Compared to other sports, running doesn't really require much equipment. A pair of solid running shoes, a top and a good pair of running shorts are pretty much all you need to set yourself up for success (though a good pair of headphones help).
But choose the wrong bottoms and your run can become miserable pretty quick. Luckily, we've narrowed down the search to 12 of the best options out there with the help of a few running coaches.
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The Best Running Shorts
- Best Overall for Men: Ten Thousand Distance Short ($78, Tenthousand.cc)
- Best Overall for Women: Brooks Chaser 3" Short ($60, BrooksRunning.com)
- Best for Larger Bodies: Nike Challenger Men's Brief-Lined Running Shorts ($24.97, Nike.com)
- Best for Larger Bodies: Nike Tempo Women's Running Shorts ($22.97, Nike.com)
- Best for Long Runs: Adidas Own The Run Split Shorts ($21, Adidas.com)
- Best for Long Runs: New Balance Impact Run 2-in-1 Short ($54.99, NewBalance.com)
- Best for Track Sessions: Janji 3" AFO Split Short 1.0 ($62, Janji.com)
- Best for Track Sessions: Lululemon Hotty Hot Low-Rise Lined Short 2.5" ($68. Lululemon.com)
- Best for Compression: Lululemon SenseKnit Running Short 10" ($128, Lululemon.com)
- Best for Compression: Lululemon Base Pace High-Rise Short 6" ($64, Lululemon.com)
- Best on a Budget: BALEAF Men's 5" Running Athletic Shorts ($21.99, Amazon.com)
- Best on a Budget: BMJL Women's Athletic Shorts High Waisted Running Shorts ($22.99, Amazon.com)
How We Chose
We chatted with two running coaches to learn what qualities make the absolute best running shorts. We selected our products based on their criteria, including:
A Quick Language Note
We make deliberate choices about the language we use when it comes to gender. While more brands now carry gender-neutral workout clothes, you’ll still typically see clothing brands market their products to men or women.
The main difference between most women's and men's running shorts is the fit: Men's versions tend to be roomier and women's versions tend to be tighter. However, fabrics, quality and comfort should be the same between gender-labeled pairs. We encourage everyone to purchase the products that feel right for them.
Best Overall for Men
1. Ten Thousand Distance Short
The best running shorts should feel light, breathable and versatile for shorter and longer runs, according to Ben Lauder-Dykes, running coach and running instructor at Fhitting Room.
Ideally, your shorts have a few storage pockets and they have a lightweight liner to help prevent chafe. Yep, that perfectly describes Ten Thousand's Distance running shorts.
Buy it: Tenthousand.cc; Price: $78
Best Overall for Women
2. Brooks Chaser 3" Short
These shorts pretty much tick all the boxes. They're lightweight and sweat-wicking, giving you a barely-there feel. You also get a roomy fit around the legs, giving you full range of motion (a must-have, according to Lauder-Dykes) as you switch speed or climb hills.
And if the 3-inch fit feels a little too short, they also make a 5-inch version, too!
Buy it: BrooksRunning.com; Price: $60
Best for Larger Bodies
3. Nike Challenger Men's Brief-Lined Running Shorts
Available in sizes small to 4XL tall, the Nike Challenger running shorts are an excellent choice for those with bigger bodies. And they even have an inner drawstring, ensuring you can get the best fit.
The longer inseam also makes them a little more versatile than other running bottoms, according to Lauder-Dykes. These are great for anyone who may be running as a part of a circuit or interval class. They also offer a little more coverage for those who love trail runs.
Buy it: Nike.com; Price: $24.97
4. Nike Tempo Women's Running Shorts
These Nike running shorts are a must-have — they've been around forever and Nike keeps making new colors. And you can buy them in sizes extra small through 3X.
"For me, I like a drawstring and elastic waistband — that way if the shorts are a tad loose I can snug them up," Janet Hamilton, CSCS, a clinical exercise physiologist and owner of Running Strong, tells LIVESTRONG.com.
Buy it: Nike.com; Price: $22.97
Best for Long Runs
5. Adidas Own the Run Split Shorts
Split shorts are great for track workouts, sure, but they're also a good choice for long distances, too, according to Lauder-Dykes. These Adidas split shorts offer more ventilation than longer styles, which is ideal for longer sessions.
