Running shorts are a great choice for hiking because they’re lightweight, comfortable, and move with you on the trail. They’re often made of sweat-wicking materials and offer UPF 50 sun protection to help protect you from the harmful UV rays that can burn your legs if they’re exposed for hours on end while hiking. Running shorts also tend to have more pockets for stashing small items like food, water, and sunscreen. Some hiking-specific styles of running shorts even include a built-in liner to help prevent chafing from friction with your skin or other clothing during long hikes.

Whether you’re planning a short weekend hiking trip or a thru-hike that could last weeks, you’ll want to choose a pair of running shorts with an inseam of 7 inches or longer. Those with more of an 8-inch inseam provide the additional coverage that some hikers prefer for added protection from bugs and spiky/stinging plants on the trail. For thru-hikers logging lots of miles, the stretchiness of running shorts may be an important factor as they lose weight over time and their waists shrink or expand depending on how much they’ve eaten in town (or how many snacks they’ve packed!).

Other features that hikers look for in their running shorts include a durable material that won’t tear easily, breathability to help keep them cool and dry when they sweat, and pockets. Some running shorts also have a waistband that’s stretchy and a drawstring, so you can adjust them as needed for comfort.

Most hikers will also want running shorts that are quick-drying and have adequate ventilation. Many will also want their running shorts to be a bit warm when it’s cold on the trail, so they can layer a thermal merino or polypropylene baselayer under them. A pair of waterproof rain pants can also help you stay safe from hypothermia in the event of a sudden downpour while hiking.

Finally, if you’re planning to hike in a variety of weather conditions, you’ll probably want running shorts that are versatile enough to switch from warm weather to cold weather with a simple zip or button down change. The outdoor industry has seen a big jump in sustainable materials and eco-friendly practices recently, and hiking shorts are no exception to this trend with lots of manufacturers offering options that use recycled fabrics or are Bluesign approved for environmental safety.

If you’re unsure if running shorts are good for hiking, try wearing a pair on an easy trail hike or one day-hike. You can always swap back to your regular hiking pants if you don’t find that the running shorts are more comfortable, but a lot of hikers swear by their running shorts because they’re light and airy and feel like a second skin while on the trail. And, if you’re happy with your decision to stick with your running shorts for hiking, go for it! It’s a great way to get more use out of the gear you already own.

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