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The Best Gym Shorts for Every Kind of Workout

All of the best training and recreation options. None of the jorts.

best gym shorts for every workout

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 — as that old guy said in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade — choose wisely.

Gym Shorts Terms to Know

Before you find the right pair for your next sweat session, it helps to understand some of the common terminologies. Here are some definitions to terms you'll see in our list of the best gym shorts.

DWR: Stands for “durable water repellent,” a coating added to fabrics to make them water-resistant.

Inseam: The measurement taken on the inside of the leg, from the crotch to the hem.

Nylon: A synthetic thermoplastic linear polyamide known for being strong, durable, elastic, easy to clean and water-resistant.

Outseam: The measurement taken on the outside of the leg, from the top of the waistband to the hem.

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.

How to Pick the Best Gym Shorts for You

There are many styles of gym short — from the light-as-air to the more robust. Depending on what fitness activity you favor, you’ll want to choose a short that matches your needs. First up, we’ll cover the inseam. The standard inseam lengths for almost any style of gym shorts are 5 inches, 7 inches and 9 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.

Next, let’s chat fabric. Polyester is the go-to fabric for most workout clothing — essentially plastic woven into fiber and then made into cloth, it’s durable, resists wrinkles, is lightweight and wicks moisture. 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. 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.

Lastly, let’s briefly cover fit. Runners, the best gym shorts for you are styles that are minimal, lightweight and shorter (5 inches or less) for easy movement. Weight trainers, you should opt for a longer style (think 9-inch inseam) that offers more coverage and protection. For the multi-discipline fitness enthusiasts, go for personal comfort over being tied to one style.

With all that in mind, here's a boatload 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.

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How We Tested
variety of different gym shorts
Ben Emminger

Through our various training disciplines and fitness-related activities, we’ve sported plenty of workout-ready bottoms. Through 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. Now, let’s get into our top picks. Plus, if you look good, you train well, so bonus points were given on style and look as well.

Now, let’s get into our picks of the best gym shorts.

Ten Thousand Interval Short

  • Polyester/Spandex shell fabric is sweat-wicking and quick-drying

  • Larger smartphones might not fit in zippered pockets

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. Every detail is painstakingly considered, leading to a pair of shorts you don’t have to think twice about.

  • Inseam: 7-inch (other inseam lengths available)
  • Materials: 86% polyester, 14% Spandex
    Lululemon Pace Breaker Lined Shor

    • Out of Mind liner features a no-bounce phone pocket with cord exit

    • Drawstring can be a bit abrasive

    Made from lightweight fabric with just the right amount of stretch, these well-designed shorts suit every activity from dog walking to deadlifts. The liner is true to the brand with soft and supportive comfort, even featuring 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.

    • Inseam: 7-inch
    • Materials: Body: 86% Recycled polyester, 14% Elastane / Liner: 82% polyester, 18% Elastane
    Brooks Run Within 7-inch Linerless Short

    • Ample maneuverability thanks to 4-way stretch fabric

    • Doesn’t fit like a 7-inch inseam

    These shorts have been on our radar since Brooks launched its first cross-functional lineup this past spring. As comfortable logging miles as they are at tackling deadlifts, the Run Within 7-inch linerless shorts boast a distraction-free design that’s soft to the touch and plenty stretchy. A handy back-center pockets provides easy phone storage for runs or lifts, and the four-way stretch doesn’t hinder movement or agility. Simple in design but bold in opportunities, these wallet-friendly bottoms are a must-have for multi-disciplined athletes.

    • Inseam: 7-inch
    • Materials: 86% polyester, 14% Spandex
    Patagonia Strider Pro Running Shorts

    • Polygiene treatment for odor defense

    • Pockets shallower than others on this list

    Technically sound and ready for the road, Patagonia delivers, once again, with these top-tier running shorts. The Strider Pros are Fair Trade-Certified sewn and feature a polyester stretch ripstop body fabric that’s durable and water-repellent. An external drawcord allows for a custom fit without that pesky bunching around your belly button. And when your miles take you into the evening, a reflective logo along the front-center hem helps you stay visible to oncoming traffic and others.

    • Inseam: 5-inch (other inseam lengths available)
    • Materials: Body: 100% polyester stretch ripstop with a DWR finish
    Legends Luka 7-inch Short with Liner

    • Breathable, durable exterior fabric

    • Lined models are not compression-lined

    If your ideal training session involves barbell-bending numbers, then you need a short that’s up to the task. The Luka 7-inch lined shorts from Legends are constructed from a durable, four-way stretch fabric that moves with you through your most grueling lifts. Laser-cut ventilation helps you stay dry and cool, while antimicrobial tech helps keep these fitness shorts funk-free. Plus, there are plenty of colorways and patterns to choose from, so your in-gym style can be as impressive as your bench PR.

    • Inseam: 7-inch (other inseam lengths available)
    • Materials: 91% polyester, 9% Spandex
    Reebok Workout Ready Strength Short

    • Comfortable elastic waistband lays flat across the hips

    • No drawstring, which can make these shorts loose on some

    CrossFit is one of those training disciplines that requires a lot from its athletes, so the gear you wear should be as versatile as possible. As the name suggests, the Workout Ready Strength shorts are, well, ready to put in the work thanks to a [Ree]cycled polyester plain weave profile. Lightweight and agile, these shorts also feature a PerformBand lay-flat waistband, which we found exceptionally comfortable across the midsection. While there’s no drawstring, which can hinder that perfect fit, we often turn to these for HIIT-centric training.

