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The Best Running Shorts for Men of 2023

From sunny beaches to high alpine trails, our experts evaluated for fit, comfort, mobility, moisture-wicking, and more to compile a list of the best men’s running shorts available today.

(photo/Nick Presniakov)
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Thanks to advancements in fabric technology and design, today’s running shorts are better than ever. Overall, materials are lighter, more comfortable, and offer better mobility.

All running shorts should allow you to move freely — that’s a given. The best running shorts, however, should not only provide freedom of movement, but also keep moisture at a minimum to ward off chafing, and keep items like your phone, keys, and fuel secure without bouncing around.

After months of testing, even years in some cases, we’ve managed to narrow down the best of the best for whatever type of running you’re into. The shorts on this list are the ones we kept reaching for time and time again.

If you’re interested in broadening your knowledge about running shorts, check out our comprehensive buyer’s guide and FAQ sections at the end of this article. And be sure to look at our comparison chart when it’s decision time.

The Best Running Shorts for Men of 2023


Best Overall Running Shorts

REI Co-Op Swiftland Running Shorts

Specs

  • Length 5" and 7"
  • Shell 73% nylon, 27% spandex; Bluesign approved
  • Liner Brief (80% nylon, 20% spandex; Bluesign approved)
  • Pockets 1 rear zipper, 2 side drop-ins
The Best Running Shorts for Men of 2023

Pros

  • Extremely lightweight and airy
  • Secure, bounce-free main pocket
  • Next-to-nothing feeling

Cons

  • Small zippered pocket opening
Best Budget Running Shorts

Baleaf 5″ Running Athletic Shorts

Specs

  • Length 5" and 7"
  • Shell 89.7% polyester, 10.3% spandex
  • Liner Brief (91.7% polyester, 8.3% spandex)
  • Pockets 1 rear zippered
The Best Running Shorts for Men of 2023

Pros

  • Well-priced
  • Stretchy

Cons

  • Baggy
Runner-Up Best Running Shorts

Tracksmith Session Short

Specs

  • Length 5"
  • Shell 86% nylon, 14% elastane
  • Liner Brief (89% polyester, 11% spandex)
  • Pockets 1 rear zipper
The Best Running Shorts for Men of 2023

Pros

  • Unbelievably comfortable
  • Polygiene anti-odor, antimicrobial treated
  • Great for post-run outings

Cons

  • Somewhat heavyweight fabric compare to others tested
Best Pockets on Running Shorts

Black Diamond Sprint Shorts

Specs

  • Length 5" and 7"
  • Shell 88% nylon, 12% elastane w/DWR
  • Liner Brief (100% polyester)
  • Pockets 2 rear zippered, 3 drop-in
The Best Running Shorts for Men of 2023

Pros

  • Well-designed pockets
  • Wind-resistant shell is great for mountain running
  • Comfortable waistbelt

Cons

  • Retains moisture more than most
Best Shorts for Trail Running

Patagonia Strider Pro Shorts

Specs

  • Length 5” and 7"
  • Shell 90% recycled polyester, 10% spandex
  • Liner Brief (100% Recycled polyester double knit)
  • Pockets One rear zipper, four envelope enclosure drop-in
The Best Running Shorts for Men of 2023

Pros

  • Newly added four-way stretch
  • Carrying capacity
  • Comfortable waistline

Cons

  • Expensive
  • Sizing is finicky
Best Half Tight Running Shorts

Nike Dri-FIT ADV AeroSwift

Specs

  • Length Above the knee
  • Shell 89% polyester, 11% spandex
  • Liner Brief (89% polyester, 11% spandex)
  • Pockets 1 rear zippered, 4 drop-in
The Best Running Shorts for Men of 2023

Pros

  • Built-in liner
  • Lightweight
  • Comfortable

Cons

  • Ribbed material takes getting used to
Best Split Running Shorts

SOAR Race Shorts 5.0

Specs

  • Length 2.5”
  • Shell 60% Polyester, 40% Elastane
  • Liner Brief-style (78% Polyester, 22% Elastane)
  • Pockets Two minimal key pockets
The Best Running Shorts for Men of 2023

Pros

  • Outstanding mobility
  • Stylish
  • Durable

Cons

  • Extremely pricey
  • Small pockets are limiting
Best of the Rest

Saxx Hightail

Specs

  • Length 5"
  • Shell 100% polyester
  • Liner Compression mesh liner: (85% nylon, 15% elastane)
  • Pockets 1 rear drop in & 1 linear
The Best Running Shorts for Men of 2023

