Best 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 
Bottom Line
Pros
Cons
How we decided

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

62 Models Considered
20 Hours Researched
2 Experts Interviewed
60 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 shorts for women

If you’re looking for comfortable bottoms that keep you cool all day long, make sure your wardrobe includes a few pairs of shorts. Shorts for women is quite an extensive category, ranging from high-cut denim Daisy Dukes to long Bermuda shorts, with plenty of styles in between.

In addition to several lengths, shorts are available in a wide variety of cuts, colors, and even material blends. No matter what your style, there’s a pair of shorts to suit you. Another consideration when buying shorts is how well they fit. It’s not just a matter of finding the right size; it also involves choosing shorts that let you move freely. For some women, that means investing in loose, comfortable shorts that are generously cut. For others, fitted shorts are the ideal choice since they’re less prone to shifting and don’t require frequent adjusting.

To help you find the best shorts for your wardrobe, we’ve compiled this buying guide that covers everything you need to know. We’ve included some of our favorites for your consideration, too.

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Many women prefer wearing shorts that have a high waistband. Not only are they slimming, but they’re also less likely to dig in or roll down while moving or exercising.

Key considerations

Fit

Believe it or not, some women have never owned a pair of shorts. If you’re wondering how this is possible, it often boils down to not being able to find a pair that fits well.

When it comes to buying shorts, a good place to start is finding a pair that matches your regular pant size. Don’t fret if they feel a bit snug. Many shorts are actually cut fairly small. For that reason, it’s often recommended that you size up by one or two sizes.

If you’ve found some shorts that look and feel great, the next thing you should do is subject them to a few stress tests. This involves sitting, squatting, and bending. A well-fitting pair of shorts won’t dig into your belly or sides with any of these movements; however, shorts that are slightly too snug will cut into these areas, as well as your thighs.

Another helpful tip for finding shorts that fit well is to take a brief walk in them, whether it’s in your home or a dressing room. If the shorts ride up too much for comfort, especially in the seat, it’s worth considering the next size up. While a larger size won’t guarantee the shorts won’t ride up, a slightly longer inseam might provide a bit more coverage.

Sizing

When it comes to sizing, most women’s casual and fashion shorts are available in sizes 0 through 14. Only some brands offer shorts in sizes 16 and above. Size 00, which is smaller than size 0, is one of the hardest sizes to find in women’s shorts.

However, sizing for athletic shorts is a bit different. Rather than follow numbered sizes, most manufacturers use small, medium, and large sizes. Unfortunately, one brand’s medium is another brand’s small, which is why it’s quite common to have to try on more than one size of athletic shorts before finding a well-fitting pair.

Popular materials

Women’s shorts are made of a wide variety of materials, such as cotton, polyester, spandex, rayon, nylon, microfiber, elastane, and flannel, just to name a few.

Cotton and cotton blends are popular for athletic, casual, and lounge shorts. They’re soft and wash well, though they’re prone to shrinking. Classic denim shorts are made of cotton and cotton blends as well.

Synthetic blends featuring polyester, spandex, rayon, elastane, or nylon are most often seen in athletic shorts. These materials are best known for their flexibility, high tensile strength, and overall durability. They wash far better than cotton styles because they won’t shrink or fade.

Rise

Rise refers to the location of the waistband on a pair of shorts. 

Low-rise shorts usually sit low on the hips, a couple of inches below the belly button. 

Mid-rise shorts are usually cut around or just above the belly button. 

High-rise shorts typically cut at the smallest part of the waist.

If you enjoy wearing bike shorts, you’ll be pleased to know that many of them are now equipped with outer pockets to hold essentials like keys, cash, or a media player.

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Features

Popular styles

While there are hundreds of styles of shorts for women, we’ve rounded up the most popular below.

