How To Choose Running Shorts

Running shorts.  Every runner needs a pair, and while you can usually get away with any old pair of shorts when you start out, once you start doing long distance runs it’s a good idea to invest in a dedicated pair of running shorts.

This article looks are what to consider in terms of short type, size, material and little extra functions.

Here’s what to consider when selecting running shorts:


You need something that is moisture-wicking (draws sweat away from your body) and quick-drying.  Synthetic materials such as polyester, or polyester/spandex/nylon blend work well.   They also tend to be long-lasting and more durable than shorts made from natural fibres such as cotton.   The other disadvantage of cotton shorts is that they retain moisture, leading to chafing very quickly.


Not that I’d recommend committing sins against decency, but shorter shorts can make a difference – especially in the heat.  The longer the shorts are, the more heat and moisture will hang around your nether regions.    This leads to discomfort, chafing and rashes – do yourself a favour and buy shorts that give yourself plenty of breathing space.

Liner and Seams

These exist so you don’t have to wear underwear, thus preventing chafing.  However, when running long distances it is recommended to also apply a lubricant, like Bodyglide, down there.  If you’re buying shorts from a reputable running company, chafing seams shouldn’t be an issue.  Always do your dress rehearsal before a big run though, regardless of who made your shorts.


If you can get a pair of shorts with a small zip-pocket (preferably right at the back), then go for it.  The additional weight and cost of getting the pocket are worth it for being able to easily store and access a couple of gels, salts, iPods, etc. on runs.

Related: What To Wear When Running


Compression Shorts

The effectiveness of compression gear seems to depend on who is wearing it.  Many people enjoy the ‘lightly massaging’ feeling of wearing compression shorts and feel it aids with muscle recovery.

Minor secondary benefits of running with compression wear are that it can keep you warmer, and reduce chafing (but hopefully you’ve already eliminated the possibility of chafing using other methods).

Thomas Watson

Thomas Watson

Thomas Watson is an ultra-runner, UESCA-certified running coach, and the founder of His work has been featured in Runner's World,, MapMyRun, and many other running publications. He likes running interesting races and good beer. More at his bio.

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