Whether you’re a competitive parkrunner, or track athlete, these are the best 3-inch shorts for pushing PBs…

When it comes to finding the best running shorts, there’s a lot of confusion around the different lengths. The shorter the shorts, the faster the runner. That’s the myth anyway. But while that might not strictly be true, there’s a reason most of the best runners who boss the elite track events and road marathons wear tiny race shorts. When it comes to all-out, hammer-down performance, stripping your shorts back to the basics has a lot of benefits. The best 3-inch shorts are light, airy and give you total freedom to move fast.

Here’s our pick of the best, tried-and-tested by the Men’s Fitness team.

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Our pick of the best 3-inch shorts for running

  1. Satisfy Rippy 3-Inch Trail Short ($240 / £210) – Best 3-inch shorts
  2. Brooks Sherpa 3-Inch Split Short ($60 / £40) – Best for long-distance racing
  3. Tracksmith Twilight 3-Inch Split Short ($62 / £64) – Best for stylish milers
  4. SOAR Running Split Short ($117 / £95) – Best for hot-weather racing
  5. New Balance Accelerate 3-Inch Split Short ($29.99 / £28) – Best for pure speed
  6. Salomon Sense Aero 3-Inch Short ($70 / £55) – Best for racing trails
  7. Nike Dri-FIT Heritage 10cm Short (£27.95) – Best for retro style

Keep reading for our full reviews…

Product shot of leapard-skin coloured Satisfy Rippy shortsMen's Fitness Editor's Choice badge


Satisfy Rippy 3-Inch Trail Short


$240 / £210, satisfyrunning.com

Comfort: 5/5
Support: 5/5
Sweat-wicking: 4/5

Material: 100% polyamide | Details: Back zipper pocket with two pouches / two hip pockets / phone pocket / carabiner | Sizes: XS to XL | Colour: Vetiver / Indigo Batik / Leopard / Black

A premium pair of shorts with a minimalistic race feel and some superb technical features. The Satisfy Rippy Short offers stellar performance – and an impossible-to-ignore stratospheric price tag. If you can stomach that, you’re getting a serious product.

Made from durable ripstop fabric, we found these shorts to be light, breathable, comfortable and impressively quick-drying. There’s also a useful array of four pockets, including two hooded drop-ins that can hold up to six gels and a rear zippered sweatproof phone pocket.

Even if you’re brave enough to shell out $240 / £210 on these, are you man enough to go for the bold Leopard print?

A man wearing the Brooks Sherpa shortsMen's Fitness Endorsed badge


Brooks Sherpa 3-Inch Split Short


$60 / £40, brooksrunning.com

Comfort: 5/5
Support: 4/5
Sweat-wicking: 4/5
OVERALL: 4.5/5

Details: 2 oversized hip pockets and bungee loop / 4-way stretch fabric | Sizes: XS to XL | Colours: Dusk / Flame / Black / Indigo

If comfort and storage options are more important to you than out-and-out microlight minimalism, this pair of classic race-fit split shorts from Brooks are well worth a look. While they’re not the lightest, we found their outer layer to be silky smooth, the liner to be breathable and efficient at sweat wicking, and the waistband to be wide, comfy and forgiving.

We also found the overlapping side splits offered plenty of flexibility and gave a roomy race feel without making you feel too exposed. There are two good-sized drop-in mesh pockets at the rear that will hold a phone, gels or other essentials. There’s a good choice of sizes and colours too.

Man wearing the Tracksmith 3-inch shortMen's Fitness Endorsed badge


Tracksmith Twilight 3-Inch Split Shorts


$62 / £64, tracksmith.com

Comfort: 5/5
Support: 4/5
Sweat-wicking: 4/5
OVERALL: 4.5/5

Material: 85% polyester / 15% elastane | Details: 3 internal pockets / anti-microbial mesh fabric | Sizes: XS to XXL | Colours: 7 colours available

Available in seven gloriously retro colour schemes, the Tracksmith Twilight 3-Inch Split Shorts look the part – but it’s not all style over substance. On test, we found the ultra-light Italian-engineered blend dried incredibly quickly and felt comfortable against the skin.

The inner briefs feel luxuriously soft, too, with anti-chafe flat seams and plenty of support. There are also three drop-in rear pockets, each big enough to swallow a smartphone. Curved side splits add to that Chariots of Fire appeal.

A pair of Soar split shortsMen's Fitness Endorsed badge


SOAR Running Split Short


$117 / £95, soarrunning.com

Comfort: 4/5
Support: 4/5
Sweat-wicking: 4.5/5
OVERALL: 4.5/5

Material: 84% polyamide / 16% elastane | Details: Zippered pocket / reflective logo and trim | Sizes: Small to XL | Colours: Black / Coral

SOAR’s classic split short is worth a look if you plan to train or race in hot, sweaty conditions. It’s cut close and short – just 2.5 inches – and its ultra-lightweight, highly-breathable fabric creates a speedy, barely-there feel.

