Sure, running shorts may not be the most exciting of products, but if you think about how many hours you spend wearing them for your run training, it’s clear just how important they are.
And vitally, they can affect performance, too. Here, we’re going to explain how and share our pick of the best running shorts for men.
What kind of shorts are best for running?
As with a lot of things, the answer to this question is likely to be different from person to person, depending on your preferences and your plans.
For example, the ideal length of your shorts will depend on the time of year, while your preference for a liner may come down to whether or not you have some tried and trusted running underwear you rely on.
What is uniform across all of the best men’s running shorts, however, is that they use high performance material. By this, we mean a technical fabric that’s thin and lightweight, wicks moisture away well (unlike cotton), and allows for a wide range of movement.
Some shorts will also feature ventilation holes, ideal for keeping you cool, and an anti-odour treatment, which’ll help keep the pong at bay.
How to choose running shorts
Men’s running shorts come in all shapes and sizes, including lengths as short as three inches and as long as nine (measurements are based on the inseam). A longer cut delivers added protection from the elements, including sunshine, wind and chilly temps. However, they’ll also be heavier, particularly when wet, and may be more likely to lead to chafing.
Shorter cuts don’t offer as much of a barrier to the elements, but are cooler, lighter and can result in a greater freedom of movement.
Your choice of length is likely to be influenced by the conditions you’re running in, what you find comfortable and what you prefer style-wise (not everyone is a fan of short shorts).
You’ll also need to decide whether or not you want shorts with an inner liner. The majority of men’s running shorts come with one, sometimes in the shape of a brief, though sometimes as a lengthier compression liner, which can help reduce chafing.
Depending on the compressive nature of the lining, the inner may offer benefits such as improved blood flow and reduced muscle inflammation. However, the benefits of particular garments are hard to qualify and many liners aren’t truly compressive, but are just close fitting.
Then we come to pockets… Once again, this is a personal choice. If you carry your phone in an armband, your needs will be different to someone that wants to carry it in a pocket. We like to see a minimum of one zipped pocket for a key, gels or other essentials.
If there’s a pocket for your phone, it needs to be secure and not bounce around while you’re in motion, which is why most pockets are located on the waistband. Some men’s running shorts will also feature elasticated pockets on the lining, which are good for stopping objects bouncing around, but can get quite sweaty.
And then there’s the question of comfort, which is probably the most important consideration of all. If your running shorts chafe or restrict your movement, it’ll impact your enjoyment and performance, so try before you buy.
Best running shorts for men
Montane Dragon Twin Skin Shorts
Best for trail running
As the name suggests, Montane’s Dragon Twin Skin Shorts feature both a regenerated nylon inner and a loose, lightweight outer. The combination makes for a really comfortable experience and our only slight criticism is that the seam at the waistband can be a little annoying if you go underwear-free.
The fit’s on the loose side, but the stretch waistband and internal drawcord keeps the shorts secure. A zip pocket at the rear offers enough space for a key, card and energy gel, while reflective detailing helps boost visibility. In short, we really loved running in the Montanes.
Verdict: Only a few minor niggles prevent top marks here.
Zone3 2-in-1 Phantom Short
Best for recovery
Similar to the Soar running shorts on test, this option from Zone3 is at the more expensive end of the market. The 2-in-1 Phantom shorts look great, with subtle branding and detailing, but it’s the inner compression short that generates the main talking point here.
This extra lining offers added warmth when there’s a chill in the air, while its compressive nature is said to help increase blood flow, reduce lactic acid build-up and improve performance and recovery.
It’s hard to comment accurately on if that’s been achieved here without controlled scientific testing, but they were certainly supportive. In fact, it’s worth noting that the inner is extremely compressive, with this tester’s legs bulging out of them at the bottom.
Despite this, they remained comfortable to run in, though the waistband tended to slowly pull downward due to the claw-like grip of the inner. While the latter adds welcome warmth in winter, you may find it a little warm in summer.
That aside, moisture wicking is impressive and they dry quickly, too. Storage is taken care of with a hidden, elasticated pouch-style pocket on the inner short, which could happily hold a key, gels or a phone (though it might get a little sweaty!).
Verdict: If the compressive inner works for you, these are great shorts.
Soar 17cm Short
Best for year-round use
Soar says the 17cm Short is designed as an alternative to the brand’s Three Season Shorts 4.0, losing the long inner liner to allow for a smooth and chafe-free run. With that, you will lose a certain amount of warmth, but we never felt this was a deal-breaker on our winter runs.
The cut ensures a decent level of coverage, sitting just a few inches above the knee, but unless you’re particularly hardy, you may want to supplement them with some running tights in sub-zero temperatures.
When the mercury starts to rise, the lack of liner, lightweight fabric and ventilation holes help avoid overheating, while the material also proves to dry quickly, too. A zip pocket at the rear is large enough to house keys, gels or even a phone at a push, while reflective detailing helps boost visibility. Comfort is also top notch, with the smooth brief liner providing decent support and causing zero chafing.
Yes, they’re £85 and that’s a lot of money for a pair of running shorts. But if you’re happy to spend that much, you’ll be getting a top-quality, comfortable and versatile piece of kit that you can use throughout much of the year. soarrunning.com
Verdict: Pricey, but a reliable, comfortable pair of shorts for year-round use.
On Running Hybrid Shorts
Best for versatility
Yes, £80 for shorts has us wincing as well. But what you’re getting here are two pairs of shorts, a tighter inner pair and a relaxed outer that clip together. The cost-per-wear ratio is acceptable as we’ve worn both together, the inners for swimming or the outer over run tights. A no-sew design, supple waist and Italian fabric add to the classy package.
Verdict: A bumper price but a top-end and expertly crafted duo of shorts.
Dhb Aeron Run 5” Liner Shorts
These men’s running shorts form part of dhb’s Aeron Run collection, which is all about lightweight, high-wicking, stripped back run clothing. They’re constructed from polyester and elastane, with a lightweight outer short and an inner mesh liner.
The latter is designed to reduce the risk of chafing while delivering decent breathability and moisture-wicking properties.
A back zipped pocket offers storage, which the brand suggests will take a smartphone (depending on its size), while there are also reflective details to help you be seen.
Under Armour Speed Stride 7 Inch Shorts
Like the dhb shorts above, Under Armour’s Speed Stride 7 Inch Shorts offer a cheaper alternative to some other options in this list.
The brand says they’re constructed from an ultra-light woven fabric with HeatGear technology, which is designed to help wick moisture away from your skin.
Inside, you’ll find mesh briefs to allow you to go underwear free, while a drawstring fastening on the elasticated waistband is included to help secure an optimum fit.
The Under Armour logo is said to be reflective in order to help with visibility, but there’s no zip pockets. Instead, your only storage option is the two open hand pockets.
Ronhill Tech Revive 5” Running Shorts
Designed for taking on long runs in comfort, the Tech Revive shorts are made from recycled yarns and are said to come in a relaxed fit.
There’s an inner brief for support and the material is said to have a stretch to help provide a wide range of movement.
Ronhill says the brand’s Vapourlite technology used here delivers moisture management well in an effort to keep you both cool and dry.
In terms of features, there’s a reflective trim to boost visibility and a zip pocket on the rear for small items like keys.