The Best Running Shorts for Men and Women in 2022 – Sports Illustrated

The Best Running Shorts for Men and Women in 2022  Sports Illustrated

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Not all shorts are created equal, and if you’re an avid runner, you’ll want a pair of shorts specifically designed for running. Once you’ve got your running shoes picked out, shorts are the next essential piece of running gear you’ll want to use.

Running shorts are often designed with specific features for runners, with lighter materials, shorter lengths to keep you cool, phone holders and more. There are a lot of options on the market, and choosing the perfect pair isn’t always easy.

Whether you’re running the trails, preparing for a marathon or simply want some comfortable shorts to wear on your training runs around the neighborhood, there’s a pair of shorts that’s perfect for you.

In our guide, we’re going to share our picks for the best running shorts in 2022, for any goal you may have.

Our Picks for the Best Running Shorts:

Key Features:

  • Price:$29.99
  • Length options: Five inches
  • Material: 55 percent recycled polyester, 45 percent polyester
  • Liner: Yes
  • Pockets: Yes

The New Balance Accelerate Five Inch shorts are made for running, but versatile enough for any athletic endeavors. Whether you’re going for a jog, running a trail or playing sports, the Accelerate shorts have you covered.

They’re made from New Balance’s moisture-wicking lightweight breathable material, designed to keep you cool and comfortable for the duration of your run. The moisture-wicking brief liner provides additional support and comfort, and the slim design of these shorts will allow your legs to move freely, without feeling overly restricted.

These shorts are versatile and comfortable, and at only $29.99, they’re a fantastic price for the quality. They also come with a phone pocket, so if you prefer to bring yours along to listen to music or use running apps, you’ll have someplace to stash it. 

Pros:

  • Lightweight, comfortable design that wicks moisture

Cons:

  • They aren’t quite as lightweight as other options, and some may not want the liner

Purchase New Balance Accelerate Five Inch


Key Features:

  • Price: $68
  • Length options: Five inches
  • Material: 86 percent polyester, 14 percent elastane
  • Liner: Yes
  • Pockets: Yes

Lululemon has built a reputation for high-quality, comfortable products built to last, the Track That High Rise shorts are no exception.

These shorts are designed for any type of runner, with a five-inch inseam and extra wide leg opening, allowing you to freely move through any range of motion, without feeling like your legs are being trapped by the shorts. The light, stretchy material is comfortable, and keeps you cool on warm summer runs.

A side zipper pocket is perfect for holding your phone or keys, and the elastic waistband is designed to lie flat against your body, without digging in or pinching anything. Some reviews say they do run a little smaller, but sizing up is an easy way to ensure a comfortable fit.

The continuous drawstring makes sure you’ll never lose your drawstring inside the shorts during the wash, a nice feature.

They aren’t cheap, but these extremely comfortable shorts are worth the investment, and with 10 color options, you’re sure to find a pair you love.

Pros:

  • High-quality material with a wider leg opening to allow longer strides

Cons:

  • Expensive
  • Only one pocket

Purchase Lululemon Track That High Rise


Key Features:

  • Price: $54.95
  • Length options: Five inches
  • Material: 73 percent nylon, 27 percent spandex
  • Liner: Yes
  • Pockets: Yes

The REI Swiftland running shorts are designed for comfort first, with plenty of features runners will fall in love with.

Two drop-in pockets, along with a more secure zipper pocket, allow you to bring your phone, keys, wallet and anything else you need, without interfering with your run. The four-way stretch material allows you to move in any direction without restriction, and the anti-odor lining keeps you fresh.

As an added bonus, they’re made from materials that meet the bluesign criteria, which means they’re environmentally friendly and designed to protect our planet.

The Swiftland five-inch shorts are available in four colors and include reflective pieces to keep you safe, even on night runs. The extra-wide waistband is designed for maximum comfort, without any chafing on longer runs.

Pros:

  • Plenty of pockets
  • Comfortable, often-fitted design

Cons:

  • Some reviews say the material is a bit slow to dry if you’re a heavy sweater

Purchase REI Co-op Swiftland Shorts


Key Features:

  • Price: $25
  • Length options: Three inches
  • Material: 100 percent polyester
  • Liner: No
  • Pockets: Yes

If you’re a runner with thicker thighs, you know how restricting a tight pair of shorts can feel. There are many runners who dislike the liner in shorts, because it can pinch their bodies and feel uncomfortable.

