The right pair of workout shorts can inspire you to train longer, harder and more often. In this way, they’re a lot like your favorite playlist, or an ex you’re trying to win back.
On the flip side, the wrong pair of workout shorts — too baggy, too tight, too falling apart — can leave you feeling uninspired, lethargic and possibly wanting to stay home and eat ice cream rather than get to work.
As silly as it may sound, your workout shorts can have a big impact on how you train, and how you ultimately look and feel. So it’s important to — like that old guy said in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade — choose wisely.
With that in mind, here’s a 12-pack of shorts that will set you up for success no matter how you take your endorphin rush. From running to CrossFit to hoops to biking, these shorts will support and elevate your training, driving you forward to achieve your best. As a bonus, you’ll probably look a bit more stylish, too.
New Balance Accelerate 5 In Short
Best for Running
Just because you like to run doesn’t mean you necessarily want to look like Michael Cera in Juno. With a five-inch inseam, these shorts are short but not too short. They’re also lightweight and moisture-wicking thanks to NB DRY technology, so they won’t weigh you down on long runs. (For this reason, they’re a favorite of marathoners.) Plus, with hand pockets and drop-in pockets at the waist, you can keep your keys, money and energy gels secure.
Reebok CrossFit Austin II Shorts
Best for CrossFit
CrossFit workouts can be some of the toughest training sessions known to man, so if you’re going to partake in this particular brand of punishment/glory, you’ll need apparel up to the task. These stretchy, ultra-lightweight shorts from Reebok — the CrossFit experts — are equipped with side slits at the hem to give you freedom of movement on CrossFit staples like burpees, lunges and bodyweight squats. Unfortunately, they still can’t do the WODs for you.
Vuori Kore Short
Best for Yoga
For poses like downward dog and warrior II, you want to keep things classy with a liner. These shorts, from laidback-California-cool brand Vuori, not only offer a breathable boxer-brief liner, but also they’re uber-comfortable thanks to four-way stretch fabric and a roomier fit. Quick-drying material means they’ll bounce back quickly from your Bikram sessions, and anti-odor properties make them great for post-yoga activities, too.
Lululemon Pace Breaker Short
Best for Wearing All Day Long
Made from lightweight fabric with just the right amount of stretch, these simple-yet-luxurious shorts can handle pretty much anything on your day’s docket: low-key jogs, tough HIIT sessions, dog walking, brunch. The supportive liner — more compression short than boxer brief — contains a clever pocket for your phone, but you never-liners out there can relax: they are also available without one.
Ten Thousand Interval Short
Best for Any Workout
Most of us don’t have the budget — or time — for 12 different pairs of shorts for 12 different activities. We’d prefer one pair of shorts we can wear for virtually every athletic pursuit. If that describes you, the Interval is probably up your alley. Featuring a thick no-pinch waistband, an ultra-wicking shell, and a few well-placed pockets, these shorts can assist you with kettlebell swings, med ball tosses, box jumps and bench presses. Also: tennis.
Jordan Jumpman Mixed Diamond
Best for Shooting Hoops
OK, so you might not be able to play like Mike, but you can still dress like him. Which should help in the inspiration department, if nothing else. The diamonds on the sides are a nod to MJ’s Bulls days, back when he was swishing fadeaways and posterizing opponents on a nightly basis. The zippered pockets are a good place to put your hands — when they aren’t mimicking the “I don’t know” shrug after draining too many 3s, that is.
Adidas Condivo 20 Shorts
Best for Coed Soccer
Named after the Italian word for flavor, the Condivos should add a little spice to your weekend kickarounds. Available in eight eye-catching colors, these lightweight shorts made from breathable AEROREADY fabric will have you zipping around the pitch like a young Roberto Baggio. In a pinch, they can work for other activities, too, like watching soccer and playing FIFA.
Patagonia Nine Trails Shorts
Best for Hiking
These classics from Patagonia are made of a recycled polyester/spandex fabric that wicks moisture and allows you to move with comfort on the trails (goodbye, chafing). A boxer-brief liner with odor control lets you focus on the hike and not on how you smell. Best of all, the logo on the left leg glows when illuminated, making you easier to spot when the sun sets.
Hylete Fuse Short
Best for Obstacle Course Racing
When you’re crawling under barbed wire and jumping through fire during an OCR, the last thing you need is constricting apparel. These smooth, stretchy shorts from Hylete offer a larger leg opening for added room and flexibility — so if you can’t get over that climbing wall, it’s on you. They also feature a ton of pockets, three different lengths and a waistband system that can make the drawstrings either interior or exterior. Thoughtful.
Rogue Black Ops Shorts
Best for Weightlifting
These no-nonsense training shorts are perfect for your no-B.S., all-out days in the weight room. The elastic waistband with mesh venting helps you keep cool while you’re tossing around iron, and the loose fit and 8-inch inseam allow for unrestricted mobility during squats, deadlifts and lunges. Yes, you can wear them for cardio, too.
Bontrager Quantum Fitness Short
Best for Biking
Consider these shorts the best of both worlds. The lightweight shell and padded liner will keep you comfy during long rides, but when you hop off the bike, you won’t look like a member of the Spandex Mafia. Two other nice touches: the padded liner is removable, and a zippered back pocket ensures your keys and cash don’t fall out mid-ride.
Under Armour MK-1 Shorts
If these shorts were a sex position, they would be missionary. But you know what? People like missionary. And for $35, there is a lot to like here. The fit is streamlined but not too snug, and UA’s patented HeatGear fabric provides lightweight comfort that wicks sweat and dries fast. They’ve also got anti-odor technology similar to more expensive shorts, and they feature two mesh pockets — to hold all that money you’re saving.