It’s a lot easier to enjoy a summit sunrise if you’re not gasping for air and massaging cramps out of your quads. That said, working out in the gym is a good way to prepare for working out outside. And a great pair of gym shorts is key to getting the most fitness and fun out of your workouts in the gym.
We’ve put in countless hours testing shorts through some of the most grueling workouts to find the best gym shorts for men. We put these shorts (and our testers) through a wide range of activities, from weightlifting and powerlifting to running, gymnastics, and kettlebell workouts.
Heck, we even jumped rope to see how these shorts held up. We looked at a variety of factors, including fit and feel, elasticity, durability, and moisture control. Style was also a factor because, hey, if you like how you look, you’ll perform better.
After months of chalk, sweat, and blood (and maybe a tear or two), we’ve found the best workout shorts on the market. The following list represents gym shorts in a range of categories.
If you need more help deciding, be sure to check out our buyer’s guide at the end of our review to unravel just how to choose the best gym shorts. Also, check out our comparison chart to see how our choices stack up against one another and our FAQ section for any lingering questions.
- Best Overall Gym Shorts: Vuori Banks Short
- Best Budget Gym Shorts: Champion Mesh 9’’ Short
- Best Running Shorts: REI Co-op Active Pursuits Shorts
- Best Every Day Gym Shorts: Chubbies Swim Gym Short
- Excellent moisture control
- No interior liner
- Less technical than other shorts
- No fuss
- Limited colors
- Not the most stylish
- Super comfortable
- Excellent fit & finish
- Zippered key pocket
- 6” inseam
- Limited colorways
- Comfortable waistband
- Deep pockets
- No rear pocket
- Excellent phone pocket
- Well made
- Runs small
- Short inseam
- Material Polyester, spandex
- Inseam 7″
- Liner Yes
- Bonus Extra stretch means a good fit for heavy squatters
- Effective venting
- Shirt/towel holder
- Liner can get toasty on hot days
- Great stretch
- No pockets
- Difficult to size
Gym Shorts Comparison Chart
|Vuori Banks Short||$68||Polyester, elastane||7.5″||No|
|Champion Mesh 9in’’ Short||$15||Polyester||9″||No|
|REI Co-op Active Pursuits Shorts||$45||Polyester, spandex||7″||Yes|
|Chubbies Swim Gym Short||$59||Polyester, Spandex||5.5″ or 7″||No|
|Vuori Ponto Short||$78||Polyester, Elastane||7″||No|
|prAna Peak to Pavement Short||$75||100% Recycled Polyester||6″||No|
|Under Armour Launch Short||$35||Polyester||7″||Yes|
|Roark Bommer Short||$89||90% Polyester/ 10% Spandex||3.5″||Yes, compression|
|Rhone 7” Swift Lined Short||$88||Polyester, spandex||7″||Yes|
|Nike Flex Woven Short||$35||Polyester||7″||No|
Why You Should Trust Us
Here at GearJunkie, our team of experts is literally obsessed with finding the best gear. We spend an embarrassing amount of time combing through the internet to find the best of the best before sending those items to our expert reviewers for careful evaluation and testing.
We look for the same things you look for in a product — value, performance, fit, and finish. Our comprehensive evaluation translates to more time in the gym or on the trail for you and less time pulling your hair out over which product to buy. We strive to create thorough, comprehensive, and helpful reviews to help you find the best gear for your individual needs.
Lead tester and reviewer Paul Mandell is a strength and conditioning coach based in Bishop, California. Paul is no stranger to a good pair of gym shorts, especially when you consider that he wears them every day for work. He’s also contributed to our guides on Crossfit Shoes and Bike Computers.
Buyer’s Guide: How to Choose the Best Gym Short
What Kind of Shorts Do You Need?
The first thing to consider when you’re buying a pair of gym shorts is how you plan to use them. If you tend to favor one kind of workout over others, the pair of shorts you’ll want may be different.
For instance, running shorts tend to be lightweight and shorter. Runners don’t want excess weight and material, and longer hems can cause irritation and chafe over time. If you run often, opt for a pair of shorts that also wicks away sweat and dries quickly.
While quick drying is a great feature, it’s not as necessary in weightlifting shorts. The added weight isn’t as much of an issue, and there’s less risk of chafing. With gym shorts, your priority should be on flexibility and, for heavy lifters, durability.
In a gym setting, you’re going to be going through a wide range of motions, so a pair of shorts with a lot of stretch is very handy. Lunges, jumps, sprints, and lateral movements all require a wide range of motion.
The same goes for yoga and other mobility workouts. And heaven forbid you split your pants doing a squat. We can tell you from experience — it’s not fun.
