Best Running Shorts for Women

Updated January 2021
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BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and all opinions about the products are our own. Read more  
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.Read more 
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How we decided

We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

30 Models Considered
16 Hours Researched
2 Experts Interviewed
94 Consumers Consulted
Zero products received from manufacturers.

We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

Buying guide for best running shorts for women

Running is an excellent cardio workout that burns plenty of calories. If you’re just starting as a runner, you’ve likely invested in gear such as a pair of quality running shoes and a fitness tracker to monitor your progress. But you shouldn’t overlook the importance of a good pair of running shorts to help with your training.

Running shorts are similar to other types of shorts, but they're designed to provide the most freedom of movement possible. This freedom helps you maintain a natural gait and can boost your speed while running. Many running shorts are designed to wick moisture so you stay dry and comfortable, no matter how long you run.

There is no shortage of running shorts on the market. If you’re overwhelmed by all the choices, our buying guide can help. To give you a head start, we’ve included some specific recommendations for our favorite women’s running shorts on this page.

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Running shorts are designed to offer more effective ventilation and moisture absorption than other athletic shorts to keep you comfortable during a run.

Key considerations

Type

Compression running shorts: These shorts offer an extremely snug fit that clings to the body. Usually made of spandex, they provide excellent support to the thigh muscles. The tight fit reduces the risk of chafing and limits wind resistance to increase your speed. Compression shorts can help keep you warm, too.

V-notch running shorts: This extremely popular style has an upside-down V-shaped cut at the side hems. The cutouts allow for a greater range of motion and create a loose, relaxed fit.

Split-leg running shorts: These shorts are similar in design to V-notch running shorts because they also have a V-shaped cut in the exterior hem. However, the front part is sewed in such a way that it overlaps the back panel. The split varies in length depending on the shorts, but some pairs are split as high as the waistband. A split-leg construction can help you lengthen your stride.

Material

Running shorts for women are available in synthetic and natural materials. Those made with synthetic fibers tend to last longer, but natural fibers are generally more breathable in warm weather.

Polyester: Polyester is a lightweight synthetic option that offers excellent durability and breathes well. Running shorts made of polyester don’t wrinkle easily, either.

Nylon: Nylon is another synthetic material. It doesn't develop odors as readily as polyester because it’s so effective at wicking away moisture. These shorts offer excellent stretch, making them comfortable for long-distance running.

Spandex: Often used in compression running shorts or as a component in fabric blends, spandex gives the shorts a comfortable stretchy fit.

Cotton: Cotton is a natural material that feels soft and smooth against the skin and breathes well in warm weather. It absorbs sweat and other moisture easily and generally doesn’t create much friction or chafing.

Polypropylene: A water-resistant material, polypropylene stays dry through serious sweating. It works well as a base layer for running.

Wool: Another natural fabric, wool helps regulate temperature, making it ideal for hot and cold weather. It’s often used with spandex to provide a snug fit, but it is a lightweight, breathable material.

Bamboo: Bamboo is a natural, eco-friendly option. It has natural sweat-wicking and anti-bacterial properties and feels as soft as cotton against the skin.

Waistband style

The majority of running shorts for women have an elastic waistband for a comfortable, secure fit. The elastic waistband can be folded over to adjust the fit as needed. However, some running shorts have a drawstring waistband that can be tightened or loosened to adjust the fit.

Both waistband types can be comfortable, but some people don’t like the feel of a drawstring knot at their waist.

While you can find unisex running shorts, they aren’t specifically designed for a woman’s body, which can lead to chafing.

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Features

Length

Women’s running shorts are available in several different lengths which affect ventilation and range of movement.

Short running shorts typically have a 3-inch inseam and offer the most ventilation and range of movement. They work well for sprinting and long-distance running and are favored by competitive runners.

Medium-length running shorts generally have an inseam of 5 to 7 inches and are the most popular length. These versatile shorts work well for both track and trail running.

Long-length running shorts usually have a 7-inch inseam or greater. These shorts are typically worn for sprinting and other short-distance running, though some people wear them for marathons because they limit friction. These longer shorts provide the most coverage, so they work well if you want to protect your skin from insect bites and foliage scratches during your run.

