Best running shorts 2021: the best shorts for running and workouts

The best running shorts will improve comfort and help your legs get tanned

Included in this guide:

best running shorts
(Image credit: Getty Images)

All the best running shorts are versatile, breathable and most of them also ideal for workouts too. Some running shorts provide more compression while others offer complete freedom of movement, and to make sure you pick the right shorts for your workout needs, we listed what we think are the best shorts for running and workouts below.

The best running shorts are not exclusive to the summer period either. How so? Combine them with the best compression tights and/or the best compression socks for running and you have yourself a perfectly weatherproof winter gear for running. Adding a winter running top might help further increasing comfort levels.

But of course, the prime season for the best running shorts is the spring/summer season and when the weather is warm, all you need is the running top and one of the below shorts to feel comfortable and ventilated. We also recommend investing in a pair of good running shoes or trail running shoes too. Or, if you'll wear these shorts for workout, decent workout shoes.

Whether you are running track, going for a jog through the city or you prefer trail runs, there are different types of shorts that will help you get the most out of your run whilst remaining as comfortable as possible. Short shorts or long shorts? We'll list the best running shorts options for all types of runners.

The best running shorts, in order of preference

Best running shorts: adidas Women's Marathon 20 ShortT3 Best Buy Award badge

(Image credit: Adidas)

1. Adidas Women's Marathon 20 Shorts

Retro-inspired running shorts

Fit: Slim
Material: Shorts: 56% recycled polyester / 44% polyester plain weave; Inner briefs: 54% polyester / 46% recycled polyester single jersey
Reasons to buy
+Stretch fabric+360° reflectivity
Reasons to avoid
-No pockets

As in the case in many women's short shorts, the Adidas Women's Marathon 20 Shorts are best for the hot weather. I wouldn't recommend wearing them over compression tights since they haven't got any pockets or any other features that'd make them useful to wear over them.

No, the Adidas Women's Marathon 20 Shorts are best as a minimalist, warm-weather  running shorts you can put on and go for a no-frill jog. No phone, no accessories, no makeup, just a pair of running shoes, a vest and the road under your feet, early in the morning before the city wakes up.

The Adidas Women's Marathon 20 Shorts are not completely features: they are equipped with Climacool ventilation system and are highly breathable, which comes in handy if you run in hot weather, admittedly.

best running shorts: Gore R7 2in1 shortsT3 Approved badge

(Image credit: Gore Wear)

2. Gore R7 2in1 shorts

Be visible

Fit: Slim
Material: Outer pants – 86% Polyester 14% Elastane Insert – 71% Polyamide 29% Elastane Inner pants – 78% Polyamide 22% Elastane
Reasons to buy
+Good compression+Lightweight material+Non-restrictive
Reasons to avoid
-Go a size up

The Gore R7 2in1 running shorts were designed for warm weather. The R7 is lightweight, packable and provides ample amount of compression to your thighs. Although these shorts sport a 10-inch inseam, due to the cut and the tailored fit, your strides won't feel restricted and thanks to the flatlock seams, there is no sign of chafing either.

There are some reflective details at the back and the front and if you get the Citrus Green colourway, you can further improve your visibility on the roads. Storage-wise, there two elastic side pockets on the side for gel-packs and a zip pocket at the back for keys/phone etc.

My kit size is medium but I found the medium Gore R7 2in1 shorts a bit on tight side, so if you are not after ultimate compression, go a size up your usual. 

best running shorts: Sundried Strive Shorts

(Image credit: Sundried)

3. Sundried Strive Shorts

Super-stretchy for extra comfort

Material: N/A
Inseam length: 7.5 inches
Reasons to buy
+Sweat wicking+Ultra comfortable
Reasons to avoid
-No zipped pockets

Sundried recommends the Strive shorts for gym training, CrossFit, running, yoga, and casual wear – so basically anything you can possible do in shorts. The versatility of these shorts is undeniable: thanks to their stretch fit, whatever you try to use them for, you won't feel any chafing or rubbing for sure.