    • Inseam: N/A
    • Materials: Speedwick 100% recycled polyester plain weave
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    Born Tough Air Pro 2-in-1 7-inch Liner Short

    • Convenient towel/shirt loop

    • Not as versatile for casual situations

    These shockingly affordable shorts boast handy features such as lightweight, breathable fabric, an inner compression liner (with added phone pocket) and four-way stretch. But the reason they earn their unique superlative is simple: a designated waist-loop on the back left is perfect for stashing a workout towel or, you know, your workout shirt. These are a little thicker than other shorts on this list, but don’t let that deter you from rocking these ready-to-go bottoms that are primed for showing off your gains.

    • Inseam: 7-inch
    • Materials: Outer Shell: 86% polyester 14% Spandex / Inner: 91% Nylon 9% Spandex
    Elevenpine Uprising Short

    • Multiple fits for a variety of ride scenarios

    • Only two colorways available

    Not quite ready for the Spandex, next-to-skin look? These clever shorts employ zippers and Velcro straps to convert from form-fittingly close to comfortably-loose in seconds. For an extra $60, you can score a combo deal with the Liberator liner and enjoy some critical long-distance padding, too.

    • Inseam: 10-inch
    • Materials: 86% polyester 14% Spandex
    Olivers All Over 5.5-inch Inseam Short

    • 5.5-inch inseam is versatile for multiple looks and styles

    • No back pocket

    We love the cut and style of these 5.5-inch inseam shorts. They go with just about anything, which makes them great for wearing around the house or for quick errands on work days. They are sharp enough to pair with a polo or button-down for Zoom calls, but that doesn't mean they are light on performance: four-way stretch, moisture-wicking nylon/Spandex blend fabric and a hidden inner pocket ensure they are just as comfortable hefting weights or pedaling around town.

    • Inseam: 5.5-inch
    • Materials: All Over Stretch Weave: 88% nylon, 12% Spandex
    Satisfy Space‑O 2.5-inch Distance Short

    • Ultra lightweight build, great for lengthy training sessions

    • Premium pricing

    What these shorts lack in inseam length, they make up for in performance. At just 130 grams, these lightweight beauties feature Perforated Mesh that naturally stretches in every which way you move. The Space-Os also boasts convenient storage, with pockets designed specifically for your smartphone, gels and keys. Show off those thighs and stride confidently through your next training session.

    • Inseam: 2.5-inch
    • Materials: Exterior: 73% Polyamide, 27% Elastane / Brief: 72% Polyamide, 28% Elastane
    Mack Weldon Ace Sweatshort
    Mack Weldon

    • Stylish fit tailored for any setting

    • Longer inseam doesn’t accommodate shorter individuals

    Mack Weldon has made a name for itself by adding extra style and subtle bonus features to its wardrobe staples. Both qualities are very much in evidence here, thanks to micro-brushed French terry fabric (available in multiple colors), a tailored fit and a sneaky zippered side pocket to go along with hand pockets and a zippered rear pocket. It all adds up to elevated sweatshorts perfect for everything from gym sessions to tennis lessons and the ever-popular brunch.

    • Inseam: N/A
    • Materials: 95% cotton, 5% stretch
    Vuori Kore Short

    • Lightweight, ultra-stretch fabric doesn’t hinder movement

    • Baggy pockets aren’t as secure

    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 they’re also uber-comfortable thanks to the quick-drying four-way stretch fabric and a roomier fit. We felt no discomfort when changing poses on our yoga mats, and a helpful anti-odor treatment keeps you from stinking up the studio, too.

    • Inseam: 7.5-inch
    • Materials: 46% recycled polyester, 44% polyester, 10% Elastane
    Birdwell 311 Nylon Board Short

    • Triple-stitch construction for a durable profile

    • Not dryer safe

    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.

    • Inseam: 8-inch
    • Materials: SurfNyl nylon exterior
    Jordan Dri-FIT Air Diamond Short

    • Comfortable fit for dominating the court

    • Only two colorways available

    Take your play above the rim in these stylish court essentials. Made from breathable, lightweight, sweat-wicking mesh, these shorts hark back to Jordan’s playing days with the iconic diamond side panels and added heritage-inspired details throughout. Convenient side pockets are a good place to put your hands, too — when they aren’t mimicking the “I don’t know” shrug after draining too many 3s, of course.

    • Inseam: N/A
    • Materials: 100% polyester
    adidas Condivo 20 Short

    • AEROREADY fabric absorbs moisture for a dry and comfortable wear

    • Not as tailored a fit

    Named after the Italian word for flavor, the Condivo 20s should add a little spice to your weekend kick-arounds. 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.

    • Inseam: N/A
    • Materials: 100% polyester
    Champion Reverse Weave Cut-Off Short

    • Cut-off hem for a classic, worn-in look

    • Not ideal for high-intensity training

    No brand is more closely associated with throwback 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.

    • Inseam: 10-inch
    • Materials: Body: 12 oz. 82% cotton, 18% polyester
    Hylete Fuse Short

    • Plenty of stretch for optimal maneuverability

    • Pockets can be prone to bulging out

    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 inseam lengths and a waistband system that can make the drawstrings either interior or exterior. And with eight colorways to choose from, you can make sure you stand out from the crowd as you conquer every obstacle along the path.

    • Inseam: Multiple inseam lengths available
    • Materials: polyester, Spandex
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