Lining

Many running shorts feature a liner, which allows you to wear them without underwear. The ability to comfortably skip underwear can reduce the risk of chafing and provide better ventilation for long-distance running.

Flatlock seams

Flatlock seams reduce bulk and increase durability thanks to the stitching design. Flatlock seams also prevent chafing, particularly in humid weather.

Pockets

Most runners prefer running shorts with pockets for the storage of a phone, keys, or ID. Some styles feature deep side pockets for this purpose; others have hidden waist pockets that can hold something smaller, like a single key or some cash.

If you opt for deep side pockets, consider shorts with zippered pockets if you intend to pocket your valuables during a run.

Reflective details

If you run after dark, you’ll want a pair of running shorts with reflective panels. The panels reflect light even in dark and low-light situations, making you more visible to drivers on the road. Choosing shorts in a bright color can also make you more visible at night.

UPF protection

Some running shorts are treated to provide sun protection, just as sunscreen does for your skin. The protection factor of a clothing item is measured by its UPF (ultraviolet protection factor) rating. The higher the UPF, the more protective it is. Many runners prefer garments of UPF50 or higher.

women's running shorts2
DID YOU KNOW?
Running isn’t just good for your cardiovascular health and burning calories. It can also improve your mood by releasing endorphins and endocannabinoids that provide the so-called “runner’s high.”
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Accessories

Women’s running shoes: ASICS Women’s GEL-Kayano 27
Running shoes are the most critical piece of running gear you’ll invest in, so finding the right pair is vital. We love these durable shoes from ASICS because they offer excellent gel cushioning for shock absorption.

Women’s running underwear: ExOfficio Women’s Give-n-Go Sport Mesh Hipkini
If you aren’t a fan of going commando when running, you’ll definitely appreciate a quality pair of women’s running underwear. This pair from ExOfficio is a favorite because they’re incredibly comfortable and breathable.

Running shorts for women: prices

Inexpensive: The most affordable running shorts for women are typically short to mid-length compression styles made of synthetic materials or synthetic/natural blends. They may feature pockets but generally don’t have too many other special features. Expect to pay between $14 and $25 for these running shorts.

Mid-range: Mid-range running shorts for women are usually longer compression styles or short to mid-length V-notch or split-leg styles. They’re typically made of synthetic materials or synthetic/natural blends, though there are some natural options in this price range, too. These shorts have pockets, and many may also have a liner, reflective details, and flatlock seams. Expect to pay between $18 and $40 for a pair of mid-range running shorts.

Expensive: The priciest running shorts are typically longer V-notch or split-leg styles. They’re usually made of natural materials or a blend of natural and synthetic materials. They feature pockets, a liner, reflective details, flatlock seams, and other special features. Expect to pay between $34 and $65 for these running shorts.

Some synthetic running shorts have antimicrobial properties that help minimize bacteria and odor.

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Tips

  • Opt for a longer pair of running shorts if you’re a trail runner. The additional coverage can protect you from bushes and other foliage you may need to run through. 
  • For road running, look for a pair of lightweight, breathable, moisture-wicking shorts. Reflective details are a must if you run after dark or in the early morning hours. 
  • If you opt for running shorts without a liner, consider layering V-notch or split-leg shorts over compression shorts. The layering will boost blood flow to your legs and support your muscles.
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Women’s running shorts are available in a wide array of colors and patterns, so you can easily find styles that match the rest of your running gear.

FAQ

Q. Do I really need special running shorts?

A. You can run in any shorts or other bottoms that you feel comfortable in, but running shorts are specifically designed to maximize running performance. Wearing compression shorts can help prevent injury and muscle fatigue so you recover more quickly after a run. V-notch and split-leg shorts can help you improve your speed.

Q. How many pairs of running shorts should I have?

A. It depends on how often you run. In general, you should have a pair of shorts for every type of run you do. For example, you might have one pair each for long-distance running, short-distance running, trail running, road running, and track running. That way, you have comfortable running shorts for every occasion.

Q. What are the best running shorts to prevent chafing?

A. For most women, compression running shorts are the best option to reduce chafing. Because there’s no excess material, friction is limited, so there’s little risk of chafed skin.

 

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