Mary Murphy wearing the blue-gray patagonia strider shorts on a trail run
(Photo/Mary Murphy)

The Best Running Shorts for Women in 2022

Run better in these stylish, comfortable, sweat-wicking shorts. From epic trail-running shorts to the best compression running shorts, we’ve got you covered.

As frequent trail runners, hikers, road runners, and adventure racers, the GearJunkie team logs a lot of miles. From Colorado mountain trails to long Oregon road runs and everything in between, we love running. And as soon as the temps climb, we live in running shorts.

The primary things we look for in a running short are that it doesn’t budge while running and stays comfortable for hours on end. Basically, we want to forget we’re wearing shorts and just enjoy the run. Because there’s nothing more annoying than having to break stride because your shorts are awkwardly riding up.

We also give high marks to shorts that dry quickly, remain stink-free, and are a good value. And there are bonus points for anything that looks good enough to wear as we swing by the farmer’s market or grab a cold coffee on the way home.

That said, there isn’t a single pair of shorts that will fit every woman out there. Bodies and preferences vary, which is why we’ve broken the best running shorts into categories. And if you need more help finding the right shorts, check out our buyer’s guide below on how to choose the best shorts for you.

The Best Running Shorts for Women in 2022

Best Overall Women’s Running Short: Patagonia Strider & Strider Pro Running Shorts

Patagonia Strider & Strider Pro Running Shorts

Patagonia’s most technical running shorts, the Strider Pro ($59), are made of 100% recycled ripstop polyester finished with a DWR coating, making them ultra-tough and water-resistant. There are a total of five pockets, one with a zip-secure on the back.

One tester wore these on a recent run/scramble on a hot day in the mountains, and they were perfect for the unpredictable terrain. And even after sweating and going in and out of rivers, the lightweight brief didn’t cause any chafing.

The waistband is one of the most minimal waistbands of all the shorts we’ve tested, and at first glance, we thought it would cause a major muffin top effect. But we were pleasantly surprised at the fit. They stay up without squeezing.

That being said, we also really enjoyed the feel of the Patagonia Strider ($49) in testing — the shorts are nearly exactly the same, with the exception of the inseam (3.5 inches) and waistband. Depending on your preference for fit, we recommend both.

All in all, these shorts are comfortable, quick-drying, and cute. Oh, and they’re around 50 bucks.

Note: One tester felt the sizing ran small for the Strider, so you may want to size up.

Specs:
  • Inseam: 3″
  • Pockets: 1-5
  • Liner: Yes
  • Material: 100% recycled polyester (Strider Pro); 59% recycled polyester, 41% polyester micro-dobby (Strider)
  • Waterproof: Yes, DWR finish
  • Weight: 2.8-3.1 oz.
  • Size range: XXS-XXL

Check Strider Price at REICheck Stride Pro Price at REI

Runner-Up Women’s Best Running Short: Nathan Essential Shorts

close-up view of the Nathan essential shorts
(Photo/Mary Murphy)

Nathan debuted its Essential Shorts ($55) with the rest of its first apparel collection last year. Our tester loved running in these shorts, especially in hotter weather.

They have lightweight fabric, mesh paneling, good breathability, and really useful stash pockets. From stair workouts to hot trail runs — even workday commutes — these shorts performed great.

The waistband is on par in terms of fit with several other shorts on our list. It does ride a little low on the hips (a note for those who prefer more coverage), but it’s comfortable.

The zippered pocket on the Essential Shorts is located on the back right, at a slight angle. The pocket placement is good, and the pocket actually runs across the whole back of the shorts,

So when you do have a few small items stashed in there, the weight is spread out evenly. The pocket also has a nice, easy-to-locate paracord loop pull — better than a standard zipper.

The two other pockets are located on the sides of the shorts, incorporated into the mesh panels. They could fit a phone (depending on size), although we preferred these pockets for stashing energy chews and gels. One pocket even has an elastic loop for keys. Finally, these shorts are set at a pretty nice price point.