The Play Up shorts are a looser-fitting option, with a curved hem designed to provide a more flattering silhouette, and they don’t have a built-in liner. The waistband is smooth, and won’t pinch or roll during your runs. They’re extremely lightweight, and include two side pockets, though the pockets don’t zip to keep things secure.

Finally, these shorts are available in 26 colors, so you’ll be able to pick the perfect pair to match your running accessories. At only $25, it’s hard to find a better quality pair of shorts from such a reputable brand.

Pros:

  • Lightweight and loose fitting
  • No built-in liner, which some runners prefer

Cons:

  • The pockets don’t zip to secure your items

Purchase Under Armour Play Up Shorts 


Key Features:

  • Price: $65
  • Length options: Eight inches on men’s shorts; six inches on women’s
  • Material: 91 percent recycled polyester/nine percent spandex stretch-woven blend
  • Liner: Yes
  • Pockets: Yes

If you’re trail running, you may find yourself breezing past bushes, trees and other pokey objects that may scratch at you. You’ll want something with a bit more protection, without weighing you down.

That’s where Patagonia Nine Trails come in. With an eight-inch inseam on the men’s version and a six-inch inseam on the women’s, they offer more coverage than other running shorts, while maintaining the lightweight, moisture-wicking material will still keep you cool as you run.

The shorts have two side pockets, plus a larger back pocket and all of them have zippers to keep your loose items secure, even if you’re running on unstable surfaces. The back pocket is the perfect size to keep your phone or wallet securely tucked away.

These shorts are made from recycled material and are Fair Trade Certified, meaning the workers who built them were paid a fair wage. At $65, they aren’t the cheapest shorts, but you can feel good about the company you’re supporting and its environmental impact.

Pros:

  • Longer fit
  • Three zipper pockets, so you don’t have to worry about losing your keys on the trail

Cons:

  • Longer than most running shorts which might not be great for all weather conditions

Purchase Patagonia Men’s Nine Trails | Patagonia Women’s Nine Trails


Key Features:

  • Price: $20.99
  • Length options: Five inches
  • Material: 95 percent polyester, five percent spandex
  • Liner: No
  • Pockets: Yes

If you’re looking for an affordable way to get the look you want, check out the Baleaf Laureate Shorts. They come with the features you’d expect to see in a good pair of shorts, including light materials, a zippered back pocket for your phone and reflective elements for evening runs.

They don’t include a liner, although many runners prefer this. The quick-dry, moisture-wicking material is comfortable, and you get all the features of a great pair of running shorts, at a fraction of the cost bigger brands are charging.

The BALEAF Laureate shorts come in seven color options: royal blue, light blue, light gray, army green, navy, gray and black.

Pros:

  • Inexpensive
  • Lightweight material
  • Zippered phone pocket

Cons:

  • No liner, which some runners prefer to have

Purchase Baleaf Men’s Laureate Shorts | Baleaf Women’s Laureate Shorts


Key Features:

  • Price: $49
  • Length options: Four inches
  • Material: Recycled polyester/spandex
  • Liner: Yes
  • Pockets: Yes

Those who run marathons are likely looking for shorts and shoes built for long-distance training, with the lightest, most comfortable material possible. If that’s you, the Athleta Mesh Racer Run Shorts are some of the lightest shorts we could find.

A four-inch inseam allows plenty of room for your leg to breathe, and the recycled mesh material with mesh ventilation is designed to feel ultra-light and keep you from overheating.

The shorts include one zip pocket, and one smaller hidden pocket on the inside to store your keys—no unnecessary cargo pockets that might weigh you down. They’re available in six colors, and a wide range of sizes to fit most body types.

If you’ve got a marathon coming up, these are the perfect shorts to keep you comfortable every step of the way.