If your training entails Olympic lifts like the clean and jerk or deadlifts, durability is key. With these movements, the bar frequently comes into contact with your shorts.
Most bars have diamond patterns on the gripping areas called knurling. These abrasive sections are there to help you grip the bar, but they can also wreak havoc on shorts. Climbing ropes can also put a lot of strain on shorts as well, especially if you tend to slide down from the top.
Think about how you plan to use your shorts and choose an appropriate pair.
Most shorts are made of a synthetic material like polyester or nylon mixed with a stretchy material like elastane or spandex. The synthetic material is great for wicking away sweat, while the elastic material provides stretch. If you want the feel of something more natural, we’ve included a great poly-cotton blend short in the list above.
How the material is cut and sewn is as important as the material itself. Mesh vents are useful for allowing excess heat to escape, and scalloped hems give you even more freedom to move. Flat seams prevent chafing. Think carefully about what you’ll be using your shorts for, and choose accordingly.
When it comes to gym shorts, fit goes in the realm of personal preference. Most gymgoers tend to choose a slimmer fit, as slim shorts are less likely to snag on equipment. A sleeker short also tends to be more supportive, particularly if it has a good liner.
Baggier shorts are popular for the freedom of movement they provide. However, with the stretch that most shorts offer, that isn’t as much of an issue. If you make sure that your shorts have plenty of stretch and they fit your waist, you should be comfortable.
Fit definitely also ventures into the realm of style, so think about what you want folks to see you wearing.
Speaking of style, do you know about the three S’s? Essential for having a great gym session, the three S’s are Style, Safety, and Style. In that order.
Maybe you don’t care as much about your running shorts as you do about looking good in your gym shorts. Maybe you want people to know what true power looks like (hint: it’s your glutes), or maybe you just want clean shorts that are equally at home in the gym and at the coffee shop. Either way, be sure you’re going to look and feel good in whatever you choose.
The most common inseam lengths for workout shorts are 5, 7, and 9 inches. Runners often go for a higher hem to minimize material, so they tend to go for the 5-inch inseam.
If you lift a lot, the 9-inch inseam provides more coverage and protection from the barbell. The 7-inch inseam is a good blend of the two. So, if you do a bit of everything, that’s a solid choice.
One big exception to the rule is lifters who focus primarily on deadlifts. Clothing adds friction, so if you are near the higher end of your strength level, longer shorts may hinder you. Many lifters wear shorter hemmed shorts or roll their shorts up before a heavy deadlift. Though at a certain point, deadlifting or doing any Olympic work in shorts is just asking for bloody shins. Consider yourself warned.
You generally don’t lift weights with stuff in your pockets, but a rear pocket and two front pockets are ideal for any time you wear your shorts outside the gym. Runners generally carry a few necessities with them, like keys, some cash or cards, and energy gels, so zippered pockets are almost certainly mandatory.
Make sure that at least one pocket zips shut to prevent anything from falling out. If you’re the kind of person who changes at the gym, pockets probably aren’t a high priority for you. Take a minute to think about what you need from your shorts and choose accordingly.
The best gym shorts are the ones that you don’t realize you’re wearing. These shorts stay out of your way and let you forget about them while you train.
The main thing to look for in a good pair of shorts is plenty of stretch so they don’t limit your movement. Ideally, your shorts will also be made of a sweat-wicking material that pulls sweat away from you and dries quickly. This prevents the shorts from absorbing sweat and weighing you down while you work out.
After those necessities, look for additional perks that will make them more comfortable. Shorts with flat (or no) seams minimize irritation spots, and zippered pockets keep your keys, cash, and cards safe on runs. Also, drawstrings keep your shorts from falling off when you’re doing burpees.
For linerless athletic shorts, we recommend wearing a pair of briefs or boxer briefs over loose boxers or going commando. There are two main reasons for this. One, you are going to appreciate the extra support on runs or double-unders. Keeping the bouncing to a minimum is key to a comfortable workout.
Two, nobody wants to see your bits. Wearing snug and comfortable underwear under your workout shorts will prevent any accidental flashing while you work out.
If your training shorts have a good liner, you can forgo any extra underwear. The liner will provide the support and modesty that a pair of briefs will.
In general, synthetic material is best for sport shorts. Materials like polyester tend to be lighter, wick sweat away from your body, and tend to dry more quickly.
A good pair of shorts will also have an amount of elastic material as well. This gives the shorts some stretch, which allows you a full range of motion during your workouts.
If you prefer natural fibers, there are also wool and cotton shorts on the market. If you go this route, make sure the material is blended with an elastic-like elastane. This will give those shorts the stretch that you’ll need for your workout.