Specs:
  • Inseam: 2.5″
  • Pockets: 3
  • Liner: Yes
  • Material: 89% polyester, 11% elastane
  • Waterproof: No
  • Weight: 4 oz.
  • Size range: XS-XL

Check Price at Nathan

Best Budget Women’s Running Short: Under Armour Fly By Shorts

Under Armour Fly-By Shorts

For $25, it’s hard to find a better value in running shorts than the Under Armour Fly-By Shorts. Designed for warm-weather runs, the mesh side panels easily dump heat, and the lightweight polyester fabric dries quickly. We found the wide waistband comfortable enough (though not as great as our top choice) and like the drawstring for on-the-fly adjustments.

Be forewarned that the lighter colors (especially white) are rather see-through. (They do have a built-in liner.) This is a solid running short for 25 bucks.

Specs:
  • Inseam: 3″ or 3.5″
  • Pockets: None
  • Liner: Yes
  • Material: 100% polyester
  • Waterproof: No
  • Weight: 10.9 oz.
  • Size range: XS-3XL

Check Price at AmazonCheck Price at Backcountry

Best Storage Women’s Running Short: HOKA SG Trail Shorts

demonstrating all the storage in the back compression pocket of the HOKA Trail short
The stash pocket on the HOKA Trail short can hold a wallet, sunglasses, keys, and more small items; (photo/Mary Murphy)

Picture a short with a lightweight, breathable fabric and barely-there feel — but with tons of storage. That’s the essence of the HOKA SG Trail Short ($68) in a nutshell.

This short has a zippered back security pocket (for keys or ID) but also two nicely sized drop-in pockets — we’ve crammed GUs, gels, sunglasses, a soft flask, my wallet, and even a windbreaker in there on longer runs. The contents of this burly pocket are secured with two lightweight bungee cords that cinch and secure into place.

The shorts have a four-way stretch fabric — 78% nylon and 22% elastane — and a 3-inch inseam. Our only con is these shorts are prone to wrinkling, so if you are packing along for a trip, we recommend rolling or laying flat.

If you don’t love vests or belts but want a way to carry a few things on a run, shorts with functional pockets are a must. And these shorts — not just the pockets — are great.

Specs:
  • Inseam: 3″
  • Pockets: 2
  • Liner: Yes
  • Material: 78% nylon, 22% elastane with four-way stretch
  • Waterproof: No
  • Weight: 3 oz.
  • Size range: XS-XL

Check Price at HOKA

Best Compression Women’s Running Short: 2XU Mid-Rise Compression Shorts

2XU Mid-Rise Compression Shorts

Every runner needs a good pair of compression shorts. And no one knows compression better than 2XU ($70).

Whether it’s for a long-haul run or a recovery run, one tester never heads to a big race without these shorts. She’s done multiple 24-hour adventure races and 20-mile runs in these. They compress the thighs and butt in all the right places, making the muscles get less fatigued and able to recover faster.

The wide waistband hugs the waistline in a flattering way that doesn’t ever slide down. The seams are a nonissue and strategically placed so there is never a problem with chafing, even as they get wet from sweat or river crossings.

Specs:
  • Inseam: 7″
  • Pockets: None
  • Liner: N/A
  • Material: 65-72% nylon, 28-35% Lycra
  • Waterproof: No
  • Weight: Unknown
  • Size range: XS-XL

Check Price at BackcountryCheck Price at Amazon

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Best Wool Women’s Running Short: icebreaker Impulse Running Shorts

Icebreaker Impulse Running Shorts

The Impulse Running Shorts ($80) feature a classic waistband look (slightly higher rise on the hips) with an internal drawstring, and they have more coverage than most other running shorts.

We regularly wear them all day and have even used them over my swimsuit for surfing and paddling. From rain to humidity to watersports, this Impulse short’s DWR finish comes in handy.

The outer shell is made out of a blend of wool, nylon, and Tencel, which is not only fast-drying but also repels odors. And for maximum comfort, the inner brief is icebreaker’s well-known, loved, cool, light brief. It’s an unstoppable combo.

