The 5 Best Workout Shorts of 2021

Choose the right pair for your fitness routine

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Shorts are staple exercise wear, especially in warmer weather, but not just any pair of shorts will do. For the most comfort and performance, you'll want a pair of shorts that wick away sweat; don't chafe, roll up, or slip down during movements; and are lightweight and breathable.

Depending on the type of activity you do, you'll want to consider additional factors such as pockets, anti-odor technology, compression, and fit.

Here, the 5 best workout shorts for any activity.

Our Top Picks
Ultra-soft and lightweight, 4-way stretch construction allows for easy movement in any direction.
Lightweight, super soft, mesh material that offers superior ventilation and breathability on hot days.
Best Running Shorts for Women:
Nike Dry Tempo Short at Dick's
Perennial favorite for women, thanks to their performance, quality, affordability, and comfort.
Athletic fit... still offer plenty of room to move in order to perform perfect, unrestricted squats.
Best for High-Intensity Workouts:
Hylete Iris Short at Hylete.com
The built-in no-show breathable mesh liner doesn't ride up or limit your range of motion, even during high-intensity workouts.

Best Overall for Men: Under Armour Men's Raid Gym Shorts

Under Armour Men's Raid 10" Shorts

Whether you’re working out at the gym or hanging out in the backyard, you’ll feel comfortable in these ultra-soft and lightweight Under Armour Raid Shorts. The shorts’ 4-way stretch construction allows for easy movement in any direction, so these shorts are ideal for all types of exercise. The lightweight UA HeatGear fabric material wicks away sweat and the anti-odor technology fights odor-causing microbes, keeping you cool, fresh, and dry. Fans of the Raid shorts also love the pockets, elastic waistband with drawstring, and the choice of numerous colors. Overall, they’re an excellent choice for comfortable, durable, all-purpose men’s workout shorts.

Best Budget for Men: Champion Men's Long Mesh Short with Pockets

If you’re looking for comfortable, durable, and lightweight men’s workout shorts at an affordable price, you can’t go wrong with these Champion Men’s Long Mesh Shorts. They’re made of a lightweight, super soft, mesh material that offers superior ventilation and breathability on hot days. Perfect for all types of sports and activities, these shorts are on the baggy side and hit just above the knee.

They have an elastic waist and drawstring, so you don’t have to worry about wardrobe malfunctions when you’re working out or playing basketball. The side pockets are perfect for stashing your keys, wallet, or phone. Despite the reasonable price tag, these shorts are extremely durable and won’t wear out or fade. And with so many colors to choose from, you may decide you need more than one pair.

Best Running Shorts for Women: Nike Dry Tempo Short

Nike Women's Dry Tempo 3-Inch Running Short

These women’s running shorts from Nike are a perennial favorite for women, thanks to their performance, quality, affordability, and comfort. They feature a 3-inch inseam, curved hem and a fully-lined mesh brief that provides superior comfort, excellent coverage, and full range of motion. You’ll stay cool and dry due to the breathable mesh side panels and Nike’s signature Dri-FIT fabric that wicks away sweat.

These lightweight shorts are sure to become your go-to shorts for warm weather outdoor exercise or gym workouts. Available in dozens of colors, they’re so affordable that you may be tempted to buy more than one pair so you don’t have to worry about your favorite shorts being in the laundry pile.

Best for Squats: Jed North Men's Fitted Shorts

Jed North Men's Fitted Shorts

Men will look forward to leg day at the gym just so they can wear these comfortable, lightweight and extremely functional Jed North shorts. Featuring an athletic fit, they lightly hug the thighs, but still offer plenty of room to move in order to perform perfect, unrestricted squats. The fabric is exceptionally soft and smooth, with lots of stretch and flexibility so you don’t have to worry about rips or tears at the bottom of a squat. There’s room to stash your phone or other essentials in the two wide side pockets with zippers that are easy to open and close.

These comfy shorts allow you to focus on improving your squats rather than paying attention to irritating or uncomfortable clothing. Available in several colors and sizes, the Jed North fitted lifting shorts are shorter than some of the popular baggy shorts, but still provide enough coverage for any exercise.

Best for High-Intensity Workouts: Hylete Iris Short

Hylete Iris Short

These shorts have a built-in no-show breathable mesh liner that doesn't ride up or limit your range of motion, even when you're sprinting or doing other high-intensity exercises. The high-stretch waistband and four-way stretch fabric move with you while you exercise, but the shorts still stay in place without digging into your sides.

Side zipper pockets keep your valuables secure while you're out on a run and are big enough to fit most phones. Durable and lightweight, these high-quality shorts will last you a long time. The athletic shorts come in a range of colors and in sizes 0 through 14.

What to Look for in Workout Shorts

Material

Workout shorts come in all sorts of materials. The best materials will wick away sweat and allow your skin to breathe. Avoid cotton, which will hold moisture, and instead look for lightweight fabrics like polyester, spandex, fleece, and nylon.

Compression

Consider whether or not you will want compression in your workout shorts. If you are a runner, you may wish to use compression shorts for performance benefits and recovery. Compression gear should be tight without being restrictive. Most compression garments will be labeled as such.

Fit

Some people prefer tighter clothing, and others more loose-fitting garments. As well, workout shorts come in a wide range of lengths for both men and women. Check the inseam length on the label before making a decision. Loose-fitting shorts may be a hazard during some types of activity where they could get caught in machines.

Additionally, some brands offer a more inclusive range of sizes for petite or plus-sized individuals. Look for brands that provide these sizes if you need them before choosing a store to browse.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Are workout shorts better than yoga pants?

    Workout shorts are not better or worse than yoga pants. The decision to wear either shorts or yoga pants comes down to personal preference. However, depending on what type of activity you plan to do, one may be better than the other. For instance, your legs might become stuck if you are practicing movements on a mat such as martial arts.

  • How does your clothing affect your performance?

    Clothing does not affect your performance significantly most of the time. However, there is some evidence that compression garments may be beneficial for reducing muscle soreness.

    As well, if you wear clothing that holds in sweat, it could be uncomfortable, and tighter clothing with rough seams could lead to chafing. While these factors may not affect performance, they will significantly reduce your level of comfort and enjoyment during exercise.

  • What are the benefits of workout shorts?

    Workout shorts may be much cooler in hotter weather or training situations. You may find shorts less restrictive than pants. Shorts offer variety to your workout wardrobe, especially for the summer months or in hot climates.

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2 Sources
Verywell Fit uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Engel FA, Holmberg HC, Sperlich B. Is there evidence that runners can benefit from wearing compression clothinng?Sports Med. 2016;46(12):1939-1952. doi:10.1007/s40279-016-0546-5

  2. Beliard S, Chauveau M, Moscatiello T, Cros F, Ecarnot F, Becker F. Compression garments and exercise: no influence of pressure appliedJ Sports Sci Med. 2015;14(1):75-83.