When you’re out on the road or trail, your gear matters. It’s not just about how comfortable your shoes are or whether your socks are breathable; having the right running shorts makes the difference between feeling great and chafing your legs halfway through your run. It might seem like any pair will do, but the specialized fabrics and fit of running-specific shorts make all the difference in your comfort and performance. We’ve rounded up our favorite options, from running-specific liners and waistband pockets to 2-in-1 and fitted shorts, to help you find the best pair for your discipline.

The fabric used for running shorts has a big impact on how they feel and how they perform, especially for runners who like to sweat. Some brands offer fabric blends that prioritize different properties, like wicking or stretchiness. For example, if you need your gear to wick sweat during hot runs, look for a blend with more polyester or elastane. If you prefer to be able to stretch out of your shorts without breaking, consider a pair made from nylon or spandex. Many companies also have a “performance” or “compression” line of shorts that is designed for the extra support and range of motion you might need on longer distance or trail runs.


The length of running shorts is up to the runner’s preference, but generally speaking, shorter running-specific shorts offer more flexibility and freedom of movement. Longer shorts offer more coverage and warmth, which might be more important for cold-weather runs or for some people who have to walk home after their run.

Whether you’re looking for the next-to-skin feel of a spandex-style pair or want to add a bit of extra compression with some technical fabrics, this pair from Oiselle is a top choice. The Playa Interlock fabric offers a slight amount of compression with a soft, flexible fit that’s ideal for all types of running. The shorts are available in two different inseam lengths and can be customized with an anti-odor boxer brief liner, which adds another layer of moisture-wicking.

Some running-specific shorts have pockets built into the waistband, which can be a convenient way to carry keys and a phone. But be careful about how much you carry — too much and the weight could get in the way of your run. Pockets that aren’t designed for running often have a loose, bouncy construction that can cause uncomfortable chafing during your run. If you do need to carry a small amount of extra items, we recommend a pair of joggers with a cargo pocket that’s optimized for running (and has a hole in the bottom for headphone wires).

Some shorts have integrated underwear, which is great for simplifying your outfit and can help prevent chafing. But some runners prefer to have a separate pair of men’s or women’s boxers or briefs for a snugger fit and maximum muscle support. You can also choose a skort, which is essentially a skirt with integrated boyshorts.

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