The 13 Best Women's Running Shorts of All Time

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Is there anything worse than having your runner's high interrupted by chafing, a wedgie, or sweat-soaked underwear? We don't think so. Whether you pound the pavement a few times a week, jog on the treadmill, run trails, or are training for a half-marathon, the right pair of shorts is crucial. There are, of course, lots of styles and cuts to choose from, including high-rise, low-rise, long inseams, short inseams, dolphin hems, compression, hybrid—you name it—plus various materials.

"To keep it simple when you work out, pick fabrics such as nylon, spandex, and polyester that are comfortable, nonabsorbent, and flexible," says Dr. Sherry Ross, an OB/GYN and women's health expert based in Santa Monica, California. "Some materials are even known to be antibacterial or can enhance your physical performance and provide additional support."

Scroll down for the best running shorts for women.

Our Top Picks
Made from recycled polyester, these sweat-wicking shorts pull out all the stops in terms of design and convenience.
Available in an array of fun colors, these affordable shorts boast an adjustable waistband, pockets, and built-in mesh briefs.
These shorts are made from recycled water bottles and come in an impressive array of 11 different sizes.
Designed with reflective stripes, perforated detailing, and a wide elastic waistband, these are as stylish as they are functional.
Thanks to built-in spandex, this pair provides extra support as you run while the outer layer keeps you nice and cool.
These shorts are made from ultra-stretchy, sweat-wicking fabric to keep you comfortable as you log miles.
By increasing pressure on your glutes and thighs, these shorts boost the amount of oxygen your body receives, improving your workout.
These lightweight, quick-drying shorts offer unmatched breathability when it comes to working up a sweat.
The long inseam prevents chafing while the quick-drying material keeps you cool, making these ideal for running on uneven terrain.
For a bit more coverage (and less chance of chafing), opt for these shorts, which are designed with a 5-inch inseam.

Best Overall: Nike Tempo Dri-Fit Running Shorts

What We Like
  • Reasonably priced

  • Made with recycled materials

  • Sweat-wicking

  • Inclusive size range

What We Don't Like
  • Some colors may be see-through

Nike's Tempo Dri-Fit line is tough to beat. Made with sweat-wicking fabric and featuring a classic curved hem, side mesh panels, an internal drawcord, and a built-in pocket in the back, these running shorts pull out all the stops. We also appreciate that they're made from recycled polyester, come in a wide range of sizes, and are available in lots of colors and prints.

Material: Recycled polyester, polyester | Size Range: XS–3XL | Colors: Various

Best Budget: Baleaf Women's 3" Running Athletic Shorts

What We Like
  • Budget-friendly

  • Built-in mesh briefs

  • Side pockets

What We Don't Like
  • Runs small

On a budget? No sweat! Baleaf Running Shorts aren't just affordable—they've got an adjustable waistband, two side pockets, and built-in mesh briefs—plus, they come in a handful of cute colors.

Material: Polyester, spandex | Size Range: XXS–XXL | Colors: Various

Best Size Range: Girlfriend Collective High-Rise Run Short

Black High-Rise Run Short
What We Like
  • Inclusive size range

  • Made from recycled water bottles

What We Don't Like
  • Runs small

Girlfriend Collective is nearly untouchable when it comes to inclusive sizing. Case in point: the High-Rise Run Shorts, which are available in a whopping 11 sizes. We also like that they're made from recycled water bottles.

Material: RPET (recycled polyethylene terephthalate), spandex | Size Range: XXS–6XL | Colors: Black, gray, navy, green, maroon, brown

Best Style: Adidas by Stella McCartney Truepace Short

What We Like
  • Made from recycled materials

  • Sweat-wicking

  • Made from recycled materials

What We Don't Like
  • Limited size range

From the fitness line for fashionistas, Adidas by Stella McCartney's Truepace Shorts are a sight for sore eyes. Featuring a wide elastic waistband up top and a moisture-wicking fabric on the bottom with reflective side strips and perforated detailing, they're as cool as they are comfy.