The Strive shorts are made with technical materials and featuring qualities such as sweat wicking, multi-way stretch, odour blocking and UV protection, all of which can be utilised during runs in good weather. The thick elastic waistband holds the shorts in place and the 7.5-inch inseam is just long enough to cover most of the thighs but leaves enough space for knee compression sleeves, for example.

On the side of the shorts, you'll find two pockets for smaller items but definitely not for phones as they are zipless and quite open too. A key or two would probably stay put in the pockets and wouldn't bother you too much either, however. As for visibility, the logo is reflective, providing these black shorts at least some visibility. 

best running shorts: Men's UA Qualifier Speedpocket Branded 18 cm Linerless ShortsT3 Approved badge

(Image credit: Under Armour)

4. Under Armour Qualifier Speedpocket 18 cm/7-inch Linerless Shorts

Best mid-length shorts for running

Material: 88% Polyester/12% Elastane
Inseam: 18 cm/7-inch
Reasons to buy
+Quick-access 'speedpocket' for phones+Moisture wicking fabric+Lightweight
Reasons to avoid
-Side pockets haven't got zips

Under Armour has the habit of giving their products ridiculously long names and the Under Armour Qualifier Speedpocket 18 cm/7-inch Linerless Shorts is no exception to the rule either. The main appeal of these shorts is the 'speedpocket': an expandable front-facing pocket integrated into the waistband. Given the position and the layout of the pocket, the huge iPhone you'll probably put in it won't bounce and make you uncomfortable when you run.

The material used for the Under Armour Qualifier Speedpocket 18 cm/7-inch Linerless Shorts is light and fast wicking, plus there are also mesh panels on the side for even more ventilation. The fabric also has a 4-way construction moves effortlessly in every direction. No chafing here!

The Under Armour Qualifier Speedpocket 18 cm/7-inch Linerless Shorts also have some reflective details for low-light runs and side pockets for your hands, although these pockets haven't got zips so we don't recommend putting anything valuable in them. They are great for shoving your hands in when you bump into someone you haven't seen in ages and have to go through awkward small-talk.

Best running shorts: dhb Women's 3" Run ShortT3 Approved badge

5. dhb Women's 3" Run Short

Non-restrictive shorts ideal for races and bigger workouts

Reasons to buy
+Polygiene Permanent Odour Control

If you’ve got a race coming up, then you’re going to want as much freedom of movement as possible. These short running shorts from dhb are designed to be spacious for those longer strides. 

The draw cord allows you to adjust the feel of the shorts and the polyester material is quick drying so you can expect to stay cool and dry all the way round the track. Integrated odour control does what it says.

best running shorts: TCA Endurance 2-in-1 Running ShortsT3 Approved badge

(Image credit: TCA)

6. TCA Endurance 2-in-1 Running Shorts

Work just as well for workouts, too

Inseam: 8 inches
Features: Two zip pockets, side mesh panel
Reasons to buy
+Integrated compression liner+Good price+Zip pockets
Reasons to avoid
-Not the lightest shorts, especially when wet

By now, you have probably noticed there are quite few compression shorts on this best running shorts list. Reason being, they are the perfect type of shorts for those intermediate days when it's not quite warm just yet but too warm for full-length tights, or for those crisp mornings when the sun hasn't woken up yet and a bit of extra warmth around the quadriceps muscle-area is welcomed.

There is one thing I like more than two-in-one shorts: variety, and more like, giving the readers of T3 a variety of options to choose from. Therefore, let me introduce the TCA Endurance 2-in-1 shorts, a running shorts with – you guessed it – an integrated compression liner. It's slightly longer, with an 8-inch inseam length, but thanks to the mesh panels on the side of the legs, it isn't too warm and also not uncomfortable to run in.

