Running shorts are a seemingly trivial part of any runner’s attire yet their importance should not be mistaken. Running shorts are very important because of their ability to keep the runner or wearer comfortable, protect them from chafing, and even allow them to be seen. In addition to these reasons, compression can also be supplied from running shorts. Another reason to wear running shorts is so that you are kept warmer. This might seem paradoxical, but without a good pair, you can be left much colder than you otherwise would be. The reasons to wear running shorts are very long, and in this guide, we’ll look at why you need them, how they are made, and how they are set apart from other pairs of shorts that you may find out there. We’ll then review the top ten most popular pairs of shorts out on the market today.
Top Running Shorts Comparison Chart
Running Shorts Buying Guide
How They (Typically) Look
One of the first things that people will notice about running shorts is that they are typically much shorter than any other kind of shorts. For example, the basketball short is very popular, yet the running short is essentially the complete opposite. Whereas the basketball short is longer and baggy, the running short is usually tighter fitting and much shorter. This is because they serve completely different purposes. The histories of the two sports shorts is actually the direct opposite as well. Basketball started short and went longer, mainly because of style, while running started out with longer shorts in the 1920s and then went to shorter and have stayed there up until now.
In addition to being form-fitting and shorter, running shorts are also made from different sorts of material than you usually see. Running shorts are made from thinner material that oftentimes looks almost silky. They even feel different than other shorts would. Soccer shorts aren’t even anywhere close to running shorts because they are longer in order to help protect from sliding as much as possible. So, this is something important to know about what we are talking about when we refer to “running” shorts. Before moving on, it is worth mentioning that you can wear other types of shorts to run in, but they are not going to be the most perfect fit as they are designed for some other purpose.
The Three Main Styles: Shorter, Longer, and Lycra
Running shorts, still yet still have two main types: shorter and longer.
have numerous benefits, some of which we covered above. They are shorter and fit closer to the body, which allows you to have much better airflow as well as allowing you to easily move without any restriction upon the body whatsoever. There is a lot to say for this as it is very frustrating to not be free enough to move when you are running. The shorter shorts have a huge advantage as well because they are much lighter. This is something that seems to be a small deal, but if you are running a long distance, the less weight you can carry will only serve to help you, even if it is just a slight psychological edge. It is for this reason that you usually see long distance runners wearing very short shorts.
do have a place in the running market, however, because some want a slightly different approach for their running. Please keep in mind that this still doesn’t mean that you’re going to see someone wearing Shaquille O’Neal’s basketball shorts running down the road. These are still above the knee in length, but they are meant to be used more for running shorter distances than normal. For instance, these would be great for 5K runs or training when you are running short distances. This doesn’t mean you get a pair of softball shorts or anything that will hold in heat, however. Those will only serve to make you uncomfortable and hot, which will cancel out the shortness of them.
are the third type of running shorts that are now on the market, and they are becoming more and more popular. This type is also referred to as “Lycra.” This type of short gives compression while also being long enough and looking enough like a normal pair of shorts for you to get away with wearing them without completely looking like a weirdo in public. However, it should be said that only those in good shape should wear these, at least that’s our opinion. The big selling point on Lycra is for those that are going to have to buy/want to buy compression underwear of some sort. For those people, Lycra takes care of that by combining the compression with the short yet long enough look. Something that may be under-appreciated by some is that Lycra doesn’t make a noise while you run because it is tighter in place than other shorts would be. So no noise or anything to distract you while you are running.
Running Shorts with Pockets
One of the many factors to take into account when choosing a pair of running shorts is whether or not they have a pocket. For some people, pockets are a big deal. Some shorts have them and others do not. In terms of running, however, you don’t want a large pocket and definitely don’t want large pocket(s)! The reason being is that you don’t want anything in there that will be heavy or make you uncomfortable. Say you have a large set of keys and key chains or even a larger smartphone as is common right now. That’s going to get very annoying as you run. It will slap up against your leg or even fall out. It is for this reason that, if running shorts have pockets at all, they will a very small compartment that will allow you to house a key or two (not a crazy amount) or maybe even a little bit of food. A lot of times, these pockets are found on the back of the short in the middle of the body and they contain a zipper. Others feature Velcro, which is also a very common way of keeping your stuff with you. Sometimes, they will have a pocket on the side, but in other cases, there will be no pockets. Which you need really depends on what kind of running you are doing. If you’re running long distances on obscure trails, you need pockets in order to carry at least some food in case of an accident.
