A good pair of running shorts is as essential to a runner’s wardrobe as a great sports bra or a lightweight jacket. They protect the skin from the sun, wick away sweat and can keep the legs warm on cooler days. But deciding on the right pair can be tricky, especially since there are so many options. From built-in liners to waistband pockets and 2-in-1 styles, there are a lot of different features to consider.
The first step in choosing a pair of running shorts is deciding whether you want a liner or not. Liners are a common feature in women’s running shorts, and they’re designed to eliminate the need for underwear. They’re also designed to fit perfectly, so they’ll be less chafe-inducing over long miles. However, liners are a polarizing choice—runners seem to either love them or hate them.
Another important factor in selecting a pair of running shorts is the number and placement of pockets. Some runners prefer a minimal look, while others appreciate having room to store key and energy gels. Some runners also prefer zippered pockets for extra security. Pockets are available in a range of sizes and are often located in the waistband or on the side of the leg.
A final consideration in determining the best pair of running shorts is their fabric, which should be quick-drying and stretchy. Runners who are particularly hard on their gear should also look for a pair that resists stains.
We asked a group of women to put 16 pairs of running shorts through the paces on both roads and trails, and we looked at everything from their fit and comfort to practical details like pockets and storage. Below, we’ve rounded up the best running shorts for ladies in terms of style, durability and price.
These shorts are made from recycled and moisture-wicking fabric that’s soft against the skin and can stand up to heavy washing. They have an adjustable drawstring at the waist for a customizable fit and an elastic waistband that won’t dig into your belly. One tester says these are her favorite pair of running shorts, and she’s worn them for multiple 24-hour adventure races and 20-mile runs.
Despite their affordable price, these shorts offer high-performance features that rival more expensive options. A nylon/spandex blend with a mesh panel is breathable, quick-drying and moves with the body. They have a high waistband that won’t ride up and a built-in brief liner for added support. A zippered pocket is big enough for a phone and keys, but it won’t jostle around while you run.
These running shorts from Outdoor Voices are a favorite of one tester, who loves the soft feel and breathable material. The fitted shorts hit just above the mid-thigh and are comfortable even on hot runs. The seams are carefully placed to reduce chaffing and the fabric doesn’t bunch up over the butt or thighs, she says. These are the perfect pair of running shorts for women who are serious about their fitness and want to feel confident while running.
Milena Estêvão is a YouTuber passionate about sharing her experiences (challenges, successes and motivations) in the fitness activities she is involved in.
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