How do the best compression shorts work? If the science is to be believed, the compression of these fabrics can help increase blood and lymphatic flow to the legs that it is stretched around, and is therefore said to improve performance and shorten recovery time for wearers.
As you’re probably aware already, the compression part of such shorts refers to that super tight aspect of the garment that’s made from a spandex-type material. When it comes to shorts, this usually either sits on the inside of a two-part short, like built-in underwear inside a more loose outer fabric, or it can be what the short is made up of in its entirety.
They might be almost impossible to get on, but once you’ve slipped into and tried out some good quality compression shorts, you’ll almost immediately understand their benefits. They’ll also help keep you warm when exercising in the great outdoors during those chillier months.
What are the main benefits of compression shorts? This guide will tell you all you need to know before buying your first (or next) pair of compression shorts for running or exercise.
Best compression shorts you can buy right now
We hold our hands up, the price of the On Hybrid Shorts is a bit ridiculous for a piece of clothing that’s going to spend most of its time covered in sweat, but there’s a lot of tech inside this pair of shorts so we’re willing to let it slide.
Let’s explain how.
Designed for multi-purpose fitness, On’s Hybrid Shorts are incredibly versatile thanks to their “modular system”. That’s right, the compression element can be detached from the lightweight, fast-drying outer so they can be used as either simple, one-layer compression shorts, light shorts without compression, or a combination of both.
The outer is also made from a sweat-wicking fabric that helps cool you down while you put the miles in. They're soft to touch, making them comfortable, but they’re also strong with lots of support in the right places.
These Light Speed Compression Shorts by 2XU boast a super cool Muscle Containment Stamping (MCS) technology which has been developed with what 2XU says is a “detailed understanding of the impact running has on the legs”. This helps to reduce muscle movement, damage and fatigue and help boost performance, especially when it comes to running.
These shorts might be pricey but 2XU has done a great job in getting the balance between compression and comfort just right, meaning the shorts don’t intrude on the enjoyment of your run. That’s imperative if you’re wearing them for long-distance efforts, where the slightest niggle caused by clothing can become the worst-case scenario, especially when you’ve got some serious mileage ahead of you.
This lightweight 2-in-1 training short is a stripped-down version of athletic wear company Zone3’s super popular cross-training, running and gym shorts. Combining the looks of a conventional workout short with the benefits of a full compression short, the Phantom Shorts have been designed with performance in mind and are said to help increase blood flow, reduce lactic acid build-up and improve recovery times.
In terms of fabrics, you’ll find a comfortable sweat-wicking outer combined with a microfiber inner compression short that provides added support. The downside? You’ll only find one pocket and the leg length might be a little too long for those who prefer a higher cut short.
Yoga brand Alo is not that well known in the UK just yet, but it should be. Not only does this outfit do clothing aimed predominantly at yogis, but it’s got its own on-demand fitness streaming platform with an incredible array of classes on offer.
Made with the company’s lifting and sculpting Airbrush fabric, the High-Waist Biker Short has a high waist design moisture-wicking technology and a four-way stretch that moves with you. This means they’re incredibly comfortable - enough so for all-day wear, never mind just workouts.
These Decathlon shorts are so cheap, you could buy almost three pairs for the same price as the most expensive pair on our list. That aside, these shorts aren’t going to cleverly wick away the sweat that seeps from your lower legions like you’d expect more premium offers to, but they will be a great cheap alternative if you’re on a tight budget looking for the most bang for your buck.
On top of that, the quality is actually much better than you’d expect for something at this price, offering some great muscle compression during your workout. They even have compression zones that are strategically placed on your thighs to give you the compression where you need it the most. Clever stuff!
How to find the best compression shorts for you
There are a couple of things you should look out for when you’re in the market for a new pair of compression shorts. First off, ask yourself what you’ll be using them for. If you intend on doing lots of dynamic moving and sweating - say, for a run or a yoga class - you might want to go for a lighter fabric that’ll stretch with you but has the built-in compression just adding some extra support.
However, it’s for weighted workouts with lots of load-bearing, it might be that you opt for a really well structured and thicker pair of compression shorts to give you maximum support.
Pockets are also something to think about. Many brands design compression shorts with small back pockets only big enough to fit a pair of keys inside. If you need something to keep your phone in while exercising, it’s worth taking this into consideration.
How much do compression shorts cost?
Usually, the shorter, lighter fabric shorts can be the most expensive, especially when it comes to running. This might seem a bit backwards but sometimes this can be down to the manufacturer using an incredibly lightweight, and thus expensive, sweat-wicking fabric that takes the sweat away from your skin despite it being wrapped around it.
Are compression shorts worth it?
The short answer to that is, yes but that depends on how often you work out. As they are generally more expensive than your bog-standard shorts, it’s not worth investing in a super fancy pair you’re only going to wear a few times. Due to the tech involved and their ability to improve performance and reduce recovery time, we’d only really recommend investing in a pair if you’re exercising often, like 2-3 days per week.