Running shorts have a huge purpose in making sure you don’t see any chafing while you run. One of the main reasons running shorts are so popular and desirable is this fact. No one wants to run long distances with material that bounces up and down. This movement up and down isn’t a big deal if you’re out there running for a short period of time. But when you do it a lot and you do it often, it can start to literally rub you raw. This does not feel good at all, and it’s something that you have to look out for. No matter how fast you are, or how mentally tough you are, this kind of thing can get under skin and really throw you off in your race. So, picking the right pair can prevent so many issues that get taken for granted by those outside of the running world.
A massive factor in determining whether you have a good pair of running shorts or not is whether you are going to be able to “breathe” in them. This is a term that many think little of, but it makes a world of difference to anyone that plays any sport. If you were to run, or do any exercise for that matter, you are producing body heat. That is why we burn calories. So, when that heat comes eventually there is moisture that builds up. This is our sweat. The worst thing that a pair of shorts, or any clothing, can do is confine us in that situation. By confining the wearer, it traps in the moisture and the heat. This makes you feel sticky and very hot, especially as time goes by. It gets to the point that you feel trapped, and you just want to get out of there. When this happens, you’ve lost all focus on the race. You’ve probably went too fast or too slow, and you’ve thrown everything off. So, a pair of shorts that stop this from happening is important. This is one of the reasons running shorts are popular to begin with. They have a number of ways that allow your body to breathe, which makes you happier over the course of your entire run. One way that they produce this is through slits. Slits are on the sides of the short and are cut out from the fabric. Slits usually look very cool, as they have some sort of design on them, but they aren’t just there for looks. They have a function, and it is breathability and comfort.
Men’s vs Women’s
Like in almost all areas of competition in today’s world, we see women’s and men’s versions of the same athletic apparel. To the eye, the only differences typically are colors and styles, but a lot more goes into it than that. The main thing is that men’s shorts are designed to fit the man’s body and their shape will women’s shorts are made to fit a woman’s body. That’s why women’s shorts are usually slightly shorter than men’s, and it’s why men’s aren’t nearly as form-fitted to their hips. Besides the shaping and the styles, there isn’t much of a difference. They are both meant to enhance the runner by essentially staying out of the way, providing comfort, and breathability.
For those that have a hard time finding a pair of shorts that does exactly what they need, unisex shorts could offer the answer. Unisex shorts split the difference between men’s and women’s designs, so there is no specific need that is addressed. But if you’re a little bit different with your body type, this could be a way to go. It’s also a way to go if you are concerned about style, potentially, as they are more neutral in style as well.
Running Short Liners
Did you know that some pairs of running shorts are supposed to be worn without underwear? If not, then you do now! Some pairs of shorts already have a liner built in to make sure that you have support and a great range of motion, even without underwear. This is particularly prevalent in men’s shorts, where there are issues with men in this area at times. Instead of wearing your shorts with an athletic pair of underwear, you can look into buying shorts that cover that for you. These liners, if they are present, make sure that the seams are not positioned in areas that would produce chafing, so you don’t have to worry about having any issues related to that. This is a classic area where you can kill two birds with one stone, but it cannot be assumed that all pairs will have this feature included. Still yet, it’s important to make sure that you try them out and see how you feel with them on. If you feel like you still need the underwear, then you’re going to want to go ahead and do it anyway. Your comfort, and most importantly, your health are far bigger concerns than being trendy.
The materials used to make your pair of running shorts can determine just how successful the shorts are at doing their job. One of the things that can be frustrating is to see just any old material used to make athletic wear. It is vitally important that the best materials are used, and it’s up to you to see to it that these materials are right for you.
is a very good synthetic material to be used in running shorts because they help the wearer by making sure that the sweat evaporates away more quickly than other materials would. Blended polyester, which is combined with something else, can also be great if it is a more silky material that is paired with it. The silkiness combined with the polyester produces both a non-chafing experience as well as the breathability that most runners crave.
