Triathlon shorts, or tri shorts for short, are meant to be just as versatile as you are. You’re going to be swimming, biking, and then running, and your shorts will be joining you on that journey. As its quite a lot to ask of any piece of clothing, it does take some special shorts to get the job done just right. Many people would be overwhelmed with this choice as it does represent quite a large part of the triathlon experience.
Top Triathlon Shorts Comparison Chart
As such, you are probably looking for a little bit of help on what to look for. Today, we’re going to be helping you find what you need by looking at the important factors that are needed in any pair of tri shorts. We’ll then, towards the end, look at and review some of the top-rated shorts out on the market right now.
Triathlon Shorts Buying Guides
Who Are They For?
Triathlon shorts aren’t a requirement, but they are heavily encouraged to be used by both beginners and experts alike. The reason why they are such a commonly desired item is because they deliver an all-purpose barrier for all three sections of the race. Many coaches and veterans of triathlons and people that have been around the sport for many years recommend that this be the one purchase you make if you could only make one. So out of all of the things you’d be encouraged to buy for a triathlon, this is the one item that you most need to have, according to nearly everyone. They are truly that versatile.
Why Are They Special?
Triathlon shorts are very desirable because they can be worn during the swim, the bike, and the run. This is a big deal because you certainly don’t have time to change a bunch of clothes. That’s why it’s desirable to have one pair for everything you’re going to be encountering during your race. A good pair of tri shorts are very breathable, meaning they allow air to pass through them easily, and are also very durable. Both of these are big factors because you are going to need something that will air out from the wet, and you also need something that can take the beating that all of those miles will put on them. And then you have to factor in how well they take water and do on the bike! You also need them to do an adequate job there, so you are asking for quite a lot in a pair of tri shorts. But with the right materials, it can and will be done!
Some pairs of tri shorts are even better than others. Some go as far as also having UV ray protection. This is huge, especially for those that are doing much longer races where they will be baking in the sun. Also, the main thing to look at is the ‘chamois.’ The chamois is a pad that encloses you in your tri shorts. The chamois is present in both tri shorts and regular bike shorts, and it’s meant to help you ride your bike better and more comfortably. However, the regular bike shorts have a much larger and thicker version. If you were to use bike shorts for your run, then, you’d be very uncomfortable and you would also probably see a lot of chafing as well. So, tri shorts tackle this problem by making the chamois thinner and into the shape of a pad. In addition to having to make you comfortable for the run as well as the bike stage, the triathlon short chamois has to be very quick drying and antibacterial as well to help you prevent all sorts of other issues. This is why it’s very encouraged to buy tri shorts instead of other shorts that are specifically made for other sports!
There are two main types of chamois for triathlons. One is the microfleece, and the other is the foam padded. Both of them are very similar in their properties, but they look different. Both are very breathable, they dry quickly, and they are antibacterial in nature. However, they foam padded chamois is better specifically on the bike ride because it offers more shock absorption than the microfleece does. This can be especially helpful on bumpy courses, and definitely would be a big help in much longer races. If it’s a sprint, this type likely won’t be that much of an advantage.
Tri shorts are going to be form-fitting to you. If you can’t handle that, then triathlons are probably not your thing. But this form-fitting look doesn’t mean that you aren’t getting some benefits, however. The benefits of wearing tri shorts are large and wide-ranging. In addition to what we talked about above, tri shorts also offer a great deal of compression to the wearer. They are tight to you, but they will stretch a little bit to allow you to be comfy. You won’t be way too uncomfortable or anything like that, provided you buy the correct size. The correct size simply needs to be something that fits you snugly. You wouldn’t want them to be too tight, nor would you want them hanging onto you loosely. But compression is a big advantage because it really does help your muscles as they work ever so hard. Your legs are going to be screaming at you during the entirety, one would assume, of the race, and every little bit will help!
The length of the inseam plays an important role in your selection of a pair of tri shorts. Depending on what you want and the length of the race you are in, the length of the inseams will help you out. For those that are going to be racing in longer triathlons, you will likely want to go with a longer inseam. The rule is that the longer the inseam is, the more protection and compression you will get. This makes perfect sense as the shorts are covering a much larger area of the body. It will cover your quads and hamstrings more, and those are perhaps the two most important muscles for this type of race! Because people want this added protection for the long haul, you’ll often see longer ones worn by people in longer races.
