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The Best Running Shorts for Men: 9 Options That’ll Keep You Cool

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Updated August 15, 2023

The first thing most of us think of when it comes to  running gear is the shoes, and yeah, they’re pretty darned important. But the shorts matter, too: Get them wrong and you’ll find yourself hot, sweaty, and chafed in less time than it takes to say, “I regret everything.” There are a lot to choose from, so if you’re short(s) on time, narrow down your options with this list of the best running shorts for men.

The Best Running Shorts for Men

The best running shorts for hot weather: Adidas X-City Cooler Running Shorts

Adidas X-City Cooler Running Shorts

“For most of my competitive running ‘career’ I was sponsored by Adidas, so I’m biased,” admits movement coach Brock Armstrong. “But even now that I have to pay for my shorts, I like their X-City Cooler shorts. They have longer legs (so I avoid the skin-on-skin action), but they also have nice slits up the sides so my stride isn’t impacted by the longer legs. They also have a back zip pocket which is handy for keys or a phone. Basically, in the summer months, I like any of their moisture-wicking AEROREADY material.”

  • Price: $45 (sale price $32 at time of publication)
  • Inseam: 5 inches, 7 inches
  • Pockets: 1
  • Size range: XS-2XL
  • Material: Recycled polyester

Pros:

  • Made with 100% recycled materials
  • 360-degree reflectivity
  • Lightweight

Cons:

  • Only come in black
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The best lightweight running shorts for men: Nike AeroSwift

Nike AeroSwift

Super lightweight and breathable, these barely-there shorts include deep slits up the sides and a flyvent waistband, ensuring full ventilation throughout your run. Nike’s classic Dri-FIT tech helps to wick away sweat, too, so if maintaining as fresh a  “downstairs area” as you can is a priority, look no further.

  • Price: $90
  • Inseam: 2.5 inches
  • Pockets: 4
  • Size range: S-4XL (Tall sizes available starting at size Medium)
  • Material: Outer shell is 100% recycled polyester; waistband is 73% nylon, 27% spandex; lining is 89% recycled polyester, 11% spandex

Pros:

  • Available in three colors
  • Internal pockets for smaller items
  • Lightweight and breathable

Cons:

  • Pricey
  • Some reviews warn that you’ll be flashing a lot of thigh
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The best trail running shorts for men: Patagonia Men’s Strider Pro Running Shorts

Patagonia Men’s Strider Pro Running Shorts

If you’re the type of runner who likes to disappear into the wilderness on your runs, you’re probably looking for something extremely lightweight, fast-drying, and water-repellent. And wouldn’t you know it, these shorts are all of those things! They also have four pockets to hold everything from energy bars to your cell phone, so you can have a handy snack while figuring out where the heck you are.

  • Price: $79 (sale price $38.99 at time of publication)
  • Inseam: 5 inches, 7 inches
  • Pockets: 4
  • Size range: XS-3XL
  • Material: Recycled polyester

Pros:

  • External drawcord for adjustability
  • Locker loop for hanging to dry after a run
  • Comes in five colors for 5-inch inseam, three for 7-inch inseams
  • Pockets are easily reachable

Cons:

  • Pricey 
  • Only one pocket has a zipper
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Best compression shorts for running: Lululemon Fast and Free Half Tight

Lululemon Fast and Free Half Tight

Sometimes you just want everything to stay in place when you’re running. Equally, though, you don’t want to feel like you’re being squeezed, or inadvertently look like a sausage bursting out of its casing. The Fast and Free shorts split the difference, feeling incredibly lightweight and breathable, but staying in place thanks to their four-way stretch fabric and the silicon grippers on the hem, which stop them from riding up. 

  • Price: $98
  • Inseam: 8 inches
  • Pockets: 2
  • Size range: XS-XXL
  • Material: Nulux (84% nylon, 16% lycra elastane)

Pros:

  • Sweat-wicking
  • Quick-drying
  • Mesh back panel for ventilation

Cons:

  • Pricey
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Best running shorts for big thighs: Fabletics The One Short

Fabletics The One Short

If your legs need a little extra space to breathe, Fabletics’ One Short is probably going to be a good fit, literally. Going up to 4XL, these roomy, versatile shorts are designed to work for just about any activity, allowing you to hit the pool or the trail without getting changed in between (although, y’know, take your shoes off in the pool).

  • Price: $64.95
  • Inseam: 5 inches, 7 inches
  • Pockets: 2
  • Size range: XS-4XL
  • Material: 79% nylon, 21% spandex

Pros:

  • Lightweight
  • Quick-drying
  • Antimicrobial anti-odor tech
  • Towel loop on waistband

Cons:

  • Some reviews complain that the zipper pockets are tough to open
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Best budget running shorts for men: New Balance Accelerate 5 Inch Short

New Balance Accelerate 5 Inch Short

You can certainly find cheaper shorts out there, but considering their feature-stuffed design and overwhelming popularity, $35 starts to look like a bargain. Lightweight, fast-drying, and comprising NB DRY technology to wick away sweat, the Accelerate shorts will do pretty much everything you need them to do, at less than half the price of many competitors.