We thought the inner brief liner provided plenty of security and support, while the fast-wicking fabric cut drying time significantly. We were also impressed by the leg room and flexibility, along with the wide, comfortable waistband. If you can cope with single-pocket storage, this is an ideal choice for short- to middle-distance training and racing.

A man wearing the New Balance Accelerate Men's Fitness Endorsed badge


New Balance Accelerate 3-Inch Split Shorts


$29.99 / £28, newbalance.co.uk

Comfort: 4/5
Support: 3/5
Sweat-wicking: 4/5

Material: 55% recycled polyester / 45% polyester | Details: NB DRY moisture wicking design / drop-in hip pocket / reflective logo | Sizes: XS to XXL | Colour: Black

With a 3-inch inseam, a 1-inch side split and an athletic cut, the New Balance Accelerate is extremely lightweight and built for race-friendly freedom. If you want your shorts to be barely noticeable, we highly recommend these.

With solid sweat-wicking and moisture management, they’ll stay light even in the wettest conditions. We found them extremely comfy, too, and although storage and inner-brief support are on the lighter side, that just adds to the go-faster credentials.

Man wearing the Salomon Sense Aero Men's Fitness Endorsed badge


Salomon Sense Aero 3-Inch Short


$70 / £55, salomon.com

Comfort: 4/5
Support: 4/5
Sweat-wicking: 4/5

Material: 73% polyamide / 27% elastane | Details: Four-way stretch fabric / front pocket / reflective details | Sizes: XS to XL | Colours: Black / Turquoise

If you’re smashing fast miles in the mountain foothills or putting down speed on forest trails, the Salomon Sense Aero short should be on your short-list. We found them to be slim-fitting while allowing a wide range of movement, thanks to its four-way stretch Aerotech fabric outer. It’s nicely flexible and offers excellent range of movement, enhanced by a one-inch side split but with less of the fall-out risk of some race shorts.

Tiny perforations make the fabric highly breathable and quick-drying, while soft, supportive brief liners have flat seams to reduce the risk of chafing. We were also impressed by the amount of waistband storage, which was easily accessible too, making these a good choice for those longer trail outings that require regular refuelling.

A man winning DryFit Heritage shortsMen's Fitness Endorsed badge


Nike Dri-FIT Heritage 10cm Short


£27.95, nike.com (not currently available in the US)

Comfort: 3/5
Support: 4/5
Sweat-wicking: 4/5

Material: 75% recycled polyester / 25% polyester | Details: Dri-FIT sweat-wicking design / internal or external drawcord | Sizes: XL to 4XL | Colour: Obsidian

OK, so the Nike Dri-FIT Heritage short is closer to 4 inches than 3 inches. But its retro styling gives it a certain old-school track aesthetic that will appeal to mile munchers young and old. Fabric tech is definitely 21st century, however, with Nike’s Dri-FIT technology ensuring efficient moisture wicking and fabric drying.

There are no storage options with the Heritage short, but their silky smooth feel makes them one of the most comfortable shorts we tested. There are eight sizing options, too, for those who prefer a precise, dialled-in fit.

Benefits of 3-inch shorts

Sometimes referred to as ‘short shorts’ or ‘split shorts’, 3-inch running shorts tend to be the shortest running shorts going. They also mainly come out when it’s time to run fast and are generally reserved for racing. 

These stripped-back, minimal running shorts feature a trademark inseam length that finishes high up the thigh – sometimes with a split in the fabric on the outside leg to help with movement and airflow. 

The go-to garment for elite track and road runners, these micro runners leave little to the imagination. So while they’re an excellent choice for sprinting, high intensity intervals and some longer endurance events, they probably aren’t the best choice for your runs to the office – or for lounging around at the post-parkrun cafe. 

Looking for a different length? Check out our roundups of best 5-inch shorts and 7-inch shorts.

The main reason to squeeze into a pair of 3-inch shorts is the minimal, barely-there race feel that makes you feel like running fast, unencumbered. They’re lightweight, offer loads of ventilation and breathability, plus maximum freedom to move. They can also help reduce chafe risk and they generally come with built-in liner briefs to preserve your dignity and prevent any accidental exposures. 

The most minimal designs often forego pockets, but we’re increasingly seeing fuel, phone and key-friendly pockets appear on even some of the most stripped-back options. However, if you’re slipping into a pair of the best 3-inch shorts, it’s probably for the kind of serious running where you leave your phone at home to cut your race weight by a couple of hundred grams… 

Now, if three inches feels too flamboyant, and you’re after some of the same running benefits but you’d rather show a little less leg, it’s worth considering a mid-length, 5-inch running short. These can offer a similar light, speedy feel but that extra couple of inches of fabric offers more protection, plus they tend to have more storage options.