers, but those generally do not make the bulge any less noticeable. This blog reaffirms that thought as I was always curious if anyone really was bothered by it. I think social norms are changing and when working out in the gym recently after a run, it seemed a non issue.

  13. I’m 5’5 135 lbs. fairly well built. I wear men’s and women’s tights,Commando style. Womens to me fit better because of my small stature. I do not where shorts over them. I think it looks stupid. I do feel a little modest but who cares. They are comfortable. The people that don’t like it are the ones that should be out running and working out.

    • True – and a great attitude! I couldn’t imagine wearing something over my tights – like compression shorts underneath but nothing over! And truly, I think like with so many things we need to remember that we’re fully and appropriately covered, and the ones making a big deal are the ones with the problem, just like you say!

  14. I wear compression tights quite often. I do not wear underwear with them. Whether I’m running, walking, or just going to the market. I use to worry about what people thought. That was so lame. Now I get a lot of compliments from men and women with very few negative looks. I learned to have confidence and not worry about what others think.

    • Really not worth worrying so much – I worried about it as well, and ultimately it just doesn’t matter. Confidence is so important, glad you have been able to gain it and stop putting so much power in the hands of others!

    • I wear compression tights without underwear all the time. Day or night, marketing or shopping, running or swimming and at home or in public. nothing to worry

  15. Curious if there are actually physical training benefits to running tights for men, (compression?) – I just don’t get the advantage or benefit aside from “warmth” – seems to me it is just an excuse for men to rub their junk inside some lycra tights in a desperate bid to feel like Olivia Newton John getting physical in public. Gym shorts and Chuck Taylors were all I needed back in High School. I ran just fine without the metrosexual accoutrement i.e, fetish gear in public.

  16. This post is a couple of years old now. But anyway, I started wearing leggings a few months ago. Some people consider them tights, but anyway I discovered a few things about them and myself once I started wearing them. One thing is they were very comfortable, so I started wearing them more reguarly. But second, and this might be a little strange coming from a guy, but I think women prefer me in leggings over regular pants. I think I discovered that I have the kind of legs that look good in leggings. I know that might be a bit strange, but I’ve seen a change in how women interact with me while I’m in leggings. More giddy at times comes to mind. I also tend to see women looking at my legs often these days. That never happened when I was wearning shorts. I also notice that some women will mention something like was I exercising when they first interact with me. I could very well have been exercising in shorts, but that never came up. When I was in leggings though, they want to talk about what I’m wearing.

    On top of that, I’ve had one girl tell me that she loved my tights when I wore them to a school function for an exorcise day. What that told me was a young person, who is unfiltered still, will say what’s on her mind. But adult women will be more discreet and won’t generally say they like what you’re wearing. They prefer just to look or bring it up by asking about exercise.

    Another thing I’ve noticed is my wife doesn’t give me a hard time about what I wear as much anymore. She used to think my clothes were too baggy and teased me that I looked fat. That isn’t happening anymore.

    So what I’ve discovered is guys can wear leggings as pants too. The women I’ve come across seem to like it and I get affirmation about it. Mostly in subtle ways, but I think what that student said pretty much summed up what I suspected for awhile now. In my case, women prefer me in tights/leggings. It’s 2016 now, so I guess things are changing. And for me that means wearing leggings. I do wear a shirt long enough to cover my front in case you were wondering. But women seem to want me in tights.

    It was kind of weird at first, because generally only women were wearing them as pants and guys for exorcise. But more and more guys are wearing them these days. Mostly under shorts. I think of that as being redundant. So I just wear them alone. But I’ve been wearing leggings frequently for several months now. And if it were up to the ladies I know, I would be in them all the time.

  17. I find all the chatter on the web fascinating. As a younger man back 25 years ago I wore either full split shorts, short tights or full length tights (tights with just microbriefs beneath as compression shorts had yet to be invented/popularized – this was in the days before the internet).

    We just wore them.

    Now, as I get back into the sport and growing tired of my longer running shorts sneaking up between my thighs, I discover this this world-wide conversation on how to wear tights and that no one wears full splits any more.

    Once – long ago – no one cared and we wore what was comfortable. What happened?

    Thanks for the good read.

  18. Now that it has been a colder winter in California I wear tights everyday to run. Seems like everyone is wearing tights nowadays. They are comfortable. I wear them even to do errands. Wear them if you feel like it. Who cares what people think.

  19. I just Don’t care.
    It depends on the weather.
    I will wear spandex Lycra shorts, or the athletic tights.
    At 5′”6 and 170 lbs on the stocky side, life is too short to worry what others think.

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