The Best Running Shorts of 2021 for Men and Women
In a perfect world, a list documenting “the best running shorts” wouldn’t be necessary.
You could just purchase whatever shorts you wanted and go for a run.
But if you’ve ever taken this approach, you’ve probably learned the hard way – the very hard way – that many shorts just aren’t up to the task. They’ll chafe. They’ll ride up your leg. They’ll…do all manner of other unpleasant things.
Heck, many so-called “running shorts” fall into this category, too.
That’s why I’ve put together a list of the absolute best shorts for running in 2021.
Well, two lists actually.
The 10 Best Running Shorts for Women in 2021
The list isn’t completely comprehensive, but I did do my best to include enough variety so that there’s at least one pair of running shorts for every woman out there. If you’re new to the running shorts market, you might be surprised to learn just how many options exist, so I encourage you to stick around for the entire thing.
Alright, without further ado…
1. HOKA One Performance Knit 3” Running Shorts
Not every woman loves formfitting running shorts, but I know many who will never go back to more traditional options once they’ve worn them.
Therefore, I’m starting our list with the HOKA One Performance Knit 3”.
If you like to run outside in a hot environment (e.g., here in Austin) and/or long distances that might otherwise make your shorts ride up a bit, this kind of minimal running apparel may be the perfect choice.
In fact, 2008 Olympian Magdalena Boulet wore the HOKA One Performance Knit 3” in 2015 when she won the Western States 100-miler.
So, yeah. They’re as comfortable as they are durable.
What’s so interesting about this lightweight brushed fabric is that it’s an Italian blend made from regenerated Econyl nylon. As the founder of an athleisure company that prioritizes sustainability, I love finding out that other successful brands are doing the same.
And if “Econyl nylon” doesn’t sound very soft to you, plenty of online reviewers (oh, and the aforementioned Olympian) can vouch for the comfort of these silky-soft shorts.
Speaking of reviewers, some have reported that they found the waist of these otherwise formfitting shorts a bit loose – so you may need a size smaller than usual. They don’t have a drawstring, which means you can’t tighten them up on your own.
Still, these remain a very popular option thanks to how most reviewers say they fit, plus some really cool extras like UV protection built into the fabric, three convenient pockets, and a guarantee they’ll last you 100 miles (something Boulet has proven they’re capable of doing).
2. Under Armour Fly-By 2.0 Shorts
If you’d prefer running shorts with a little more room, the Under Armour Fly-By 2.0 shorts are a great option. They’re also about a third of the price of that last pair.
With a three-inch inseam, these shorts are still far from baggy, but they aren’t skintight, either. Although, some reviewers have said that their openings are a bit narrow, so you may want to go up a size.
This shouldn’t be much of a problem, though. The Fly-By 2.0 shorts have a drawstring in the waistband, which you can use to take out any slack if you do decide to go up a size.
They also come with mesh panels on the sides that are great for ventilation – without being see-through – and a little hidden pocket for your keys.
Best of all, these shorts are one of the most affordable on our list, so you should be able to stock up on a few pairs.
3. Title Nine Mad Dash Running Shorts
For a bit of a happy medium between the last two, try the Title Nine Mad Dash running shorts. With a four-inch inseam, they’re a bit longer and will probably be a lot more comfortable if you’re not a huge fan of short shorts. You can also go with a pair that has a seven-inch inseam, too, though that seems a bit long for most runners who prefer high-mileage runs.
The four-inch inseam on the most popular version still offers a tight fit, but nowhere near as much as the HOKA One Performance Knit 3” that will really hug you close.
Some reviewers brought up that the fabric felt a bit thick for summer runs in hot weather, so consider that if you live in a warmer climate. For other reviewers, it was perfect – providing an added level of comfort you usually don’t get from short running shorts.
The pockets on this pair have earned a lot of praise, too. They come with a side pocket on the right that’s perfect for your phone and an interior one on your left for keeping your cash, credit card, or ID nice and close.
4. Tracksmith Twilight Split Shorts
For those of you who don’t want running shorts so much as sprinting shorts, Tracksmith Twilight Split Shorts are probably your best option.
The three-inch inseam definitely helps. So, do the splits on the side, which makes it easy to reach a full range of motion as you’re taking those long strides over and over.
But the real reason Tracksmith Twilight Split Shorts have become commonplace among sprinters is their material. It’s kept nice-and-short, but it also isn’t as bulky as a lot of the material that gets used for other split shorts – again, great for full mobility.
Instead, the Bravio fabric is lightweight and super comfortable.