  • Price: $34.99
  • Inseam: 5 inches
  • Pockets: 2
  • Size range: XS-XXL
  • Material: Polyester (55% recycled)

Pros:

  • Lightweight
  • Moisture-wicking

Cons:

  • The three available colors are barely distinguishable from each other
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Most durable running shorts for men: Ten Thousand Distance Short

Ten Thousand Distance Short

Ten Thousand is responsible for a legendarily rugged workout shirt with its aptly-named Durable Shirt, and these shorts make a perfect pairing. Designed and tested by some of the most hardcore runners in the business, they’re ultra-light, sweat-wicking, anti-odor, and feature bonded hems and seams to cut down on weight and reduce chafing. Maybe you’re not planning to try an ultra-marathon when you buy these—but they’ll make you feel like you could.

  • Price: $78
  • Inseam: 3 inches, 5 inches
  • Pockets: Every Session Carry pocket system (mini pouches inside waistband)
  • Size range: XS-XXL
  • Material: Shell, 80% polyester, 20% spandex; liner, 82% nylon, 18% spandex; front pouch, 76% recycled nylon, 24% recycled spandex

Pros:

  • Silver ion anti-odor treatment
  • Perforated back panel for ventilation
  • Come in four colors
  • Side slit for greater range of motion

Cons:

  • Several reviews complain that the lining is too snug
  • Pricey
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Best running shorts with pockets: Rabbit FKT 2.0

Rabbit FKT 2.0

Don’t like to be without all your necessities when running, but also don’t want to carry a backpack? Rabbit’s FKT 2.0 shorts are essentially the Batman utility belt of running shorts, featuring an impressive six pockets: A back zip pocket large enough to fit most phones, two side pockets capable of holding a water bottle, two further back pockets, and an internal key pocket. Go ahead and throw on a cape, too, it just makes sense.

  • Price: $75
  • Inseam: 3 inches, 5 inches, 7 inches
  • Pockets: 6
  • Size range: S-XL
  • Material: 87% polyester, 13% spandex

Pros:

  • Lightweight
  • Come in four colors
  • Quick-drying

Cons:

  • Some reviews say the sizes run a little large
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Best sustainable running shorts for men: Tasc Recess 7-inch Unlined Short

Tasc Recess 7-inch Unlined Short

Hey, that nature you’re running through sure looks nice, huh? If it’s putting you in the mood to go a little greener, consider shorts from Tasc, who is on track to have all of its products made with at least 85% sustainable materials (recycled and/or plant-based) by 2024. All of their packaging is biodegradable, their sewing facility uses 100% wind and solar energy, and all of the water used in dyeing their clothes gets recovered and reused (minus the small fraction that evaporated, for obvious reasons). All of this, and their Recess shorts are lightweight, stretchy, and breathable. Although weirdly, they don’t come in green.

  • Price: $58
  • Inseam: 7 inches, 9 inches
  • Pockets: 3
  • Size range: S-XXL
  • Material: 90% polyester, 10% elastane

Pros:

  • 7-inch shorts come in seven colors
  • Quick-drying
  • Wicks moisture

Cons:

  • 9-inch shorts only come in two colors
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What to consider when buying running shorts

“Well, of course, there is always the size to consider,” says movement coach Brock Armstrong. “But unlike buying a pair of Levis, it’s not just about the size of the waist—the length of the leg and the billowiness are also a consideration. The time of year often dictates what type of fabric I’m buying as well—as a Canadian, I push the boundaries of when shorts are truly appropriate, outdoor temperature-wise. In the fall and early spring, I’m looking for heavier material with a ‘bike shorts’-type compression liner, but in the summer, I want the lightest material and a mesh lining.”

Frequently asked questions (FAQs)

Why do running shorts have liners?

“Straight up, I think it’s because most of us don’t own technical fabric undies that wick moisture and provide extra support down there,” says Armstrong. “But, as I said, when I’m pushing the boundaries of running in the fall/winter months, I actually prefer shorts with no liner so I can buy winter undies (or Wind Brief) that offer weather protection and some more warmth down there.”

What should you wear under running shorts?

“It depends on the weather, but unless I’m training for a marathon in the mid-winter, I don’t wear anything under my shorts,” admits Armstrong. “I let the liners do their job.”

Why are running shorts so short?

“This is an interesting question!” says Armstrong. “Professional runners wear short-shorts to help control their body heat, not hinder their stride length, and reduce chafing. But—and this is a big but—us non-pro runners often get more chafing when we wear short-shorts because, let’s face it, we don’t all have [Eliud] Kipchoge’s lean thighs. Skin-on-skin rubbing can be worse than skin-on-lycra, so, while pros favor shorter shorts, I advise anyone with higher amounts of body fat to look for more protection, and maybe even consider wearing shorts with some compression-type additions.”

Is it better to run in tight shorts or loose shorts?

“Again, this depends on your body weight,” advises Armstrong. “People with higher body fat and larger bodies have skin that moves more during exercise, and compression gear can limit that movement, possibly preventing some chafing and rubbing. But outside of that, it’s a matter of choice. For example, running legend Des Linden is known for her loose-fitting basketball-type shorts, while Shalane Flanagan won the NYC marathon in the tightest of yoga-style shorts. But I will say to beware of shorts that billow too much or have loose pockets: Getting your thumbs caught in flapping material when you’re busting a gut for the finish line is no fun!”

What is the difference between running and training shorts?

“The differences between ‘running shorts’ in general is as wide as the difference between training shorts and running shorts,” muses Armstrong. “It feels like the wild west out there—everyone has their idea of what shorts should do and be. That’s why many of us end up hoarding a certain pair of shorts when we find a brand/style that we like. Buy a few pairs quickly, before they change the design!”

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