These are the best running shorts to wear for training runs and races of any distance…

Choosing shorts for your run sessions or for competition often comes down to personal preference. Do you prefer form-fitting shorts or a more relaxed cut? Ultra-light and minimalist, or good coverage with cargo options?

Our reviewers tested a variety of running shorts over a wide range of distances – from 5km to half-marathon – and during treadmill and outdoor training sessions as well as competitive events, to bring you the best of the best.

Which length of running shorts should you wear?

There’s also the length to consider when choosing the best running shorts. Running shorts tend to be categorised by their inseam length – usually 3, 5 or 7 inches.

Choosing your ideal length depends on the kind of running you intend to do. For competitive running, sprint sessions or long-distance training you can’t beat the barely-there feel of the best 3-inch race shorts. Their split seams allow the most freedom of movement and the best ventilation but might not be the wisest choice for post-run cafe stops.

For mixed sessions, trail runs or day-long excursions where you want to carry essentials, consider the best 7-inch shorts. They offer the best coverage and storage options and are the go-to short if you prefer a relaxed fit too. Of course they’re also the heaviest option.

Or for the best of both worlds, why not try a pair of the best 5-inch shorts? They tend to combine the benefits of a lightweight race cut with good flexibility of movement as well as sensible storage options and improved coverage over 3-inch shorts.

Whatever shorts you choose for running, there are some details the best running shorts all have in common.

What to consider when choosing the best running shorts

  • Flexible movement
  • Neither too tight or too loose
  • Made from comfortable material
  • Flat, chafe-free seams
  • Good ventilation
  • Quick drying and moisture wicking
  • Storage for gels, keys, cards or phones

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Our pick of the best running shorts

Inov-8 Race Elite 5-Inch Short

Best 5-inch shorts


Lower torso shot of a main wearing running shorts

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Materials:Recycled polyester / elastane
Details:Integrated boxer liner, rear zipped pocket with key loop
Sizes:XS – XL
Colours:Black, navy

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

The Inov-8 Race Elite 5-inch certainly feels race-ready, but it’s also a useful choice for logging training miles or even nailing leg drills in the gym. On test, we found that they struck an ideal balance between that lightweight, barely-there feel and confident coverage. The Inov-8 short is just the right short for ensuring confidence over big-mileage runs.

We also found that the perforated panels kept the air flowing and sweat dissipating, while silky soft boxer liners with flat seams enhanced comfort. A soft, wide waistband resists rolling and reduces pressure. It’s a little light on storage for us, but there’s enough room for a large smartphone or a fistful of gels – as well as a key loop.

Satisfy Rippy 3-Inch Trail Short

Best 3-inch shorts

Product shot of running shorts

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Materials:100% polyamide
Details:Back zipper pocket with two pouches, two hip pockets, phone pocket, carabiner
Sizes:XS – XL
Colours:Vetiver, indigo batik, leopard, black

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

The premium Satisfy Rippy Short offers a minimalistic race feel and some superb technical features for stellar performance on the track. If you can stomach the stratospheric price tag, you’re onto a winner.

We found them to be light, breathable, comfortable, and impressively quick-drying shorts thanks to the durable Ripstop fabric. Surprisingly for a 3-inch short, there’s also a useful array of four pockets. That includes two hooded drop-ins pockets that can hold up to six gels and a rear zippered sweatproof phone pocket.

If you’re brave enough to shell out $240 / £210 for a pair, you may as well go all-in and get the bold Leopard print.

On Running Lightweight 7-Inch Short

Best 7-inch shorts

Product shot of running shorts

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Materials:Front polyamide, elastane; rear polyester; inner polyester, elastane
Details:Athletic fit, waistband pull loop, rear pocket, key loop
Sizes:Small – 2XL
Colours:Black, cerulean, glacier, niagara, twilight
Weight:5.3oz / 150g

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

On’s ultralight 7-inch shorts have an athletic cut which gave us plenty of freedom to move while testing. We also appreciated the perforated back which increased airflow and breathability.

The quality of the shorts was immediately obvious to us, despite the incredibly light and thin material. The fabric is soft and stretchy but feels comfortable and reassuringly robust.

The On Running Lightweight Shorts have that barely-there feel, even on long runs or over mixed terrain. That’s unusual for 7-inch shorts, but these are the most comfortable on test to wear in hot or humid conditions. Though seriously light, they’re not lacking in features. Though if you need more than one pocket you might have to look elsewhere.

adidas Adizero Control Running Short Tights

Best for dynamic workouts and sprint sessions


Adidas adizero control running short tights

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Materials:83% recycled polyester; 17% elastane doubleknit
Details:AEROREADY and RHEON technologies, stretch waist, reflective details
Sizes:XS – 2XL
Colour:Legend Ink

Comfort: 5/5
Support: 5/5
Sweat-wicking: 3.5/5

We found that for shorter, faster sessions and intervals on the track, these shorts were great. But it’s almost impossible to say whether they improved our efficiency. During some test sessions we hit our interval splits; during others we didn’t.

