Running Shorts For Men: A Buyer’s Guide
In an age of increasingly overpriced and fancy home exercise equipment, there’s something appealing about the simplicity of going for a run. Armed with nothing more than a pair of sneakers and a good pair of running shorts, the world becomes your gym. And despite (or perhaps because of) the simplicity of running, it’s one of the most effective exercises you can do- running burns about twice as many calories as weight training and offers impressive, specific benefits including targeting belly fat, strengthening bone, and dramatically increasing cardiovascular health.
But of course, running can also be demanding both mentally and physically, and the last thing you need are running shorts that are uncomfortable, ill-fitting, or otherwise distract you from focusing on your workout. You may also be wondering if any of the benefits promised by the more expensive big-name brands make their shorts worth the extra investment. We’ve reviewed several of the bestselling and best reviewed running shorts available online so you can stop worrying about your shorts and enjoy your run.
Best Value For Beginners
If you’re starting a new exercise routine, especially if you’ve never done much running, you may be less concerned with premium performance, and simply looking for a few pairs of comfortable shorts that won’t bother you on your run. To be clear, the Neleus Pro Men’s Lightweight shorts aren’t going to win any fashion awards- with their somewhat baggy fit and almost too bright primary color schemes, they’re closer to something you’d wear in high school gym class. But the unassuming appearance hides a nice, relatively effective, very inexpensive pair of shorts that breathes well, dries quickly, and fits comfortably.
With a built-in polyester brief lining, there’s no need to get your underwear sweaty, although experienced runners may feel some irritation on longer runs. Deep pockets mean you can run with your phone or wallet and not worry about losing it, but you’ll want to check those pockets before you start your run- on one of the three pairs we received to test, they’d forgotten to stitch the pockets closed- that lack of quality control may suggest other problems down the line. And the 100% polyester composition also means these don’t have much in the way of stretch, making them more like all-around gym shorts as compared to more expensive purpose-built choices. Still, when a 3-pack costs the same as one pair of some of the fancier competitors, these issues may be worth overlooking for the new runners out there.
Best Balance of Value and Performance
In the grand tradition of respected store brands like Costco’s Kirkland Signature, Amazon Essentials has made a good name for itself offering well-designed, well-constructed staple clothing items at a nicely affordable price. Their Loose-Fit Performance Shorts certainly fit the bill, with a comfortable 92/8 Polyester/Elastene blend that’s soft, breathable, and quick drying, with plenty of stretch. They move well during a run, and come out of the dryer looking brand new even after plenty of wear and tear.
So what’s the downside? Well, and there’s no easy way to say this, they just don’t hide your junk very well. Specifically, the lightweight and unlined fabric, while perfectly comfortable to wear, hangs flat over your crotch and billows in a way that makes every bulge awkwardly visible, especially in the lighter colors. For an outdoor run, that may not bother you, but you might feel strange on the treadmill at the gym- we did. All in all, these are perfectly serviceable shorts with the stretch and moisture-wicking of much more expensive options, but if you go for them, we’d strongly advise sticking to black.
Best Premium Lined Running Shorts
Let’s get the negative out of the way up front- Nike’s signature men’s running shorts are the most expensive of any we tested. So we’re not recommending these for beginning runners, or for people who want shorts that can transition into other athletic or casual settings- with a too-short-to-be-casual 7” inseam and a Dri-FIT internal liner that isn’t really compatible with boxer-briefs, these are meant for running, and only running. But if you’re a serious runner, there’s a lot to love here.
Nike has made these shorts ultra-lightweight, with a 100% polyester design that trades the stretchiness of poly blend shorts for mesh piping around the seams so that the shorts vent themselves with every motion, keeping you cool and dry even on longer distance and endurance runs. They tend to fit snug, so it may be worth going a size up from what you normally wear- most of the negative reviews online seem to be from people who found their usual size a bit constricting. But if you’re looking for durable, lightweight lined running shorts that won’t get in your way and won’t trap heat and sweat, these are an excellent product.
Best Premium Unlined/All-Purpose Shorts
What if you want a more thoughtfully designed premium pair of running shorts, but you need a bit of multi-purpose? Perhaps you like wearing your own underwear and don’t like a built-in liner, or you want to sometimes be able to wear these to lift weights, or even just to bed? In that case, the Under Armour Men’s Raid are a great option. With an extremely stretchy 16% elastane construction, they’re the softest and most comfortable shorts we tested.
Thoughtful features like a UPF 30 rating and HeatGear moisture wicking means they keep you cool and dry even in professionally intense workouts. But a relaxed 10” inseam and a more forgiving elastic waistband also mean they wear more casually for a trip to the store or a night on the couch. The super-lightweight material presents a bit of the same “bulge” issue as the Amazon Essentials shorts- we’d recommend dark colors if you’re not trying to show off the goods- but overall they drape far more normally than Amazon’s offering. If you want comfortable, versatile shorts that still perform whether you’re training for a marathon or playing pickup basketball, Under Armour is a great choice.
Best Way To Show Off Those Thighs
Our first thought when we first looked at the BALEAF Men’s Lightweight shorts were as follows: are they seriously this short? Then we tried them on, and we can confirm- they seriously are. Basically, how you feel about these shorts depends on your confidence, because with the 3-inch inseam, you’ll be showing off a part of your legs that nobody outside of your doctor or significant other may have ever seen.
However, if you can get past the silliness of the look, there are some serious benefits to rocking the short shorts look. For starters, they’re extremely lightweight, with a 95/5 poly-spandex blend that comfortably stretches to allow complete freedom of motion, and the shortness of the inseam allows for a split-leg cut that won’t ride up like longer shorts might. A mesh interior lining acts like a pair of briefs, keeping everything from falling out or getting irritated, while still effectively wicking sweat away from your privates and allowing plenty of cool airflow. Of course, with such little material, there’s no room for standard pockets- there’s a drop-in pouch that might hold a small set of keys, but even a smartphone would probably be highly uncomfortable in there during an extended workout.
Ultimately, your routine, your confidence, and whether or not you want to look like a member of the 1972 Pistons will determine whether or not you’d be willing to rock these bad boys. But at least on our part, we were pleasantly surprised with how comfortable and effective they were for a solid run. We might pass on wearing them to the gym, though.
Best Shorts To Lounge In
Let’s face it- a big part of the appeal of athletic shorts is wearing them when you aren’t being particularly athletic. Champion Men’s Long Mesh Shorts, while perfectly serviceable on a short-to-intermediate run, aren’t especially purpose built- they’re more soft than stretchy, the long inseam (length unlisted but we’re assuming at least 10”) sit just above the knees, and they don’t boast any fancy moisture wicking or special inlaid vents or anything of that nature.
What they are, however, is a straight-up comfortable pair of gym shorts that go with anything, fit perfectly, and have nice, sizable pockets to hold your wallet, phone, and car keys on a trip to the grocery store or a leisurely walk around the neighborhood. These are classic, iconic mesh shorts, and while they may not be ideal for any one activity, they’re pretty darn good for just about anything- durable and light enough for a 5k, solid and comfy enough to wear to bed. What could be wrong with that?