While they’re responsible for preventing millions of STIs and pregnancies, there are plenty of reasons to find condoms frustrating. From their rubbery smell to their effect on the environment, they’re admittedly imperfect, but still, by far the most common complaint about them is that they dampen sensations.
Because of this, condoms can affect how close you’re able to feel with your partner. If the ones you use are too thick to allow for good “heat transfer,” it can feel like you’re having sex with a rubber tube (because, well, you sort of are). And if you don’t use enough lube, they can cause painful friction for everyone involved. For some people, this can lead to issues like delayed ejaculation, unreliable boners or downstairs irritation.
Let’s be clear, though: This isn’t a valid excuse to go without one, since pregnancy and STIs don’t magically become less of a risk just because you want sex to feel better. That said, sex can still feel good with the right condom, and there are plenty of thin, well-fitting and even sensation-enhancing options on the market. Some would even say they’re — gasp — pleasurable.
What Makes Some Condoms Feel Like You’re Wearing Nothing at All?
Thickness: This is the most important consideration if you’re hoping to feel as much as possible through the condom. Standard condoms are usually around 0.07 millimeters thick, while those marketed as “ultra-sensitive” or “ultra-thin” usually trend closer to 0.05 millimeters, or sometimes even thinner.
Fit: You’re not going to be able to feel much if your condom is so tight that it’s constricting your junk, or if it’s so loose that it’s sliding around distractingly. Fit issues are also safety issues, because they make it likelier that your condom might break or slip off mid-bang — which is obviously not ideal. Condom retailer Lucky Bloke has a helpful “Find Your Size” page that’ll give you an idea of what to look for, but keep in mind that condom sizes aren’t standardized, so you’re better off paying attention to condoms’ actual listed dimensions than to any marketing language on the box.
Material: While most condoms are made of latex, some are made of other materials, such as polyisoprene and polyurethane. These offer better heat transfer than latex, can be made thinner than latex and are (of course) a must-have if you or your partner has a latex sensitivity. However, non-latex options tend to be more expensive than standard condoms, and polyurethane in particular is more prone to slipping or breaking than latex, so it may not be the best pick for everybody.
Lube: Here’s a piece of advice that applies to condom usage as well as sex in general — when in doubt, add lube. It makes everything slipperier, smoother and just better. Most condoms come pre-lubricated with silicone lube, but in such small amounts that it doesn’t make much of a difference. Add a drop or two of water-based or silicone-based lube to the inside of your condom before putting it on — this will allow it to move back and forth slightly against your skin during use in a much more pleasurable way than when dry latex is scraping across your dick (throw some more on the outside for the sake of your partner, too). Lube also reduces the chances of a condom breaking, but make sure to avoid oil-based lubes, because they can compromise the material of most condoms (the exception being those made of polyurethane).
Shape: Condoms are generally shaped like a uniform tube with a little reservoir tip at the end. That classic design has worked just fine for decades, but there are other options that can feel more pleasurable. Some, for example, have extra room near the head that allows the excess latex to slide against your skin pleasurably with each thrust.
Now, let’s look at some of the best condoms for feeling…
Best-Feeling Ultrathin Condom: Okamoto 004
Size: Medium (190 millimeters long by 54 millimeters wide)
What the People Say: “Definitely one to try, epecially if you are used to Trojans. You will never go back. The sensitivity is unmatched.”
What We Say: Japanese companies like Okamoto are known for making some of the strongest and thinnest condoms in the world. They have an average length and girth, but their material is super-thin at just 0.04 millimeters. Okamoto says these latex condoms feel like “almost nothing,” and reviewers tend to agree. They’re an all-around great choice if you’re hoping to feel like Ned Flanders: like you’re wearing nothing at all.
Best-Feeling Large Condom: Kimono Microthin XL
Size: Large (193 millimeters long by 56-63 millimeters wide)
What the People Say: “Pretty much everything I want in a condom and nothing I don’t. Good fit, nice and thin, not much odor and has adequate lube. Nice.”
What We Say: Reviewers consistently rave about these online, and it’s easy to see why: They’re some of the thinnest large-size condoms out there, at just 0.055 millimeters thick. And while they’re made of latex, they also tend to have less of that boner-killingly intense smell and taste. They also have a longer shaft (about 193 millimeters) and roomier head than standard condoms, so if the ones you’ve used in the past have felt too tight, try these instead.
Best-Feeling Small Condom: Beyond Seven Sheerlon
Material: Sheerlon latex
Size: Small-to-medium (185 millimeters long by 50 millimeters wide)
What the People Say: “Been having some trouble finding condoms that fit me well and that are sensitive, and this was the best!”
What We Say: These are made of “sheerlon,” a latex compound that can be stretched thinner than regular latex without compromising on safety. Sheerlon has a smoother, silkier feel than normal latex; many online reviewers have noted that it’s the most natural-feeling condom they’ve tried. At 50 millimeters wide, they’re narrower than an average condom, so they’re great for folks who need a snugger fit. Their pale blue color makes them look a bit odd during use, but hey, a blue dick’s gotta be better than blue balls, right?
