In addition to comfort, the best trail running shorts should be durable, breathable, quick-drying and provide the right amount of storage (ideally with a zipped pocket) for the length of your run. Many runners also prefer an inseam around five inches (some shorter for racing, and others longer for the thighs to rub together and cause chafing), as well as features like internal drop-in pockets, elastic belts or waistband draw cords. Some also look for more technical features, like reflective touches, compression technology or even a pack loop.
As the sport of trail running continues to grow, so too do the choices and options available in men’s shorts for trail runs. Many brands have a range of options, from spandex tights more often seen at track and field meets to lightweight one- or three-inch options with no liners or pockets. This wide selection of options makes it a great time to be a runner, with the potential to find a pair of shorts that perfectly suit your needs.
One of our favorites is the Merrell’s unimaginatively titled Trail Running Short. Despite the simple name, these are among the most comfortable and versatile shorts we’ve ever tested. They’re ideal for everything from easy trails and interval training to race day, with a fantastic feel across a range of speeds thanks to four-way stretch, moisture-wicking and quick-drying fabric. Plus, they’re super affordable and come in a great color palette to match your running tops.
Another great option is US brand Janji, which prioritizes sustainability and offers an impressive number of thoughtful features. The Hydro Short, for example, eliminates the need for a hydration pack or waist belt, as it has an inner brief that dries quickly and an external zipped pocket big enough for a phone. Plus, the fabric is a breathable and quick-drying stretch knit with built-in UV protection.
For a pair of lightweight and highly breathable trail running shorts that are designed to be worn with no liner, check out the Nathan’s Front Runner. These shorts use a soft, stretchy fabric with flatlock seams to prevent chafing, and feature mesh panels on the upper thigh for breathability. They’re treated with a DWR finish to keep water out, and they dry very quickly if they do get wet.
The lightest of the lot, these trail running shorts are the most versatile as they can be worn with or without a liner. They’re a perfect fit for most of our testers, but might be too snug on those with bigger thighs. The elasticated waistband and draw cord help with the fit, but we’d recommend ordering a size up as they tend to run small. If you don’t want to buy two pairs, consider pairing them with the corresponding long version for the ultimate in versatility.
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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