Specs:
  • Inseam: 3.4″
  • Pockets: 1
  • Liner: Yes
  • Material: 90% nylon, 10% elastane with a 51% merino wool, 35% Tencel, 14% nylon lining
  • Waterproof: Yes, PFC-free DWR finish
  • Weight: 3.2 oz.
  • Size range: XS-XL

Check Price at icebreaker

Best Wide-Waistband Women’s Running Short: Outdoor Voices Hudson Running Short

Outdoor Voices Hudson Running Short

The Hudson Short ($58) is a great initiation into the world of running shorts. Especially if you’re on the curvy side or not yet sold on the whole running short thing. The wide, comfy waistband feels a lot like yoga pant waistbands but wicks more moisture because of the “tech sweat” material.

The silky liner stays put, while the quick-drying shell offers enough coverage to do errands, get a post-run coffee, or squeeze in a yoga class. I’ve done all the above in them and can attest they’re versatile and flattering. Once you put these on, you’ll never want to take them off.

The Hudson Short fits a range of sizes roughly 0-14.

Specs:
  • Inseam: 2.5″ or 4″
  • Pockets: 1
  • Liner: Yes
  • Material: 86% recycled polyester, 14% spandex
  • Waterproof: No
  • Weight: Unknown
  • Size range: XS-XL

Check Price at Outdoor Voices

Best Running Skirt: Salomon Agile Skort

Salomon Agile Skort

Designed for epic trail runs and mountain hikes, this running skort ($60) offers comfort, coverage, and performance all in one. The quick-drying polyester inner shorts wick moisture to keep you dry all day long and provide plenty of airflow during summer runs. The polyester outer skirt dries quickly and offers a little extra coverage and style.

This skort is 100% synthetic with a brief liner. Plus, it comes in a lot of fun prints!

The adjustable waistband allows for a custom fit. And we appreciated being able to stash a few dollars or our favorite lip balm in the zippered pocket. All in all, this lightweight skort is a favorite for hot summer days on the trail.

Specs:
  • Inseam: Unavailable
  • Pockets: None
  • Liner: Yes
  • Material: 100% polyester
  • Waterproof: Water-resistant
  • Weight: 4 oz.
  • Size range: XS-XL

Check Price at Amazon

Best of the Rest

Janji Middle Shorts

Janji 3 Middle Shorts

These shorts are as close as it comes to feeling like you’re running in the nude. The ultralight and airy material of Janji’s Middle Shorts ($68) coupled with the thin, nonchafing, breathable brief make us look down and make sure we’re wearing something.

These provide full coverage in a flattering and fun way. The mesh is highly breathable, and the stretchy waistband has a built-in drawstring cord for a custom fit.

If you don’t like any restriction or prefer a looser fit, these shorts are the ones to beat.

Specs:
  • Inseam: 3″
  • Pockets: 1
  • Liner: Yes
  • Material: 88% recycled polyester/12% spandex with four-way stretch
  • Waterproof: No
  • Weight: 3.1 oz.
  • Size range: XS-XL

Check Price at REICheck Price at Janji

Smartwool Merino Sport Lined Shorts

Smartwool Merino Sport Lined Shorts

We love Smartwool’s quality and attention to detail in all of its new garments. And the Merino Sport Lined shorts ($60) did not disappoint. These shorts provide all-day comfort, easily switch from activity to activity, and in one of our editors’ cases even accommodated a growing pregnant belly.

The wide waistband has a wool inner as well as a drawstring cord, making the shorts stay put without pinching. And because they’re wool, they’re great at wicking moisture and staying stink-free.

The drop-in pockets and small zippered pockets hold enough for a good long run or a short day hike. And the coverage of the shorts makes them great for wearing around town.

Specs:
  • Inseam: Unavailable
  • Pockets: 1
  • Liner: Yes
  • Material: 86% recycled polyester, 14% elastane, lining: 56% merino wool, 44% recycled polyester
  • Waterproof: Water-resistant
  • Weight: 3.9 oz.
  • Size range: XS-XL

Check Price at REICheck Price at Amazon

REI Active Pursuits Shorts

REI active pursuits running shorts

Another great everyday durable and budget-friendly option is the REI Active Pursuits short ($33 on sale). At 7 inches, they’re the longer side, wick well, and are comfortable for not just running but also gym training, biking, and more. The shorts aren’t the lightest, but we do appreciate that they have two hand pockets and a secure pocket.

The clever elastic band that rises slightly above the waist is super comfortable. If relaxed, baggy, soft, breathable, and athletic is the vibe you’re going for, these shorts are worth trying. And they are under 40 bucks!

