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Shorts can be the most finicky article of clothing, which is not a compliment. They ride up and slip down. They can be too short or too long. I am not putting it up there with the quest to find the perfect pair of jeans or swimsuit, but it might be third. When it comes to the best running shorts, you must wear the right pair to ensure that you stay focused on your miles.
It can be hard to determine which short is right for your body and style. The good news is that some of the best activewear brands have stepped up their game, offering shorts with technical fabrics, along with a range of inseams and waist heights. And just like the best running shoes, it’s important to figure out the right one that fits you and makes you feel comfortable. Here is a breakdown of your options.
What to Look for in Running Shorts
The waistband is a huge factor when discussing bottoms, whether it’s workout leggings or running shorts. You want your shorts to fit properly and not budge while running. Jennifer Bandier, the founder of the activewear shop Bandier, stresses the importance of an interior cord. A drawstring allows you to customize and secure your fit. Depending on your preference and comfort, you should consider if you want a low, mid, or high rise short as well.
Picking your inseam comes down to the amount of coverage you want. Kelly Whittaker, Barry’s Bootcamp instructor and Chief Curriculum Lead, and recent Boston Marathon finisher, shares, “Shorts come in a ton of different lengths and cuts, so runners should find the one that will be comfortable for them.” The range spans from shorty shorts with less than a 3″ inseam to longer styles with a length of 8″ or more. Marathon sprinters probably would find a shorter length more comfortable, but really it’s just what you prefer.
Since you plan on breaking a sweat, it is best to look for moisture-wicking materials. Spandex, nylon, and polyester are known to have breathability and help with moisture management.
- Unlined running shorts: They keep things breezy and are usually the most lightweight shorts. They’re a great choice if thigh rubbing isn’t an issue.
- Built-in liner running shorts: Shorts that include an inner panty have some advantages. Bandier shares one benefit, “Built-in underwear (referred to as lining) helps pull moisture away from your body as you sweat.” They can also minimize chafing and eliminate the need to wear underwear.
- 2-in-1 running shorts: Like a pre-designed layered look, but with less weight, this style is for anyone who wants full coverage and perhaps a bit more protection. It’s an excellent option for trail running or hikes.
- Compression shorts: This is another style that can help stop thigh chafing. Women who have muscular thighs will prefer a fitted style that hugs their legs so their thighs won’t rub.
An additional feature that Whittaker mentions considering is the amount of storage space a pair of shorts offers. “Depending on what you carry when you run, you should shop for fit and storage.” You can keep it minimal with just a phone, keys — and in case of emergency, cash — but sometimes, you have more essentials, like gels or a bar for energy. So grab your best sports bra and hit the road or treadmill, whichever you prefer.
Here are some of the best running shorts for women on the market.
Top Women’s Running Shorts of 2022
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Brooks Running Method 8″ Short Tight
Best Running Shorts with Phone Pocket
- Sizes: XS-XXL
- Colors: Available in jamberry, navy, bluetiful, black, and violet dash
Our phone has become another appendage — it needs to be with us 24/7. When you are on a long run, your phone is the source of your tunes, favorite podcast, and even a safety precaution. With an 8” inseam, the Brooks Running Method Short Tight has more of a bike look, made from Breathable DriLayer® fabric for a dry, smooth, and supportive fit. But what makes this one a must-have running short are the storage options, with a pocket on each thigh and one on the back waistband. No matter if you like to run with more weight on your back or flat against your legs, you have the choice and room to bring along more essentials.
Lululemon Hotty Hot High-Rise Lined Short
Best High-Waisted Running Shorts for Women
- Sizes: 0-22, with 2.5” or 4” inseam
- Colors: 11 color options, including black
- Special features: Secret stash pocket
Our expert trainer, Whittaker, loves this style, and we can see why. The Hotty Hot shorts don’t just have a fun name — they are designed specifically for runners. The high-rise elastic waistband look will be comfortable, secure, and also has an internal drawstring to make it even tighter. Whittaker’s favorite features are the shorter lengths and flowy and swift fabric, while we appreciate the inner liner and the bold color range.
