The Best Compression Running Shorts to Enhance Your Muscle Stability

The breathable fabric makes Lululemon’s Wunder Train High Rise 8” a must-have

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Whether you're an Olympic athlete, a weekend warrior, or a beginning runner, you've probably considered buying a pair of compression shorts. Their stretchy material conforms to your body, producing compression (pressure) in your rear and thighs.

Reviewed & Approved

Stylish and functional, Lululemon’s Wunder Train High Rise 8” is our top overall pick for women. With great support, muscle-protecting material, and a comfortable fit, the MAVA Sports Men’s Compression Shorts is our number one choice for men.

Wearing compression shorts while running, cycling, or other high-intensity exercises offers athletes plenty of benefits. The shorts can help promote the flow of oxygen and blood, reducing muscle fatigue, decreasing recovery time, and ultimately enhancing muscle stability and overall performance.

High-quality compression shorts are designed with fabrics that are breathable, stretchable, lightweight, and sweat-wicking—crucial components of our selection criteria. We reviewed dozens of shorts from top brands, and selected our choices based on comfort, performance, type of exercise, material, length, and more.

To help you pare down your choices, here are the best compression running shorts on the market.

Our Top Picks

Best Overall for Women: Lululemon Wunder Train High Rise Short 8"

4.9
High Rise Short 8"

With a comfortable, supportive design, Lululemon's Wunder Train High-Rise shorts topped our list. The premier athletic apparel outfitter's compression shorts are ideal for high-intensity training, a spinning class, or a neighborhood run.

They are constructed from the brand's techiest moisture-wicking Everlux fabric. The highly breathable sweat-wicking fabric is the game-changer in this perennial favorite. Four-way stretch with added Lycra fiber for stretch and shape retention keeps the garment from losing its compressive shape. 

A waistband drawcord keeps your shorts in place, so you don’t have to pull them up. The shorts come in sizes 0 through 14 in three inseam options—4, 6, and 8 inches. Chose from colors Gold Spice and Merlot, among several others. 

Best Overall for Men: MAVA Men's Compression Shorts

MAVA Men's Compression Shorts

Courtesy of Amazon

Score a sleek look for your workouts with the Mava Sports Men’s Compression Shorts, which can either be worn alone or as a base layer. The nylon and spandex shorts have a targeted compression level protecting against muscle trauma and improving recovery by reducing fatigue and soreness. As a bonus, the breathable, moisture-wicking fabric will keep you cool and dry.

Mava Sports Men’s Compression Shorts offer a good amount of compression—more than most compression shorts. A runner who wore them during a Tough Mudder said that the compression provided tremendous support to their hip flexors and mid glutes.

Those who've worn them say that, although the shorts have a stronger level of compression, they are still very comfortable. The shorts come in sizes small to extra-extra-large and come in black and gold.

Best Budget: Neleus Men's 3 Pack Compression Short

Neleus Men's 3 Pack Compression Short

Courtesy of Amazon

If you need to wear compression shorts more than a few times a week, you might want to opt for this three-pack that comes at a steal of a price. These shorts can be worn alone for Cross Fit workouts or under a pair of athletic shorts for when you crave more coverage.

They provide a lot of support and many have gone back to order a second and even third set. Available in extra-small to extra-extra-large, they come in three packs of assorted colors, so you can choose whatever works best with your wardrobe.

Best Short Length for Women: Athleta Ultimate Shortie

Ultimate Shortie

The Athleta Ultimate Shortie pair is perfect for people who don’t want too much fabric to get in the way of their runs. High-waisted, flattering, and comfortable, readers appreciate the wicking, quick-drying, and breathable material. It dries instantly and provides comfort after a high-intensity activity. The breathable fabric makes sure the airflow moves quickly through the shorts.

Whether you're running the hills, taking yoga classes, or hiking the trails, the Athleta Ultimate Shorties consistently stays in place. The SuperSonic fabric, made with recycled material, is sleek with supportive compression. Available in sizes extra-extra small to 3X, it comes in black.

 

Best Recovery Compression Short: Zensah Recovery Compression Short - Hamstring Support

Zensah Recovery Compression Short - Hamstring Support

Courtesy of Amazon

If you've had extensive, intense workouts, you might be needing recovery compression shorts. The compression technology of the Zensah Recovery Compression Short-Hamstring Support is designed to keep your legs warm and to promote blood flow. Keeping them warmer allows for more oxygen flow as well, which helps to reduce soreness after a workout.

The sleek compression shorts are made from a wicking fabric to pull moisture away from the skin, while the flat-seam construction minimizes chafing-induced irritation. These compression shorts offer most of their support in the upper leg area, giving you optimal lower leg mobility for your runs and workouts.

These shorts are unisex, making them an easy pick for those who are interested. Make sure to check out the size guide to pick the size that’s right for you. Available in sizes extra-small/small through large/extra-large, it comes in black.

