Best period pants and activewear for runners UK 2023


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Jul 29, 2023

Best period pants and activewear for runners UK 2023

We earn a commission for products purchased through some links in this article. Help tackle period pollution with our workout-proof sustainable picks Many of us are making the switch to period pants

We earn a commission for products purchased through some links in this article.

Help tackle period pollution with our workout-proof sustainable picks

Many of us are making the switch to period pants and it’s hardly surprising. They’re comfy, convenient, kinder to the planet and will save you pennies in the long run – what's not to love?

Period activewear – leggings and shorts with built-in protection – are also having a moment. Like the best period pants, they’re designed to absorb and hold menstrual blood to prevent leaking, so you can focus on your performance and keep moving throughout your cycle. Given that one in two teenage girls drop out of sports because of their period, and three out of five skip sports due to fear of period leakage, these new-gen garments are a welcome addition to the menstrual market. The big question, though: do they actually work? To help you make the switch from single-use sanitary pads to these eco-friendly alternatives, our Runner’s World Lab experts put the best period pants and activewear for runners to the test. Scroll on for in-depth reviews of our favourites, plus everything you need to know about leak-proof products. In a hurry? Here are our top picks at a glance:

Period pants look just like regular knickers and come in a variety of styles, from thongs to full briefs. They’re made from an absorbent, moisture-wicking material that holds between one to five tampons’ worth of blood, depending on the brand. They can be worn as extra protection alongside sanitary products or on their own.

The best period leggings and shorts are equally discreet, with no obvious bulk around the groin. They’re made from seamless, sweat-wicking fabric and have integrated period pants, or a super-absorbent gusset, to hold and absorb blood as well as neutralise odours.

They’re also capable of holding between one to five tampons’ worth of blood, so some styles can be worn without the need for any protection (we tested these thoroughly), while others should be worn with sanitary pads or tampons.

Short answer: yes. Of course, if period workouts represent a form of self-torture on a par with checking work emails from your sun lounger, it’s best to listen to your body. But, if you can summon the energy, you should feel the benefits.

‘It can be tempting to take time off from your exercise routine, but gentle exercise can actually help ease period pain, says Claire Nevinson, superintendent pharmacist for Boots UK.

‘Studies suggest that regular exercise reduces the amount of prostaglandin (the hormone responsible for inflammation and cramps) in the lining of the womb,’ she continues. ‘Aerobic exercise such as running and cycling produces endorphins that block pain reception and reduce the sensation of cramps.’

Ultimately, it’s about figuring out what types of exercise work for you at different stages of your cycle. ‘If you want to go on a run, it may be a good idea to keep it lower intensity during menstruation,’ she suggests.

As your period comes to an end, your oestrogen levels rise during the late follicular phase, so you’re likely to have higher energy levels and may feel more energised to work out, so this could be the perfect time to schedule tempo sessions and long runs.

If you’re concerned about your periods, Nevinson advises consulting your pharmacist or GP.

Reusable sanitary products are more expensive than normal pants because the additional layers of breathable, leak-proof fabric add to the cost of production.

But while the upfront costs are steeper (a pair of period pants will set you back around £30) than pads, tampons and cups, you can actually make some serious long-term savings by making the switch, with the average woman spending roughly £128 per year on period care

Plus, if cared for properly, period pants can last for up to five years.

It couldn’t be simpler. After rinsing under the cold tab, most items can be added to your usual dark wash on a 30℃ to 40℃ cycle. Some brands recommend putting them on a cold cycle instead though, so check the label first.

Steer clear of fabric softener as this can affect the absorbency of the product over time. We’d also recommend popping them in a delicates bag to keep them in tip-top condition. Let them air dry before using them again.

We recruited a panel of 350 women and people who menstruate to try a range of different sizes over the course of their period. They rated each product for comfort, softness, breathability and, crucially, the ability to prevent leakage. They also noted whether they felt restrictive during workouts and how easy they were to look after.

Back in the RW Lab, our experts measured how much liquid each pair of pants could hold and timed how long it took for the fluid to be fully absorbed. We also put them in the washing machine to check for shrinkage.

Our trusty panel of testers set aside their usual running attire and tried a selection of period-proof shorts and leggings during their time of the month.

They judged each product based on its overall design, comfort and performance, noting how easy they were to get on and off, how comfortable the material felt when sweaty and how well they protected against leaks. They also fed back on harder-to-measure metrics such as how free they felt while wearing them and how easy they were to wash.

Our RW Lab team assessed absorbency speed and measured surface wetness and noted if any shrinkage occurred after washing.

Our winning design aced the lab test when it came to absorbing liquid and drying quickly, without causing any irritation and with no unwanted odours.

There were no tell-tale VPLs in sight either, with one tester raving that they were ‘as seamless as regular underwear’. Straightforward to wash, they won testers over with how comfy and soft they were to wear, even during exercise.

Voted best on test for staying put during exercise, these stretchy briefs didn’t get in the way of anyone’s running routines and allowed them to stay active.

They provided a close fit for all – with no VPLs while wearing leggings – and lived up to their leak-proof claims for the majority. We’re sold.

We found these seamless period pants comfortable, breathable and ideal for those super bloated days. Their snug fit made them feel secure, even when running, and the sustainably sourced fabric felt just like normal underwear. In fact, some claimed they were more comfortable than a standard pair of knickers and others said they’d happily forgo tampons for these soft, stretchy pants.

Nobody experienced any leakage, but note that they did come up small, so we’d recommend sizing up for the best fit. They come in nine sizes and feel well priced for such great absorbency.

For those who want a bit more security, these briefs can hold up to five tampons’ worth of blood – keeping you protected for longer.

