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The 7 best gym shorts

By Cynthia Fetherlin

Did you know that what you wear during your workout can help make a difference in how you perform during it? In particular, gym shorts that are too long or too tight can make exercising uncomfortable and even curb your performance. Among the things to bear in mind when you set out to pick the best gym shorts, you'll want to first consider the type of physical activities you prefer and what length you're comfortable with.

  • Jogging, cardio and/or circuit training workouts: When you know you're going to be jumping, moving, and getting your heart rate up, shorts that have a 7-inch inseam are ideal because the shorter inseam helps prevent fabric from getting in the way while you move.
  • Weightlifting, resistance training, and/or yoga: For more stationary routines where the goal is to focus on muscle building or balance, look for shorts with an inseam of 9 inches or longer. That way you'll get fuller coverage, yet still have plenty of room to bend and squat. Longer styles with a built-in brief liner can provide even more support for things like squatting to pick up weights.
  • High-intensity workouts: The length of your shorts may not be as important as the material when it comes to the most extreme or longer duration workouts like CrossFit or marathons. You'll want to consider compression garments, which feel like stretchy spandex but are made from a material that specially molds to your body. Studies show that this type of added pressure can help improve your endurance and even speed up recovery time between workouts.

To help find the right fit for your workout, I've scoured Amazon to come up with the best gym shorts. With high star ratings and corresponding glowing reviews, these are some of the best out there.

1. The best overall workout shorts

These versatile shorts can be worn for just about any kind of fitness routine, though the 7-inch inseam is ideal for running or swift cardio moves. They're made from 100% polyester, so they are lightweight, breathable, and will help wick moisture away. They also have reflective marks on the sides, so you can safely wear them at night, too. The elastic waistband and adjustable drawstring make it easy to customize the fit. Reviewers love how comfortable they are with several mentioning they like to wear them while relaxing around the house as well as to the gym.

Some users report that these run small, so consider sizing up. They also note that the pockets are a little shallow, so not all smartphones or bulkier items (like keys) may fit properly.

Fans say: “I bought these four months ago and wear them 1-2 times per week. These are a surprisingly good brand of shorts. I am an avid runner as well as lifter while also regularly engaging in calisthenics/gymnastics. Whether completing a clean and jerk, running a 10K, standing on my hands, or tumbling during floor work, these shorts hold up.”

  • Available sizes: Small - XX-Large

2. The best longer length gym shorts

Besides a 10-inch inseam, the standout feature of these gym shorts is the large mesh pockets that many of the nearly 1,700 reviewers indicate are sizable enough that valuables (like keys and phones) stay put. They are made from a thin, sweat-wicking fabric that feels, as one fan puts it, "like silk" on the skin. The relaxed fit makes them a good option for wearing on the soccer field or while weight training. The waistband has an internal drawstring cord so you can customize the fit to your liking.

These breezy Under Armor shorts are available in 18 colors, but a few users point out that some of the lighter colors tend to be slightly see-through, which means the darker shades may be a safer bet for anyone who is concerned with coverage.

Fans say: “These are absolutely perfect shorts in my opinion. They are lightweight, not too long, inexpensive and keep you cool.”

  • Available sizes: X-Small - XXX-Large

3. The best weightlifting shorts

With a mid-length inseam (9 inches), these mesh shorts are beloved by more than 5,000 Amazon reviewers who report they are ideal for doing strength training workouts. A looser fit means you'll be able to lift, squat, lunge, press, and everything in between. They come in a number of color options beyond basic black and are made from a quick-drying, 100% polyester fabric. Fans of this pick also report that sizing is fairly accurate.

Fans say: “I'm 6'1", 175 lbs with a 34-inch waist [...] And the medium's fit me PERFECT. I also have pretty big legs, and they give me plenty of room, even with a medium size. If you have muscular thighs, but you're in the 32-36 waist range, these will still fit you perfectly.”

  • Available sizes: Small - 4X-Large

4. The best running shorts

These 7-inch running shorts give your legs more freedom to bend and move, which means they are a great option for running and cardio. They are constructed from a polyester-spandex blend, so they're extra stretchy. In addition to two ample pockets, there's a zippered one on the back that's been reinforced with extra stitching — one user reports successfully putting a smartphone inside and was pleased that it "[didn't] bounce at all" during their workout. Bonus! There are built-in mesh briefs for extra support and reflective markings on the sides that make it safer to run at night.

