Chafing, wedgies, riding up—we’ve all experienced at least one of these annoyances running in a pair of lousy shorts. Although these aggravations might seem minor, they’re not what you want to be focused on when you’re setting out for a training run or toeing the start line. The good news: We selected a slew of promising shorts, put a ton of miles in them, and picked out the most worthy of the bunch. Keep reading for our tips on finding a pair that you’ll especially love from our 10 runner-approved recommendations.

Best Running Shorts

    The Experts: In addition to consulting the RW gear team (which includes former collegiate athletes, a few sub-3:00 marathoners, and daily runners), we tapped Michael Charboneau, a former Runner’s World staffer, and Emily Shiffer, a longtime Runner’s World contributor, for their running shorts insights and recommendations. Both review running gear as freelance journalists. Charboneau has been running since middle school and regularly runs, bikes, and hikes around Los Angeles, where he lives. Shiffer runs three times a week, up to 15 miles in total, and attends fitness classes at least twice a week. These activities have given them plenty of experience with what works and what doesn’t, plus enough time to test the latest pairs.

    Features to Consider

    You’ll find shorts on our list in all lengths, fits, and flavors—but the best style is truly the one that feels best on you.

    Inseams: Longer inseams (generally, 7 to 9 inches for men and 4 to 8 inches for women) provide more coverage, which can be beneficial if you’re hitting the trails, want sun protection, or just prefer a modest cut. Shorter inseams (around 3 inches and sometimes even shorter for women) and spandex are great for speed workouts, race day, and runs when you want to feel fast and flash a little thigh.

    Interior Liners: Keep in mind that many running shorts include underwear. Built-in briefs or compression liners can help simplify your workout wardrobe, while making your runs much more comfortable (and chafe-free). In addition, some shorts include extra support features, like Saxx’s BallPark Pouch featured in its Hightail running shorts, which keeps sensitive body parts from jostling around and rubbing against your thighs as you run.

    Pockets: Zipper pockets and hidden pouches make it much easier to carry the essentials—especially if you’re heading out for a long run. Most pockets are large enough to stash your house key and some cash, but pay attention to size if you want more space for a phone, wallet, and fuel (or if you’re the type who pockets those random found-on-the-run treasures).

    Find The Right Material

    We won’t stop you from running in your favorite all-cotton bottoms, but be wary that the fabric gets heavy when wet, dries slow, and can chafe. Plus, 100 percent cotton shorts will most likely do some serious shrinking in your dryer. Some better options are technical fabrics that blend various materials—like polyester, elastane, spandex, and nylon.

    If you want shorts that really wick sweat fast, choose a mix with a higher percentage of nylon. Or if extra stretchiness is a must-have, seek out more spandex. Synthetic fabrics with open weaves or larger fibers will also breathe better on humid runs, and some even have antimicrobial properties for combatting bacteria and odor.

    Still, if you’re a die-hard for the comfort of cotton, try a 50-50 blend that pairs it with a second, more sweat-friendly material, like polyester. You’ll still get some of that cottony softness but with added durability and even UV ray protection.

    How We Tested and Evaluated

    Our gear team tests running shorts throughout the year (yes, even on cold winter days) and takes field notes on comfort, fit, and features. At a minimum, a pair of shorts must allow for good range of motion, wick away sweat, and not cause wedgies to earn our recommendation. Ideally, they should also accommodate our storage needs, look good, and make us feel our best. We also solicited feedback from experts Michael Charboneau and Emily Shiffer, as well as our team of local wear testers—a diverse group of all running abilities, shapes, and sizes—who take to the road, trails, and treadmills before circling back with their evaluations. We’ve run in nearly every pair of shorts that made the cut or used our years of experience to judge the best options available now. These are the best running shorts right now for men and women.


    Tracksmith Session Speed

    Inseam: 5 in. (M), 2.5 in. (W)
    Size Range: XL–2XL (M), XS–XL (W)
    Pockets: 1
    Built-in Liner: Yes

    Session Shorts

    • Moisture-wicking and odor-resistant
    • Soft, comfortable, and stretchy

    • Some runners might want more storage
    • Pricey

    The Session has kept its place on this list through several rounds of testing. It’s beloved for its buttery soft, lightweight stretch knit fabric (a nylon-elastane blend) that is as cozy as cotton. Yet it still packs a performance punch; the sweat-wicking, odor-resisting material allows you to wear them a couple of times before having to throw them in the wash. An internal drawstring provides adjustability, and a back pocket (outfitted with a zipper on the men’s) offers modest storage. The fit and fabric is comfortable and “clings in all the right places,” according to one tester. After runners asked for more options, Tracksmith debuted a 7-inch version for men and the Session Speed, a more minimal, race-ready option.