is a big no-no when it comes to running because of its tendency to shrink when washed. This can mean that you feel great when you’ve just worn them, but when you wear them later on, they give you a large amount of discomfort. Cotton is also more prone to losing its shape when washed, which is every bit as much a problem as getting smaller. Imagine the inside part of the shorts losing their shape. You’d be losing support in a critical area. This also can lead to chafing because the shorts are now sitting right on top of you. Don’t go for the momentary moments of comfort that cotton provides for running! Because it will eventually run out, and you’ll be wishing that you’d taken a less natural and more man-made approach.
is another option that falls into the synthetic category. 100% pure nylon isn’t quite as good for the purposes of running as polyester would be, but it blends it can be a very strong component of a great pair of running shorts. Nylon, like polyester, provides a much longer life of use than a natural fiber like cotton can provide. They are also better than cotton but worse than polyester when it comes to moisture control and providing comfort.
Visibility While Running
Another must mention is that running shorts can help you remain visible when running. This is something that only runners will understand, but it cannot be taken for granted. Occasionally, you get days where you have to run very early in the morning or very late at night. When that happens, you need something that can be spotted by drivers easily. Some pairs of running shorts answer this concern by providing something that is eye catchy. Typically this is done through a neon-like color such as orange, green, or yellow. White can also work very well!
Despite everything we’ve talked about above, at the end of the day it’s how the person feels about him or herself in the shorts that is going to rule the day. If the person feels like they look stupid, then no amount of functionality or comfort is going to change their minds. It’s for this reason that age plays such a crucial role. At a very young age, you’re going to naturally worry about how you look to everyone else. When you get to high school, you probably won’t care as much because generally, we all look our best then anyways. From there, it becomes a case of slowly devolving back into someone who is ashamed of ourselves. This is meant to encourage you not to be like this! Don’t run from the comfortable and great designs that ultimately enhance your health. No one is perfect, but you’re certainly not going to improve if you don’t try. Wearing a great pair of shorts to run in is going to do more to enhance your health than you any perceived harm you bring by wearing them!
Best Running Shorts Reviews
for whatever reason, the tendency for many is to assume that Soffe are only the makers of cotton/softball type shorts. However, this is wrong and is proven to be wrong by this pair of running shorts. This pair of running shorts is a very short length and is 100% made from Nylon, which means you will have breathability as well as a comfort. The price is also very good and reasonable. It even comes with a key pocket on the inside for you and an elastic waistband. These are very silky in both look and feel and they are worn by the US military as well. In addition to all of this, they have many colors to pick from and they do have a liner on the inside!
- Great price
- Many different colors to choose from
- Approved by military
- Shorter length could be a problem for some
- They run a little big in sizes
coming in a very nice pink and blue combination (we’re sure they have others as well) is a great pair of women’s running shorts from Under Armour. Initially, they began with base layer clothes, but they’ve since expanded and done well as is evidenced here by this pair of very short shorts that allows you to breathe more easily and be much lighter during your run. The waistband is very cool looking on this pair, and it helps to prevent chafing issues. These are 100% polyester, so you can expect them to hold up while giving you great features at a mid-tier to upper-level pricing.
- Great style and colors
- 100% polyester makes them very high quality
- Very lightweight
- Polyester makes the price a little higher
- Would not fit your iPhone or other large phones
whether it’s right or wrong, when we think of running shorts it’s typically this exact pair of Nike’s that come to mind. This style is very nice yet it doesn’t pop out at you, but the functionality of the shorts is where it makes its name for itself. At a mid-tier price, these are made from polyester and fully lined with mesh so you don’t have to wear underwear. The waistband is elastic, but it also has a drawstring just in case it is necessary. These are built to allow you to run either sprints or cross country, so hit the track or the trails with them now!
- Recognizably great and popular
- Great at moisture wicking
- Allows versatility of running distances
- Price is a little hefty for such a small item of clothing
- Can be baggy for certain people
if you have not heard of Tesla, then you are in for a treat! Tesla does a great job of closely mirroring Under Armour, but they oftentimes do so at a much lesser cost. They’ve done the same with this pair of men’s running shorts. They are very affordable, come in a variety of colors, and they cover almost the entire knee, so no problems there! They are 100% polyester, so expect them to be great at keeping you dry and very light, as the name says. If you want a pair of running shorts that feel and even to an extent look like basketball shorts, then this is them. But you still get the functionality of a running short!