Fabletics Breathe Run Short
Best Women’s Running Shorts to Prevent Chafing
- Sizes: XXS-4X
- Colors: Available elm, black, wild lime, very berry, deep navy, cedar, lipstick, and cardinal
- Special features: Has a pocket in back
Nothing is more distracting or more painful than the rubbing that can occur while you jog. This pair of shorts from Fabletics has a 3.5” inch rise with a chafe-free brief to protect your inner thighs from irritation. Side slits help with a full range of motion, while the breathable fabric will keep you dry. Another valuable feature are the reflective strips on the back that will come in handy on outdoor runs in low-light situations, like dusk or dawn.
Adidas Run Fast Flower Running Shorts
Best Running Shorts for Hot Weather
- Sizes: XS-XL, in 3” or 4” inseam
- Colors: Available in black floral or craft blue floral
- Special features: Made with 100% recycled materials
Come summer when the temps heat up, your runs will become hotter and stickier. Meaning, you’ll need to reevaluate your run clothes — and we didn’t choose these just for the bold floral pattern. Adidas’ Aeroready’s material is thin, yet substantial, and helps to regulate your body’s moisture to ensure you stay dry. It’s also eco-friendly, a bonus to make you feel good about your purchase.
Athleta Mesh Racer Run Short 4″
Best Running Shorts for Thick Thighs
- Sizes: XXS-3X
- Colors: Available in coral petal, quarry blue, bright white, and black
- Special features: Made from Recycled Poly, NeverEnd drawstring won’t get lost in the wash
For women who want more room in the thighs, the Racer Run short from Athleta has a looser fit. On top of that, the fabric is silky and light for a satiny feel. The waistband is wonderful as well, since it is anti-slip, staying put during sprint and endurance runs. It also contains a never-ending drawstring, which means it can’t get lost in the wash. Reviewers noted that this pair is anti-chafe and won’t’ ride up. Also worth noting is Athleta’s inclusive size range.
Bandier All Access Stretch Lite Run Short
Most Lightweight Running Shorts for Women
- Sizes: XXS-3X
- Colors: Available in black, grape leaf, and silver cloud
- Special features: UV protection
As an expert on all things activewear, Bandier thinks “The best-run shorts are made of featherweight fabric that allows you to move.” These shorts are for those minimalist runners who want to feel like they are flying. There is no inner liner, so the fit is super light, but not sheer, so you can layer it on top of whatever you choose. Side splits allow for full mobility, as does the material’s 2-way stretch. An adjustable, mid-rise waist will keep these snug on your body. Get ready to hit some PRs.
Alwrld Alrn Featherweight Short
Most Eco-Friendly Running Shorts
- Sizes: XS-XL
- Colors: Available in golden, lava rock, white sand, and glacier
- Special features: Made from recycled polyester, derived from post-consumer plastic.
Shopping sustainably should be a priority for all of us, and the activewear market has grown leaps and bounds in recent years. Alwrld is a new brand that creates run clothes that are not only made from recycled materials, but feel luxe and super soft. The fit is supportive, but not constricting.
Eddie Bauer Cove Trail Shorts
Best Trail Running Shorts for Women
- Sizes: XS-XXL
- Colors: Available in reef
- Special features: Two in one design
Yes, we are digging this cool color-blocked look in pastel shades that feel very summery, but the Cove Trail Shorts also have everything you need for when you take your run off the road. These have maximum flexibility with all the stretch you need when the trail is hilly. The fit sits nicely on the body, thanks to an adjustable waistband and inner liner.
Free People FP Movement The Way Home Shine Shorts
Best Shorter Length Running Shorts
- Sizes: XS-XL
- Colors: Available in maraschino, army and white
Run like a flash in these metallic-toned, lightweight, 100% nylon shorts by Free People’s activewear category, FP Movement. The 2-inch inseam make these truly short shorts, but the coverage perfectly keeps your upper thighs from chafing. The wide-smocked waistband sits high on your waist, giving the silhouette a retro look. I have tried and tested this pair myself, and while I will admit it was the relaxed metallic, warm-up look that drew me in, it’s the fit and comfort that has me reaching into my drawer for them weekly. With a fitted bodysuit or your favorite sports bra, you’ll be the coolest-looking runner out on the road. It can also double as a great pair of shorts for boxing classes.
