Running doesn’t require a lot of gear to get started — just a good pair of sneakers and some comfortable shorts. But not all shorts are created equal, and even the most budget-friendly models can leave you with chafing or a waistband digging in that distracts from your workout. High-tech fabrics and performance features can cost a pretty penny, but we’ve tested 16 pairs of running shorts to find the most comfy ones for your miles — without breaking the bank.
The most comfortable running shorts are made of moisture-wicking, quick-drying material that moves sweat away from your body. Nylon is the best option, but polyester, polypropylene, and spandex will work too. Some styles also have built-in sun protection or antimicrobial fabric to fight odor.
Regardless of fabric, the most important factor is fit. Look for shorts that are snug enough to stay in place without being too tight, and opt for a waistband with a drawcord for fine-tuning.
Some shorts are designed to feel like a second skin. A snug inner brief liner, which takes the place of underwear, provides bounce-free support while helping prevent chafing and abrasions. Liners are usually made of breathable fabric with mesh to help vent air and reduce heat buildup. Most runners generate loads of sweat, and the wicking fabric helps keep you dry from start to finish.
While the inseam length you choose is largely a matter of personal preference, shorter inseams provide more freedom of movement and may be better for trail runs or warmer weather. You can also find shorts with UPF 50+ sun protection to keep your skin protected from harmful UV rays.
For a well-rounded pair of run-ready shorts that will work just as well for a casual day around town as they do for your next big race, try the Baleaf 5” Running Athletic Shorts ($22). They feature a lightweight woven fabric with mesh detailing to make them more breathable; curved seams that flatter your legs; and a built-in brief liner that feels supportive but doesn’t dig in. An internal drawcord in the waist lets you customize the fit, and a zipper pocket on the back holds your phone or keys while you’re on the move.
The Nike women’s Air Max 1 Run Performance shorts are a great choice for beginner runners, but they’re also an excellent pick for more experienced athletes. They’re crafted of a quick-drying polyester blend with spandex and elastane for a stretchy fit that moves with you. They’re treated with odor-fighting and antimicrobial properties to help keep you feeling fresh from start to finish. These shorts also have a secure elastic waistband and a drawcord that won’t slip during your workout.
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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