Pros

  • Extremely supportive liner
  • Comfortable

Cons

  • Heavy

HOKA Glide Short

Specs

  • Length 5" and 7"
  • Shell 89% recycled polyester, 11% elastane
  • Liner Brief
  • Pockets 1 rear folded-over drop-in, 1 side zippered
The Best Running Shorts for Men of 2023

Pros

  • Extremely lightweight shell
  • Comfortable
  • Wicks moisture well

Cons

  • Odd designed pocket is tough to use
  • Can’t fit phone

On Lightweight Shorts

Specs

  • Length 5"
  • Shell Front fabric: 86% recycled polyamide, 14% elastane; Back mesh: 100% recycled polyester
  • Liner Brief (89% polyester, 11% elastane)
  • Pockets One rear drop-in
The Best Running Shorts for Men of 2023

Pros

  • Supportive brief liner
  • Great mobility
  • Dual fabric shell is protective in the front and breathable in the back

Cons

  • Only one pocket
  • Expensive

Vuori Course Run Shorts

Specs

  • Length 5”
  • Shell 50% Recycled Polyester, 42% Polyester, 8% Elastane
  • Liner Boxer Brief
  • Pockets One rear drop-in, one side leg drop-in on internal boxer brief
The Best Running Shorts for Men of 2023

Pros

  • Very comfortable
  • Can easily double as gym shorts

Cons

  • Pricey
  • The relaxed fit will feel baggy for thin runners

Janji AFO Middle Shorts

Specs

  • Length 3” and 5"
  • Shell 88% recycled polyester, 12% elastane
  • Liner Brief (94% polyester, 6% spandex)
  • Pockets One rear zipper, one internal; drop-in w/ bungee cord
The Best Running Shorts for Men of 2023

Pros

  • Extremely lightweight
  • Fast drying time
  • Bungee securely attaches keys
  • 14 colors to choose from

Cons

  • Some may find them too short

New Balance Accelerate 5-Inch Short

Specs

  • Length 5” and 7"
  • Shell 55% recycled polyester, 45% polyester
  • Liner Brief (Unknown)
  • Pockets Two drop-in hip, two side hand pockets
The Best Running Shorts for Men of 2023

Pros

  • Great pricepoint
  • Great multi-use shorts for gym, hiking, etc.

Cons

  • Lack of stretch
  • No secure pocket for phone

Rab Talus Trail Shorts

Specs

  • Length 7"
  • Shell 86% polyamide, 14% elastane.
  • Liner Boxer brief (85% polyamide, 15% elastane)
  • Pockets one rear zipper, on an extra-large front drop-in, one tiny internal waist drop-in, and one side leg drop in pocket
The Best Running Shorts for Men of 2023

Pros

  • High-performance material
  • Comfortable waistline

Cons

  • Expensive
  • Heavy items in pockets will bounce around

BOA 1” Split Short

Specs

  • Length 1”
  • Shell 100% polyester
  • Liner Brief (100% polyester)
  • Pockets 1 internal drop-in
The Best Running Shorts for Men of 2023

Pros

  • Fantastic price point
  • Excellent range of motion
  • Large pick of colors and prints

Cons

  • Only one small pocket
  • Uncomfortable waistband

Salomon Men’s Cross 3″ Shorts

Specs

  • Length 3”
  • Shell 100% polyester
  • Liner Brief (100% polyester)
  • Pockets 1 rear zipper
The Best Running Shorts for Men of 2023

