If you look good, you feel good. If you feel good, you train good (thanks, Deion). Well, when you're in the weight room or on the road, the distance between the look and the training doesn't need to be miles apart. Some of the best workout apparel is built to perform as well as you do, no matter your desired discipline.
One of the most notable categories where form meets function is in gym shorts. These bottom options are built with premium comfort and breathability in every seam, along with the bravado and grit to keep you going through every set, every mile without distraction.
Two of our favorite workout apparel brands, Ten Thousand and Lululemon, are no strangers to the upper echelon of gym attire; their respective shorts continuously top our list of favorite workout shorts. But which bottom takes the top spot? Which pair of shorts should be your go-to when dressing for your next PR?
To find out, I decided to gear up and give each brand its moment on the platform to determine which shorts steal the show.
The Contenders for Best Workout Shorts
Ten Thousand Interval Short
Versatile, mobile and downright ready to put in the work, the Interval Short has been a foundational component of the Ten Thousand stable for quite some time. With lined and linerless options available, as well as 5-, 7- and 9-inch inseam models, these shorts give you plenty of room to customize your workout wardrobe. The no-bunch waistband lays flat against the midsection, while the the bonded hems provide a no-bulk, cozy fit that's built for every sweat session.
Lululemon Pace Breaker Short
Whether you're a faithful follower of yoga flows or running down a record-breaking time, the Pace Breaker Short from Lululemon has plenty of perks to boost your regimen. Lightweight Swift Fabric cloaks your glutes and thighs effortlessly for a breathable, comfortable feel. While linerless options are available, I recommend taking advantage of the Out of Mind liner model for its exceptional quick-drying mesh fabric to keep your nether region cool and cozy.
How to Choose Which Workout Shorts Are Right for You
When searching for a new pair of workout shorts, you’ll want to choose a short that matches your needs. First, consider which inseam you'd ideally want in a bottom option. Most gym short inseam lengths range from 5–9 inches. A 5-inch inseam short will land somewhere in the region of your mid-thigh, and is favored by runners wanting that ultra-lightweight fit.
For those looking for more coverage or protection, like strength training athletes, the 9-inch inseam is a little more appealing. Because my workouts cover a multitude of disciplines, I opted to test the 7-inch inseam models of both the Pace Breaker and Interval Shorts. 7-inch inseams can be a great middle ground for those wanting a bit of coverage without sacrificing breathability.
As far as fabric is concerned, polyester is the go-to textile for most workout clothing. Lately, many brands are moving to partially or completely recycled polyester, or innovative materials like plant-based yarns and fabrics, in an effort to combat the polluting effects of fashion. These alternatives can be pricier than other options, so keep that in mind when looking to bulk up your wardrobe. Both the Pace Breaker and Interval Shorts feature a similar composition, boasting a blend of polyester and Spandex or Elastane for stretch.
With the prerequisites out of the way, let's dive into the battle and see how these two shorts square up to one another.
Test 1: Durability and Performance
To see how capable these top-tier gym shorts were, I naturally took them to their natural environment — the gym. Through multiple strength training and agility sessions, I noted how these bottoms fared when the tough got going. I took notice of how well each pair held up to barbells sliding across the exterior, as well as how they held up and stretched in squats, lunges, box jumps and more.
No matter what I threw at them, whether that be RPE 9 barbell rows or ladder drills, the Ten Thousand Interval Shorts stood up to the task. I really admired the no-compromise exterior that efficiently wicked any present moisture with ease. Additionally, the shorts were sturdy enough to withstand the knurling of the barbell while still remaining comfortable for each set.
While I admired the stretch of the Pace Breaker Shorts from Lululemon, especially when sitting deep in the hole of a heavy squat, the lightweight Swift Fabric did give me a sense of caution in a few modalities. While comfortable and capable of cozy training, I preferred the more durable shell of the Ten Thousands when strength training.
Test 2: Comfort and Breathability
Outside of performance, you want your workout wardrobe to be comfortable, right? After all, what's the sense of embarking on a fitness journey if your apparel is going to leave you uncomfortable and unmotivated for the next day's session? To test the comfort built into these short options, I wore these picks in-place of my typical running shorts for multi-mile treks, as well as through a handful of yoga sessions. When you're contorting your body or logging long distances, you want a short that is lightweight yet still supportive.
Despite their minor shortcomings in the gym, the Pace Breakers proved to be an exceptional option for running and yoga scenarios. The Swift Fabric was comfortable and gave little friction when switching yoga poses. The Out of Mind liner was also more than welcome on longer runs, thanks to the mesh construction that kept everything nice and comfortable.
I also enjoyed the Interval Shorts during run-specific workouts, but felt they were best suited for tempo work and shorter distances. Unlike the Lululemons, the liner in Ten Thousand's gym shorts align more so to a traditional compression short, which limits breathability and can be prone to chafing over time. Additionally, the exterior, while quick-drying, did cause some sweating down yonder, which wasn't as present in the Pace Breakers.
Test 3: Features and Available Options
Workout shorts are the type of item that can make anyone loyal to a particular style. If you find success with one cut, you're more prone to buy multiple pair. With this notion in mind, I looked closely at the built-in tech specs of each short, as well as the online offerings to see if one product model could facilitate a week's worth of workouts. Available inseams, lined and linerless options, colorways and more were all considered to determine which style we'd be more inclined to a drawer's full of stockpiling.
Both the Ten Thousand Interval and Lululemon Pace Breaker boast two side pockets, one zippered pocket and an additional phone sleeve in the liner. Also, there are plenty of color options online to curate a wardrobe to your liking. While I wouldn't trust my most valued possessions in any of the pockets, this isn't a factor I generally harp on when looking at workout shorts. Think about it, how much stuff do you actually carry on your person when training?
Our Pick: Ten Thousand Interval Short
Because of the very present durability and performance components built into each pair — along with my preference toward strength training modalities — I had to give the victory to Ten Thousand's Interval Short. When in the gym, I felt confident, cool and ready to go, all in-part to the shorts I was wearing. the lay-flat waistband was cozy yet supportive, and I admired the available color and inseam options online. At less than $70, you can build a quality rotation of gym shorts with just this model.
While Ten Thousand took the crown in this battle, I don't knock the Pace Breakers from Lululemon. If you're someone that tends to favor cardio-based training rather than hanging and banging with weight plates, I'd recommend these shorts for their comfortability and lightweight structure. Plus, you have just as many color options at a similar price point. Lululemon's Pace Breakers can also make for great daily wear, too.
At the end of the day, the best gym shorts are the one that suits your style best. Hopefully, this head-to-head comparison can help you unlock that feel good sensation for further training success.