Best Running Shorts for Men and Women: 2021 Guide

Finding the right running shorts can be a bit like finding the right pair of jeans. It’s hard to find the perfect pair, and when you do, you never want to get rid of them. 

There are many different factors to think about when looking for the right pair of running shorts. And with all the various athletic brands out there promising their brand is the best, shopping for running shorts can seem like an impossible task.

But we’ve written this guide to help you know what to look for when searching for the perfect running shorts. We’ll also give you our picks for the best running shorts 2021 has to offer!

best running shorts

Things to look for when you’re buying running shorts

Length

Running shorts traditionally have three different lengths: three inches, five inches, and seven inches.

Choosing the length mainly comes down to what you are most comfortable in, but the different lengths serve their own purposes.

  • Short Inseam (3 in) – These running shorts provide the best ventilation and range of motion, making them perfect for competitive runners.
  • Medium Inseam (5 in) – If you’re someone who runs on both tracks and trails, this is the length for you. Running shorts with a five-inch inseam provide versatility and are the most popular choice among runners.
  • Long Inseam (7 in) – These hit just above the knee and are great for helping trail runners protect their legs from branches and insects. If you are going to choose this length, make sure you select an anti-chafing material.
best running shorts

Material

The best running shorts are lightweight and durable and are typically made from materials with synthetic fibers, like spandex and polyester. Synthetic fiber material is moisture-wicking (draws sweat away from your body) and quick-drying, which can keep you from chafing.

Running Liner

Running shorts are made with liners so runners can forego wearing underwear as another way to prevent chafing. Choosing whether or not you want running shorts with liner is really about preference and what makes you most comfortable.

Features

Running shorts offer all sorts of different features. Choosing which features are right for you comes down to when and where you’ll be running and how you run – if you carry lots of snacks and gadgets or if you just hop out the door and run. Some features to consider are:

  • UPF Protection – UPF protects you from the sun’s harmful UV Rays. It’s kind of like built-in sunscreen for your clothes. If you’re someone who spends most of your time running outdoors, we recommend choosing running shorts with UPF Protection.
  • Visibility Features – Many running shorts are made with reflective detailing and bright colors to keep runners safe by making them more visible. Night runners and early-morning runners should think about making visibility features a priority.
  • Pockets – Gen Z-ers will never know the struggle of running before athletic companies started putting pockets in their clothes. These days exercise brands have pockets in almost all of their athletic gear. They range in size, so you can carry a key or a cellphone with you while you run.
best running shorts

What Types of Different Running Shorts are There?

The type of running shorts you need relies heavily on the distance and intensity of your run. There are three main types of running shorts.

Compression Shorts

Compression shorts are primarily made from spandex and have a snug fit, which can provide muscle support. These are the best type of running shorts to choose from if you want ultimate flexibility or are concerned with chafing. 

V-Notch Shorts

V-notch shorts are the most popular type of shorts for runners. They got their name from the upside-down V cut in each leg, which provides runners with a greater range of motion. 

Split Running Shorts

Split running shorts are very similar to v-notch shorts. The difference is the “V” on the side is made from overlapping fabric. Split running shorts offer flexibility for runners. They typically have shorter inseams and offer a wider range of movement. 

best running shorts

Best Women’s Running Shorts for 2021

Lululemon Run Speed Up Short

best running shorts
  • Inseam: 2.5”
  • Material: 86% Polyester, 14% Elastane
  • Pockets: Yes
  • Liner: Yes

Lululemon outdid themselves with these shorts. They feature Lululemon’s Swift Ultra material that is fast drying, lightweight, and moisture-wicking. These shorts are specifically designed to keep you feeling comfortable and cool on every run. Finally,  they have a thick three-pocket waistband, giving you plenty of storage options. 

Pros

  • Lightweight
  • Pockets
  • Comfortable
  • Sweat-wicking material

Cons

  • Run Small
  • They might fit tight on curvier runners
  • Pockets are too small for a phone

2XU Women’s Mid-Rise Athletic Compression Shorts

best running shorts
  • Inseam: 7”
  • Material: 72% Nylon, 28% Elastane
  • Pockets: No
  • Liner: No

These compression shorts have an excellent, snug fit and hit right above the knee. They are made to target the abductor and glute muscles. Wearing them can help prevent injury and can improve blood flow in your upper legs. They also have UPF Protection, and the  PWX fabric gives them the perfect balance between thickness and breathability.

Pros

  • Comfortable fit
  • Versatile
  • Moisture-wicking
  • UPF protection

Cons

  • No pockets
  • No reflective features

New Balance Women’s Impact Run Short

best running shorts
  • Inseam: 5”
  • Material: 86% polyester, 14% Spandex
  • Pockets: Yes
  • Liner: Yes

These running shorts are a marathon runner’s dream. They have poly woven fabric making them extremely lightweight. New Balance’s fast-drying technology makes them excellent at pulling moisture away from your body. 