Maybe craziest of all is that Tracksmith still found room to include three stretchy pockets inside the back of these shorts. They’re the perfect size to keep sports gels for those more demanding workouts.
5. Lululemon Speed Up Short Long 4" Running Shorts
If you’re familiar with Lululemon, then two things probably go without saying:
- Their clothing is extremely popular
- And, also, extremely expensive
That being said, the Lululemon Speed Up Short Long 4" running shorts aren’t all that expensive when compared to a lot of the other options on this list.
And yet, they still maintain Lululemon’s reputation for making really, really comfortable athleisure clothing and enviable style. These shorts currently come in 25 different colors and patterns, including such unique options as “Gravel Dust Dew Green”, “Sonic Pink”, and “Auric Gold.”
6. Outdoor Voices Zoom 10” Running Shorts
Running shorts don’t have to be short shorts. I touched on this earlier when I covered Title Nine Mad Dash, but if a four-inch inseam still seems a bit short, you’ll love this pair.
The Outdoor Voices Zoom 10” will give you a lot more room than that – 2.5x more to be exact. Even if coverage isn’t a priority, these longer shorts are often the perfect antidote to chafing. This makes for running shorts that are also great for other activities like cycling where a shorter inseam is almost guaranteed to ride up your leg and chafe.
Outdoor Voices also made these shorts from their SuperForm material, which wicks away sweat and is quick to dry. It even offers UPF 50 protection from the sun.
All of these features – including two deep pockets conveniently located on the sides – may explain why some reviewers online report that the fabric feels a bit thick. Whether or not that’s the case for you will depend on personal preference.
7. Hylete Iris Shorts
The Hylete Iris Shorts are a fantastic mix of shorts that are perfect for sprinters but still have enough coverage for joggers. That’s because they’re made with a high inseam with splits on the sides to give you a ton of mobility, while not being quite as short as the Twilight Split Shorts I covered earlier.
Though they might be just a touch tighter, I wouldn’t say that’s enough to get in the way of a full sprinter’s stride. The material around the hips is similarly unrestrictive, so there’s no reason to worry about comprising your ideal runner’s cadence.
Many reviewers who wear their Iris Shorts for long runs, sprinting, or other types of high-intensity workouts also mentioned how much their breathable liner helped to keep them cool.
These shorts are also stylish enough that you could wear them as casual athleisure, too. Some decent pocket space helps with this, too.
If there’s a drawback to them, I’m seeing some women state that their hybrid nature isn’t ideal. If you just want to jog or only want to sprint, you might be more comfortable with shorts designed for those specific purposes.
8. Free People Hot Shot Running Shorts
Technically, the Free People Hot Shot shorts are marketed as biking shorts, but plenty of women seem to love them for running and jogging, too. With a four-inch inseam, they’re a little longer than typical jogging shorts. They’re also made from material that will stretch with your legs through a full pedal rotation, which is great for keeping them from riding up or causing chafing.
If there’s a reason to steer away from Free People Hot Shot running shorts is that they don’t come with pockets. That’s almost hard to believe these days as just about every pair – even the tightest and shortest – have at least one pocket for gels.
Still, you could buy two of these for the price of most shorts on this list, which might be enough reason to look past this one drawback.
9. Girlfriend Collective High-Rise Run Shorts
Girlfriend Collective High-Rise Run Shorts do a lot of things right. One reason that really makes this brand stand out of the crowd is that their shorts come in a wide range of sizes, from XXS to 6XL – the most on this entire list.
Secondly, the forward-thinking company makes their running shorts from recycled water bottles. Fortunately, women have reported online that the recycled post-consumer material doesn’t feel at all like wearing plastic. Girlfriend Collective products generally receive high marks across the board for overall comfort and these running shorts are no exception.
No matter what size you go with, you can expect a compressive, flattering fit with enough room for a pocket in the back that can hold credit cards, cash, or keys.
But the big draw is definitely their larger sizes. If you struggle to find running shorts that can fit your body type and feel stay in place, check out the High-Rise Run Shorts.
10. C9 Champion Women's 3.5" Knit Premium Running Shorts
Finally, let’s end on our list of women’s running shorts on the most affordable option, which are the C9 Champion Women’s 3.5” Knit Premium Running Shorts.
At only $20, you might be surprised to learn how comfortable they are. These budget-friendly shorts are lightweight, but it’s not for a lack of material. Online reviews constantly mention how comfortable they are but that they still stay in place during exercise. This is thanks to the fabric’s stretchiness that makes it easy to move through a full range of motion.