Athletic: These include any shorts that can be worn for sports or exercise. They include bike shorts, running shorts, board shorts, and basketball shorts, just to name a few. These shorts are soft and allow the wearer to move freely, making them a top choice for lounging as well. Given their materials, they hold up to frequent washing. Some styles have special attributes, such as moisture-wicking, odor-blocking, or compression. Athletic shorts are also popular as cover-ups for the beach because they dry quickly.

On the downside, because athletic shorts only use spectrum sizing, it can be challenging to find some that fit well. Some wearers cite that many athletic shorts are cut too high, which means the shorts often require frequent adjustments.

Denim: Also called jean shorts, these are classic styles that have been popular for decades. Their basic construction includes front and back pockets, though trendy denim shorts may have different waistbands, embellishments, or other fashionable details. Denim styles are as versatile as you can get when it comes to shorts. They match pretty much every style of top and footwear. Denim shorts are also known for their durability as well as their softness once they’re broken in. Unlike other styles, denim shorts are more likely to have usable pockets as well.

On the downside, denim shorts typically contain a large percentage of cotton, which means they’re prone to shrinking and fading in the wash. Some denim shorts are coarse and very structured, making them somewhat uncomfortable to wear.

Casual: These shorts aren’t an official category; rather, “casual” includes styles that don’t fall into the athletic or denim categories. These include cargo, Bermuda, chino, and knee-length shorts. Casual shorts are available in many designs and colors, making them an ideal choice if you’re looking to enliven your spring and summer wardrobe. They’re usually available in medium and longer lengths, so they’re a bit less revealing than most athletic or denim shorts.

On the downside, some women find it challenging to find casual shorts in a flattering length. Many of these shorts also lack pockets. Certain casual shorts can be rather pricey, especially well-made pairs by premium brands.

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DID YOU KNOW?
Avoid washing athletic shorts with fabric softener because the ingredients can deteriorate elastic fibers.
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Women’s shorts prices

Shorts for women range in price from $12 to $120. While quality impacts the price, the label also affects it.

Inexpensive: Budget-friendly shorts cost between $12 and $30. This bracket includes a few cheap, low-quality pairs that won’t last very long, though you’ll find many decent pairs from reputable brands here as well.

Mid-range: These shorts cost between $35 and $60 and mostly include better-quality athletic shorts as well as more stylish denim and casual shorts from popular designers.

Expensive: Designer shorts typically cost between $70 and $120. Many of these styles, mostly denim and casual shorts, feature unique colors and trendy details. However, quality isn’t always the best, and in some cases, you’re simply paying a premium for the label.

Jazz up an old pair of denim shorts with rhinestones, patches, appliqués, or fabric paint.

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Tips

  • Wash denim shorts inside out. It’s inevitable that denim shorts will fade. One way to help preserve the color is to turn them inside out and use color-safe detergent and fabric softener.
  • Buy multiple pairs at once. If you’re a big fan of the cut and fit of one pair of shorts, do yourself a favor and buy more than one.
  • Choose a flat belt for denim or casual shorts. Eliminate unnecessary bulk by sticking to a flat belt with shorts. Popular options include those made of canvas or nylon webbing with a low-profile buckle.
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It’s not unusual to wear compression shorts under running shorts. In fact, some wearers size up in running shorts to accommodate the added material underneath.

FAQ

Q. Are shorts for women available in more than one length inseam?

A. For the most part, you won’t find many shorts available in more than one length for most denim, athletic, and casual shorts. With that said, some manufacturers of denim shorts do have more than one inseam option available in certain styles. Some specialty bike shorts are also available in more than one length.

Q. Why do my denim shorts feel so much looser at the end of the day?

A. This happens with 100% cotton shorts as they break in, though it’s just as common with cotton blend denim shorts. These blends are made with stretchy materials, many of which overstretch during a day of normal wear. Better-quality blends are far more successful at retaining their shape after several hours of wear. 

Q. What is the best type of underwear to wear with athletic shorts?

A. Most people stick with underwear that is comfortable and allows for full range of motion. However, if you prefer a specific pair more conducive to exercise, some athletes recommend wearing seamless briefs or boy short panties with nonslip details.

 

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