Best Size-Inclusive: Girlfriend Collective High-Rise Run Short

Black High-Rise Run Short

Courtesy of Girlfriend Collective

The Girlfriend Collective’s compressive high-rise shorts deliver top-quality compression, keeping you sleek and sculpted. The four-way stretch fabric is opaque, making these shorts great for any activities, including cycling, running, and squats.

Founded in 2017, The Girlfriend Collective began on a mission to provide sustainable, size-inclusive athleisure. The brand's High-Rise Run Shorts are sewn from yarn made of recycled plastic bottles. Manufacturers take the caps and labels from plastic bottles, shred them into tiny chips, and process them into fibers, becoming yarn. 

You’ll love the “hold you in” support and compression that offers a smooth silhouette. The high-rise run shorts come in sizes ranging from extra-extra-small to 6XL and in a variety of colors inspired by the earth’s terrain, including "Moss," "Earth," "Moon," among others. 

Best for Long Runs: Under Armour Women's UA RUSH™ Run Pocket Shorts

Running Shorts

Going the distance and toughing out the course means wearing a pair of shorts that stays put, keeping you focused on the road. You’ll find a pair of shorts that stay put with the UA RUSH. It’s the gear you’ll want after your most challenging run or workout because it fits great and keeps you dry.

As your body releases energy, the mineral-infused fabric absorbs your body's energy, reflecting it and improving your endurance. The lightweight knit HeatFear fabric breathes, stretching for optimal mobility. 

The features are topped off with a high-rise waist for coverage and support, with a silicone grip on the back bottom hem for a stay-put fit and feel. Available in sizes extra-small to extra-large, they come in black.

Final Verdict

Compression shorts are an essential and valuable addition to an athletic wardrobe. If you want superior coverage that doesn’t weigh you down, we recommend Lululemon's Wunder Train High-Rise Shorts. Built with moisture-wicking Everlux fabric, they’re lightweight, breathable, and sweat-wicking. To keep the garment from losing its shape, they’ve added four-way stretch and Lycra for stretch and shape retention. The shorts are suitable for high-intensity training, a spinning class, or a neighborhood run.

For men, we recommend the sleek-looking Mava Sports Men’s Compression Shorts, which can either be worn alone or as a base layer. The nylon and spandex shorts have a targeted compression level protecting against muscle trauma and improving recovery by reducing fatigue and soreness. Athletes appreciate the breathable, moisture-wicking fabric, which keeps them cool and dry. Those who've worn the shorts say there is an ample amount of compression—more than most compression shorts.

What to Look for in Compression Running Shorts

Fit

For compression shorts to be a useful tool in your running training, the apparel needs to have an appropriate fit. Shorts that are too tight can actually have a negative performance impact as the clothing can restrict blood flow to your legs and create dangerous swelling and pooling of blood. If the compression shorts are too large, they don't help with lactic acid build-up, rendering the compression useless.

To ensure the fit works for you, try on the shorts and go for a short run to see if the clothing moves well with your body and you don't feel any particular restrictions.

Material

Compression shorts should be a blend of nylon and spandex. You might also prefer a more comprehensive mixture of materials that includes neoprene, cotton, and bamboo. All of these are used to create a stretchy and tight, but breathable fabric.

Some shorts will also offer more compression than others. This is a matter of personal taste. Some runners prefer more compression and others find it too restrictive.

Functionality

Some compression shorts offer extra functionality. You might appreciate:

  • Zipped pockets at the sides for a key, gel, or tissue
  • A zipped pocket along the back so that anything small you carry won't bounce and cause chafing
  • Light colors for warm weather
  • Added material around the groin to protect your modesty
  • Cooling technology to keep the groin area dry
  • Adjustable support at the waist for a more customizable fit

Frequently Asked Questions

  • How can I prevent chafing from running?

    You can prevent chafing when you run by:

    • Choosing compression running shorts that completely cover areas that are prone to chafing, such as your inner thighs
    • Making sure that your running apparel is either seamless or has flat seams
    • Choosing apparel that is made of sweat-wicking material to keep you dry and cool
    • Using a lubricant or anti-chafe stick or cream over any areas in which you are prone to chafe before you put on your clothes
    • Making sure none of your apparel bunches, including your socks


  • How should you wear underwear with running shorts?

    Some running shorts have built-in material that mimics underwear, allowing you to go underwear free if you choose.

    If you choose to wear underwear, look for garments made with technical, breathable fabric that wicks sweat away from sensitive areas, keeping you dry and cool.  

  • Why should you wear running shorts?

    Wearing running shorts is a matter of personal preference. Some runners prefer to run with bare legs, and running shorts offers this ability. Running shorts often offer a comfortable range of motion and aren't as restrictive as some brands of leggings and running pants.

Why Trust Verywell Fit?

Rachel Morris is a freelance health and wellness writer. She helps health companies manage their social media accounts and create informational content. She is also a former editor of Dr. Oz The Good Life magazine, Woman's Day, and Weight Watchers.

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