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Whether you're on the hunt for the perfect performance wear or are loyal to stretchy pants and need a warm-weather version of them, compression shorts might be right up your alley. Sometimes called bike shorts—which really means bike-short length—they're a prime choice for hot yoga, jogging, barre, pilates, cycling, HIIT (high-intensity interval training), or lifting.
"Compression shorts help increase the amount of oxygen your body is receiving by increasing pressure (compression) to your glutes and thighs," certified personal trainer Dianna Falzarano tells Byrdie. "They can help your muscles function better, increase your athletic performance and reduce muscle fatigue."
"Compression shorts are a great alternative to leggings on a hot day, during an extra sweaty workout, or literally anytime," adds Portland-based fitness instructor Jamaica Mehr. Just like your go-to workout pants, the best styles offer support and coverage where you need it—extra points if they pass the squat test.
Check out the best compression shorts below.
Best Overall: Beyond Yoga High Waist Biker Shorts
Suitable for various activities
Who else recommends it? Women's Health and Health.com both picked Beyond Yoga High Waist Biker Shorts.
Whether you're training for a triathlon, practicing yoga, powering through a CrossFit workout, running errands, or hanging out at home, you can't go wrong with Beyond Yoga Biker Shorts. Made of a polyester-spandex blend with an extra-high waist and a generous inseam, they're supportive where you need it but not too constricting. You can choose from a range of chic colors, like blush, beige, and black.
Material: Polyester, spandex | Size Range: XXS–XXL | Colors: Orange, pink, blush, beige, silver, green, black
Best Budget: Sunzel Biker Shorts for Women with Pockets
Passes squat test
Slightly tight hemline
For those on a budget, we recommend the Sunzel Biker Shorts. The buttery-soft fabric boasts a four-way stretch and sweat-wicking technology, and the seamless waistband passes the squat test.
Material: Polyester, spandex | Size Range: XS–XL | Colors: Various
Best Size Range: Girlfriend Collective High Rise Bike Short
Inclusive size range
Made from recycled water bottles
"Girlfriend Collective is another amazing option for bike shorts," says Mehr. Available in an impressive 11 sizes, these high-rise compression shorts are made from recycled water bottles and won't ride up.
Material: RPET (recycled polyethylene terephthalate), spandex | Size Range: XXS–6XL | Colors: Various
Best for Biking: P.E Nation Momentum Bike Shorts
Good for biking
Made from recycled materials
For those looking for actual biking shorts, we're loving this pair from P.E Nation. Woven from a blend of nylon, lycra, and elastane, they're designed to move and stretch with your body while keeping your momentum going.
Material: Recycled nylon, lycra, elastane | Size Range: XXS–XL | Colors: Multi
Best for Indoor Cycling: Bandier All Access High Waisted Center Stage Biker Short
Good for indoor cycling
Inclusive size range
Whether you like biking at home or attending spin classes, Bandier's Center Stage Biker Shorts will carry you through your next ride. They're seamless, sculpting, silky-smooth, and quick-drying—what's not to love?
Material: Nylon, spandex | Size Range: XXS–3XL | Colors: Black, pink
Best for Yoga: The Upside Lilac Jacquard Shorts
Only one color available
If yoga is part of your daily routine, opt for the Upside's Jacquard Shorts, which were designed to support you through your flow. The high waistband offers a flattering fit while the textured fabric smooths and sculpts your thighs and backside.
Material: Polyamide, elastane | Size Range: XXS–XL | Colors: Lilac
Best for Pilates: Splits59 Tread High Waist Techflex Short
Cell phone pocket
If you're partial to pilates, we think you'll like the Techflex Short from Splits59. Featuring a high waistband that resists rolling and a compressive design down the thighs, your lower body will be supported as you work through each toning move.
Material: Polyester, spandex | Size Range: XS–XL | Colors: Black, navy
Best Athleisure: Good American Essential Bike Short
Inclusive size range
Khloé Kardashian's Good American is celebrated for its jeans, but if you haven't checked out the brand's loungewear, allow us to introduce you. Made of a heavyweight cotton-elastane blend, the Essential Bike Short boasts a high waistband and a flattering mid-thigh hem.
Material: Cotton, elastane | Size Range: XS–4XL | Colors: Black, heather gray, dark brown, taupe
Best for Cross-Training: Lululemon Wunder Train High-Rise Short 6"
Good for cross-training
Inclusive size range
Three lengths available
Falzarano and Mehr are both big fans of Lululemon's Wunder Train Shorts for cross-training and other workouts. "They have good compression and have good options for lengths," says Mehr. "I prefer an 8-inch or 6-inch, depending on the activity, and even wear them for daily lounging and activities."
Material: Nylon, lycra, elastane, polyester | Size Range: 0–20 | Colors: Various
Best Style: Lululemon Align High-Rise Short 8"
Inclusive size range
"If tighter compression on the thigh isn't your fav, the Align option is buttery-soft and comes in a super-high rise with a good hold-you-in feeling on your core," offers Mehr. Indeed, Lululemon's Nulu fabric is tough to beat—it feels like a second skin and is great for working out or hanging out.
Material: Nylon, lycra, elastane | Size Range: 0–20 | Colors: Various
Best Sweat-Wicking: Under Armour Women's HeatGear Armour Mid-Rise Middy Shorts
Legs ride up
Need a moisture-wicking design? Look no further than Under Armour's HeatGear Middy Shorts. The ultra-light fabric offers superior compression without weighing you down, plus it pulls sweat away from your body and dries notably fast.