- Basketball short length
- Excellent price
- 100% polyester
- No liner is included
- They run slightly large it appears
Under Armour has a second offering for the ladies on the list with it Fly-By model. The fly-by comes at a little lower price than the perfect pace, and it has a number of colors to choose from for the ladies. They are also 100% polyester, and they are lightweight and easy to stretch when you need a stretch, but it does not get bent out of shape. The panels on the side are great because they are lined with mesh, which allows you to breathe easily while you’re running. Their “shaped hem” has helped give the wearer support while still being stylish and not making the shorts feel or look bulky. This shape is less intrusive than traditional styled running shorts which can restrict movement and cause you to develop poor running habits. They are also reflective, which can help you out in the dark!
- Shaped hem is excellent
- Reflective for night runs
- Mesh side panels help rid excessive heat
- Still a little pricey
- Pocket is on the inside, which may be a problem for some
Champion joins the list with another option for the male that wants a little bit longer running short. This pair comes in Navy Blue and has a medium to an upper-end price point. They are 100% polyester, so expect the comfortable and breathable fabric you desire to come with this pair. It has a large pocket, which is very unlike a lot of running shorts, so it could be a positive for those that desire that option. They have a drawcord with elastic as well as mesh paneling on the sides.
The Vapors also feature Champion’s Vapor technology with X-Temp dries faster as your body heat rises. A very cool feature (literally and figuratively).
- Longer length
- Polyester makes it high quality
- Vapor technology with X-Temp (see description above)
- The price can deter some from a lesser-known brand such as Champion
- Susceptible to forming holes in the ‘crotch’ area
Our first entry from the “Lycra” category on the list is here with Baleaf’s offering for women. This pair of shorts is made from an 80/20 blend of nylon and spandex, and it comes at a very middle of the road price point, especially as far as compression wear is concerned. They have reflective elements, they have a back pocket than can fit a four-inch phone or other items, and they are very versatile. They are comfortable yet they stay out of the way and they certainly won’t be making any noise while you run! With most compression items, you’d probably need to be careful where and when you where these, and it’s recommended to be in somewhat decent shape.
- Great compression
- Stays out of the way
- Has a larger back pocket than most
- Form-fit could turn many away
- It may be necessary to order a size up to cover everything up
Under Armour’s first foray into the top ten for the men is with the Launch. The Launch is a higher priced running short that comes in too many colors to count, many of which are eye-popping. They are very similar to the women’s Under Armour offerings above in that they are 100% polyester, have mesh pockets on the inside, have a drawcord, and are just overall great because of the comfort and breathable properties. However, they are fairly long as far running shorts go, so that may be a big selling point for some out there.
- Longer length
- Polyester makes you comfortable
- Mesh pocketing
- Higher pricing
- Liner isn’t up to par for some
The Souke Running shorts are the highest-rated shorts on Amazon that we could find. It has a 4.3 out of 5.0 rating which is pretty good, but it’s downright incredible when you consider there are 299 verified purchasers’ ratings. Most products have 0-5 ratings while this one has 299 reviews at the time of this writing.
They’re quick-dry shorts that are meant to keep you cooler and more comfortable. They’re made of relaxed fit stretchy fabric which is made of 92% polyester and 8% spandex. What makes this pair somewhat unique is that for an affordable price (just over $20), you’re getting a lined short (there’s an inner, tight layer that you would use as underwear) in addition to the outer layer that everyone sees, and you have several zip pockets on the exterior. The inside black liner is a close fit but without the restricted tightness that adds to your discomfort.
They’re moisture-wicking and even the built-in underwear is thinner than a normal liner so that helps with the breathing ability of the short. As if breathable fabric, built-in underwear, adjustable drawstring, side zipper pockets, and anti-chafing qualities were not enough, this pair of shorts add reflective elements that allow you to add a layer of confidence during your workouts once the sun goes down.
- Built-in underwear
- Reflective elements
- Very comfortable
- A little pricey (if you consider $23 pricey)
rounding out the list is the great, underrated ASICS with a 100% polyester pair of shorts that will help you extend your range of motion, be light weight, and will remain free of wrinkles. These come in at a low to mid-range price, and they include a liner with a key pocket as well as two other pockets on the outside to put things in. The pockets, however, do not have zippers, so you will have to be careful putting things in there as you run.
- Good price
- Stay wrinkle-free
- Has pockets
- Outside pockets have no zippers
- Not the greatest in style department