Material: Recycled polyester, polyester | Size Range: XXS–L | Colors: Neon yellow, black

Best with Inner Shorts: Sweaty Betty Challenge Run Shorts

Sweaty Betty Challenge Run Shorts
What We Like
  • Built-in shorts

  • Sweat-wicking

  • Inclusive size range

What We Don't Like
  • Only one color available

If you like the extra support of built-in spandex, you'll appreciate Sweaty Betty's Challenge Run Shorts. As for the outer material, the lightweight sweat-wicking fabric dries quickly and keeps you cool on the pavement.

Material: Polyester, elastane, polyamide | Size Range: XXS–3L | Colors: Black

Best Stretchy: Brooks Chaser 5 Shorts

What We Like
  • Stretchy

  • Sweat-wicking

What We Don't Like
  • Limited size range

For a little extra stretch, reach for Brooks' Chaser 5 Shorts. The ultra-stretchy, sweat-wicking fabric keeps you comfy and cool as you log miles, and the wide waistband holds you in without cutting into your tummy.

Material: Polyester, spandex | Size Range: XS–XL | Colors: Black, navy, eggshell, red, printed

Best Compression: Lululemon Wunder Train High-Rise Short 6"

Lululemon Wunder Train High-Rise Short 6"
What We Like
  • Supportive design

  • Hidden pockets

  • Inclusive size range

What We Don't Like
  • Not designed for running

"Compression shorts help to increase the amount of oxygen your body is receiving by increasing pressure (compression) to your glutes and thighs," explains certified personal trainer Dianna Falzarano. "My favorite shorts are Lululemon's Wunder Train High Rise Short."

Material: Nylon, lycra, elastane, polyester | Size Range: 0–20 | Colors: Various

Best Quick-Drying: Under Armour Women's Fly By 2.0 Running Shorts

What We Like
  • Quick-drying

  • Reasonably priced

  • Inclusive size range

What We Don't Like
  • Runs small

  • No pockets

For the sweaty among us (um, hi), we recommend Under Armour Fly By 2.0 Running Shorts. The super lightweight, quick-drying fabric offers unmatched breathability while wicking away moisture and heat through the mesh panels.

Material: Polyester, elastane | Size Range: XS–3XL | Colors: Various

Best for Trails: The North Face Class V Drawstring Short

The North Face Class V Drawstring Short
What We Like
  • Drawstring waistband

  • Longer fit

  • Reasonably priced

What We Don't Like
  • Only one color available

  • Limited size range

Get ready to hit the trails with these drawstring nylon shorts from The North Face. The longer inseam helps prevent chafing while you jaunt uphill, and the quick-drying design keeps you cool as you sweat on uneven terrain.

Material: Nylon | Size Range: XS-XL | Colors: Black

Best with Long Inseam: New Balance 5-Inch Impact Running Shorts

What We Like
  • Long inseam

  • Quick-drying

  • Moisture-wicking

What We Don't Like
  • Looks somewhat like a skirt

Prefer a longer inseam? Check out the 5-Inch Impact Shorts by New Balance. As the name suggests, they have a 5-inch inseam, which might not seem very long, but it's longer than the average 3 inches for running styles.

Material: Polyester, elastane | Size Range: XS–XXL | Colors: Black, navy

Best with Short Inseam: Varley Kallin Running Shorts

Varley Kallin Running Shorts
What We Like
  • Short inseam

  • Lightweight

What We Don't Like
  • Short inseam may cause chafing

  • Limited size range

Prefer shorty-shorts? Varley Kallin Running Shorts have your name on them. While the inseam is just 1.75 inches long, the relaxed legs and wide waistband still offer plenty of coverage where you need it.