    Shop Men’s | Shop Women’s


    Janji AFO-Vent Multi Short

    Inseam: 4 in. (M), 3 in. (W)
    Size Range: S–XL (M), XS–XL (W)
    Pockets: 4
    Built-in Liner: Yes

    AFO-Vent Multi Short

    • Four waistband pockets for storing gels on a long run
    • Lightweight and breathable

    • Waistband infinity string is quite short for knotting
    • Expensive

    Available with a 4-inch inseam for men and a 3-inch for women, the AFO-Vent Multi Short has four waistband pockets, making it the ideal bottom for runners who hate running belts. The shorts are made of the brand’s Air Flat Out fabric, a nylon-based material that is lightweight, micro-perforated for breathability, and has a four-way stretch. A high split hem gives you room to move, though some runners might want more coverage. In that case, men should choose the 7-inch Multi Short that sports a 2-in-1 design and less aggressive split hem.

    Shop Men’s | Shop Women’s


    Baleaf Laureate 5-Inch 2-in-1 Shorts

    Inseam: 5 in. (M)
    Size Range: S—3XL (M)
    Pockets: 3
    Built-in Liner: Yes

    Laureate 5-Inch 2-in-1 Shorts

    • Zippered back pocket
    • Flatlock seams to reduce chafing
    • Very affordable

    • Tall runners might prefer a longer inseam

    These affordable men’s shorts from Baleaf come in a wide range of sizes (and colors), and include several features typically found on more expensive pairs. They’re made from a polyester-spandex blend for durability and good freedom of movement, and the drawcord waistband helps you dial in a snug fit. On the back of the waistband, there’s a zippered back pocket that’s perfect for storing a phone or keys while you run. Prefer your shorts without a liner? Baleaf makes an unlined version as well.


    Under Armour Fly-By 2.0

    Inseam: 3.5 in. (W)
    Size Range: XS–2XL (W)
    Pockets: 1
    Built-in Liner: Yes

    Fly-By 2.0
    Under Armour

    • Very affordable

    • Some runners might want more storage

    The Fly-By 2.0 shorts have everything a runner needs at a price that won’t break the bank: an internal drawstring in the waistband, mesh panels on the side splits for ventilation, and a hidden pocket for key storage. They have a 3-inch inseam and come in several colors, including royal blue, aqua, red, purple, and pink. Thicker-thighed women might want to size up as the leg openings run a little narrow. “The shorts were breezy for summer runs, though I would advise those who are a bit more curvy to notch up a size so you’re getting the full breezy effect!” said a tester.


    Nike Flex Stride 7-Inch

    Inseam: 7 in. (M)
    Size Range: XS–4XL (M)
    Pockets: 4
    Built-in Liner: Yes

    Flex Stride 7-Inch

    • Wide range of sizes

    • Long liner adds weight

    Charboneau owns an earlier version of these shorts (sans liner), and they’ve been in his running rotation for years. The latest iteration comes with an updated woven fabric for extra breathability in high-sweat areas at the back of waist, and a long liner cuts down on irritation and chafing. A split hem at the sides adds flexibility and improves airflow, too. A zippered pocket at the rear holds your phone, and a drop-in pocket in the waistband offers stable storage for small items. For slightly less coverage, opt for the 5-inch model instead.


    Soothfeel 2-in-1 Running Shorts With Phone Pocket

    Inseam: 3 in. (W)
    Size Range: XS–XL (W)
    Pockets: 2
    Built-in Liner: Yes

    2-in-1 Running Shorts With Phone Pocket
    $26.99 (27% off)

    • Liner offers compression, support, and a convenient pocket for extra storage

    • Liner might ride up as you move

    These 3-inch shorts have high split hems and a double-layer design that will satisfy any runner who loves a liner. They also have a large side pocket for stashing a phone with minimal bounce and a great zippered pocket on the back of the waistband. Plus, these also come in 16 colors to match your style.


    Ten Thousand Session Short

    Inseam: 5 or 7 in. (M)
    Size Range: XS–2XL (M)
    Pockets: 3
    Built-in Liner: Optional

    Session Short
    Ten Thousand

    • Comfortable boxer-brief liner
    • Perforated waistband

    • Pocket positions cause phone to bounce or rest awkwardly on outer hip

    Ten Thousand’s Session is available in a 5- or 7-inch inseam and has a perforated waistband for breathability and side pockets big enough to store a phone. But the real draw of these bottoms is the boxer-brief liner. “It fits snug but doesn’t cling to your thighs or restrict any movement,” a tester said. “And it somehow manages to not overheat, which is usually the case with tight- or compression-like liners in shorts.” The generous leg openings provide a free-moving fit without encumbering your stride.