Another rule of thumb is that the inseam length will be determined by your height. A taller person will most likely opt for something that has a longer inseam. This is natural because they are going to want to cover as much as possible, and they are going to want to be as comfortable as they can be. Comfort really is the key here because no one is going to want to be running, swimming, or biking for miles at a time while thinking about how annoyed they are by their clothing. For shorter people, a shorter inseam will be more suitable for them. Here are some general guidelines for inseam sizing:
- Short women’s tri short inseam- 3-4 inches
- Most common women’s size- 6-7 inches
- Longest inseam for women- 8-9 inches
- Short men’s inseam- 5-6 inches
- Most popular men’s size- 7-8 inches
- Longest inseam for men- 9-10 inches
Pockets are a really big factor to look at. Many triathletes determine which pair of shorts they are going to buy simply based on the number and availability of pockets on the tri shorts. Pockets are important for the storage of food or anything else that will help you on your journey. However, some people will find them unnecessary because they will have a pouch or belt, or some form of storage for them on their bike. The choice is really all about preference, and there’s definitely no right or wrong here. Some people, in fact, won’t even use the pockets if the pair they are wearing just so happens to have them. If you’re in a routine and used to doing things a certain way, you should always stick to it! There are four main varieties of pockets that you’ll find. Some will have two pockets, one on either side. Others will have four pockets, two on each side with one toward the top of your buttocks and the other down toward your knee. There are also shorts will just one pocket, in the back of the shorts in the very center. And then, of course, there is the no pockets option. This is the most preferable for those that are going shorter distances.
Note: if you’re in a warmer water race where wetsuits aren’t required, you may be wearing your tri shorts in the water. Keep in mind that pockets can cause drag, especially those lower on the hips. It may be minimal, but it may not be something that is acceptable to you.
Leg ‘grippers’ are very important in the world of triathlons because they are designed to help the wearer from having his or her shorts ride up on them. We’ve all had the piece of clothing that just will not stay in place properly. It’s awful, uncomfortable, and it’s just plain out annoying. You have to fiddle and fidget it with it, yet it still continues to chafe you or rub you the wrong way. And it’s painful at times. Leg grips seek to minimize this occurrence. Now, it must be said that if you’re looking for absolute maximum comfort, then you will likely not want leg grips. A lot of triathletes find that they are a little uncomfortable at times, so they opt for a gripper-less hem. This is something that is up to you, but just beware that they might ride up on you. Oftentimes, the grips are made of silicone. This silicone just is there to help make sure your shorts don’t bunch up, which is also going to cause discomfort. One further thing to keep in mind is for those with larger quads. Some triathletes are going to have small waists and huge quads simply because they’ve developed them over time. If you are one of these people, you may want to go up a size or two if the shorts are grippers. This will help you out tremendously as you won’t have to worry about the grips being too tight or losing your circulation. Losing circulation might be the worst thing that could happen in a long race. And it’s just not very healthy for you in the slightest.
Last Things to Consider
Getting everything that you want into a triathlon short is nigh on impossible. Don’t count on a pair having everything you want. These are truly amazing pieces of technology, but they are not miracle workers. They will not just have everything you want in them, unfortunately. But many of them will have almost all of the features that you want. Just remember that it’s very difficult to find something that is like this! These shorts have to perform through a swim, a bike ride, and a run, and most of them do a great job at doing exactly that. So, you will sometimes have to choose which one has the most features you are looking for.
Best Triathlon Shorts Reviews
Coming in at a moderate price and with several actual stylish choices is the ZOOT tri shorts. This pair looks great while covering just enough of the legs to be considered a middle ground amount. They have UV protection provided, they do not have a gripper, they have a drawstring if it is needed, and two pouches in which to store items.