They were a top scorer in our lab test for absorption and pleased all testers with how soft and stretchy they felt – no mean feat considering they’re made from 90% sustainably sourced materials.

This female-founded brand is all about banishing period stigma with its high-quality plastic-free products, and we’re big fans. Not only do they look great (it’s hard to believe they’re designed for your period), but they were also totally leak-proof and successfully prevented unwanted odours for the majority of our panel.

Comfort-wise, we loved how snuggly and soft they felt, and they were extra breathable – making them a top choice to wear during sweaty workouts.

It was hard to find fault with these pants from Nora, a brand renowned for its reusable period products. They claim to hold up to seven times more blood than a standard tampon (!) and sure enough, during our lab tests, we found the material was ‘very effective’ at absorbing liquids.

Our panel was particularly impressed with how discreet these pants were, saying you could barely notice them under even tight-fitting jeans. Despite the snug fit, they were extremely comfortable, and the stretchy fabric was ideal for bloated days.

If we had to find fault, the instructions were a little confusing, but it didn’t take long to become familiar with using the pants.

Looking for a reliable pair of pants to wear overnight? Let us introduce you to these Modibodi briefs. They allowed testers to sleep soundly, confident they were protected from leaks. The breathable fabric also prevented them getting sweaty and uncomfortable, and they loved the soft feel against their skin.

Some with heavier periods would have liked a bit more coverage at the front, so these are best suited for those with a moderate flow.

The second Bodyform entry in this round-up, these pretty pants put in an impressive performance during our tests. They did an incredible job of preventing leakage and there was no shrinkage after multiple washes.

They also scored top marks for their chic high-waist design, with testers commenting that they made them feel as though they could ‘still wear attractive pants’ during their period. Many said they’d continue wearing them after the trial and would recommend them to friends.

These quality running shorts from the OGs at Modibodi earned the top spot with our testing panel. Thanks to the super absorbent lining and sweat-wicking fabric, they held their own during the sweatiest of workouts, even on heavy flow days. No leaks or stains were reported, allowing our runners to focus on their performance.

The sporty style was also a big hit among panellists, who raved about how comfortable they were to wear during exercise and when lazing around the house. The tie at the waist was handy for adjusting the fit and the addition of a hidden zipped pocket at the back was very welcome.

Washing them was a doddle, and they looked as good as new after multiple cycles in the machine. Some would have preferred the absorbent lining to be slightly longer for more security during lying down exercises and a few testers found them a tad too short, but that’s down to personal preference.

If you tend to swap running for yoga during your time of the month, these silky soft Wuka leggings are for you. Testers lavished praise on the flattering, figure-hugging fit, saying they felt cosy, comfortable and weren’t in any way see-through – exactly what you want when you’re on your period. ’They gave me massive confidence during my Pilates classes,’ said one tester.

When wearing them for more dynamic forms of exercise, testers found the built-in pants required regular readjusting and said they became noticeably wet when soaked through with sweat. So, if you like to keep up the intensity during your period, look elsewhere, but for more gentle activities and lounging around, these are a pleasure to wear.

One of the first big brands to start producing period activewear, these quality Adidas leggings went down a treat with our panel. They’re intended to be worn with a tampon, pad or cup for an additional layer of security and according to our testers, they did an excellent job.

They can handle all manner of workouts, from hill sprints to HIIT, thanks to the sweat-wicking fabric and secure waistband. Despite the compressive material, testers were able to move freely and said the leggings didn’t feel too tight or uncomfortable mid-workout. The built-in pants didn’t create a VPL (the smooth outline was practically invisible) and gave everyone the confidence to focus on their training, instead of stressing about leaking, odours or visible pads.

There’s a power-mesh pocket so you can stash your valuables while running and, as a bonus, they’re made from 85% recycled materials. Some would have preferred a higher level of absorbency, but they acknowledged this would have resulted in bulkier pants.

All in all, an excellent all-rounder for that extra bit of invisible assurance.

Another Adidas style, these classic bike shorts aren’t intended to be a substitute for a pad, tampon or cup, but they add an extra layer of protection via a set of absorbent layers and a leak-proof membrane. The wide waistband and high-rise fit provide extra coverage, offering total peace of mind during your time of the month.

They earned a resounding thumbs-up from our testers, who loved the ‘luxurious’ fabric and ‘super flattering’ fit. Everyone agreed the shorts were the perfect length and said there was no uncomfortable bulk, so they could lunge, squat and run without a care in the world. When exercising, the moisture-wicking material proved light and comfy, and they felt constantly supported thanks to the thick waistband. A few testers found it a bit too compressive, so we’d recommend sizing up if this is a concern. With no pocket, our panel missed having somewhere to store their keys and phone when on move, but that’s our only major niggle.

Maria is our Beauty and Grooming Testing Manager, and since joining in mid-2022, she has managed the testing for over 20 categories including scalp scrubs, collagen supplements and retinol serums. In addition to her master's degree in chemical engineering and a diploma in cosmetic science, she recently received her MBA from the London College of Fashion, focusing on case studies within the beauty industry.

Prior to joining the company, she worked within the global technical team at the Estee Lauder Companies for over six years, collaborating with the chemists and engineers to launch luxury beauty products at scale and to quality.

Orla is our Senior Beauty and Grooming Tester and has extensive knowledge of skin and hair composition thanks to her bachelor's degree in cosmetic science. Orla uses her years of product testing experience, market research and technical lab skills to put a wide variety of products to the test. In the past year Orla has tested more than 147 beauty products, including all the latest innovations to launch within the market.

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How doIs it okay to run during your period? Why are period pants so expensive? How to wash period pants and activewear How we testPeriod pantsPeriod activewear