    Willit Women’s 4-Inch Running Shorts

    Inseam: 4 in. (W)
    Size Range: XS—2XL (W)
    Pockets: 3
    Built-in Liner: Yes

    Women’s 4-Inch Running Shorts

    • UPF 50 fabric offers extra sun protection

    • Mesh liner can feel a little chunky

    These not-too-long and not-too-short women’s running shorts strike a perfect length balance thanks to the 4-inch inseam. They’re also slightly longer in the back for some extra coverage while you’re in full stride. The nylon-spandex blend provides UPF 50 to protect you from harmful UV rays during outdoor runs. Along with an internal drawcord, the shorts have a built-in mesh liner that makes them even more breathable. Plus, they have two side pockets and a zippered pocket at the back of the wide waistband.


    Fourlaps Bolt Short 7-Inch Lined

    Inseam: 7 in. (M)
    Size Range: S–2XL (M)
    Pockets: 3
    Built-in Liner: Yes

    Bolt Short 7-Inch Lined

    • Soft, flexible, quick-drying material

    • Pockets not big enough for all smartphones
    • Pricey

    “I’ve worn these shorts for years, and they’ve held up admirably through all kinds of runs and workouts,” Charboneau says. “I especially love the built-in liner, which is made from a polyester-spandex blend that’s stretchy and exceptionally soft, creating a very comfortable feel.” The material dries quickly and keeps you cool, thanks to laser-cut ventilation holes in the legs. Hand pockets on the side and a zippered pocket on the back right hold a phone, wallet, and keys. Another tester utilized all the pockets on his run without an issue, with gels and blocks in one, cough drops in another, and his cell phone in the back. Fourlaps also makes the Bolt without a liner in 5-inch and 7-inch seams.

    Runner’s World+ members, save an exclusive 20% off select styles of Fourlaps shorts! Get the Deal!


    Nike Eclipse

    Inseam: 3 or 5 in. (W)
    Size Range: XS–2XL (W)
    Pockets: 2
    Built-in Liner: Yes


    • Wide range of sizes

    • Thin fabric isn’t very supportive

    These 3-inch Nike shorts have a wider waistband that can be folded over and cinched thanks to an adjustable drawstring, something we see less and less these days. They also have plenty of storage: two hidden internal pockets on the front and back waistbands, plus a zippered pocket on the outer left hip. They’re eco-friendly, too, made up of a super-thin stretch-woven fabric that uses at least 75 percent recycled polyester fibers. For more coverage, choose the 5-inch Eclipse.

    What Makes a Great Pair of Running Shorts, According to Our Experts Michael Charboneau and Emily Shiffer

    RW: What weather do you consider to be shorts weather?

    M.C.: Once the temperature drops below 50 degrees Fahrenheit, I start to think about maybe wearing pants. But in cold weather the more important thing is to keep my core warm. In other words, I’d put on a long-sleeve baselayer and/or a jacket before I put on pants.

    E.S.: Hot and humid. Living in Pennsylvania, I don’t love having to throw on pants over shorts to hit the gym (which I do out of necessity). But once summer comes, and the air is thick (yes, Pennsylvania is humid!), my philosophy is: The less fabric, the better.

    RW: What’s one must-have feature or criteria you have when shopping for running shorts?

    M.C.: A drawcord waistband. To me, there’s nothing worse than poorly fitting shorts that slip down as you run. Elastic waistbands can fit well, but nothing beats the locked-in fit of a drawcord. I think it’s even more essential if you plan on carrying anything in your shorts pockets. Without a drawcord, the added weight will just make your shorts slip down even faster.

    E.S.: I am constantly in pursuit of the perfect running short, and I don’t think I’ve found it yet. I always have my iPhone with me because I stream Spotify when I run. If my phone doesn’t fit in the shorts, I throw on my FlipBelt. But shorts with a pocket big enough to store that (as well as an apartment key or car key), like the Nathan Front Runner, would be the one feature that would sell me on any pair.

    RW: We all like a deal, but when is it worth it to invest in a pair of shorts over $50?

    M.C.: One of my favorite aspects of running is that it doesn’t require much gear—so don’t overcomplicate it by buying a bunch of stuff. Start with the gym shorts that are already in your drawer, and pay attention to how they perform as you run. If they work fine for you, great. If not, take note of what you need—maybe a drawstring or more (or fewer) pockets—and use that to guide your shopping. You might find that an under-$50 pair of shorts will get you what you need, or you might opt for a more expensive pair because it has better materials or other key features. The important thing is to be smart about what you buy: Invest in quality gear that meets your needs, and you can focus on running instead of getting distracted by uncomfortable clothing.