Material: Polyester, elastane | Size Range: S–XXL | Colors: Black, red, navy, royal blue, charcoal, gray
Best Shaping: Spanx Higher Power Shorts
Waist prone to rolling
Spanx is the reigning queen of shapewear, so it's no wonder the brand makes the best shaping compression shorts. Woven from soft yarn with a seam-free center, they smooth all the way up your ribcage without making you feel squeezed.
Material: Nylon, elastane | Size Range: S–3XL | Colors: Black, camel, brown, beige
Best with Pockets: Solid & Striped Soleil High Waisted 7in Pocket Short
Featuring a power-mesh waistband, the Solid & Striped Soleil Short is perfectly compressive but not constricting. We also like that it's woven from moisture-wicking fabric and boasts seamless pockets on either side.
Material: Nylon, spandex | Size Range: XS–2XL | Colors: Red, white, blue
Best Shiny: Sweaty Betty High-Shine High-Waisted Bike Shorts
Passes squat test
We love a shiny bike short, and Sweaty Betty's high-waisted design checks all the boxes. The polyamide-elastane blend offers a brilliant sheen while still providing plenty of breathability and stretch. Not only that, but these compression shorts pass the squat test with flying colors.
Material: Polyamide, elastane | Size Range: XXS–XXL | Colors: Black, blue
Best Waist: Enavant Active Koa Biker Short
Super soft and stretchy
Designed for low-intensity workouts, this pair from Enavant Active is made from a brilliant ribbed fabric. The soft and stretchy textile is supportive yet smooth, while a hidden wide waistband gently sculpts your core.
Material: Nylon, polyester, spandex | Size Range: XS–L | Colors: Navy, brown, olive, orange
Best Printed: Beach Riot Bike Shorts
We can't get enough of these pretty printed shorts from Beach Riot. The compressive polyester-spandex fabric comes in lots of fun patterns, like clouds, leopard, daisies, floral, and tie-dye.
Material: Polyester, spandex | Size Range: XS-XL | Colors: Various prints
Best Mid-Rise: Nike Women's Sportswear Essential Bike Shorts
Inclusive size range
If you prefer a mid-rise cut, go with this pair from Nike. The cotton-blend fabric is nice and stretchy but also moisture-wicking, so you'll stay dry, cool, and comfy while you're on the move.
Material: Cotton, polyester, spandex | Size Range: XXS–XXL | Colors: Black, green, lilac, blue, heather gray
Beyond Yoga High Waist Biker Shorts are by far the best compression shorts available today. We appreciate the wide extra-high waistband, the wear-anywhere style, and the compressive fabric that's not overly constricting. However, if you want something a little more wallet-friendly, go with the squat-proof, sweat-wicking Sunzel Biker Shorts for Women.
What to Look For in Compression Shorts
When it comes to the best compression shorts, the material is of the utmost importance. Most styles are made from a blend of polyester, spandex, elastane, lycra, polyamide, nylon, and sometimes cotton. These materials are generally stretchy and moisture-wicking. And with a thick enough weave, they're also compressive.
You'll want to consider the waistband as well. Most compression shorts have a high-waisted design (including some extra-high cuts), though you'll also find mid-rise options. "My preference for compression, just like my leggings, is moderate through the thigh and very compressed with a very high rise for my stomach," says Mehr. "Especially after having two babies, the extra support and coverage feel amazing."
When you shop around for compression shorts, you'll see they come with inseams of varying lengths. This includes everything from longer bike-style designs to shorty-short volleyball-length hems and everything in between.
"I do prefer a longer bike short style," Mehr tells Byrdie. "It seems the longer they are, the less likely they are to ride up on your thigh, especially if you're more on the curvy side."
What do compression shorts do?
Do you wear underwear under compression shorts?
Traditionally, compression shorts are meant to be worn without underwear when working out, as the material acts as a base layer and is supposed to go right up against your skin. However, if you're wearing compression shorts for everyday activities, you might find wearing something on underneath more comfortable. There is no right or wrong answer here, and you should do whatever feels best.
Do compression shorts help with chafing?
Since compression shorts typically sit farther down on the thigh than other types of women's athletic shorts, they can help with chafing. With a fabric barrier between your thighs, you'll likely experience a reduction in friction and uncomfortable rubbing.
How We Researched
To compile this list, our team of editors and contributors spent hours researching the best products on the market in this category, evaluating their key features—like ingredients, shade range, or design—in addition to reviews from customers and other trusted sources. We then used this research to assign a star rating from one to five (five being the best; one being the worst) to certain products on the list.
Why Trust Byrdie
Theresa Holland is a freelance content creator with a background in fitness and self-care. She has been writing for Byrdie since 2020, where she covers lifestyle and wellness. For this article, she spoke to two fitness professionals, pored over user reviews, researched different features, and considered dozens of compression shorts from various brands and retailers before making her final selections. You can read more stories by Theresa on The Spruce.
Meet the Expert
- Jamaica Rylin Mehr, RN, BSN, CEN, is a pediatric emergency nurse based in Portland, Oregon, as well as a fitness coach and Barre3 instructor.
- Dianna Falzarano is a certified personal trainer, pilates coach, and the owner of Dynamic Fitness LLC. She earned her personal training certification through the National Council of Strength and Fitness (NCSF).
According to our Diversity Pledge, 15% of products in our newly-published market roundups will feature Black-owned and/or Black-founded brands. At the time of publishing, we were not able to find any compression shorts from a Black-owned and/or Black-founded business. If you know of one we should consider, please email us at email@example.com and we will evaluate the product ASAP.
The 10 Best Biker Shorts for Women, According to Customer Reviews. Health.com. https://www.health.com/fitness/best-biker-shorts
40 Best Cycling Shorts For Women In 2022. Women's Health. https://www.womenshealthmag.com/fitness/g32367806/best-cycling-shorts/