The 17 Best Compression Shorts for Any Activity

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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.

Our Top Picks
These extra-high waist shorts are supportive without being too constricting and are flattering on all body types.
These wallet-friendly shorts boast four-way stretch and sweat-wicking technology—and they pass the squat test.
These high-rise compression shorts are made from recycled water bottles and come in an impressive 11 sizes.
Perfect for bikers, these shorts are designed to move and stretch with your body while keeping your momentum going.
Seamless, sculpting, smooth, and quick-drying, these bike shorts are perfect for the at-home biker or spin class devotee.
Designed to support you through your flow, these smoothing and sculpting shorts feature a high waistband for a flattering fit.
Equipped with a roll-resistant high waistband and compressive design, these shorts provide support throughout your pilates workout.
These heavyweight cotton-elastane shorts are extra-flattering thanks to their high waistband and mid-thigh hem.
Great for cross-training and other workouts, these shorts provide good compression and come in a variety of lengths.
These buttery-soft shorts feel like a second skin, great for both working out and hanging out.

Best Overall: Beyond Yoga High Waist Biker Shorts

What We Like
  • Extra-high waist

  • Flattering fit

  • Suitable for various activities

What We Don't Like
  • Expensive

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

What We Like
  • Budget-friendly

  • Side pockets

  • Passes squat test

What We Don't Like
  • Slightly tight hemline

  • Non-inclusive sizing

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

Cyber Monday Steal

Best Size Range: Girlfriend Collective High Rise Bike Short

Girlfriend Collective High Rise Bike Short
What We Like
  • Inclusive size range

  • Made from recycled water bottles

What We Don't Like
  • Runs small

"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

P.E Nation Momentum Bike Shorts
What We Like
  • Good for biking

  • Stretchy fabric

  • Made from recycled materials

What We Don't Like
  • Expensive

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

What We Like
  • Good for indoor cycling

  • High waistband

  • Inclusive size range

What We Don't Like
  • Runs small

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

The Upside Lilac Jacquard Shorts
What We Like
  • High waistband

  • Textured fabric

What We Don't Like
  • 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

Splits59 Tread High Waist Techflex Short
What We Like
  • Non-rolling waist

  • Moisture-wicking

  • Cell phone pocket

What We Don't Like
  • Expensive

  • Non-inclusive sizing

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

Good American Essential Bike Short
What We Like
  • High waistband

  • Cotton-blend fabric

  • Inclusive size range

What We Don't Like
  • Expensive

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"

Lululemon Wunder Train High-Rise Short 6"
What We Like
  • Good for cross-training

  • Inclusive size range

  • Three lengths available

What We Don't Like
  • Runs small

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 Short 8"

Lululemon
What We Like
  • Buttery-soft fabric

  • High waistband

  • Inclusive size range

What We Don't Like
  • Runs small

"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

Under Armour Women's HeatGear Armour Mid-Rise Middy Shorts
What We Like
  • Sweat-wicking

  • Quick-drying

  • Reasonably priced

What We Don't Like
  • 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

Cyber Monday Steal

Best Shaping: Spanx Higher Power Shorts

What We Like
  • Shaping design

  • Reasonably priced

What We Don't Like
  • 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

Solid & Striped Soleil High Waisted 7in Pocket Short
What We Like
  • Power-mesh waistband

  • Sweat-wicking

  • Side pockets

What We Don't Like
  • Expensive

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

Sweaty Betty High-Shine High-Waisted Bike Shorts
What We Like
  • Glossy fabric

  • High waistband

  • Passes squat test

What We Don't Like
  • Runs small

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

Enavant Active Koa Biker Short
What We Like
  • Wide waistband

  • Ribbed fabric

  • Super soft and stretchy

What We Don't Like
  • Non-inclusive sizing

  • Expensive

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

Beach Riot Bike Shorts
What We Like
  • Printed designs

  • High waistband

What We Don't Like
  • Expensive

  • Non-inclusive sizing

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

Nike Women's Sportswear Essential Bike Shorts
What We Like
  • Moisture-wicking

  • Cotton-blend fabric

  • Inclusive size range

What We Don't Like
  • Runs small

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

Final Verdict

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

Material

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.

Waistband

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."

Length

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."

FAQ
  • What do compression shorts do?

    As Falzarano explains, compression shorts increase the amount of oxygen sent to your glutes and thighs by putting light pressure on those areas with a semi-thick, tightly woven fabric. This can improve your muscle function, reduce fatigue, and enhance your athletic performance.

  • 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.

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 contact@byrdie.com and we will evaluate the product ASAP.

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