The 10 Best Running Shorts for Women in 2023

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Choosing the right running shorts is almost as crucial to your overall performance as picking a good pair of shoes.

Ideally, your shorts should be lightweight, moisture-wicking, and fit you so comfortably that you don’t even think about them!

But pick the wrong pair and it can be a very different story, with the fabric chafing, bunching, and generally distracting you from your run.

To save you time in your search, I’ve put together a guide to the 10 best running shorts for women, perfect for everything from marathon training to your recovery runs.

I’ve outlined the reasons I recommend them, and just what to look for when choosing the best shorts for your needs.

So let’s get started.

Running Shorts for Women

What to Look for in Running Shorts

One of the first things to think about is the waistband, as this can often be key to just how comfortable the shorts are.

It needs to fit you perfectly – loose enough so it won’t cut in, but tight enough to stop your shorts from slipping down when you run.

You might want to consider a pair with a drawstring, as this can help keep them in place.

I definitely prefer this option if I’m running with my phone in the pocket, as this stops the extra weight from dragging them down.

Other things to think about include:

#1: Fit and Length

Decide whether you want your shorts to be loose or fitted.

Ultimately the choice comes down to personal preference, although I recommend a looser fit if you regularly run in warm conditions because it allows for better air circulation.

Tighter, compression-style shorts might be a better choice if you’re racing as they are more aerodynamic.

Some of my clients prefer tighter shorts when carrying a phone, too, because they help minimize bouncing.

The length (or inseam) of your shorts is also a matter of preference.

The best one for you will depend partly on your height, but also on the amount of coverage you’re looking for.

For longer distances and/or trail running, I recommend a longer inseam of around 7″.

This gives you more protection from the sun and can also keep you warmer if the temperature falls.

running shorts closeup

#2: Fabric

The best running shorts for women are those made from quick-drying, breathable, and moisture-wicking fabric.

This will help keep you cool and dry, even on those tough, sweaty runs.

If you prefer a tighter fit, make sure that the fabric stretches easily in four directions to allow you unrestricted freedom of movement.

#3: Pockets

Pockets aren’t essential in running shorts for women, as there are plenty of great running belts on the market for storing essentials, or even armbands for your phone.

But if you want to cut down on your gear, choose a pair of shorts with pockets for things like your key and energy gels, plus a larger, more secure pocket for your phone.

(You might also want to check out my list of the best running shorts for women with phone pockets).

best running shorts for women

The 10 best running shorts for Women

#1. Best Biker-Style Running Shorts for Women – Colorfulkoala High-Waist Shorts

Fabric: 75% Polyester, 25% Spandex Sizes: X-Small to X-Large, Pockets: 2

Colorfulkoala High-Waist Biker Shorts
Loads of colors to choose fromPockets may be too small for larger phones
Excellent value for moneyFabric is too thick for very warm conditions
Opaque fabricRun small

Colorfulkoala is a relatively new sportswear brand devoted to producing high-quality, comfortable, and affordable gear for women.

These biker shorts are a great example – they’re soft, stretchy, and have a super comfy seamless waistband that’s very lightweight and sits right at your natural waist.

The pockets on the sides are deep – holding your phone tight against you – and the high-waisted design sculpts your body for a flattering silhouette.

#2. Best Warm Weather Running Shorts for Women – Nike Dri-fit Tempo Track 3.5 Short

Fabric: 100% Polyester Sizes: X-Small to X-Large, Pockets: 1

Nike Women's Dri-fit Tempo Track 3.5 Short
Slightly longer at the back for great coverageFlared look at the sides won’t appeal to everyone
Quick-drying fabricSome colors are quite see through
Wide range of colors

With a curved hem to allow for a greater range of motion, these classic-looking shorts have mesh insets at the side to encourage air circulation and keep you cool.

They are also incredibly lightweight, so they stay comfortable even when the temperatures rise.

The Nike Dry fabric is specially designed to keep moisture away from your skin and the waistband features an internal drawcord, so you can tighten it as much as you like.

#3. Great for Distance Runs – New Balance Impact Run 2in1 Shorts

Fabric: 100% Polyester Sizes: X-Small to XX-Large, Pockets: 2

New Balance Impact Run 2in1 Shorts
Excellent coveragePockets too small for many phones
Athletic fitLonger undershorts won’t appeal to everyone
Very comfortable

Featuring a storage tunnel at the back to allow you to carry an extra layer for those longer runs, these shorts are made from lightweight and breathable poly-woven fabric.

I love the fitted inner shorts that stay in place and are great for coverage, but so soft and comfortable that you won’t need to worry about them chafing.

I also love the way the pockets are positioned in the inner lining because it holds items close to your body and stops them from bouncing around.

#4. Best for Race Day – On Running Sprinter Shorts

Fabric: 65% Recycled Polyamide, 35% Elastane Sizes: X-Small to X-Large, Pockets: 5

On Running Sprinter Shorts
Very comfortable waistbandExpensive
Stretchy fabric
Rear pocket large enough for a phone

With a streamlined fit for race day, these quick-drying and moisture-wicking shorts feature a high, wide waistband that feels comfortable and guarantees a secure fit.

