Running is a fabulously low-tech and relatively inexpensive sport compared to other endurance activities—all you really need are a pair of shoes and some shorts. But when it comes to choosing the right gear, the choice can be daunting: there are shorts that hug your legs like a second skin, long ones that offer more coverage, and everything in between. There are also options for short or long inseam, pockets or no pockets, and many types of materials, from cotton to technical fabrics that have antimicrobial properties and are breathable. But when it comes down to it, what matters most are the features that help you keep running happy and healthy.

The first thing you’ll notice on a pair of good running shorts is how comfortable they feel. This is usually achieved by using a stretchy material that feels soft against your skin and moves with you as you run, and a waistband that stays secure around your hips without chafing or pinching. You’ll also want the waistband to be wide enough for your comfort level and to allow you to easily adjust the drawstring.

Another important feature is the amount of sweat they can wick away, which helps keep you cool and comfortable. A fabric that’s woven to have a tighter weave is more effective at moving moisture out of your skin, and there are now even performance fabrics that can take humidity up to five times the normal level. This feature is especially important if you live in an area with high humidity.

Some runners like to use compression shorts to avoid chafing on their legs, and there are also two-in-one running shorts that combine a light inner liner with a looser outer short. This is a great option for some runners who don’t want to wear a full compression garment, and the Soar Running Dual Run Short 3.0 is our favorite example of this type of short because it strikes the perfect balance between a comfortable inner and outer short that prevents chafing and doesn’t become too hot while you’re wearing it.

Storage is another important factor for many runners, and the range of choices here is huge: there are shorts that have no storage at all, a couple of zipper pockets that can fit a phone, cards and keys, or several larger pockets with room for food and gels. For some, this is the only storage they need, but others might want to add a small waist belt or hydration vest for additional capacity.

While you might be able to find cheap cotton-based running shorts in some stores, the best shorts are constructed from a variety of technical fabrics that combine elements like polyester, elastane, and spandex. These materials are generally lighter and more breathable than traditional gym shorts, and they often include antimicrobial properties that help battle bacteria and odor. You’ll also want to look for a pair that has flat seams, which are less likely to cause chafing than rougher and wavy seams.

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