A 3.5-inch inseam may be the perfect size for anyone who isn’t quite ready for the 3-inch standard.
Champion also includes a zippered pocket in the back.
The 10 Best Running Shorts for Men in 2021
Just like with women, there is no lack of options out there when it comes to men’s running shorts. You could spend a lot of time and money trying to find the perfect pair to wear for the type of running you like best.
But don’t fear.
I’ve reviewed what the world of athletic clothing has to offer and put together a list of the 10 best running shorts in 2021.
1. Ten Thousand Session Running Shorts
The Ten Thousand Session Running Shorts come in sizes ranging from extra-small to XXL and a five- or seven-inch inseam. You can also choose between having or not having a liner. Whatever you decide on, you’ll love their minimalist design, which makes it easy to enjoy your jog without worrying about the fabric bunching up or otherwise getting in the way.
And yet, Ten Thousand still went to the trouble of perforating the waistband and laser-cutting it to create lots of ventilation, so you’ll enjoy plenty of breathability throughout your run. The ultralight, cling-free material is also designed to wick away sweat to further improve mobility and eliminate chafing.
While I love that these shorts have a pocket large enough to carry your phone, some reviewers have noted that its placement is a bit awkward, making it feel like your phone could come loose at any moment. Whether it actually will or not, nothing will ruin a good run like constantly slowing down because you’re worried about a broken phone.
2. Under Armour Launch SW 7”
Under Armour has built a name on offering affordable athletic clothing that can still hold its own during long, intense workouts.
Their Launch SW running shorts definitely live up to this reputation.
The seven-inch inseam on these shorts makes them perfect for comfortable runs. Under Armour went a step further, though, and included mesh panels on both sides to improve comfort further through extra ventilation. Moisture-wicking fabric will ensure your sweat doesn’t leave to chafing.
If there’s a bad word to be said about these affordable running shorts it’s probably that their brief liner doesn’t always stay in place. Given their price tag, it might be worth starting with a single pair to see if you experience the same problem.
3. Fourlaps Bolt Shorts 7″
Fourlaps Bolt Shorts 7″ has won the top prize for a number of other publications’ “list of best running shorts.”
I’m not surprised.
These shorts are made from a mix of 84% polyester and 16% spandex and have a seven-inch inseam, which make them ultra-comfortable. This four-way stretch material also dries quickly and is bolstered by a wicking brief liner, so Bolt has gone the extra mile to ensure customers won’t have anything to worry about as they sweat during their runs.
You’ll also enjoy plenty of pocket space with two on the size and one on the back that has a zipper and can hold most major models of phones.
4. Tracksmith Session Speed Shorts 3”
If you’re looking for running shorts because you love to sprint, then check out Tracksmith Session Speed Shorts. Their three-inch inseam is classic for sprinters who don’t want extra fabric grabbing their legs as they pump their pace. The high-knit Veloce fabric is as comfortable as it is unintrusive and includes UV protection.
While I doubt it’ll be a dealbreaker, these shorts don’t have a drawstring. The good news is that their elastic waistband is snug enough that you shouldn’t need one.
As these shorts are designed with sprinters in mind, there isn’t a ton of pocket space, but you’ll find a small, unintrusive one in the back for storing your gels.
5. Tracksmith Off Road Shorts
Tracksmith makes our list again for the only pair I’m highlighting that is perfect for trail running. Their Off Road Shorts are made with a 2-in-1 design that provides the security of compression with the feel of traditional running shorts that have a five-inch inseam. The other material also provides that all-important UV protection, so you can run trails in the sun all day long if you like.
As they’re meant for trail running, these shorts come with a decent amount of pocket space. You have two pockets over the thighs that sit in the liner, though you might want a little more room if you have a larger phone.
For other storage needs, you can utilize the two back pockets. To ensure this doesn’t pull down the shorts, Tracksmith included an elastic waist belt.
While they’re the most expensive pair on our list, if you love trail running and have been disappointed by other options in the past, the Tracksmith Off Road Shorts may very well be worth it.
6. SAXX Pilot 2N1 Shorts
The SAXX Pilot 2N1 shorts could make this list for a number of reasons.
You’ll love the comfortable combination of its featherlight fabric and breathable mesh liner. SAXX used reverse stitching to create a flat seam that prevents chafing and friction, too.
But here’s why their Pilot 2N1 Shorts have become so popular lately with male runners: the Ballpark Pouch.
