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The Best Gym Shorts for Your Fitness Journey
Upgrade your training wardrobe with these movement-friendly, sweat-wicking bottoms.
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.
BEST OVERALL GYM SHORTTen Thousand Interval Short Read More
BEST UPGRADE GYM SHORTLululemon Pace Breaker Lined Short Read More
BEST BUDGET GYM SHORTBrooks Run Within 7-inch Linerless Short Read More
BEST RUNNING SHORTPatagonia Strider Pro 5-Inch Running Shorts Read More
MOST COMFORTABLE GYM SHORTSaxx Gainmaker 2N1 7-Inch Shorts Read More
How to Pick the Best Gym Shorts for You
There are many styles of gym shorts — from the light-as-air to the more robust. Depending on which fitness activity you favor, you’ll want to choose a short that matches your needs. Below are a few factors to consider when choosing the right bottoms for reaching the top of your fitness goals.
The standard inseam lengths for almost any style of gym shorts are between 5–7 inches. A 5-inch inseam short will land somewhere in the region of your mid-thigh, while 7 inches is the typical short length. For those looking for more coverage or protection, the 9-inch inseam is a little more appealing. “I prefer a 6-inch length,” notes Eric McCormack of MTN OPS. “I like the shorter shorts, so I don’t have to worry about them getting in the way or tugging.” In the end, make sure to choose an inseam length that promotes a comfortable fit while still providing enough coverage and flexibility for your training needs.
Next, let’s chat fabric. Polyester is the go-to fabric for most workout apparel — essentially plastic woven into fiber and then made into cloth. It’s lightweight, durable, resists wrinkles and wicks moisture. Lately, many brands are moving to partially or completely-recycled polyester, or other innovative materials like plant-based yarns and fabrics in an effort to combat the polluting effects of fashion. If you want to experiment with a non-polyester fabric, just know that innovation typically comes with a higher price tag. If you can afford it, go for it, but if not, polyester is still a solid option. Additionally, below are a few helpful definitions to make reading those tags a little easier prior to purchase:
DWR: Stands for “durable water repellent,” a coating added to fabrics to make them water-resistant.
Nylon: A synthetic thermoplastic linear polyamide known for being strong, durable, elastic, easy to clean and water-resistant.
Polyester: A category of polymers commonly used in clothing and home furnishings. They can be naturally occurring or synthetic. Generally speaking, polyester is a strong material that’s stain-resistant, water-resistant and wind-resistant.
Polygiene: An antimicrobial silver chloride treatment applied at the finishing stages of textile production to control odor in a garment.
Spandex: A fiber made of a long chain of a synthetic polymer composed of at least 85 percent of a segmented polyurethane. It’s stretchy while retaining its length and shape. It’s durable, smooth, comfortable and resistant to abrasion. Also known as Lycra and Elastane.
Size and Fit
How your shorts fit can vary greatly across different disciplines. For runners, the best gym shorts are styles that are minimal, lightweight and shorter (5 inches or less) for easy movement. Weight trainers can look to opt for a longer style (think 9-inch inseam) offering more coverage and protection from barbell abrasions. For the multi-discipline fitness enthusiasts, go for personal comfort over being tied to one style.
Outside of fit, length and materials, you can also look for convenient add-ons when searching for that premier pair of gym shorts. McCormack states, “I definitely like having a back pocket. It’s always good for your phone or something like that.” When looking at pocket profiles, we also prefer those that feature at least one zippered closure for added storage security.
Other conveniences like built-in liners, lay-flat waistbands and other additions can also enhance your training experience, but these aren’t absolutely necessary when it comes to finding the ideal pair for you. If your gym shorts don't feature a built-in liner, be sure to pair them with a performance-laden pair of compression shorts to get the most out of your ensemble. Above all else, make sure your bottoms are comfortable, flexible and functional enough for unhindered workout potential.
How We Tested
Through our various training disciplines and fitness-related activities, we’ve sported plenty of workout-ready bottoms. Whether signing up for intense leg days, heart-pounding agility training, calming yoga flows and more, we’ve tested a number of these shorts, noting the apparel’s resilience, comfort and added features like lay-flat waistbands and convenient pockets. Plus, if you look good, you train good, so bonus points were given on style and aesthetics as well.
Now, let’s get into our picks of the best gym shorts.
We put these fan-favorite garments through strenuous training routines to see which bottom comes out on top.
Explore the following guides to find more of our top picks for training apparel, footwear and more.