The Best Running Shorts For Men & Women In 2021 

By  Emily Konatella

LAST UPDATED - December 11, 2023

The right outfit is essential when it comes to running— regardless of whether you're an avid runner heading out on a 10-mile run or a newbie who's just out for a jog around the block. While a good pair of running shorts can't help you run a marathon or drop ten pounds overnight, they can provide optimal comfort and support while you work towards your fitness goals.

So to help you create your perfect workout wardrobe, we've rounded up the best running shorts for both men and women, along with some helpful tips on what to look for while you shop.

What to look for in running shorts

When shopping for new workout clothes, it's important to maintain a balance between style and function. While an impractical pair of workout shorts may look good in your post-run selfie, they can be incredibly distracting during a run. Plus, ill-fitting shorts can lead to uncomfortable rubbing and chafing that can throw off your training schedule. So to help you find the perfect pair, we've highlighted a few key features to look for in running shorts:

Sweat-wicking fabric

The best material for running shorts is a sweat-wicking performance fabric made of lightweight, breathable polyester or nylon. Save heavyweight cotton for your post-workout loungewear.

Zip pocket

Rear, hip, and waistband zip pockets make it easy to keep track of your phone, house key, or cards while you're on the move. For added peace of mind, choose a pair of running shorts with a secure zippered pocket.

Some inner pockets and waistband pockets can hold smaller items, but a zippered rear pocket just below the waistband makes the best phone pocket. Some shorts offer a brief liner with deep side pockets to store running essentials.

Inseam length

While shorter inseams offer increased mobility and breathability, longer inseams provide more coverage and better protection against chafing.


 Similarly, you'll want to consider what rise you're looking for. Though traditionally, most running shorts are mid-rise, many newer styles are designed with a fashion-forward (and figure-flattering) high-rise.

Comfortable elastic waistband

Stick to shorts with a comfortable elastic waistband or drawstring waistband that'll stay securely in place while you run.

Built-in underwear

While some runners love the added coverage and support provided by built-in brief liners or compression shorts, these liners drive other runners crazy.

The Best Running Shorts for Women

Nike AeroSwift Women's Running Shorts

Nike AeroSwift Women's Running Shorts

Nike's AeroSwift Women's Running Shorts make every day feel like race day. They're designed with speed in mind, featuring a slim fit, side-split hems, and innovative stretch-woven fabric for maximum mobility and comfort. Sweat-wicking technology helps you stay dry during long runs in hot conditions. Plus, the small back zipper pocket is the perfect size for a card or key while you race. The shorts come in your choice of basic black or eye-catching mint green.

Sweaty Betty On Your Marks Running Shorts

London-based activewear brand Sweaty Betty's On Your Masks Running Shorts are ideal for daily runs, gym workouts, and lounging around the house. The 2-in-1 shorts feature fitted inner shorts, a secure zip pocket, and a comfortable mid-rise that stays put as you move. The lightweight, moisture-wicking fabric is available in four colors: black, light green, navy blue, and red.

Free People FP Movement Good Karma Running Shorts

Free People's FP Movement Good Karma Running Shorts work just as well for a yoga class, gym sesh, movie night, or walk around the neighborhood as they do on the run. The ultra-flattering high-rise shorts have a thick, compressive waistband and ribbed hems that won't ride up during movement. Plus, the super-stretchy fabric is equipped with SPF 30 UV protection too. The versatile workout shorts come in a wide array of neutral and vibrant colors to coordinate with all your favorite sports bras (like the coordinating FP Movement Square Neck Good Karma Bra), running tops, and sweatshirts.

Varley Women's Running Shorts

Looking for running gear that looks just as stylish on the streets as it does on the treadmill? You can't go wrong with these chic Women's Running Shorts from Varley. The split shorts are cut in an ultra-flattering fit that elongates your legs and offers maximum mobility. Plus, Varley's sweat-wicking polyester fabric dries quickly and doesn't hold onto sweat odors, so you can go straight from the gym to the grocery store without a single sweat mark in sight. And as a bonus, it has a pocket, inner drawstring, and inner brief. Runners can choose from basic black, earthy tan, and a chic snakeskin print.

Adidas Run It Shorts

Adidas' aptly named Run It Shorts are a classic running short with built-in inner mesh briefs and Adidas' signature three stripes down the side. The moisture-wicking AEROREADY fabric is made from sustainable 100% recycled polyester with a soft feel and optimal breathability. Plus, the shorts come equipped with 360-degree reflectivity to help keep you safe on late-night and early morning runs. Stick to classic basic black for maximum versatility or brighten up your workout wardrobe with one of the feminine pink or light blue shades.