As a man, you know that running means not everything always stays in place. That’s why SAXX designed – in their own words – a “3D hammock-shaped pouch designed to keep everything in place.” It does this with “mesh panels and Flat Out Seams™”, which prevents skin-on-skin friction and protects against chafing.
So, if that kind of thing is regularly an issue for you, I highly recommend you checkout SAXX Pilot 2N1 shorts.
7. Nike AeroSwift Half Tights
This is another example of shorts that could’ve made this list for a number of reasons, but there’s one in particular that really make them stand out.
Yes, the Nike AeroSwift Half Tights are the second-most expensive pair of shorts on our list.
But the other reason they will grab your attention is that the Aeroswift Half Tight Shorts are, well, really, really tight.
For some runners – and even some sprinters – this kind of fit has become their preference. If you don’t like a lot of fabric moving around, this is the pair of running shorts for you.
This also makes them a great pair of shorts if you like to do CrossFit, HIIT, strength training, or other activities where excess fabric is an obstacle.
But as these are only half tights, they’re a great choice for staying nice and cool during your favorite fitness pastime. They still provide plenty of support and will even give you four internal pockets for storing small items like your keys and credit cards.
8. On Race Shorts
Speaking of unique shorts, let’s talk about the lightest option on our list. At a hardly-there 2.72 oz, On Race Shorts are as unintrusive as they get.
Now, depending on what size you wear, that means you could be running with just a two-inch inseam – three at most. But if mobility is your top priority, this sacrifice will probably be worth it.
On didn’t just use the lightest mesh it could find to keep these shorts out of your way. The company also opted for anti-abrasion inseams, so you can keep pushing yourself – no matter how humid the weather gets – without paying for it the next day with lots of chafing or, worse, a heat rash.
If you’re so serious about your speed that any weight is too much, On Race Shorts will keep this unwelcomed trait to a bare minimum.
9. adidas Design 2 Move Climacool Shorts
adidas Men's Designed 2 Move Climacool Shorts is another pair on our list that has a more casual seven-inch inseam, is made from a well-known athletic brand, and won’t break the bank.
So, these shorts aren’t completely unique, but I still included them for a few reasons.
First, they have the widest range of sizes for men’s jogging shorts on this list. They run from extra small all the way up to 6XL (you might pay more than the quoted price below depending on your size).
Second, they’re made from recycled polyester – again, that’s something that I just always love to see.
Third, these shorts are made with Climacool mesh, which is a fast-drying, breathable material that will help keep you cool.
Fourth, they come with truly deep pockets that will provide ample space for cards, keys, and your phone.
But the real reason adidas has won over so many runners is that these shorts offer a large inseam without a built-in liner.
Obviously, if you can’t imagine running without a liner, you’re not going to love these shorts.
However, many runners don’t feel the same way, so they’ve had to either grin and bear it during their runs or settle for basketball shorts that aren’t meant for lengthy jogs.
If you’re one of those runners who haven’t found the perfect shorts yet, I think these are definitely worth a wear.
10. Lululemon Surge
And for the last entry on our list, I’ve included a very familiar brand name, though one you may not associate with men’s running shorts.
Nonetheless, it’s impossible to ignore that Lululemon has released an incredible pair that you should consider if you’re in the market: the Lululemon Surge.
One thing that caught my attention right away about these shorts is that they come in two very rare inseam lengths: four and six inches. These are the only options on this entire list for men that come in those sizes. So, if you’ve found yourself caught between the typical three- and five-inch inseams or wanted something a bit longer but thought seven was too much, Lululemon has your answer.
Of course, that’s not the only reason why this world-famous athleisure brand has such popular running shorts.
The polyester used to make these shorts is 100% recycled and 100% comfortable – no surprise from Lululemon. This material is also lightweight, four-way stretch, and wicks away sweat. Then there’s the “Out of Mind™ (OOM™)” liner that includes a 3D pouch for extra breathable support with every stride.
You’ll also enjoy a secured back pocket big enough for your phone and a waistband loop when it’s time to pop your top.
Choosing the Best Running Shorts Has Never Been Easier
As you can see, whether you’re a man or woman, casual jogger or serious sprinter, on a budget or looking to splurge, there’s a pair of running shorts with your name on them.
My recommendation is to take your time considering all of your options and then purchase one pair to test out before spending more than that. While all of these shorts are phenomenal options, you could spend a lot of money on numerous pairs only to find out that they don’t actually meet your unique preference.
PS - If you find a pair you like but would’ve loved some extra pocket space for carrying water bottles, keys, cards, and gels, check out our list of the best running belts in 2021.