The right pair of workout shorts can inspire you to train longer, harder and more often. On the flip side, the wrong pair — 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.
In other words, 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, they'll support and elevate your training, driving you forward to achieve your best. Bonus: you'll likely look a bit more stylish too.
Best Overall Gym Shorts
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 perfect. Featuring a thick no-pinch waistband, a few well-placed pockets and an ultra-wicking shell (plus a comfy liner for $10 more), these shorts easily accommodate kettlebell swings, med ball tosses, box jumps and bench presses. Also: tennis.
Best Upgrade Gym Shorts
Made from lightweight fabric with just the right amount of stretch, these well-designed shorts suit everything from dog walking to deadlifts. The liner is soft and supportive and features a clever little phone sleeve that'll keep that essential device from bouncing all over the gym. The construction is durable, too, so you can work out as hard and as often as you like and lower the cost-per-wear in the process.
Best Value Gym Shorts
Uniqlo has emerged as a reliable producer of affordable performance wear, and these polyester shorts are the latest example. Part of a new collaboration with artist Futura2000, they feature the brand’s moisture-wicking Dry-Ex tech, an internal drawstring and two clever, concealed zipper pockets where you need them. That makes them great for all kinds of athletic activities, at an unbeatable price.
Best Shorts for Running
These smartly designed shorts earned their place among the best fitness products of the past year thanks to premium materials like Airtastic, an ultralight, stretchy, breathable and water-repellent fabric that eases every stride. Stash your phone, cash, gels and house keys in its carefully placed, no-bounce pockets, and watch the miles fly by.
Best Shorts for CrossFit
If you’re partaking in this particularly punishing form of training, you 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 WOD staples like burpees, lunges and bodyweight squats.
Best Sweat Shorts
Perhaps no other brand is more closely associated with classic sweats than Champion, and these heavyweight 10-inch fleece shorts carry on that tradition. The fleece is cut on the cross-grain to resist shrinkage, ensuring a true fit, while the brushed interior is comfy as hell. An elastic waistband with drawstring, retro cut-off hem and side pockets round out the winning package.
Best Surf Shorts
Our wave-chasing Style editor recently named these the best board shorts for a few key reasons: "These iconic board shorts feature Birdwell's tough double-layered SurfNyl nylon fabric. They come with a button fly, adjustable nylon drawstring waist, snap back pocket with a key loop and top-notch triple-stitch construction throughout. After wearing for many seasons, these only get better." 'Nuff said.
Best Shorts for Post-Workout Hangs
One of our favorite fitness pros swears by this pair. “The pockets are discreet yet adequate enough to manage my keys, wallet and other small items without adding bulk,” raves Gideon Akande, a two-time Chicago Golden Gloves champ and Men’s Health Next Top Trainer. “These shorts look great in a variety of settings, making it easy to switch from chill mode to go mode in an instant!” A built-in liner and four-way stretch ensure they can do it all.
Best Shorts 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 quick-drying four-way stretch fabric and a roomier fit.
Best Shorts for Shooting Hoops
The subtle pinstripes and diamonds on the sides are a nod to MJ’s Bulls days, back when he was swishing fadeaways and posterizing opponents nightly. The soft knit fabric makes them comfy, while the 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, of course.
Best Shorts for Coed Soccer
Named after the Italian word for flavor, the Condivos should add a little spice to your weekend kickarounds. The lightweight and breathable AEROREADY fabric will have you zipping around the pitch like a young Roberto Baggio. They're versatile enough for other activities, too, like watching soccer and playing FIFA.
Best Shorts for Hiking
The recycled polyester/spandex fabric wicks moisture and allows you to move with comfort on the trails. A boxer-brief liner with odor control lets you focus on the hike, not the funk. And the logo on the left leg glows when illuminated, making you — and your fine taste in outdoor brands — easier to spot when the sun sets.
Best Shorts for Obstacle Course Racing
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.
Best Shorts 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.
Best Shorts for Biking
Not quite ready for the nothing-but-spandex look? These clever shorts employ zippers and Velcro straps to convert from form-fittingly close to comfortably loose in seconds. For an extra $40, you can score a combo deal with the Liberator Liner and enjoy some critical long-distance padding.