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Which running shorts should I get?

While running doesn’t require equipment like other sports, it does call for an investment in athletic apparel, including running shorts.

According to many runners, finding the right pair is a top priority. A good pair of running shorts will be comfortable, breathable and allow a full range of motion for your stride. Some running shorts even have wick-away or odor-absorbing properties.

To help you find the right pair in time for your next run or race, here’s a buying guide covering everything you need to know about buying running shorts.

What to consider before purchasing running shorts

Running short lengths

Many runners choose running shorts based on length, which refers to the inseam.  

  • Shorter styles, like 2- and 3-inch shorts, allow for free, inhibited movement. They’re often preferred for sprinting or marathons. 
  • Mid-length running shorts with 4- and 5-inch inseams are popular for everyday running and training. The longer inseam reduces chafing, though some wearers indicate these shorts may ride up during their runs. 
  • Longer running shorts with 6-, 7- and 8-inch inseams are popular for short-distance running. These styles are also worn for cross-training.

Running short waistbands

Running shorts can have drawstring or elastic waistbands, or a combination of both. Ideally, waistbands should have a snug fit without digging into your sides. The band should also be smooth so it doesn’t chafe against your skin. 

Running short reflective details

Adidas Men's Own the Run 7" Shorts

Running shorts often have reflective details, as seen on Adidas Men’s Own the Run 7-Inch Running Shorts. These details, which are usually in the form of stripes, logos or panels, boost your visibility to drivers and fellow runners. 

Running short materials

Most running shorts are made with synthetic materials like nylon, polyester and Spandex. These materials are lightweight and breathable. They’re also quick to dry, and some running shorts have wick-away properties that sweep sweat away from the skin to keep you cool. 

Breathable running shorts

It’s no secret that you work up a sweat running, which is why running shorts are breathable. Many styles feature mesh panels to boost airflow around and through the material. Also, running shorts may have breathable liners. 

Running short liners

Under Armour Women's Fly By 2.0 Running Shorts

Many running shorts have liners or briefs, such as Under Armour Women’s Fly By 2.0 Running Shorts. The liners provide support and may reduce chafing. It’s common for runners to forgo undergarments with styles. 

MIER Men's Quick Dry Workout Running Shorts

There are some styles of running shorts without liners, such as MIER Men’s Quick-Dry Running Shorts. Some wearers prefer these styles, stating they prefer wearing active undergarments beneath running shorts.

Popular running shorts styles

V-notch shorts

Nike Men's Challenger Brief-Lined 7" Running Shorts

In v-notch running shorts, outside hems don’t run the entire length of the short. Instead, the last inch or so of the hem is left unsewn. This detail, along with the style’s loose and relaxed fit, allows runners free range of motion.

Split shorts

New Balance Men's Accelerate Running Short

Split running shorts look similar to v-notch styles; however, they have an upside-down v-shape that often consists of overlapping fabric panels. These styles, which may offer even more freedom of movement than v-notch running shorts, are often worn by competitive runners.

Compression shorts

BALEAF Women's Compression Shorts

Compression running shorts are form-fitting styles that provide muscle support. They also support better circulation and faster recovery. Many runners praise compression shorts for their no-chafe, stay-put designs.

How much do running shorts cost?

There are a few affordable styles of running shorts for $20 or less. The $25-$40 range includes many styles from premium athletic apparel brands. Performance-oriented running shorts with special features cost $50 or more.

Best running shorts for women

Nike Tempo Running Shorts

Nike Tempo Running Shorts

This breathable Nike’s signature Dri-FIT material and side mesh panels. The 2-inch shorts have an elastic waist with an internal drawstring as well as a hidden rear pocket. 

Where to buy: Macy’s

Blooming Jelly Quick-Dry Running Shorts

Blooming Jelly Quick-Dry Running Shorts

Runners appreciate these lightweight shorts for their wide, comfortable waistband. The style has a built-in compressive liner with smooth, irritation-free seams. 

Where to buy: Amazon

Under Armour Launch Go All Day Running Shorts

Under Armour Launch Go All Day Running Shorts

These low-profile Under Armour running shorts are made with a four-way stretch material that promotes free, unrestricted movement. The material also has odor control properties. 

Where to buy: Kohl’s and Macy’s

Best running shorts for men

New Balance Men’s Impact Short

New Balance Men’s Impact Short

This classic 5-inch running short has an athletic fit to support active movement. These New Balance shorts also have two pockets, an inner brief and reflective details. 

Where to buy: Amazon

BALEAF 3-Inch Running Shorts

BALEAF 3-Inch Running Shorts

These affordable split shorts are a crowd favorite for their breathable design with mesh side panels. The 3-inch running shorts come in over 20 colors. 

Where to buy: Amazon


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Sian Babish writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.

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