This short also comes in a 4.5-inch length and in plus sizes. Cons? They don’t come in very many color options.

Specs:
  • Inseam: 4.5″ or 7″
  • Pockets: 1 or 3
  • Liner: Yes
  • Material: 86% recycled polyester (Bluesign approved), 14% spandex
  • Waterproof: No
  • Weight: Unknown
  • Size range: XS-XL

Check 7-Inch Price at REICheck 4.5-Inch Price at REI

Tracksmith Session Speed Shorts

tracksmith session speed short with elastic waistband in navy

We’d be remiss to review women’s running shorts without mentioning the great stuff Boston-born Tracksmith has going on. While the prices are high, the materials are quality — and the fit, feel, and comfort aren’t too shabby either.

Our favorites overall from the brand were the Session Speed Shorts ($72), factoring in materials, fit, performance on short and long runs, durability, and price. They’re soft and light, but not too light.

The shorts are made with a high-stretch fabric — 86% nylon and 14% elastane — and a 3.25-inch inseam. And they include a brief liner, elastic waistband, and zippered pocket.

If you can splurge, Tracksmith’s newer Strata shorts ($88) are an even comfier, ultralight performance option.

Specs:
  • Inseam: 2.5″
  • Pockets: 1
  • Liner: Yes
  • Material: 86% nylon, 14% elastane
  • Waterproof: No
  • Weight: 3.2 oz
  • Size range: XS-XL

Check Price at Tracksmith

Why You Should Trust Us

Our female testers at GearJunkie do a whole array of activities — but one of the most popular is running. Whether trail running, adventure racing, road running, or speed hiking, we’ve worn, washed, sweat in, and tested eons of shorts.

We chose the best running shorts by weighing their fit, performance, fabrics, price, and more.

For many, style is preference, which is why we made sure to test and include running shorts of different lengths, coverage, and compression — and even a running skirt.

We tested these shorts on trails in Oregon, Colorado, California, Florida, New Mexico, and beyond — in all sorts of temperatures, humidity, and conditions. Aside from our editors and testers, we also gathered input from other women on staff to make sure we didn’t miss a short.

Buyer’s Guide: How to Choose Running Shorts

five different running shorts tested on a trail run
Comparing the weight and feel of the fabrics of a variety of shorts post-run; (photo/Mary Murphy)

You can run in just about anything, but having a comfortable pair of shorts sure does make pounding the pavement more enjoyable. Here are some things to consider when looking for the best running shorts.

Liner or No Liner?

First, decide if you want a liner or not. A perfectly fitting liner will tend to be less chafe-inducing over long miles than inappropriate underwear. Thus, a liner eliminates the need to change undies before a run. Just throw on your shorts and go!

But some runners find choosing the perfect underwear with the perfect shorts works better. For many runners, a lined short is just simpler to deal with. But if you’re serious, consider multiple layers and pay attention to the underwear too.

Some shorts have a skin-tight inner liner, and others have a looser brief-style liner. Try on a few and see what you prefer.

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GearJunkie staff tester Chelsey Magness running in Bend, Oregon

Feel and Weight

When you run, weight is an enemy. You want the lightest shorts you can find, and that starts with materials. But avoid super-wispy fabrics that can bunch or stick to skin or snag, as they can be annoying on long runs.

Choose synthetic shorts for their quick-drying properties. Cotton is nice and soft but will get bogged down with sweat.

Consider antimicrobial treatments, as many brands add a silver salt to their product to minimize odor-causing bacteria. Most brands have swapped over to ensuring their liners are antimicrobial as well.

Finally, many running shorts have a small amount of reflectivity built in —whether on the logo, rear, or pull tabs. It’s a nice touch and helps you stay a little safer at night.

Pockets

Even if you carry a vest pack, pockets can really set a pair of shorts apart. Consider first any waist-belt-style pockets. When executed well, a good waist pocket will allow you to leave a pack at home for many runs. And for shorter runs, it’s nice to just toss your keys and phone in your shorts and go.

Consider if pockets have zippers or other fail-safe measures for security. Can you access them on the go? Zip pockets are great, but also consider the zipper quality or zipper pull, as this is a possible failure point.