Best-Feeling Stimulating Condom: ONE Pleasure Plus
Size: Medium (191 millimeters long by 53 millimeters wide at the base)
What the People Say: “Best condom I have ever used. I can actually feel something with these.”
What We Say: This oddly shaped condom has an extra “pouch” of latex on its underside near the tip, which — when properly lubricated — creates gentle, pleasurable friction against the most sensitive part of your penis as you thrust. (The extra head room also makes it potentially more comfortable than standard condoms if you’re uncircumcised.) My partner said it felt like someone was licking their frenulum while we had sex, which sounds pretty awesome. It can feel odd for the partner being penetrated, though, especially if it’s insufficiently lubed, and it only comes in one size, so outliers are out of luck.
Best-Feeling Non-Latex Condom: Lifestyles Skyn
Size: Medium (190 millimeters long by 53 millimeters wide)
What the People Say: “While the shape and texture were pretty standard, the condom felt thin and almost non-existent. Great job! Also, the amount of lubrication was fantastic and didn’t wear off halfway through intercourse.”
What We Say: These condoms’ slogan is “Feel everything,” and they do a good job living up to that promise. They’re made of polyisoprene, which is softer than latex and has better heat transfer, for a more natural sensation. It’s a fantastic material for people with latex sensitivities, but you may want to give these a shot even if you aren’t allergic to latex, to check whether they feel better for you than standard condoms as they’re particularly glide-y and soft-feeling. Their average size should fit a majority of users well.
Best-Feeling Large Non-Latex Condom: Lifestyles Skyn Elite Large
Size: Large (200 millimeters long by 56 millimeters wide)
What the People Say: “The material is very thin and comfortable. Super soft… The material really becomes almost a second skin, and I would say it becomes a borderline sex toy for me.”
What We Say: Like the regular Skyns, this well-reviewed condom is made of ultra-sensitive polyisoprene, but is longer and wider than their standard model, at 200 millimeters long and 56 wide. They’re one of the best and most easily accessible options for folks with larger penises who are dealing with a latex sensitivity, or just want to try something different.
Best-Feeling Small Non-Latex Condom: Unique SecureFit
Material: Polyethylene resin
Size: Small (160 millimeters long by 49 millimeters wide)
What the People Say: “A sensitive condom. Felt pretty good. It was definitely a different style. Kind of felt like cling wrap. The lube was pretty good as well. Definitely a pretty good product. It will take some getting used to, but I liked it.”
What We Say: The options for latex-averse people on the smaller side of the spectrum are unfortunately very limited, but at least there’s these. Their brand name is Unique Condoms, and they’re indeed pretty unique: They’re made of polyethylene, which is very thin and has great heat transfer but can feel a bit “crinkly” (I know, that’s not a word you want to encounter in a condom review, but it’s true). They’re also meant to be applied to a dry penis so the material can adhere correctly, which can be a little awkward, given that sex is not usually the driest of activities. But these condoms are just 0.015 millimeters thin, and will fit smaller penises better than any standard condom, so its issues are forgivable if you need the features it offers.
Best-Feeling Easy-to-Find Condom: Trojan Bareskin
Size: Medium (190 millimeters long by 52-54 millimeters wide)
What the People Say: “My partner commented that it was one of the better ones he has used, in regards to sensation. We also had to check twice to make sure it was still there!”
What We Say: Trojans can be found in way more drugstores, grocery stores and vending machines than specialty brands — and since condoms are one of those products that you need fast when you need ‘em, it’s good to know which easily accessible ones are worth grabbing. The latex Bareskins are the thinnest condoms Trojan makes, at just 0.046 millimeters. You can get them in a standard size or in a roomier “Magnum” size, which is about 15 millimeters longer and 6 millimeters wider. Maybe toss a box in your cart the next time you’re shopping for shampoo or cereal — you never know where the night might take you.
Best-Feeling Flavored Condom: Glyde Natural Flavor
Size: Medium (190 millimeters long by 53 millimeters wide)
What the People Say: “It was very subtle vanilla. I liked it a lot. My husband certainly did too, but maybe not for the same reasons!”
What We Say: Flavored condoms aren’t the most practical choice for vaginal or anal sex, because a) the sweeteners can cause irritation in those areas; and b) last I checked, those orifices don’t have taste buds. But they’re a thoughtful pick if you plan on receiving oral sex with a condom on for STI prevention purposes. These vanilla-flavored ones are relatively thin, at 0.06 millimeters, so you can have your cake and eat it too.
Best-Feeling Vegan Condom: Glyde Ultra Thin Condoms
Size: Medium (190 millimeters long by 53 millimeters wide)
What the people say: “Surprisingly, our sex was consistently better with the Glyde condoms: They stayed lubed longer, we both came more and they just feel more luxurious and connected. In my sexual history, I have had more sex without condoms than with condoms, and these have a closeness that I really like.”
What We Say: Most condom companies use a dairy protein called casein as part of their latex manufacturing process, so it can be hard to find vegan-friendly latex options. But Glyde uses a plant extract instead of casein, and offers a larger size and a smaller size in addition to their medium-sized model, so vegans can finally buy condoms that fit not only their dicks but also their ethics.