Buy it: Adidas.com; Price: $21
6. New Balance Impact Run 2-in-1 Short
These 2-in-1 shorts have a longer compression liner, which can help prevent unwanted chafing while you run, according to Hamilton. And the outer shorts are lightweight, so the layers won't feel bulky, either.
Buy it: NewBalance.com; Price: $54.99
Best for Track Sessions
7. Janji 3" AFO Split Short 1.0
When it comes to speedier runs or track workouts, Lauder-Dykes prefers a split short. These offer some more range of motion, which is exactly what you need as you drive your knees up to increase your pace.
Thanks to the fabric, these are also ultra-lightweight, so you don't have to worry about being weighed down mid-stride. And the material is quick-drying, too, for when you start sweating.
Buy it: Janji.com; Price: $62
8. Lululemon Hotty Hot Low-Rise Lined Short 2.5"
Lululemon's Hotty Hot shorts are lightweight and fit roomier around the leg to give your legs full range of motion. And they have a built-in liner (more on that below), so you don't have to worry about the shorter, 2.5-inch length. But for those who prefer more coverage, they even make a 4-inch version.
"I also like a small key pocket that's big enough for a folded $5 or $10 bill along with a key," Hamilton says.
Buy it: Lululemon.com; Price: $68
Best for Compression
9. Lululemon SenseKnit Running Short 10"
The best part about compression bottoms? Aside from the extra support, they can be worn alone or underneath a looser pair of bottoms. These Lululemon shorts are snug but won't restrict your movement, thanks to the flexible fabric.
Another reason to add these to your cart? They're great for reducing chafing, especially during longer workouts, according to Lauder-Dykes.
Buy it: Lululemon.com; Price: $128
10. Lululemon Base Pace High-Rise Short 6"
These compression bottoms have a supportive, high waist and feel weightless, thanks to the breathable, sweat-wicking fabric. They also have no inseam, so you don't have to worry about any unwanted thigh chafe.
Buy it: Lululemon.com; Price: $69
Best on a Budget
11. BALEAF Men's 5" Running Athletic Shorts
With thousands of five-star ratings on Amazon, these are certainly a fan favorite. And at only $22 a pair, they're easy on the wallet, too.
But don't think the low price is a reflection of quality. Per Lauder-Dykes' recommendation, these are made with a sweat-wicking synthetic fabric that helps absorb sweat away from your body.
Buy it: Amazon.com; Price: $21.99
12. BMJL Women's High Waisted Running Shorts
These price-friendly running shorts come in 27 different colors and have a stretchy inner brief to give you some extra support on the run.
The high waist keeps these bottoms in place and they have a zipper side pocket that's big enough to fit most smart phones, too.
Buy it: Amazon.com; Price: $22.99
3 Factors to Consider When Buying Running Shorts
Your best running short length is largely a matter of personal preference, according to Lauder-Dykes. But different lengths are better suited for different types of running workouts, too.
Shorter shorts (think 5-inch inseam or less) provide more range of motion than longer options. So, they're generally better for sprint-style workouts or interval training where you may drive your knees higher up.
"You'll see many elite runners wearing short shorts for the technical advantages," he says.
You can also find longer running shorts, too. These usually offer less range of motion. But they're more versatile for those who may be running in workout classes — in other words, they won't fly up during a burpee.
Longer shorts may also be better during a trail run. They offer more coverage, protecting your legs from branches and twigs on your path.
Most running shorts are made with synthetic, quick-drying fabrics, like polyester, nylon and lycra. These allow your skin to breathe and help absorb sweat off your body, according to Lauder-Dykes. These fabrics are also quick-drying, so you don't have to walk around in sweaty bottoms after a long run.
Many running shorts are made with thin, lightweight fabrics, which are great for breathability. But for those who prefer trail runs, thicker fabrics are ideal. These are more snag-resistant and less likely to tear.
Both Lauder-Dykes and Hamilton agree that cotton is a fabric you want to avoid when buying running shorts. Although it's comfortable, cotton absorbs moisture and doesn't dry quickly. The last thing you want is a pair of damp, heavy shorts weighing you down.
Some running shorts come with a built-in liner, which is kind of like a pair of underwear in the shorts. Different liners come in different lengths (some are like an underwear brief, others are like a compression short), so it's good to take a look (and try a few pairs) before you buy.
"The liner is designed to give you support while running more so than regular underwear," Lauder-Dykes says. "The brief liner would likely be better for shorter runs, as there's likely less sweat and risk of chafing. For longer distances, a shorts compression liner might be a better choice."