It’s a lot easier to enjoy a summit sunrise if you’re not gasping for air and massaging cramps out of your quads. That said, working out in the gym is a good way to prepare for working out outside. And a great pair of gym shorts is key to getting the most fitness and fun out of your workouts in the gym.
We’ve put in countless hours testing shorts through some of the most grueling workouts to find the best gym shorts for men. We put these shorts (and our testers) through a wide range of workouts, from weightlifting and powerlifting to running and gymnastics.
Heck, we even jumped rope to see how these shorts held up. We looked at a variety of factors, including fit and feel, elasticity, durability, and moisture control. Style was also a factor because, hey, if you like how you look, you’ll perform better. Because science.
After months of chalk, sweat, and blood (and maybe a tear or two), we’ve found the best workout shorts on the market. The following list represents the best workout shorts in a range of categories. Read on — this list is bound to have your next favorite pair of training shorts.
Scroll through to see all of our recommended buys, or jump to the category you’re looking for:
Best CrossFit Shorts
Best Running Shorts
Best of the Rest
The Best Gym Shorts for Men in 2021
Best Overall: Vuori Banks Short
Some of our favorite workout shorts are the ones that don’t look like workout shorts at all. The Banks Shorts ($68) from Encinitas-based apparel company Vuori performs like top-tier workout apparel but looks like a comfy pair you’d wear to grab coffee with a friend.
This is due in part to the recycled polyester exterior, which gives the shorts a fabric look and texture instead of the smooth shininess that you see in many workout shorts. The scalloped leg openings and contrasting waistband add to this short’s eye-pleasing aesthetic.
In the gym, the Banks just gets better. The elastane provides plenty of stretch, giving us a completely free range of motion. During power cleans, the shorts held up to repeated impact and bar friction with no pilling or abrasion.
We soaked them through with sweat during row intervals, but they recovered faster than we did. After 10 minutes, our tester was still sitting on a bench with his head in his hands, but the shorts were bone dry.
Material: Polyester, elastane
Bonus: Made up of 44% recycled polyester, the shorts use four to five recycled plastic bottles per pair
Excellent moisture control
No interior liner
Check Price at REICheck Price at Vuori
Best CrossFit Shorts: Rhone 7” Swift Lined Short
The beauty of Rhone’s Swift Lined Shorts ($88) is in the details. Subtle perforated venting along the sides and back waistband, a built-in elastic strap on the waistband to carry your shirt or towel on runs, and zippered pockets all add to the appeal of these shorts.
The four-way stretch outer is accompanied by a super-soft interior boxer brief liner. These combine to make a short that is luxuriously comfortable and provides the same amount of freedom as wearing nothing at all.
But, it’s a lot more supportive than wearing nothing. The interior liner keeps everything in place during long runs, burpees, and box jumps. The added support also came in handy during multiple jump roping sessions. The shorts dried well, but the liner takes a little extra time to dry after a workout.
We love the durability — the shorts resisted abrasion well, and after the workout, chalk brushed right off. And thanks to the flat-lock stitching, we had no chafing or irritation during long runs and hour-long metabolic conditioning.
Material: Polyester, spandex
Bonus: Extra stretch means a good fit for heavy squatters
Liner can get toasty on hot days
Check Price at AmazonCheck Price at Rhone
Best Running Shorts: Saucony Outpace
If your workouts primarily revolve around running, Saucony’s Outpace Shorts ($55) are the way to go. These lightweight shorts sport a mesh brief liner to keep you supported and breezy.
The polyester and spandex material is light and airy as well, with plenty of stash pockets. These extra pockets are perfect for stashing Sport Beans, Gu, and any other run snacks.
Our run tester appreciated this, as he likes to bring an aid station’s worth of snacks on his runs. In addition, the rear pocket zips shut, so your keys and other valuables won’t fall out on your run.
In the gym, the stretchy, lightweight fabric is perfect for sprints, lunges, and burpees. We were able to power through any movement unrestricted.
The only issue we can see arising is in durability. We’ve already seen some abrasion on the thighs after a few clean and jerk sessions. While it won’t be an issue if you only use them for running, you may want to take it easy on these in the weight room.
Material: Polyester, spandex
Bonus: Reflective trims and logos keep you visible at night
Extra stash pockets
Check Price at Saucony
Best Budget: Under Armour Men’s Training Stretch Shorts
At roughly a third of the cost of some of the shorts on this list, Under Armour’s Training Stretch Shorts ($25-58) are a great deal. These shorts are extremely stretchy and breathable. This is thanks in part to the four-way stretch and scalloped leg openings.
The breathability is thanks to the lightweight polyester material. There are mesh panels, but they’re located at the bottom of the legs, which are wide open anyway. Side mesh or mesh near the waist would have been more effective at letting heat out.
In addition to being lightweight and stretchy, the material is extremely soft. They were a pleasure to put on and totally unnoticeable when working out.
Another great perk was the anti-odor treatment. While many shorts tout this feature, few actually perform. After a week of workouts, these shorts passed the stink test with flying colors.
