Whether you’re running a quick lap around the block or pushing your limits during a race, your gear matters. Comfortable, breathable running shorts are essential to keeping your pace up and avoiding the kinds of discomfort that can turn a fun jaunt into a painful struggle. But while many running shorts on the market claim to be great for chafing, sagging, and riding up, they’re not all created equal. In fact, some can be downright uncomfortable and lead to chafing, sagging, or even worse.

In an attempt to make the process of selecting the best pair of running shorts for you easier, we’ve rounded up some of the most comfortable and high-performing pairs on the market. In addition to a comfortable fit, breathability, and durability, we’ve also taken into account key features that will add to your running experience.

One of the first things you’ll want to consider when choosing the right pair of running shorts is the fabric. Most of the options on our list use a lightweight, breathable woven material that moves when you move and provides plenty of airflow to keep your legs from feeling hot and suffocated. Some brands also offer a range of features, including SPF protection, four-way stretch, antimicrobial properties, and more. While most of these additional features aren’t necessary for a comfortable run, some may help improve your performance.

Another important consideration is the length and cut of your running shorts. While you may prefer a shorter inseam like the 2.5” inseam found on the Nathan Essential Shorts, many runners find that a longer cut offers more coverage without sacrificing breathability or comfort. Additionally, some pairs of running shorts feature a built-in brief that helps to provide extra coverage and support during your workout. While some runners prefer this skin-tight feel, others prefer a looser liner that’s more like standard underwear.

Pockets are another important factor to consider. While most of the shorts on our list include at least one pocket, some, such as the Nike Aeroswift running shorts, include a series of drop-in pockets in the waistband that can accommodate gels and essentials without bouncing or impeding your stride. This makes them a great option for long distances or races where you may need to carry more supplies with you.

Of course, no list of running shorts would be complete without mentioning sustainability and ethics. The Kipruns, while a solid choice for comfort and airflow, fall short in two important areas: they don’t have anywhere to store your phone and Decathlon has a poor rating from Good On You regarding transparency and ethical initiatives. Nevertheless, the price is reasonable and the quality of the shorts is impressive for the price. For a more sustainable option, we recommend checking out the Girlfriend Collective running shorts. This lightweight woven pair is highly breathable, fits well, and comes in an assortment of colors. Plus, they’re made from recycled post-consumer water bottles for a great added bonus.

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