Shorts, like shoes, are one of the few gear essentials for running. The best pairs draw no attention to themselves, becoming invisible and unnoticed on the run even as they cover and support. Today’s best shorts come in a variety of lengths and offer a range of options on pockets, but what sets them apart are the fabrics that are smooth and soft, drape comfortably, stretch and breathe. Shorts never felt so good.
Brooks Hightail 3″ Split Short | $40
Made for going fast, these classic split shorts provide no resistance as your long strides eat up the miles. You’ll only find a small key pocket in the mesh liner, which is fine: You wouldn’t want to add any weight to these light, Drilayer polyester speedsters.
Fourlaps Extend Short 5″ | $68
The 5-inch inseam of the Extend Short falls at a great length for moderate coverage while still moving invisibly out of the way with each stride. They’re impressed with the softness of their slightly-stretchy polyester/spandex blend, the breathability of their mesh liner and the comfort of the secure waistband and stretchy drawcord.
Janji 8″ 2-in-1 Traverse Short | $72
Janji means “promise” in Malay, and their promise is to support clean water projects around the world. But you don’t have to rough it for a good cause in these shorts, which combine a soft, comfortable stretch-woven shell made from recycled polyester with a longer, light-compression liner for a stylish, confident fit that feels great on the trails.
New Balance Impact Run 5 Inch Short | $45
These mid-length shorts are stylish and comfy, with a soft, semi-stretchy shell and moisture-wicking mesh brief and lower panel. But what set them apart are the multiple pockets surrounding the back of the waistband, making them a great choice for marathon training and racing.
On Lightweight Short | $80
These shorts from Swiss On are as well-designed and finely-finished as their shoes. The front is a light, 4-way stretch blend for full, unrestricted movement while the back is a perforated mesh to vent heat. Embedded in the back of the wide, stretchy waist is a pocket big enough for today’s phones.
Rabbit surf ‘n turf 4″ men | $65
Shorter than most but not as revealing as a full-split, these shorts are made with a super soft and light poly/spandex blend with just a hint of stretch. The knit brief liner was one of the softest we’ve worn, the zippered hip pocket is deep enough for a phone, and the “CaliVibes” print made even a Midwestern master feel surf-cool.
UnderArmour Qualifier Speedpocket 5” Shorts | $50
The “speedpocket” in these short’s name is a stretchy, water-resistant pouch inside the front of the waistband that held a modern iphone without bouncing better than any we tried. The shell is a light, 4-way-stretch woven with mesh side panels adding ventilation and style, while the next-to-skin feel of the breathable mesh liner is the high quality you’d expect from Under Armour.
Salomon Sense Short | $65
Salomon claims the material in these shorts will dry up to five times faster than similar fabrics. We didn’t confirm that, but we were impressed by how thin, light, flexible and breathable the shorts were, while not feeling at all flimsy. These are what we reached for on the hottest days, both for their airiness and the convenience of the front pocket for carrying a soft-flask.
Tracksmith Session Shorts | $64
Tracksmith has built a loyal following for its quality and style, both on full display in these shorts. The fabric stretches, moves and breathes like a high-end synthetic blend, but drapes and looks like a natural fiber. The liner is smooth and soft, the pockets understated, the waistband and drawcord just stretchy enough to provide both security and comfort. We wanted to wear them every day, everywhere.
For a look at some top picks in women’s shorts, check out this review in Women’s Running.