Larger thigh pockets are great for daily wear, but they become useless while running. Who wants a bunch of stuff bouncing off their legs? So don’t worry much about big pockets on the thighs. They usually don’t hurt and do come in handy for post-run life like a stop in a coffee shop.

But you won’t use them while running. Unless … here’s the kicker: it’s a loose short with built-in compression shorts underneath, with pockets. The more elastic, the more compression, the better those pockets are —we’ve had some success with short styles like these.

a runner reaching into a zip pocket on a navy tracksmith session running short
A subtle side-zippered pocket on the Tracksmith Session Speed short; (photo/Mary Murphy)

Waistband

The waistband needs to fit your body perfectly. Too tight, and it’s going to hurt. Too loose, and your pants fall down. Some waistbands are made entirely of elastic and are bonded to the short; some have an internal elastic band that you can adjust or tighten as needed.

You’ll want to find one with the right fit, but also look for a band that lays flat against the skin. Cheap shorts will often bunch at the waistband. You want a smooth, continuous layer of fabric against the skin. Quality shorts will not behave like a scrunchie on your waist.

The biggest thing is just to get out there and go for it. Grab some shorts, lace up your shoes, and start running.

FAQ

Best Chelsey Magness Testing Running Shorts for Women
Testing compression shorts on a run; (photo/Chelsey Magness)

What Shorts Should You Wear for Running?

We’ve mentioned a lot of the big factors above, but it bears repeating: for running — whether trail or race or road — you want something that fits well, isn’t restrictive, moves with you, and is lightweight. Running shorts made from a synthetic blend or wool with added elastane for stretch are some of the best we discovered in testing.

So, what shorts should you wear? Consider a few personal preferences. Do you want a liner? Do you want a longer or shorter inseam? Do you want a pocket? Then, check out our best picks above — there are different styles and something for everyone! But at the end of the day, they all felt great and worked great for running.

Why Do Women's Running Shorts Have Liners?

Many women’s running shorts have a built-in brief, or liner, so that underwear is not required. Liners both provide coverage underneath your shorts and are usually made of a thin, highly breathable, and wicking fabric.

For women, they can also provide some support and compression. Most liners are sewn in. A good liner won’t restrict motion, will wick well, and keeps you cool.

What Are the Most Comfortable Running Shorts?

This varies by preference, but most runners will say that their most comfortable shorts fit well, don’t restrict motion, and are comfortable against skin — in other words, they are soft.

Some of our favorites on the list went it came to fit and soft feel include the Janji Middle Shorts, Patagonia Strider shorts, and Smartwool Merino 150 Sport Shorts.

Another factor that determines if a short is comfortable is the waistband. This has a little to do with sizing and fit, but also a lot to do with the material. Choosing a short that has a nice wide, flat, elastic waistband is always a safe bet.

Should Running Shorts Be Tight or Loose?

This is preference, but it also depends on where you are running. If you are running in a very hot and humid environment, looser shorts with lighter fabric and more breathability will be a better option.

If you are competing or racing, you may want to choose tighter compression shorts for comfort and aerodynamics. Our female editors preferred looser short styles so they can better move with your body as you move, twist, and run.

a woman trail running in the HOKA Trail Short 2.5-inch inseam
Testing the HOKA Trail short on a trail run in Evergreen, Colo.; (photo/Mary Murphy)

Which Inseam Is Best for Running Shorts?

For men, inseams on running shorts are generally around the same length. For women, running short inseams vary wildly. Some shorts have 2- or 3-inch inseams, and some are 5-inch or 7-inch.

Many shorter-length running shorts will include a liner. And compression shorts come in short or long inseam styles too.

If you are taller, or prefer more coverage in your running wear, we’d suggest looking for a short with at least a 5-inch inseam.

How Long Do Running Shorts Last?

Our staff members have tested lower-budget shorts whose elastic waistband has disintegrated within a year, and we’ve tested other shorts that have lasted more than 6 years. When purchasing running shorts, it’s a good idea to check the durability of the fabrics they are made of, and also check fabric care.

Washing and hanging or air-drying running shorts immediately after sweating is always a good way to keep your shorts lasting as long as possible.


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