Pros:

  • Shorter than usual design and lightweight
  • Mesh material keeps you comfortable on the longest of runs

Cons:

  • Only have two pockets

Purchase Athleta Mesh Racer Run Shorts 


How We Chose the Best Running Shorts

Comfort

A pair of shorts may have many cool features, but if they aren’t comfortable to wear, what’s the point? We made sure to choose shorts that function well and feel good, so you’re always comfortable during any sort of training run or race.

Fit

Not all bodies are created equal, and we know that everyone has their own preference.

When looking for a pair of running shorts, it’s important to consider how you like your clothes to fit. Some prefer shorter lengths, some prefer their shorts a little baggier—whatever you prefer, you’ll find a pair that suits your needs on our list.

Durability

Once you’ve got the style and fit down, you’ll want to make sure your shorts last. We’ve all dealt with rips, tears and holes in our clothes, and if you’re buying specialty shorts, it’s important to make sure they’re built to withstand all of your training needs.

The last thing you want is to get excited about a new pair of running shorts, only to find them worn out and in need of replacement after a month or two.

Price 

Everyone’s financial situation is different, and regardless of your budget, we know that not everyone wants to spend a ton of money on the most luxurious, high-end running shorts. We chose shorts from a wide range of price points, so you’re sure to find something that fits any budget.

Reviews

Finally, all manufacturers will hype up their products, so we made sure to look at real customer feedback. We ensure the shorts on our list have received raving reviews from real runners, so we know that everything on our list is being enjoyed by runners around the world.

Styles of Running Shorts

Compression

Compression shorts are designed to be tight and supportive, rather than loose-fitting and flowy. Many use them as liners, or for athletic wear, but they can also be used on runs if you don’t like to feel loose fabric around your leg, and prefer to feel snug.

V-notch

While compression shorts are tight, V-notch shorts are designed to be quite loose, and they often have shorter inseams. They usually have a notch cut into the side of the leg, like an upside-down V, allowing for more movement.

Split shorts

Very similar to V-notch shorts, split shorts are designed for maximum movement. The side is usually cut higher up, instead of a V, allowing even more movement and flexibility. The difference between V-notch shorts and split shorts is minimal.

V-notch shorts tend to be the most popular, but split shorts allow more movement in the leg.

How To Choose the Best Pair of Running Shorts for You

When choosing the perfect pair of running shorts, begin by deciding the style, length, and budget you’re working with.

Do you like shorter shorts so your legs can breathe, or would you prefer a bit more coverage? Do you need a phone pocket, or can you listen to music from your running watch?

There’s no one-size-fits-all recommendation, so the best thing to do is figure out exactly what you need in a pair of running shorts first, and then use our list to find the best pair for you. We’ve included shorts for all training styles, body sizes and budgets, so you’re sure to find something that meets your needs. 

FAQs

Why do running shorts have a split?

The split allows your legs to move side to side, without feeling constricted in any way by the fabric.

How often should you replace running shorts?

The life of your shorts will vary greatly, depending on how often you use them, and how you care for them. Shorts should be replaced when you start to notice any signs of wear and tear, especially around the liner and pockets.

What do you wear under running shorts?

This is entirely a matter of personal preference. Many shorts include liners, and you don’t have to wear anything under them at all if you wish. However, if you like more support, you can always use a pair of athletic briefs underneath.

Are shorter or longer shorts better when running?

For most people, shorter shorts are best when running. Too much fabric can feel heavy and restrict your movement, so a shorter option won’t weigh you down quite as much while allowing you to move more freely.

Should running shorts be tight or loose?

This is also a matter of personal preference. Some people prefer a loose, flowy fit. Others, especially those who are prone to chafing, may prefer compression shorts.

Is it better to run in shorts or leggings?

This is seasonal, and a matter of preference. In the hot summer months, shorts are almost always better, and if you’re running in cold climates, leggings may do a better job of keeping you warm.

However, even in warm weather, some find that their thighs rub together, and if this happens, leggings can prevent uncomfortable chafing.

Final Thoughts

When it comes to running shorts, think about your priorities—things like how many pockets you desire, what style you like, your maximum budget and what fit you prefer. Whether you’re going on a run around your neighborhood, hitting the trails or training for your next marathon, you’re sure to find a pair of running shorts that perfectly meets your needs in our guide!

Prices are accurate and items in stock as of publish time.