Women’s running shorts: 6 of the best tested and rated

We put 6 of the best running shorts for women through their paces

Credit: Science Photo Library / Getty Images

Running shorts might not be the biggest kit investment you’ll make this year, but it’s still worth thinking about the features you’re looking for and shopping around for the right pair. For us, the fit was absolutely key. A good pair of run shorts should allow you enough room for a decent range of movement (we did a lot of uphill runs while testing, which gets the knees up higher), but not be so loose that you feel like they’re flapping around you.

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A comfortable waistband is important and a drawcord to adjust it is helpful, especially if you find your weight fluctuates. Most shorts in this test had a brief liner, but the Gore have an inner tight, so think about what you prefer. Finally, consider what you need to carry on summer runs. A zippy pocket for keys/emergency cash is a huge help.

£59.99

These vibrant little numbers (other colours are available) were the only shorts on test to offer an internal cycling short-length inner tight, which is designed to fit like a second skin, rather than just an inner brief like most of the others. Gore describe the inner tight as ‘compressive’, but we didn’t really see the benefits of compressing what little thigh area they cover, and on test runs we didn’t notice a compressive effect.

They do fit very well though and the inner tight didn’t ride up at all, making them a good choice if you want a little more modesty or don’t like the feel of baggier shorts. These are going to be a little warmer by nature of the two layers, but the top ‘shorts’ layer has plenty of breathable panels and stretch in the fabric, so we didn’t find it an issue, although they might not be our first choice on scorching hot summer days. There’s also a zippy pocket on the back and two tuck pockets on the legs of the inner tight, making these the best choice if you have a multitude of things to carry.

Verdict: Somewhat pricey, but comfortable and worth considering if you like a two-layer short 80%

ZOOT RUNNING BOARD SHORT

£45

Pulling on these shorts from Zoot gave rise to some initial bafflement. They came up a little large around the waistband, so we reached for the drawcord on the front to tighten them, only to find that it’s purely a decorative feature and doesn’t actually do anything. Zoot describe this as giving an ‘innovative look and feel’, whereas we’d prefer it to be ‘useful’… And while on the subject of usefulness, there are no pockets here, either, which seems a bit stingy for £45.

Still, once we got out on our 10K test loop these were a very comfortable short. The shape is good and the lightweight woven material has a little stretch in it making for a decent range of movement, while the wide stretchy waistband feels good against the hips (albeit sitting a bit low!). The inner brief stays in place well and is made with Icefil fabric, which uses Xylitol to keep things cool. The substance is woven into the fabric and when it comes into contact with sweat, it creates a cooling effect, lowering body temperature. Fancy, hey?

Verdict: A mixed bag… Fancy tech in the fabric, but not many other features. Plus decorative drawcord is annoying 67%

BROOKS CHASER SHORT

It might seem like a petty annoyance, but whereas Brooks’ men’s shorts get a zippy pocket, for some reason the women’s instead has two little tuck pockets in the top of the waistband which you’d have to be pretty trusting (or daft) to put something you wouldn’t want to lose, like your house keys, in. Admittedly some shorts in this test have no pockets at all, but in our mind if you’re going to bother adding a feature, at least make it practical.

However. With that soapbox moment out of the way, these are actually a very comfortable pair of shorts. The wide waistband sits on the hips without either moving or digging in and while there’s no drawcord, we found we didn’t need one – maybe go a size down if you prefer them to sit higher though. They feel light and the split petal-design hem is designed to allow a good range of movement. The mesh brief liner was very comfortable and breathable and didn’t ride up at all. Finally, plain colours are available, if you’re not keen on stripes.

Verdict: Excellent comfort if you like a baggier short with plenty of movement. We’d like a more secure pocket, though 76%

SAUCONY IMPULSE SHORT

£37

Another short that sat on the hips, these felt similar to the Ron Hill shorts, again having a deep waistband, although they came up slightly larger and felt looser too (we had a size medium in these and a UK12 in the Ron Hills). That was no problem though, as a continuous drawcord made adjustments easy and although we were a little concerned they might flap a bit when running, they actually stayed in place really well.

Split legs similar to the Brooks made range of movement excellent, while mesh panels around the hems and up the sides were a nice touch for breathability and the fabrics felt good quality. The inner brief didn’t seem to cover as much of the bum as others on test, but it still stayed in place well without riding up. There’s also a zippy waterproof pocket on the waistband big enough for keys/credit card. All in all, an excellent value short and only just pipped to the winning spot by the Ron Hill Aspirations, based on us preferring the slightly closer fit and the feel of the fabric.

Verdict: A well-designed pair of shorts with plenty of quality features – nice mesh detailing on the legs, too 88%

UNDER ARMOUR WOMEN’S LOOSE SHORT

£25.00

Bringing back memories of Alan Partridge performing lunges in the room of his Travel Tavern, these shorts are definitely the skimpiest on test and with no inner brief lining, you’ll definitely need underwear with them! They’re also the cheapest in this round-up though – and if you’re looking for a super-lightweight, super-breathable no frills option for fast efforts or racing, or to layer up and wear on top of run tights, then these could be the ones for you.

These fit nearer the waist and that makes them appear even shorter, although a drawcord kept them in place well. On our test runs the pinhole mesh fabric made them feel barely-there (although possibly that’s because there really wasn’t very much of them). Although comfortable we did feel a touch self-conscious and we found we were revealing some bum cheek once we started running and kept having to stop to adjust them. They did win ‘highest number of beeps from passing traffic’ though, so one for the exhibitionists among you!

Verdict: Unsurpassed lightness and breathability — but those with curvier bums may find they need more coverage 70%

RON HILL ASPIRATION SHORT

£33

Mention Ron Hill to any runner and most will mention one of either two things: the icon’s 50-year running streak, or his penchant for short shorts and vests. So it seems somehow fitting that the top honours in this test go to the brand famed for running skimpies. The Aspiration Rhythm short is one of those items of apparel that just gets it right.

They’re neither too long nor too short, there’s enough room to move without them flapping about and the inner brief is well-fitting and breathable. The fabric also has a little stretch in it, which helps give a fit that’s closer than say the Brooks or Saucony shorts in this test but without feeling in any way restrictive or figure-hugging. There’s also an internal draw cord for fit adjustments and a secure zippy pocket big enough for keys, cash and credit card. Plus it’s a personal thing, but we liked the geometric print – it looks modern without being too girlie. A decent price point, too and we’ll be running many happy miles in these come summer.

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Verdict:  Everything you need and at a reasonable price point.Nice one Ron — a sterling pair of running shorts! 93% BEST OF THE TEST