How To Buy Running Shorts – The Complete Guide

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Cross Training For Runners
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Written by :

David Dack

Looking to score the perfect pair of running shorts for your runs? Well, you’re in luck because I’ve got the inside scoop right here.

Running shorts aren’t just another piece of workout gear; they can be the game-changer that elevates your runs from meh to magnificent. These shorts don’t just keep you dry and comfy by whisking away sweat; they’re also your ticket to some serious style points.

But with so many options out there – different styles, designs, materials, and lengths – finding your ideal running shorts can feel like a marathon itself.

Fret not because today we’re diving deep into the art of choosing the perfect running shorts. We’ll cover everything from size and type to fabric and nifty extra features.

Excited? You should be! Let’s lace up and get started.

What Are Running Shorts?

Running shorts aren’t your typical pair of everyday shorts. They’re meticulously crafted with the needs of runners in mind. When you’re hitting the pavement or the trails, every detail counts.

Choosing the right pair of running shorts isn’t just about comfort – it’s about avoiding those pesky irritations that can turn a great run into a painful ordeal. Nobody wants to deal with wedgies, chafing, or shorts that keep riding up mid-stride.

So, what sets running shorts apart? Well, it’s all about the features. The type of fabric they’re made from, their length, the inclusion of a compression layer or lining – these factors can make or break your running experience.

Your choice of running shorts should align with your personal preferences and the type of running you do. Whether you’re conquering rugged terrain, gliding along a smooth track, or pounding the pavement in your neighborhood, there’s a perfect pair out there for you.

The best running shorts are crafted from breathable, lightweight materials. They’re equipped with top-notch moisture-wicking and anti-microbial properties, ensuring you stay fresh and dry throughout your run. Plus, they can handle regular trips to the washing machine without shrinking.

Sure, quality running shorts might cost a bit more, but you’re investing in comfort, performance, and durability – and that’s priceless, isn’t it?

Length Of Running Shorts

When it comes to the ideal length of running shorts, there’s no one-size-fits-all answer. Just like choosing your favorite suit, it all boils down to personal preference.

Running shorts come in a range of lengths, typically ranging from a very short 1-inch inseam to a more moderate 7-inch inseam, which refers to the length of the shorts from the crotch to the hem.

Here’s the lowdown on the different lengths and what they’re best suited for:

Short Length (3-inch inseam):

These short running shorts cut off higher on the thighs, offering maximum freedom of movement and exceptional ventilation. They are the go-to choice for serious competitive runners who need unrestricted leg movement and minimal fabric to keep them cool.

Medium Length (5-inch inseam):

If the short shorts feel a bit too brief, and the longer ones are, well, too long, then the medium-length shorts are your sweet spot. They strike a balance and work well for various activities, especially for runners who switch between different terrains, from trails to tracks.

Long Length (7-inch inseam):

The long-style shorts are your best bet for dealing with unpredictable weather and running off-road. They provide extra coverage against the sun and potential debris, shielding you from insect bites and ticks. These are also suitable for those who prefer more modest coverage.

Materials of Running Shorts

When it comes to choosing the right fabric for your running shorts, you’ll encounter two primary categories: synthetic fibers and natural fibers. Each type has its own set of advantages and drawbacks, so let’s break it down:

Synthetic Fiber Shorts:

These running shorts are crafted from technical materials that often blend various synthetic fabrics like elastane, polyester, spandex, and nylon.

Synthetic fiber shorts excel in providing an ideal fit, ample stretch, and excellent moisture-wicking properties. They’re designed to keep you dry by efficiently moving sweat away from your body.

Durability is a strong suit of synthetic fiber shorts, making them well-suited for regular use and the wear and tear of athletic activities.

Natural Fiber Shorts:

Running shorts made from natural fibers may offer greater freedom of movement due to their stretchiness and flexibility.

However, they come with their own set of challenges. Natural fabrics may not effectively manage sweat, potentially leading to chafing and discomfort.

These shorts may also deteriorate more quickly, especially when frequently used in high-heat conditions, as natural fibers are less resilient compared to synthetic materials.

Given these considerations, my recommendation aligns with synthetic fiber shorts. These materials allow your skin to breathe, drawing sweat away from your body and keeping you dry and comfortable during your runs.

Look for running shorts made of fabrics like Lycra, polyester, polypropylene, spandex, or those containing SUPPLEX or COOLMAX fibers. These synthetic options excel in moisture management, aiding in the quick evaporation of sweat to help regulate your body temperature while exercising.

Additional resource – Compression Leggings for running

Say No To Cotton

Sure, cotton may have a reputation for being less stinky than synthetic fabrics, but here’s the catch: it’s like a sponge for sweat. And guess what? A sweat-soaked pair of shorts is a one-way ticket to discomfort city, complete with the bonus feature of potential chafing—ouch!