Terez TLC Bike Shorts
Best Bike-Style Running Shorts
- Sizes: XXS-XL
- Colors: Available in 14 colors, including black
The bicycle length short trend continues to be huge both in and out of the gym. This fitted silhouette from Terez is a great option for running, since it won’t cause any distractions or rubbing in the thighs. This one is a standout because of the high-rise fit as well as the flattering and smoothing waistband. Another highlight is the super soft fabric, which feels great against your body and won’t pill, even after many wears and washes. With 14 colors to choose from, we suggest you get a few pairs.
Vuori Clementine Short
Best Mid-Rise Running Shorts
- Sizes: XXS-XXL
- Colors: Available in black watercolor combo, shade, grey shibori, ink, grapefruit, oregano slub, turmeric arrows, and ink shibori grid
- Special features: Contains recycled polyester
Hitting that sweet mid spot, this pair won’t be too revealing or constricting on your waist. The airy material is stretchy to allow for flexible movement, and on the inside is a breathable bikini brief to wick away moisture. I am always amazed at how amazing Vuori pieces feel, even after wearing and washing them for months or years. One review loved how luxe and high quality these shorts felt and added the never bunched. With a versatile look and fit, you can wear these on your off days for walks with friends or to the beach.
On Running Shorts
Best Women’s Running Shorts that Won’t Ride Up
- Sizes: XS-XL
- Colors: Available in black, cerulean/black, and glacier/ black
- Special features: Made with recycled material
Fast, quick strides tend to make your bottoms move and fly up. And we all know how uncomfortable and distracting it can be to constantly adjust your shorts. These On Running Shorts solves the problem by adding a silicone grip to the inner layer. This extra feature will keep the shorts in place around your thighs and prevent any movement. Another quality that will also make these secure is the adjustable waistband. Rounding out this excellent pair of running shorts is the technical material that has a four-way stretch, wicking properties, and an invisible feel.
Tracksmith Van Cortlandt Shorts
Best Running Shorts for Long Runs
- Sizes: XS-XL
- Colors: Available in marigold/flame, teal/ivory, grass/blue, sable/spice, navy/ivory, royal/skylight, and black/ivory
- Special features: Inner liner and antimicrobial
The retro look will draw you to this cute pair of shorts, but the feel and fit will make you want to wear them for all your runs. Crafted from luxurious lightweight mesh, these shorts from Tracksmith are soft and breezy. The fabric also contains antimicrobial properties for that always fresh feeling. The inner liner is made from the same material, so it’s just comfortable. A small pocket on the waistband can hold keys, cash, or a credit card.
Nathan Front Runner Shorts
Best 2-in-1 Running Shorts
- Sizes: XS-XL
- Colors: Available in black, sailor blue, and windchime
Depending on the silhouette and length of the shorts, they can be revealing and perhaps not quite your comfort level. Double-layer shorts, like this pair from Nathan, are great for anyone who appreciates more coverage. The inner short is fitted with a 3″ inseam, while the flowier outer layer measures 2 inches. Both shorts are made with performance-focused and stretching. The inner liner contains those precious pockets too.
Gymshark Vital Seamless 2.0 Shorts
Best Seamless Running Shorts
- Sizes: XS-XXL
- Colors: Available in black, smoke grey, yellow, orange, dark green, apricot, tahoe teal, and brown
- Special features: Sustainably made
Seamless shorts are just as comfortable as their longer-length leggings and also include all the features you love. The Gymshark Vital Seamless 2.0 Shorts have it all: they are flexible, cozy, and don’t have seams that rub. In the back, contoured shading around your butt is designed to flatter, a feature one woman stated motivated them to work out more.
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