Pros

  • Lightweight
  • Great mobility
  • Perfect in-between length

Cons

  • Only one pocket
  • Waistband doesn’t have good elasticity

Running Shorts Comparison Chart

ShortsPriceLengthsShellLinerPockets
REI Co-Op Swiftland Running Shorts$605″ and 7″73% nylon, 27% spandex; Bluesign approvedBrief (80% nylon, 20% spandex; Bluesign approved)1 rear zipper, 2 side drop-ins
Baleaf 5″ Running Athletic Shorts$225″ and 7″89.7% polyester, 10.3% spandexBrief (91.7% polyester, 8.3% spandex)1 rear zippered
Tracksmith Session Shorts$685″86% nylon, 14% elastaneBrief (89% polyester, 11% spandex)1 rear zipper
Black Diamond Sprint Shorts$905″ and 7″88% nylon, 12% elastane w/DWRBrief (100% polyester)2 rear zippered, 3 drop-in
Patagonia Strider Pro Shorts$855″ and 7″90% recycled polyester, 10% spandexBrief (100% recycled polyester double knit)1 side zippered, 4 envelope enclosure drop-in
Nike Dri-FIT ADV AeroSwift$90Above the knee89% polyester, 11% spandexBrief (89% polyester, 11% spandex)1 rear zippered, 4 drop-in
SOAR Race Short 5.0$1252.5″60% polyester, 40% elastaneBrief-style (78% polyester, 22% elastane)2 minimal key pockets
Saxx Hightail$685″100% polyesterCompression mesh liner: (85% nylon, 15% elastane)1 rear drop-in
HOKA Glide Short$645″ and 7″89% recycled polyester, 11% elastaneBrief1 rear folded-over drop-in, 1 side zippered
On Lightweight Shorts$805″Front fabric: 86% recycled polyamide, 14% elastane; Back mesh: 100% recycled polyesterBrief (89% polyester, 11% elastane)1 rear drop-in
Vuori Course Run Shorts$785″50% Recycled Polyester, 42% Polyester, 8% ElastaneBoxer Brief1 rear drop-in, 1 side leg drop-in on internal boxer brief
Janji AFO Middle Shorts$643” and 5″88% recycled polyester, 12% elastaneBrief (94% polyester, 6% spandex)1 rear zipper, 1 internal; drop-in w/ bungee cord
New Balance Accelerate 5-Inch Short$355” and 7″55% recycled polyester, 45% polyesterBrief2 drop-in hip, 2 side hand pockets
Rab Talus Trail Shorts$1007″86% polyamide, 14% elastaneBoxer brief (85% polyamide, 15% elastane)1 rear zipper, on an extra-large front drop-in, 1 tiny internal waist drop-in, and 1 side leg drop-in pocket
BOA 1” Split Short$321″100% polyesterBrief (100% polyester)1 internal drop-in
Salomon Men’s Cross 3″ Shorts$453″100% polyesterBrief (100% polyester)1 rear zipper
We tested running shorts in a variety of environments; (photo/Eszter Horanyi)

Why You Should Trust Us

Cory Smith has been a runner since 1992. He’s a full-time running coach who has been reviewing running gear since 2014. In addition to running shorts, he covers road running shoes and GPS watches, and he writes training articles for GearJunkie.

To find the best running shorts, we start with hours of online research. We attend trade shows such as The Running Event and Outdoor Retailer for newly released shorts, such as the SAXX Hightail, and keep our eye out for up-and-coming brands like Ten Thousand.

For this test, our research resulted in over 20 pairs of running shorts tested. We then conducted a thorough field test to evaluate each short on fit, comfort, mobility, moisture-wicking, and carrying capacity. Testing locations included up and down the coast of California as well as trails in Mammoth Lakes, Moab, and Seattle.

Buyer’s Guide: How to Choose Running Shorts

Man runs in the White Mountains of NH while wearing running shorts
Testing the Black Diamond Sprint Shorts in the White Mountains of New Hamshire; (photo/Christian Adam)

It can be hard to sort through what’s really important when finding a pair of running shorts. To help, here are the key things you need to know about running shorts.

Material

Running shorts follow the same rules as every other technical sports apparel — moisture-wicking fabric is a must. The two most predominant are polyester and nylon blends.

I prefer shorts that have a blend of stretch fabrics such as spandex or elastane in them. This gives the shorts greater flexibility and mobility, ultimately limiting restriction.

Higher percentages of these flexible fabrics do have a downside — they tend to absorb and retain more moisture. Moisture-ridden fabric and poor fit are the top causes of chafing.

If chafing is an issue for you, pay attention to the fabric and look for a pair of shorts that has a slightly different makeup. Half tights and 2-in-1s are great options for between-the-leg chafing protection.

The REI Swiftland shorts are the perfect combination of nylon and spandex; (photo/Cory Smith)

Inseam Length

The inseam indicates how far down the leg the short sits. It measures the length from the crotch to the end of the shorts and usually comes in 3-inch, 5-inch, and 7-inch options.

Most of the shorts tested, with the exception of the 3-inch version, come in both a 5-inch and 7-inch option. The ideal inseam length is as much a matter of personal preference as whether you enjoy running road, track, or trail. However, the 5-inch option seems to be the most popular.

Short shorts, such as a 3-inch inseam, are often known as split shorts and tend to be the coolest and least restrictive. Longer shorts such as the 5-inch or 7-inch version are our go-to when traveling because of their all-purpose versatility, easily doubling as gym shorts, hiking shorts, or even swimming shorts.

For long, hot days, we recommend a short with a 3-inch inseam; (photo/Nick Presniakov)

Liners & Shells

Most running shorts have two layers: an outer shell and an inner liner. The inner liner’s primary focus is built-in support and is either a mesh brief or spandex-type compression tight, called a 2-in-1.