There are also two zipped (!) pockets to store your valuables/keys/gels securely as you devour the miles. Don't fill them up too much, though, because it will weigh down the otherwise not feather-light shorts even more. Also, if the TCA Endurance 2-in-1 shorts gets wet, they might get even heavier, something to keep in mind before you head out for a drizzly-jog after work.

best running shorts: Asics Men's Woven 7-Inch ShortsT3 Approved badge

7. Asics Men's Woven 7-Inch Shorts

Shorts that will still keep you warm

Reasons to buy
+Woven fabric protects from wind

You may find that running in shorts is better for your performance, but you find you get too cold. In which case, these men’s running shorts from Asics may be the perfect solution for you. The woven material is designed to block out the wind and keep your legs insulated on your run. 

They have a deep pocket which is suitable for holding most sizeable smartphones, and they are stretchy for ultimate comfort, too. Users found them to be long-lasting and reliable for training.

best running shorts: Under Armour Women's Fly by ShortsT3 Approved badge

8. Under Armour Women's Fly by Shorts

Short but loose; these shorts will improve speed and performance

Reasons to buy
+Loose cut for movement

Ladies may find these short shorts are perfect for running races as they have a shaped hem for enhanced coverage of the legs without looking too baggy, and the woven fabric will ensure you don’t get too cold when running against the wind. 

With mesh side panels you’ll find these shorts don’t retain sweat like others, and they are fast-dry too if you happen to get caught in the rain. With front hand pockets and hidden back pocket storage, you can keep all your essentials with you and the reflective back panels make these shorts a good choice for city or night time joggers. 

best running shorts: Saucony Interval 9" 2-1 Short

(Image credit: Saucony)

9. Saucony Interval 9-inch 2-1 Shorts

Running shorts with integrated compression liner

Inseam: 9 inches (medium)
Material: Stretch Ultrasilk 2.0 (83% Polyester, 17% Spandex), Hydralite Reneu (100% Polyester), Jersey Liner (87% Polyester, 13% Spandex), Stretch Mesh Liner (91% Polyester, 9% Spandex)
Reasons to buy
+Loads of pockets+Integrated compression liner+Reflective details
Reasons to avoid
-Admittedly not the most flattering-looking running garment

Not going to lie, I wasn't overly impressed with the looks of the Saucony Interval 9-inch 2-1 Shorts when I first laid eyes on them. they look pretty unflattering in general and probably a bit too long as well. But all my concerns went away after trying them on and – most importantly – running in them.

Long they might be, the Saucony Interval 9-inch 2-1 Shorts are very comfortable to wear and don't restrict your movement during running. The integrated compression lining will not keep your thighs warm and oxygenated, but it has a large slip-in pocket for phones as well. And having the phone close to your thighs is 100% better then having them in your side pocket, where they just bang against your legs as you run.

The Saucony Interval 9-inch 2-1 Shorts have received an "antimicrobial treatment" to help eliminate odour. There are some reflective elements on the shorts too, although if you are planning on venturing out in the dark, I still recommend wearing a head torch for running, for added safety.

best running shorts: group of people running on busy street

(Image credit: Adidas)

How to choose the best running shorts

Running shorts come in a variety of lengths and may sport many different features, not to mention the fabric choices available. There are also many style and colour options as well, so even if you are a seasoned runner, it might take considerable amount of time to pick the right running shorts for your needs.

If you find short shorts too exposing, longer knee-length shorts still allow for freedom of movement, and are that little bit better on cooler days, even if only psychologically. Your other option, of course is shorts over tights – and that goes for the guys these days too.

A few features to look out for are: moisture-wicking, number/location of pockets, type of stitching used (seamless being the preferred choice). Runners often go commando and skip wearing underwear under their running shorts, so the material used in the inside of the running shorts is also an important factor.

Using the correct underwear is always preferred when running, though, if for nothing else, for hygienic purposes. Runderwear has a range on chafe-free underwear options for both men and women, better check them out as well.