Under Armour Draft Women's Running Shorts

Searching for the perfect pair of race-day running shorts? Look no further than these Under Armour Draft Women's Running Shorts! The ultra-lightweight shorts are designed with ArmourVent Technology, four-way stretch construction, and quick-drying fabric to wick sweat and keep you nice and cool while you run. A built-in brief provides added coverage and support during long runs. Not to mention the anti-odor technology that will prevent the growth of odor-causing microbes. These shorts feature reflective details for low-light runs, making these go-to shorts the perfect option for sunrise or sunset runners.

Free People FP Movement The Way Home Shorts

Free People's FP Movement The Way Home Shorts feature a smocked waistband, high-rise, and split hem for the perfect blend of style and function. While they're practical for running, hiking, and walking, they're so comfortable you'll likely find yourself wearing them around the house too. The trendy running shorts come in a wide assortment of colors to match all your favorite sneakers, sports bras, and workout tops.

Athleta Mesh Racer Running Shorts

You can't go wrong with adding Athleta's Mesh Racer Running Shorts to your workout wardrobe— no matter what kind of runner you are. Their non-slip waistband, built-in liner, reflective details, and targeted mesh ventilation are guaranteed to keep you comfortable throughout your entire workout. Featuring two side pockets with one zipper pocket and one hidden key envelope pocket. The flattering shorts are available in three colors in sizes XXS-3X.

The Best Running Shorts for Men

Nike Flex Stride 2-in-1 Men's Running Shorts

Nike Flex Stride 2-in-1 Men's Running Shorts

Nike's new-and-improved Flex Stride 2-in-1 Men's Running Shorts are guaranteed to be your new go-to workout shorts. They're great for running, weight lifting, and every workout in-between. The lightweight recycled polyester fabric and an updated narrow waistband with a dual-function drawcord move with your body as you run. A comfortable built-in liner provides just the right amount of support while still offering enhanced breathability in high-sweat areas. Not to mention, these shorts offer a ton of zipper pockets! One back zipper pocket to store your phone, side pockets, and a drop-in pocket for smaller items.

Adidas Saturday Shorts

These versatile Adidas Saturday Shorts are the type of shorts you'll keep reaching for a run after run. They're made with Adidas' innovative AEROREADY fabric—a breathable, lightweight weave made from 100% recycled polyester to absorb and wick away moisture to keep you dry and comfortable. Plus, the shorts come equipped with a sweat-guard pocket to keep your phone dry and secure during your workout.

LL Bean Multisport Shorts

LL Bean's versatile Multisport Shorts are perfect men's running shorts for non-runners. While they're ideal for everyday runs, they're equally suitable for hikes, yard work, and other outdoor activities thanks to UV-blocking UPF 50+ fabric, a zippered security pocket, and a rear wallet pocket with snap closure. The shorts come in your choice of black or dark khaki.

Adidas Heat.Rdy Running Shorts

These Heat.Rdy Running Shorts from Adidas were made specifically for hot, humid runs. The hot-weather running shorts feature built-in briefs for comfort and support and a waistband pocket to hold your phone or keys during your run. Plus, you can feel good knowing they're made with Adidas' Primegreen fabric, a sustainable recycled polyester blend.

The North Face Men's Movement Short

The Men's Movement Short from The North Face was designed for all things outdoorsy. Thanks to their durability and versatility, they're one of the best men's running shorts for trail running, hiking, and other outdoor activities.

The lightweight ripstop fabric is made from 100% recycled materials and equipped with reflective zones for enhanced visibility in low-light conditions. A zippered back pocket, built-in brief liner, and internal drawcord waistband keep both the shorts and your belongings securely in place. The summer wardrobe essential comes in three different colors: classic black, Vanadis grey, and cherry red.

Under Armour Iso-Chill 2-in-1 Men's Running Shorts

Sick of overheating on runs? Try Under Armour's Iso-Chill 2-in-1 Men's Running Shorts. They're designed with built-in mesh compression shorts that disperse body heat to keep you cool and comfortable. The flat waistband, internal drawcord, and lightweight outer fabric offer superior stretch, comfort, and durability. Plus, they're made using anti-odor technology to prevent the growth of the odor-causing bacteria that makes you stink—featuring a hidden side compression pocket that allows you to run with your phone.

Lululemon Surge Men's Running Shorts

While most people know Lululemon for its best-selling yoga pants, the sustainable activewear company offers a wide array of workout clothes for other activities like running, tennis, weight-lifting, and lounging.

Their Surge Men's Running Shorts are made with a 100% recycled polyester fabric that's lightweight, quick-drying, and abrasion-resistant. The relaxed fit features a secure back pocket, shaped support liner, and a waistband loop to hold your shirt on hot days. With two inseam lengths and fifteen color options to pick from, it's hard to choose just one pair!

About the author

Emily is a fashion consultant, designer and creative director with more than 15 years experience creating, designing and developing clothing & jewelry. From managing pageant shows to turning concepts into actual designs, she has experience with almost all fabric types and jewelry designs and is in touch with the latest fashion trends.


Creative Design

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