Besides the mesh placement, our only issue with these was in durability. One encounter with our new barbell left the thigh area abraded. The knurling on the bar was aggressive and sharp, but it’s still worth noting. If you participate in a lot of cleans or snatches, these shorts are going to get beat up.
Material: Polyester, elastane
Bonus: The anti-odor tech is highly effective (much thanks to our brave testers)
Plenty of mesh
Mesh panels would be more effective at the top than the bottom
Check Price at AmazonCheck Price at Under Armour
Best of the Rest
lululemon License to Train 7”
If your workouts tend to destroy your gear, the License to Train ($88) short from lululemon is your go-to. Its textured, abrasion-resistant nylon exterior feels like an extremely lightweight Cordura fabric, but with a lot more stretch. This durability comes in handy whether you’re encountering branches on trail runs or aggressive barbell knurling during a powerlifting session.
During a heavy deadlift session, we dragged a barbell loaded with 500 pounds up over the material covering our quads for over 20 reps. Afterward, the shorts were completely unmarked from the knurling (we wish we could say the same about our hands).
That toughness doesn’t come at the cost of comfort, however. The Lycra gave us freedom of movement, and the flat waistband minimized irritation. All three pockets zip shut to keep your keys and snacks from falling out on runs, and a loop on the waistband holds your shirt when things heat up.
Material: Nylon, Lycra, polyester
Bonus: Extra stretch means a good fit for heavy squatters
Extremely tough exterior
Shirt loop on the waistband is a bit small
Check Price at lululemon
Super Training Gym Everyday STrong Shorts
If you’re looking for workout shorts with a low-tech, old-school vibe, the Everyday STrong Shorts ($35) from Super Training Gym is a great compromise. Made by Mark Bell, renowned powerlifter and inventor of the Sling Shot bench press accessory, these shorts are another example of the innovation coming out of Bell’s gym.
These cutoff sweat shorts take the hole-in-the-wall-gym style of cutoff sweatpants and give them a significant upgrade. The material is an extremely comfortable, anti-pill cotton-and-polyester French terry fleece.
It’s basically a fancy robe that’s been reimagined as workout shorts. We’ve spent months squatting, benching, and deadlifting in these, and they still look like new.
They’re cotton, so they do hold on to sweat, but that also means they’re as comfortable as shorts come. The generous, but not baggy, fit makes them look as good out of the gym as they do in it. This is great because you’re going to want to wear them everywhere.
Material: Cotton, polyester
Bonus: Deep pockets prevent your phone, wallet, etc. from falling out
Cotton material takes a while to dry
Check Price at Mark Bell Sling Shot
Nike Pro Men’s Shorts
Nike’s Pro Men’s Shorts ($70) are as close as you can get to feeling like you’re working out naked. This is thanks to the extremely lightweight feel and massive amount of stretch. During lunges and movements that require mobility like wall-ball shots and air squats, the shorts move with you.
We felt zero restriction during testing, and the light, cool material felt airy and comfortable. It’s great at wicking away sweat, which makes sense: it’s made with Nike’s proprietary Dri-FIT fabric.
This polyester weave pulls sweat from your body and disburses it throughout the surface of the shorts. That distribution makes it evaporate faster, which allows the fabric to pull more sweat. In addition, perforations at the waist and hem vents keep you from overheating.
The bottom line with the Pro Men’s Shorts is that they’re great for working out in hot weather. They keep you cool, and when you start to overheat, they help keep you dry. If you live in warmer climates or work out in a box with no air conditioning, these are going to be your go-to shorts.
Material: Polyester, spandex
Bonus: Flat elastic waistband provides a chafe-free and secure fit
Shallow and zipperless pockets leave your stuff at risk of falling out
Check Price at Nike
Reebok United by Fitness Myoknit Seamless Shorts
We couldn’t finish this piece without giving Reebok’s Myoknit tech ($75) a shout out. The Myoknit Seamless shorts are made with Reebok’s seamless design, which removes one of the most common irritation points in apparel.
The stretchy 50-50 blend of polyester and nylon gives you a full range of motion. Our tester’s mobility ran out before the shorts’ did.
The fit is slim and not baggy, so there’s no extra material that can get caught on a barbell or assault bike. But thanks to the stretchy material, the shorts never felt too tight or restrictive.
Furthering the shorts’ theme of comfort, the waistband lays flat, preventing another potential irritation point. There are two side pockets, but a rear pocket or zipper enclosures would be nice. Going for a run had our tester constantly feeling as if his key was still there.
Material: Polyester, nylon
Bonus: Zero seams all but eliminate irritation
Plenty of waistline ventilation
Lots of stretch
No zip pockets
Check Price at AmazonCheck Price at Reebok
Buyer’s Guide: How to Choose the Best Gym Short
The first thing to consider when you’re buying a pair of gym shorts is how you plan to use them. If you tend to favor one kind of workout over others, the pair of shorts you’ll want may be different.
For instance, running shorts tend to be lightweight and shorter. Runners don’t want excess weight and material, and longer hems can cause irritation and chafing over time. If you run often, opt for a pair of shorts that also wicks away sweat and dries quickly.