Fans say: “My husband runs every day and we are always trying to find him good quality shorts that don’t break the bank. I ordered these to try out and I was pleasantly surprised at the quality. They are a good fabric, while still lightweight and breathable.”

  • Available sizes: Small - XX-Large

5. Chafe-free compression shorts designed for intense workouts

If you like long-distance running, HIIT, or are a regular at your local CrossFit box, compression shorts like this pair are optimal. They are more costly than any other picks on our list, but with good reason— according to 2XU, its technology is backed by independent, scientific research. This pair boasts what the Australian brand refers to as Muscle Containment-Stamping (MCS), which is a feature of their garments that they say can help target and reduce muscle strain and provide extra joint support. The lightweight fabric, which is a blend of nylon and elastane, is also intended to provide strong compression to help boost circulation and faster lower-body recovery. Plus, it's the only pick on our list that's crafted with UPF 50+ sun protection.

Several reviewers also praise the shorts being chafe-free. If there's one downside, though, it's that zippered compartment on the back is smaller and therefore can likely only hold an ID, a key, and other more compact items.

Fans say: “Amazing compression shorts! Multiple days of 9+ hours of running and no chafing. While Nike and UA make great 'compression shorts', they are not comparable products to these shorts from 2XU. I have shorts from all three brands and they are not even remotely the same product as these 2XU shorts.”

  • Available sizes: XX-Small - XX-Large

6. An athletic short with extra layers of support & compression

This pair may be categorized as running shorts, but users say its unique construction makes them more versatile—  think stretching exercises or other fast-paced workouts. On the outside, there's a traditional 5-inch athletic short with an elastic waistband. And on the inside? There's a double layer of support thanks to a longer, 7-inch compression liner and a built-in mesh brief. The external pieces are made from a blend of polyester and spandex, so they're breathable and flexible. In addition to a zippered back pocket for valuables like keys, there are two side pockets, which users report will fit most 6.5 inch smartphones.

Fans say: “True to size, the liner offers ample support but isn't too tight or too scratchy (perfect material), they wick well, they stretch, and they have a back zipper pocket! Believe me, I've done the research and spent the money. Buy these shorts now and save some of that hard-earned dough! They are every bit as good as the more spendy brands making them a superb value.”

  • Available sizes: Small - XXX-Large

7. This best-selling value pack

With more than 3,000 reviews, this set is a favorite among Amazon shoppers because it's such a good deal — the shorts come out to only about $9 each, yet the quality is comparable to name brand styles. Constructed with a 100% polyester mesh fabric, they have an 8-inch inseam and are breathable enough to be worn during a variety of athletic activities like basketball, soccer, or boot camp workouts. The shorts have roomy pockets, come in a handful of colors, and are very comfortable— so much so that some fans mention wearing them just to lounge around the house.

One thing to keep in mind is that some people say they run a little large, so consider sizing down or use the internal drawstring to find the right fit.

Fans say: “I have a hard time finding workout shorts that fit me well. They are usually either too long or too short however, these shorts are the perfect length for me. I like the light weight material (as they don't feel too heavy) as well as the pockets and drawstring. A lot of workout shorts this lightweight don't come with pockets which are a priority for me.As for the fit, that is excellent as well. This is always something that I am worried about when ordering clothing on line, but I was not disappointed.”

  • Available sizes: Small - XX-Large

Mic may receive a portion of sales from products purchased from this article, which was created independently from of editorial and sales departments.

Studies referenced:

Engel, F.A., Holmberg, H. & Sperlich, B. Is There Evidence that Runners can Benefit from Wearing Compression Clothing?. Sports Med46, 1939–1952 (2016) doi:10.1007/s40279-016-0546-5, https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007%2Fs40279-016-0546-5

Hettchen, M., Glöckler, K., von Stengel, S., Piechele, A., Lötzerich, H., Kohl, M., & Kemmler, W. (2019). Effects of Compression Tights on Recovery Parameters after Exercise Induced Muscle Damage: A Randomized Controlled Crossover Study. Evidence-based complementary and alternative medicine : eCAM, 2019, 5698460. doi:10.1155/2019/5698460, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6341249/