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?
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 split 3-inch race shorts. They 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 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 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
Our reviewers tested these shorts over a wide range of distances – from 5km to half-marathon – and during treadmill and outdoor training sessions as well as competitive events.
Check out our pick of the best running shorts
(Keep scrolling for full reviews…)
- Satisfy Rippy 3-Inch Trail Short ($240 / £210) – Best 3-inch shorts
- Inov-8 Race Elite 5-Inch Short ($70 / £55) – Best 5-inch shorts
- On Running Lightweight 7-Inch Short ($79.99 / £70) – Best 7-inch short
- Lululemon License To Train Lined 7-Inch Short ($88 / £78) – Best 7-inch short for versatility
- Satisfy TeckSilk 5-Inch Short ($200 / £170) – Best 5-inch shorts for storage
- Brooks Sherpa 3-Inch Split Short ($60 / £40) – Best 3-inch shorts for long-distance races
- Tracksmith Twilight 3-Inch Split Short ($62 / £64) – Best 3-inch shorts for stylish milers
- Brooks Sherpa 5-Inch 2-in-1 Short ($72 / £55) – Best 5-inch shorts for support
Pair these shorts with the best running shoes
BEST 3-INCH SHORTS
Satisfy Rippy 3-Inch Trail Short
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$240 / £210, satisfyrunning.com
Material: 100% polyamide | Details: Back zipper pocket with two pouches / two hip pockets / phone pocket / carabiner | Sizes: XS to XL | Colour: Vetiver / Indigo Batik / Leopard / Black
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.
It’s a light, breathable, comfortable and impressively quick-drying short thanks to its 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.
Read our full Satisfy Rippy 3-Inch Trail Short review
BEST 5-INCH SHORTS
Inov-8 Race Elite 5-Inch Short
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$70 / £55, inov-8.com
Material: Recycled polyester / elastane | Details: Integrated boxer liner / rear zipped pocket with key loop | Sizes: XS to XL | Colours: Black / Navy
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. It strike 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.
Perforated panels keep the air flowing and sweat dissipating while silky soft boxer liners with flat seams enhance. A soft, wide waistband resists rolling and reduces pressure. It’s a little light on storage but there’s enough room for a large smartphone or a fistful of gels – as well as a key loop.
Read our full Inov8 Race Elite 5-Inch Short review
BEST 7-INCH SHORTS
On Running Lightweight 7-Inch Short
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$79.99 / £70, on-running.com
Materials: Front polyamide, elastane / rear polyester / inner polyester, elastane | Colours: Black / Cerulean / Glacier / Niagara / Twilight | Sizes: Small to XXL | Weight: 5.3oz / 150g | Features: Athletic fit / waistband pull loop / rear pocket / key loop
On Running’s ultralight 7-inch shorts have an athletic cut which allows plenty of freedom to move and a perforated back to increase airflow and breathability.
The quality of the shorts is immediately obvious, 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.
Read our full On-Running Lightweight Short review
BEST 7-INCH SHORTS FOR VERSATILITY
Lululemon License To Train Lined 7-Inch Short
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$88 / £78, lululemon.co.uk
Materials: Lycra, Luxtreme | Colours: Black / White / Raw Linen / Tactile Print Anchor Black / Artic Green / Smoky Topaz / Bronze Green / Crest | Sizes: XS to XXL | Features: inside or out draw-cord waistband / quick-drying mesh waistband / secure pockets / 2.5-inch split outer seam / abrasion resistant
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.
The Lycra/Luxtreme lining is close-fitting and acts like a pair of compression tights while the outer layer feels soft and well constructed. 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, allowing for a good range of movement.
Read our full Lululemon License To Train Lined 7in Short review
BEST 5-INCH SHORTS FOR STORAGE
Satisfy TechSilk 5-Inch Short
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$200 / £170, satisfyrunning.com
Material: 88% polyamide / 12% elastane | Details: UV protection / 4 pockets / carabiner for keys / double waistband / reflective print | Sizes: XS to XL | Colours: Fossil / Black Batik / Black
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. 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.
Sweat-wicking and drying are top-drawer, so it’s 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.
Read our full Satisfy TechSilk 5-Inch Short review
BEST 3-INCH SHORTS FOR LONG-DISTANCE RACES
Brooks Sherpa 3-Inch Split Short
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$60 / £40, brooksrunning.com
Details: 2 oversized hip pockets and bungee loop / 4-way stretch fabric | Sizes: XS to XL | Colours: Dusk / Flame / Black / Indigo
This pair of classic race-fit split shorts from Brooks have a stretchy, silky-feeling outer shell that hangs light and loose with overlapping side splits. It gives you all the flexibility you need without making you feel too exposed.
Not going for out-and-out microlight minimalism gives Brooks the option to incorporate two surprisingly spacious drop-in mesh pockets. It may not be the lightest 3-inch option around, but with a smooth, comfortable outer, breathable liner and wide waistband, as well good sweat-wicking efficiency, it’s well worth a look. There’s a good choice of sizes and colours too.
Read our full Brooks Sherpa 3-Inch Split Short review
BEST 3-INCH SHORTS FOR STYLISH MILERS
Tracksmith Twilight 3-Inch Split Short
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$62 / £64, tracksmith.com
Material: 85% polyester / 15% elastane | Details: 3 internal pockets / anti-microbial mesh fabric | Sizes: XS to XXL | Colours: 7 colours available
If you’re looking for stylish track-wear, these Tracksmith Twilight shorts are impossible to ignore. That’s mostly down to their seven gloriously retro colour schemes, but it’s by no means style over substance with these vintage-looking speedsters. Made from an ultra-light Italian engineered polyester blend, they dry incredibly quickly and feel supremely comfortable against the skin.
The inner briefs have anti-chafe flat seams and plenty of support, and are luxuriously soft, too. There’s even room to stash your smartphone in any one of three drop-in rear pockets. Curved side splits enhance the Twilight’s heritage appeal, making them much more Chariots of Fire than 118 118.
Read our full Tracksmith Twilight 3-Inch Split Short review
BEST 5-INCH SHORTS FOR SUPPORT
Brooks Sherpa 5-Inch 2-in-1 Short
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$72 / £55, brooksrunning.com
Details: Integrated boxer liner / flat waistband / 4-way stretch fabric / 3 pockets with key loop | Sizes: XS to XXL | Colours: 10 colours available
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 on test. Two large drop-in mesh pockets handle most storage needs, while a wide, soft waistband won’t roll or cinch at your waist.
Read our full Brooks Sherpa 5-Inch 2-in-1 Short review