Material: Polyester, elastane | Size Range: XS-XL | Colors: Black, light gray

Best Low-Rise: Lululemon Tracker Short

Lululemon Tracker Short
What We Like
  • Inclusive size range

  • Made from recycled materials

  • Built-in liner

What We Don't Like
  • Short cut may cause chafing

We're also big fans of Lululemon's Tracker Short. The low-rise cut and flat-lying waistband ensure the stretchy, sweat-wicking material doesn't dig into your skin while you run—extra points for the built-in liner.

Material: Recycled polyester, elastane, lycra, nylon | Size Range: 0–20 | Colors: Various

Best with Rounded Hems: iets Frans Nylon Runner Short

iets Frans Nylon Runner Short
What We Like
  • Classic rounded hemline

  • Lightweight

What We Don't Like
  • Limited size range

If you like the signature rounded hemlines of running shorts, you'll love this Urban Outfitters exclusive. Made of nylon in your choice of kelly green or eggplant purple, the design is the perfect balance of bold and practical.

Material: Nylon | Size Range: XS–L | Colors: Green, purple

Final Verdict

When it comes to the best running shorts for women, Nike's Tempo Dri-Fit Running Shorts fly by the competition. We love the sweat-wicking technology, breathable mesh panels, classic curved hem, and built-in pocket—and the reasonable price point and inclusive size range don't hurt either. Having said that, Baleaf's Women's 3" Running Athletic Shorts are even more affordable. And if you're looking for a broader size range, your best bet is Girlfriend Collective's High-Rise Run Shorts, which go all the way up to 6XL.

Meet the Expert

  • Sherry A. Ross, MD, is an OB/GYN based in Santa Monica, California, a women's health expert, and the co-founder of URJA Intimates. She is also the author of She-Ology: The Definitive Guide to Women's Intimate Health. Period. and She-Ology the She-Quel.
  • Dianna Falzarano is a certified personal trainer, functional strength coach, and the owner of Dynamic Fitness LLC. She earned her personal training certification through the National Council of Strength and Fitness (NCSF).

What to Look For in Running Shorts

Style

When shopping around, you'll see there are a few styles to choose from. Classic running shorts typically have looser "pants" and curved hems, often with a slight opening or slit on each side to offer a full range of motion.

Then there are compression-style shorts, which are made of spandex or another stretchy fabric and form-fitting from the waistband down through both legs. You'll also find hybrid styles, which feature a classic outer shell with built-in compression shorts underneath.

Material

Running shorts are typically made from nylon, polyester, elastane, spandex, or lycra (or a combination of materials). These synthetic textiles are considered good for running and other strenuous workouts because they offer flexibility and stretch while also wicking away sweat. As Dr. Sherry notes, some of these fabrics even provide anti-microbial properties, meaning they won't harbor bacteria.

Inseam

The other thing to consider when buying running shorts is the inseam (the seam of the inner legs). Most styles measure roughly 3 inches along the inseam, though you'll find some shorter and longer options. Inseam length is mostly a matter of choice, though shorter styles (3 inches and under) offer the greatest range of motion for sprints and distance running.

FAQ
  • Should you wear underwear with running shorts for women?

    "When you don't wear underwear, the vagina (and buttock) is completely unrestricted and free," Dr. Sherry tells Byrdie. "The unrestricted vagina doesn't have any underwear or panty lines or fabric to add discomfort to this sensitive area. If your workout clothing has built-in panties or liners with special antibacterial fabric that can absorb the extra sweat, you should be fine leaving the undies at home."

  • How long should running shorts for women be?

    Running shorts should have a relatively short inseam, about 3 inches but usually no longer than 5. This allows for enough length to cover your backside and minimize chafing while still short enough to offer a full range of motion and freedom of movement for longer strides.

Why Trust Byrdie

Theresa Holland has been contributing to Byrdie since 2020, where she covers beauty, self-care, and wellness. As a freelance writer with a background in fitness, she knows how to spot high-quality exercise equipment and sportswear. For this roundup, she spoke to an OB/GYN and a personal trainer, pored over styles from a wide range of brands and retailers, combed through user reviews, and carefully considered the key features, size range, and prices before making her selections.

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 running 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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