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.
How to Pick the Best Gym Shorts for You
There are many styles of gym shorts to consider — from the light-as-air to the more robust. Depending what fitness activity you favor, you’ll want to choose a short that matches your needs. First up, we’ll cover 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 offer 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.
- Polyester/Spandex shell fabric is sweat-wicking and quick-drying
- Available with 5-, 7- and 9-inch inseams, with or without a liner
- 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.
- Flat-locked seams maximize comfort while minimizing chafe
- 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.
- Stylish enough to wear outside the gym
- Premium quality at a wallet-friendly price
- Only available in one colorway
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.
- Plenty of secure, convenient storage options
- The short itself is separate from the base liner, helping minimize chafing
- DWR coating limits breathability
These smartly-designed shorts earned their place among 2020’s best fitness products and have remained a must-own thanks to premium materials like Toray PrimeFlex, an ultralight, stretchy, breathable 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.
- 8-inch inseam provides solid coverage during lifts
- Mesh venting to keep you cool during training
- Side pockets don't feature a zipper
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. The 2.0 version also adds roomier side pockets, perfect for keeping your essentials on you at all times. Yes, you can wear them for cardio, too.
- Speedwick recycled polyester dries quickly for improved comfort
- Stretch woven fabric allows for complete, unrestricted movements
- Side pockets only, limiting storage capabilities
If you’re partaking in this particularly punishing form of training, you need apparel that’s 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.
- Convenient towel/shirt loop
- Inner compression phone pocket securely holds your device
- 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.
- Provides multiple fits for a variety of rides
- Side and back air vents give plenty of breathability
- Only available in two colorways
- Features the Olivers guarantee to repair or replace any product with faults outside of normal wear and tear for up to 12 months after purchase
- 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.
- Ultra lightweight build perfect for long distance running
- Exterior detachable care label to avoid unnecessary chafing or rubbing
- Price point may be too much to overcome
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 boast convenient storage, with pockets designed specifically for your smartphone, gels and keys. Show off those thighs and stride confidently through your next training session.
- Stylish, tailored fit for any setting
- Plenty of pockets for carrying all your necessities
- Can be too long for 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 sweat shorts perfect for everything from gym sessions to tennis lessons to, well, brunch.
- Lightweight, ultra-stretch fabric doesn't hinder movement
- Boxer-brief liner adds another layer of comfort
- Pockets can be baggy, limiting secure phone storage
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 quick-drying four-way stretch fabric and a roomier fit.
- Triple-stitch construction creates a durable profile
- Classic design that's ready for the water
- 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.
- Comfortable fit for dominating the court
- Constructed from 100 percent recycled polyester fibers
- Only available in two colorways
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.
- Multiple colorways to add variety to your wardrobe
- AEROREADY fabric absorbs moisture keeps you dry and comfortable
- Not as tailored a fit as other shorts on this list
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.
- Cut-off hem gives a classic, worn-in look
- Cross-grain cut ensures minimal shrinkage through multiple washes
- Might not be best for high-intensity activities
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.
- Recycled polyster/Spandex blends breathes well for a comfortable fit
- Fair Trade Certified sewn
- Liner may be prone to rips and tears if cared for incorrectly
The recycled polyester/Spandex fabric wicks moisture and allows you to move with comfort on the trails. A boxer-brief liner with HeiQ Pure 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.
- Plenty of stretch for easier maneuverability
- Available in a variety of lengths to suit your preference
- Some say the pockets can bulge and don't hang as comfortable as previous Hylete offerings
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.