So, instead of opting for cotton and embracing the swampy vibes, let’s go for something smarter: moisture-wicking materials. These superheroes whisk away sweat, keeping you feeling fresh and dry.

Plus, they’re all about letting that heat escape so you stay cool as a cucumber during your runs.

Liners and Seams

Now, why do running shorts come with a built-in liner, you ask? Well, it’s for a simple yet crucial reason: so you can ditch the underwear. Yep, that’s right, these liners are here to keep you well-ventilated and feeling fresh during those long miles.

Imagine this: You’re on an epic long-distance run, and the sweat is pouring. Without that trusty liner, you’d be in for a world of discomfort. All that movement combined with the sweat buildup? It’s a chafing disaster waiting to happen. Ouch!

But here’s the secret sauce: when you’re picking your running shorts, go for liners made with high-performance fabrics like Coolmax. These lightweight wonders offer excellent support, ensuring that chafing remains an unwelcome guest on your runs.

Running Shorts Types

Running shorts can be divided into three styles: compression, v-notch, and split shorts. The style regulates the fit, length, and leg seam.

Let’s explain each one.

Compression Shorts

Compression shorts are made mainly from spandex, so they fit snugly to your body, like a second skin. Think of them as your trusty cycling chamois without the padding. But don’t be fooled by their simplicity; they’re game-changers.

First off, compression shorts bring the heat, literally. They’re warmer than your regular shorts, which makes them perfect for those cooler runs.

But here’s where they truly shine: muscle support and chafing prevention. That snug fit keeps your muscles in check, reducing fatigue and helping you go that extra mile. And as for chafing? Say goodbye to that painful annoyance, thanks to the absence of loose, flappy fabric.

Now, when it comes to length, it’s all about personal preference. Men’s styles typically fall somewhere between mid-thigh and knee length, often worn under looser shorts. Ladies, on the other hand, get to enjoy a shorter look, ranging from a cheeky 1″ inseam to mid-thigh length.

V-Notch Shorts

Ever heard of V-notch shorts? They’re called that for a reason! These shorts are all about giving you the freedom to move, and they have a unique design to prove it.

On the outer leg seams, there’s an upside-down V-shaped cutout. This clever little detail sets them apart from your standard shorts. And what does it do? It provides an unbeatable range of movement.

No more feeling restricted during your runs!

Now, here’s the cool part. V-notch shorts have a looser fit compared to their snug cousin, compression shorts.

So, if you’re all about that extra breathing room, these might be your new go-to.

With their unique design and functionality, you can hit the track or the trail looking good and feeling great.

Split Shorts

Split shorts are a bit different. They’re made by overlapping the front panel over the back, creating a split design. And here’s the key difference: split shorts offer the most extensive range of movement for runners.

But wait, there’s more! The length of the split can vary.

Some split shorts go as high as the waistband, while others have a smaller split, around half an inch. You get to choose what suits you best. The higher the split, the more your shorts open up, giving your legs even more freedom.


Running when visibility is low? Safety first!

Opt for running shorts in lighter colors. They’ll make you more visible to others when you’re out for a run, especially in low-light conditions or at night.

Keep an eye out for shorts with reflective details, too. They not only add a stylish touch but also boost your visibility and safety during those evening runs.

Sun Protection

If you’re looking for more UV protection while running outdoors, choose a pair that has an ultraviolet protection factor or SPF.

Sunlight contains rays of ultraviolet radiation, which can cause a plethora of skin issues, such as sunburn, premature aging, and skin cancer.

However, opting for clothing that features Ultraviolet Protect Factor (UPF) offers some protection against UV radiation and reduces your overall level of UV exposure. UPF is the rating system used for attire.

Just like SPF or Sun Protection Factor, the rating system is used for sunscreen products. The higher the UPF rating, the better sun protection.

I’d recommend clothing that features UPF 50+, which is the highest-rated UPF certification and blocks out roughly more than 98 percent of UVA and UVB rays.

Just keep in mind that clothing with UPF is not a replacement for wearing sunscreen. Instead, remember to lather on plenty of sunscreen whenever you’re planning to spend time outdoors under the sun, especially during the summer.


When it comes to running shorts, having a little zip pocket sewn into the waistband is a game-changer. Seriously, if you can find a pair like that, snatch ’em up!

Now, these pockets come in different sizes. Some are just big enough for your keys, while others can handle your phone and more.

Sure, you might have to pay a bit extra for shorts with pockets, but trust me, it’s totally worth it. Having that pocket means you can easily stash your phone, gels, iPod, or whatever essentials you need while you’re out on your runs.

Running Shorts – The Conclusion

There are many elements to consider when choosing the best running shorts for your needs and personal preferences.

I know it’s a lot to digest from one go, so take your time.

Please feel free to leave your comments and questions in the section below.

In the meantime, thank you for dropping by.

David D.

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