If you’re someone who struggles with between-the-legs chafing, we recommend looking at a 2-in-1 short such as the SAXX Hightail or a half tight like the Nike. Having a built-in quarter-length compression liner will protect your legs from rubbing together.

The outer shell is always made with some sort of moisture-wicking material such as polyester, nylon, or wool. Some are treated with DWR to help repel water. DWR-treated shorts great for wind protection, but they can absorb and hold moisture longer than non-DWR-treated shorts.

Most shorts these days will blend in a stretchy fabric such as spandex or elastane to give the shorts extra mobility. If you struggle with finding shorts that fit properly or experience shorts riding up, we recommend you look for shorts with spandex and/or elastane.

Shorts with a compression lining can help reduce chafing; (photo/Cory Smith)

Pockets

If you want to carry items such as your phone, keys, or fuel during your run, you’ll want a pair of shorts with pockets. Look for shorts with pockets that are close to the waistline. The tension used to hold the shorts up serves as a great anchor point to prevent them from bouncing around as you run.

Shorts with a thicker waistline and/or 2-in-1s are better at holding items tightly against your waist. Pockets with zippers are ideal for storing keys, credit cards, and your phone.

How many pockets you need depends on what you want to carry. However, there is a tipping point where you’ll want to start using a vest or waist belt to hold your items.

It’s a good idea to invest in at least one pair of shorts with a large carry capacity like the Black Diamond Sprint. These are great for runs when you’re traveling and may need to carry more items than usual.

Pockets are great for small items like energy gels or a car key, but you should consider a running vest or backpack for larger items; (photo/Cory Smith)

Waistbands & Drawcords

Running shorts are made with various waistband styles for comfort and fit. Drawcords are built into the waist, inside or outside, allowing for a tighter fit. Things to look for in a waistband are thickness, material, and elastically. However, in the end, it all comes down to personal preference and what works for you. 

Waistband thicknesses generally range from just under one inch to two and a half inches. We prefer shorts with a thin piece of highly elastic material that rests flat against the skin, like the SOAR Race Shorts. Ideally, if a pair of shorts fit well, you should not need to tighten the drawstring, as they often come loose when running — and stopping to tighten it can be a real pain. 

If you’re hot around the waist or find the fabric rubbing, we suggest finding a waistband with perforations like the Janji AFO Middle Shorts. Perforations are small holes along the waistband that enhances breathability by allowing heat to escape.

If you need to carry items such as your phone or gels for fueling, we recommend shorts with a thick waistband like the REI Swiftland or Black Diamond Sprint shorts. A thicker waistband can hold more items securely without bouncing around because it provides a better anchor around your waist.

A closeup image of the waistbands of running shorts.
A look at the various waistbands starting at the top and moving clockwise: SOAR Race Shorts, Janji AFO Middle, and REI Swiftland; (photo/Cory Smith)

FAQ

What kind of shorts are best for running?

The best running shorts are made with a performance moisture-wicking fabric, such as polyester or nylon, have a built-in liner for support, and offer a secure place to store items like your phone, keys, or fuel. Some running shorts are blended with a stretchy fabric such as spandex or elastane to allow for unrestricted mobility when running.

Running shorts come in all different lengths from 2 to 7 inches, but 5 inches seems to be the most popular length.

Should running shorts be tight or loose?

It depends on the type of shorts. Half-tights, or compression shorts, are designed to fit skin-tight.

The close-to-the-skin fit makes them ideal for runners who struggle with chafing, keeping your quads, hamstrings, and glutes warm during cold and/or rainy runs. All other shorts should fall somewhere between tight and loose, but to what degree they fit is somewhat of a personal preference.

What are the best running shorts to prevent chafing?

Chafing is a really painful problem for a lot of runners that can be solved with the proper pair of running shorts. The uncomfortable skin irritation is caused by two surfaces excessively rubbing together and is more likely to happen when a fabric has been soaked with moisture.

If you’re struggling with chafing, we recommend trying a pair of shorts with a built-in compression liner such as a 2-in-1 like the SAXX Hightail. The longer liner can provide extra protection against friction.

If that doesn’t work, we suggest trying a pair of shorts with a different fabric makeup. The part wool liner of the Smartwool Merino Sport Lined 5″ Short can be a good option.

What do you wear under running shorts?

The large majority of running shorts are designed to be worn without underwear. They have a built-in mesh liner or compression tight that provides the support needed while running. If you find the built-in liner does not provide enough, you can wear a pair of brief underwear for added support.

Man runs up a hill while wearing running shorts
Testing the SOAR Race Short during a trail race in the Santa Monica Mountains; (photo/Nicholas Gales)

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