While quick drying is a great feature, it’s not as necessary in weightlifting shorts. The added weight isn’t as much of an issue, and there’s less risk of chafing. With gym shorts, your priority should be on flexibility and, for heavy lifters, durability.
In a gym setting, you’re going to be going through a wide range of motions, so a pair of shorts with a lot of stretch is very handy. Lunges, jumps, sprints, and lateral movements all require a wide range of motion.
The same goes for yoga and other mobility workouts. And heaven forbid you split your pants doing a squat. We can tell you from experience — it’s not fun.
If your training entails Olympic lifts like the clean and jerk or deadlifts, durability is key. With these movements, the bar frequently comes into contact with your shorts.
Most bars have diamond patterns on the gripping areas called knurling. These abrasive sections are there to help you grip the bar, but they can also wreak havoc on shorts. Climbing ropes can also put a lot of strain on shorts as well, especially if you tend to slide down from the top.
Think about how you plan to use your shorts and choose an appropriate pair.
Most shorts are made of a synthetic material like polyester or nylon mixed with a stretchy material like elastane or spandex. The synthetic material is great for wicking away sweat, while the elastic material provides stretch. If you want the feel of something more natural, we’ve included a great poly-cotton blend short in the list above.
How the material is cut and sewn is as important as the material itself. Mesh vents are useful for allowing excess heat to escape, and scalloped hems give you even more freedom to move.
The most common inseam lengths for workout shorts are 5, 7, and 9 inches. Runners often go for a higher hem to minimize material, so they tend to go for the 5-inch inseam.
If you lift a lot, the 9-inch inseam provides more coverage and protection from the barbell. The 7-inch inseam is a good blend of the two. So, if you do a bit of everything, that’s a solid choice.
One big exception to the rule is lifters who focus primarily on deadlifts. Clothing adds friction, so if you are near the higher end of your strength level, longer shorts may hinder you. Many deadlifters wear shorter hemmed shorts or roll their shorts up before a heavy deadlift.
When it comes to gym shorts, fit goes in the realm of personal preference. Most gymgoers tend to choose a slimmer fit, as slim shorts are less likely to snag on equipment. A sleeker short also tends to be more supportive, particularly if it has a good liner.
Baggier shorts were popular for the freedom of movement they provide. However, with the stretch that most shorts offer, that isn’t as much of an issue. If you make sure that your shorts have plenty of stretch and they fit your waist, you should be comfortable.
You generally don’t lift weights with stuff in your pockets, but a rear pocket and two front pockets are ideal for any time you wear your shorts outside the gym.
For runners, zippered pockets are a plus. Runners generally carry a few necessities with them, like keys, some cash or cards, and energy gels. Make sure that at least one pocket zips shut to prevent anything from falling out.
The repeated jostling of a long run can easily bounce your car key from your pocket. Getting back to your car after a 10-mile run, only to find you’ve lost your key, is not a great feeling.
The final thing that you should consider is style. Make sure you feel like you look good in your shorts.
There is a huge variety of styles and color schemes on the market. So, it shouldn’t be too difficult to find a pair that strikes you.
It seems superfluous, but confidence does help you perform better. If you strut into the gym with a pair of shorts that you like, you’re likelier to have a better workout.
What Are the Best Gym Shorts?
The best gym shorts are the ones that you don’t realize you’re wearing. These shorts stay out of your way and let you forget about them while you train.
The main thing to look for in a good pair of shorts is plenty of stretch so they don’t limit your movement. Ideally, your shorts will also be made of a sweat-wicking material that pulls sweat away from you and dries quickly. This prevents the shorts from absorbing sweat and weighing you down while you work out.
After those necessities, look for additional perks that will make them more comfortable. Shorts with flat (or no) seams minimize irritation spots, and zippered pockets keep your keys, cash, and cards safe on runs. Also, drawstrings keep your shorts from falling off when you’re doing burpees.
What Do You Wear Under Gym Shorts?
For linerless athletic shorts, we recommend wearing a pair of briefs or boxer briefs over loose boxers or going commando. There are two main reasons for this. One, your boys are going to appreciate the extra support on runs or double-unders. Keeping the bouncing to a minimum is key to a comfortable workout.
Two, nobody wants to see your bits. Wearing snug and comfortable underwear under your workout shorts will prevent any accidental flashing while you work out.
If your training shorts have a good liner, you can forgo any extra underwear. The liner will provide the support and modesty that a pair of briefs will.
What Material Is Best for Gym Shorts?
In general, synthetic material is best for sport shorts. Materials like polyester tend to be lighter, wick sweat away from your body, and they tend to dry quicker.
A good pair of shorts will also have an amount of elastic material as well. This gives the shorts stretch, which allows you a full range of motion during your workouts.
If you prefer natural fibers, there are also wool and cotton shorts on the market. If you go this route, make sure the material is blended with an elastic-like elastane. This will give those shorts the stretch that you’ll need for your workout.
Have a favorite gym short? Let us know in the comments, and we’ll check it out for future updates to this article.
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