Their athletic fit and wide elastic waistband keep you feeling comfortable through even the longest runs. New Balance even added an interior drop-in pocket perfect for holding your keys.

Pros

  • Perfect for distance running
  • Lightweight
  • Storage
  • Great Ventilation
  • Reflective detail on the front and back

Cons

  • Not available in plus sizes
  • A little pricey

Brooks Women’s Chaser 3” Shorts

best running shorts brooks
  • Inseam: 3”
  • Material: 89% Recycled Polyester, 11% Spandex
  • Pockets: Yes
  • Liner: Yes

Brooks Chaser shorts lightweight and comfortable, giving them a barely-there feel. They also won’t bunch or cause chafing. They have hidden splits on the sides that allow for a greater range of motion.

As if all of that wasn’t enough, the wide waistband stays in place and has three carefully placed pockets, so you have plenty of storage for your belongings.

Pros

  • Wide waistband with pockets
  • Lightweight
  • Comfortable
  • Don’t ride up

Cons

  • Only fit well on certain body types
  • No zippers on pockets

Best Men’s Running Shorts for 2021

New Balance Men’s Accelerate Running Short

best running shorts
  • Inseam: 3”
  • Material: 55% Recycled Polyester, 45% Polyester
  • Pockets: Yes
  • Liner: Yes

These shorts have a relaxed fit and have mesh side panels that keep you cool while you run. They have New Balance’s fabric technology, which keeps you dry and keeps your shorts from clinging to you. 

Pros

  • Lightweight
  • Small pocket 
  • Perfect for hot weather

Cons

  • Some find the mesh lining uncomfortable

Brooks Sherpa 5” Shorts

best running shorts
  • Inseam: 5”
  • Material: 100% Polyester
  • Pockets: Yes
  • Liner: Yes

If comfort is a top concern of yours when shopping for running shorts, then these shorts are the pair for you. They feature a super-soft liner and waistband. They have two side pockets and a large zippered pocket in the back. Finally, they are semi-fitted, which makes them perfect for distance runners. 

Pros

  • Side splits for increased range of motion
  • Four pockets
  • Anti-chafing liner
  • Retroreflective
  • UPF Protection

Cons

  • Pockets are too small for large phones

CW-X Men’s Stabilyx Ventilator Joint Support Compression Shorts

best running shorts
  • Inseam: 7”
  • Material: 80% Polyester, 20% Spandex
  • Pockets: Yes
  • Liner: No

These compression shorts are specifically for athletes who suffer from joint pain while training. They have a patented EXO-WEB support panel surrounding your joints, providing stability and support without limiting movability. They also have mesh panels on the sides to allow for breathability.

Pros

  • Joint and hip support
  • Shorter recovery time because of increased blood circulation
  • Better stability

Cons

  • The high compression can be uncomfortable
  • Sizing can be off

B.O.A Men’s Stretch 1” Elite Running Short

best running shorts
  • Inseam: 1”
  • Material: 88% Micro Polyester, 12% Spandex 
  • Pockets: Yes
  • Liner: Yes

The B.O.A Men’s Stretch Elite Running Shorts have a 4-way stretch fabric that is super soft and eliminates bind. The one-inch inseam and side slits give you complete range of motion. They feature an equally comfortable waistband with a key pocket built into it, and there is a drawcord so you can consistently achieve your perfect fit.

Pros

  • Comfortable
  • Adjustable fit
  • Moisture-wicking and quick-drying
  • Unrestricted movement

Cons

  • Limited coverage

Adidas Design 2 Move Climacool Shorts

best running shorts
  • Inseam: 7”
  • Material: 100% Recycled Polyester
  • Pockets: Yes
  • Liner: No

Most running shorts have built-in liners, making it hard for the guys who don’t like liners to find a reliable pair of running shorts. That’s where the Adidas Design 2 Move Shorts come in. They have no interior liner whatsoever.

They feature a breathable and fast-drying Climacool mesh material and deep pockets. These shorts aren’t ideal for daily runners because of the lack of support and deep hand pockets. 

Pros

  • Climacool ventilation
  • Drawcord
  • Mesh inserts for extra airflow
  • Quick-drying

Cons

  • The thick waistband can get sweaty and cause irritation
  • The deep hand pockets make it hard to carry things on a run

It doesn’t matter if you’re a trail runner or a road runner, a competitive runner, or a leisure runner; the need for a reliable pair of running shorts is universal. The most important thing to consider when you’re looking for your perfect pair is comfort.

Now that you know what features make the best running shorts, it’s time to go out and get your perfect pair!

Is there a brand of running shorts you love but isn’t on the list? Let us know in the comments section below!    

best running shorts
Mia Kercher

Mia Kercher

Mia Kercher is a hiker, cyclist, and runner. After finishing her first marathon in 2013, she continued the sport but found a new passion in trail running. She now explores the glorious mountains in Portland, Oregon where she works as co-founder of Evoke.

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