They also have reflective logos which are great for a little extra visibility when running late at night or early in the morning.

Best of all, though, is the built-in mesh belt and the multiple pockets for your essentials – quite unusual to see in shorts designed for racing!

#5. Best for Preventing Chafing – 2XU Mid-Rise Compression Shorts

Fabric: 72% Nylon, 28% Elastane Sizes: X-Small to X-Large, Pockets: 0

2XU Women's Motion Mid-Rise Compression Shorts
Graduated compression for performance and recoveryHigh price tag
Strong, lightweight fabricNot as compressive lower on the thighs
Squat proof – great for cross-training

The jury is out on just how beneficial compression shorts really are, but many of my clients love them as they feel they boost circulation and reduce muscle fatigue.

This pair from 2XU is one of the best out there, with a wide and comfy waistband, non-chafing flatlock seams, and multi-directional stretch for unrestricted movement.

They also offer UPF50+ sun protection and have a body-firming effect for an undeniably flattering fit!

#6. Best Choice for Athletic Thighs – Brooks Chaser Shorts

Fabric: 89% Recycled Polyester, 11% Spandex, Sizes: X-Small to XX-Large, Pockets: 3

Brooks Chaser 7" Shorts
Pocket will accommodate most phonesItems in side pockets may bounce around
Infinity drawstring (won’t disappear into the waistband)
Lightweight and airy

Featuring 2 hand pockets and a waterproof pocket in the waistband, Brooks Chaser shorts are made with DriLayer fabric to effectively wick away sweat and keep you dry.

They make a great alternative to biker shorts if your thighs have a tendency to chafe and you need the protection provided by a longer inseam.

They won’t ride up while you’re running and have a drawstring to cinch them in for a comfortable custom fit.

#7. Best Budget Running Shorts for Women – Under Armour Fly By 2.0 Shorts

Fabric: 100% Polyester Sizes: X-Small to XXX-Large, Pockets: 0

Under Armour Fly By 2.0 Shorts
Massive range of colorsSome of the lighter colors are see through
Cool and comfortableCan be snug around the thighs/butt – consider sizing up
Reflective logo

The best running shorts for women don’t have to be the most expensive, and this pair from Under Armor offers great features for a low price!

The soft-knit waistband is very comfortable and has an internal drawstring for easy adjustment, plus you get built-in briefs for coverage and mesh side panels for better ventilation.

The lightweight fabric has a lovely, soft feel and I like the crossover hem which gives the shorts a flattering, streamlined look.

#8. Best Classic Running Shorts for Women – Adidas Marathon 20 Running Shorts

Fabric: 100% Recycled Polyester Sizes: XX-Small to X-Large, Pockets: 1

Adidas Marathon 20 Running Shorts
Elasticated waist with drawcord for a great fitKey pocket only
Reflective details for visibilityRun small
Eco-friendly – made with recycled content

These iconic shorts are available in such a huge variety of colors that it’s easy to find a pair you love!

Their regular fit – not too loose, not too snug – is suitable for just about anyone, whilst the built-in mesh briefs are breathable and add a little extra coverage.

The lightweight AEROREADY fabric quickly whips sweat away from your skin for cooler, more comfortable runs.

#9. Most Flattering Fit for Petite Runners – Lululemon Run Speed Up Short

Fabric: 86% Recycled Polyester, 14% Elastane, Sizes: 2 to 10, Pockets: 3

Lululemon Run Speed Up Short
Built-in liner for extra coveragePricey
Fabric is totally opaqueRun small
Versatile – great for casual wear tooNo phone pocket

With a flattering cut and the quality feel you expect from Lululemon, these running shorts for women have a smooth waistband with a concealed drawstring, so they’re easy to adjust for a perfect fit.

The fabric has all the multi-directional stretch you need to move without restriction, plus it’s very lightweight and wicks away sweat in an instant.

I love the zippered pocket on the back that gives you a secure place to store your items, and you also get connected pockets on the waistband that are ideal for your gels or energy chews.

#10. Most Comfortable Running Shorts for Women- REI Co-op Swiftland 5″ Shorts

Fabric: 73% Nylon, 27% Spandex, Sizes: X-Small to XXX-Large, Pockets: 4

REI Co-op Swiftland 5″ Shorts
Soft, lightweight fabricNot ideal for thicker/athletic thighs
Super stretchy Phone pocket is on the small side
Nice range of colors

There are many reasons I like these shorts – they’re breathable, they have plenty of pockets, and they are sewn with flat seams so they won’t chafe.

But my favorite feature is the wide waistband – it is snug enough to stay in place from start to finish but doesn’t dig at all, and the way it’s positioned at the top of the hip allows you to carry items in the pockets without the shorts slipping down.

The length is perfect if you’re looking for that bit of extra coverage, and the fit is loose and comfortable without looking baggy.

The 10 best Running Shorts for Women: Key Takeaways

The best running shorts for women will look good, feel good, and enhance your performance rather than distract you from it!

I hope this guide has been useful and that it’s helped you track down the perfect pair for your next run.

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Christine Albury is a dedicated runner and fitness nerd: when she's not working out she is studying the latest fitness science publications, and testing out the latest running gear!

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