But if you’re after a pair of running shorts with a second-skin, locked-in feel, these are excellent at keeping everything supported and in place. And you’ll at least feel like you’re an Olympian – even if you need more than the advertised marginal gains here to get anywhere near that.  

Lululemon License To Train Lined 7-Inch Short

Most versatile shorts

Lululemon License to Train 7-Inch Shorts Review

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Materials:Lycra™, Luxtreme™
Details:Inside or out draw-cord waistband, quick-drying mesh waistband, secure pockets, 2.5-inch split outer seam, abrasion resistant
Sizes:XS – 2XL
Colours:8 colours available

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

Lululemon’s License to Train Lined 7-inch Shorts are heavy duty but stay comfortable for long periods. They’d work equally well out on a hiking trail as they would in the gym.

We found the Lycra/Luxtreme lining to be close-fitting, acting like a pair of compression tights. The outer layer also felt soft and well-constructed on test. This robustness means they’re not the lightest 7-inch option, but they are one of the most versatile.

The shorts are packed with features, too, including a reversible draw-cord waistband, secret elasticated pocket and split outer seam, which gave us a good range of movement while testing.

Satisfy TechSilk 5-Inch Short

Best shorts for storage

Product shot of running shorts

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Materials:88% polyamide, 12% elastane
Details:UV protection, 4 pockets, carabiner for keys, double waistband, reflective print
Sizes:XS – XL
Colours:Black, fossil

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

If you need a short that can swallow your day’s trail running essentials, look no further than Satisfy (just don’t look at its prices). Its TechSilk 5-inch short has two hand pockets as well as two interior sweatproof ones for phones and other valuables – we were especially impressed by this. A strong but soft technical two-way stretch silk fabric helps cut weight to just 4.2oz / 120g, but it still incorporates a hybrid inner design with a silky boxer-style brief, making them extra comfy to wear.

We found the sweat-wicking and drying to be top-drawer, making these a good choice for hot, sweaty summer runs. All its technical details, premium materials and stylish flourishes mean a hefty price tag, but if you invest in a pair you’ll reap huge comfort and performance benefits.

Brooks Sherpa 5-Inch 2-in-1 Short

Best shorts for support


Mid-torso close-up of a man wearing running shorts

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Details:Integrated boxer liner, flat waistband, 4-way stretch fabric, 3 pockets with key loop
Sizes:XS – 2XL
Colours:10 colours available

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

A longer, 5-inch version of Brooks’ classic race-fit Sherpa 3-inch split short, it pairs the same silky, lightweight four-way stretchy shell outer with a perforated inner short, with both giving extra coverage lower down your leg. 

Its soft, sweat-wicking liner has flat, chafe-free seams and countless perforations, making them the coolest and comfiest shorts we tested. Two large drop-in mesh pockets handle most storage needs, while a wide, soft waistband won’t roll or cinch at your waist.


What the experts look for in the best running shorts

We talked to athletes and coaches about what they look for in a good pair of running shorts. Jake Dearden, HYROX master trainer and 247 Represent head coach and athlete, says: “I like a 5-inch short with a skin layer underneath. This prevents the legs chafing but is cool enough to not overheat.

“The back, just below the waistband, needs to be big enough for a mobile phone for when you’re out for a run and don’t want to have to carry it or have anything else round your chest or arm to hold it.

“Waistbands need to have draw strings so they’re adjustable. The liner needs to be comfortable and ideally stop chafing (like a 2-in-1 short). It needs to be long enough so your thighs don’t rub together. You can always wearing chafing cream to prevent this too.”

Jonny Mellor, New Balance athlete and online running coach, adds: “It’s important to choose shorts that offer fast drying technology such as NB DRYx to wick moisture away from your body. If I’m doing a long run and carrying gels the New Balance half tights offer pockets on both sides, which are perfect for carrying gels. They also have a zipper pocket perfect for carrying a car key. For easy day-to-day running I prefer to wear something a little more loose fitting and lightweight.   

“This will depend on what you plan on carrying. If you want to carry gels then the half tights are perfect for this; if it’s just a set of keys then shorts with a zipped pocket are important. Personally I prefer this at the back of the short as I don’t notice it jiggling around. But again this will come down to personal preference and you may prefer to use a running belt instead.”

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