- Looks great
- Very comfortable
- Very protective
- No gripper for the bike ride
- Might not be ideal for taller people
this pair of tri shorts from SLS3 also come at a moderate price. This pair of shorts don’t have the choice of styles like the ZOOT, but they do have an elastic drawstring to ensure a good fit. They have a foam padded chamois to help you out on longer rides and races a 7-inch inseam and does NOT include a gripper, either. The shorts are also very comfortable, as they sought to make them as light as possible.
- Like you’re not wearing anything
- Foam pad for biking
- Very comfy
- Just one color
- Shorts will ride up some
like it’s male counterpart, the women’s ZOOT looks great and has different colors to choose from. These styles look even better, for obvious reasons. This is a much longer inseam than most of the women’s shorts, so keep that in mind. It ranges from a low price to the moderate range depending on the size, they have UV protection, the drawcords for fit around the waist, and they have a gripper to provide compression and the shorts in place.
- Short’s won’t bunch
- Very nice styles
- Little longer inseam
- Run small
here’s a choice for those that are looking specifically for compression. This pair has a number of different colors to choose from, but the styles do disappoint a little. The price is inexpensive, however, so that might have to get a pass here. These have a silicone gripper, a draw cord, and are a good starter set. These aren’t likely to be great in the water for long stretches, so be aware.
- Good price
- Good for bike and run
- Won’t bunch up
- Not very durable
- Not great for the swim
if you’re looking for something that has a great and colorful design and you happen to be a male, this looks like your best bet. It’s also got quite a great, low price as well. It has a foam padded chamois for longer rides, one zipper in the back of the shorts, and a silicone gripper as well. Because of the gripper, the shorts do not contain a drawcord. The inseam is at 8 inches, so it should be great for most people.
- Great price
- Awesome looks
- Won’t bunch up
- Waist height is lower
- Padding is thin
the Canari is another very low-priced option for you to take into consideration. Despite being very plain in just a boring black color, they have a ‘low profile’ chamois, leg grippers that are said to be very soft, and a waistband with elastic and NO drawcord. The inseams are only at 6 inches, though, so this is definitely not for a taller individual. They do tend to run small as well.
- Great price
- Very soft
- Durable despite the low price
- Boring look
- Not intended for taller people
This pair of shorts is very similar in both the men’s and women’s, so we’ll look at the both in the same number. The women’s is only different in the designs and colors, but both have an adequate amount of nice looking choices. They are both in the moderate price range level and they both have a microfleece chamois padding. The men’s shorts have a 7-inch inseam while the women’s have a 6.25-inch inseam. The waists do run to be a little bit tight, so be aware of that.
- Great styles
- Padding for the bike ride
- Decent price
- Runs a little small
- Doesn’t offer a lot of cushioning for longer races
this pair of Synergy tri shorts look like just another value choice because of the lone black color, but they offer so much more. They have a micro fleece pad to help with the bike ride, a long drawstring just in case you need it, and a leg gripper that is not made from silicone in order to not be so rigid on you. It offers what it calls “semi compression,” so you won’t be too tight but will still have some protection for sure. The pad is also very light and hardly noticeable.
- Good price
- Comfortable leg gripper
- Just enough compression
- Just the black color
- Doesn’t hold up well in the water
Depending on the size and color, the price can widely fluctuate from very reasonable to moderate. They do offer quite a few nice colors and designs for the ladies, so that is a major plus. This pair has a silicone leg gripper, a pocket in the back of the shorts, they are reflective, and they have an eight-inch inseam. They have a microfleece chamois for the bike ride as well as having compression as well as moisture wicking properties.
- Great styles
- Very flattering wide construction
- Gives compression
- Run very small
- Very tight on the thighs
Conclusion & Recommendations
Triathletes, both new and old, know that a good pair of tri shorts are absolutely crucial to have when competing in a race. No matter the length of the race or the time of year, they are a very useful tool to have along with you. They are versatile, protective, and oftentimes very comfortable. They are a true necessity to have. But they no longer have to be difficult to buy or find. With this guide and our reviews, you now know what to look for. And you also don’t always have to spend a bunch of money to find a good pair of shorts that will meet you needs! So, here’s to hoping your new pair of shorts will see to your best time yet!