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Working out in the summer heatwaves and humidity, the shorts you wear can make or break your workout. Every woman knows how shorts can affect an exercise experience outdoors or indoors. The wrong style can make your shorts ride up, roll down or, even worse, cause chafing. In order to find the right fit you need to look at material, length, compression, functionality and level of sweat-wicking.from top to bottom. Between the
I tested various lengths, brands and styles to determine which are the best workout shorts to wear during your outdoor run, bike ride or stroll. Keeping in mind that everyone is built differently and has different style preferences, but this is my honest experience with the many shorts I tested.
Take a look at our top picks for best workout shorts for women.
I was familiar with Lululemon leggings, but I'd never tried their shorts until I began testing them. The Lululemon Align High Rise short was better than I expected and I understood why many loyal Lululemon shoppers swear by the Align style. These shorts are buttery soft, breathable and made of a high-quality sweat-wicking material.
These shorts have deep side pockets that are big enough to hold larger phones. I ran, strength trained, stretched, lounged around and even ran errands in these shorts and they stayed put the entire time. I placed my keys and phone in the pockets and the shorts held them securely during all of my activities. The 6-inch length is ideal too, especially if you're petite like me and don't want shorts that are too short or too long. If you're tall, Lululemon has an 8-inch or 10-inch length option as well. These shorts don't roll down around the waist, which is something I took into consideration during more high impact activity. Likewise, I observed that the shorts stayed secure around the thighs and didn't ride up. They also aren't translucent, which makes them squat-friendly.
The only drawback to these shorts is the price tag, which is to be expected with Lululemon. At $74 it's a steep price to pay for workout shorts, but having tried them out, I can see myself investing in a few more of these. Not to mention Lululemon has sales throughout the year where you can find them at a discounted price. If you want a pair of reliable shorts that you can wear for just about any activity, these are a go-to.
- High-waisted, but not tight around the waist
- Made up of comfortable sweat-wicking material
- Has pockets
- Can be used during high impact and low impact workouts
- Has various inseam lengths
- Store sizing can run small
If you're looking for a short for low-impact activities like walking, then you'll like Athleta's Transcend 7-inch shorts. These shorts are lightweight and soft and feel like you have nothing on. I ordered my exact size in these shorts, but could've sized up for a more comfortable fit. I'd also opt for a darker shade next time, because the light shade I had on was prone to showing the outline of my underwear. You would need to wear seamless underwear to achieve a more smooth appearance.
I could tell, based on the lack of opacity, that I wouldn't be using these shorts for a weight-training session because they weren't squat-proof. I also knew these weren't ideal for too much movement because the waist tends to roll down -- but this could've been related to sizing as well. I found this style worked best for leisurely walks and light activity. The shorts stayed put around the thighs and didn't roll up, which was a plus. Some women who left product reviews said they've worn these shorts under dresses and I could see how that would work because of how lightweight the Transcend shorts are.
I do wish these shorts had side pockets. If you're going to wear them for yoga class or even going for a walk, it's helpful to have pockets where you can store your phone and keys. There is an internal pocket to store a key, but I found it to be on the small side. Still, the Transcend shorts are great if you want something to wear on a stroll, running errands or other light activity.
- Good length for tall and shorter women
- Shorts don't ride up
- Good for low impact activities
- Runs small
- Waist rolls down
If you're a yogi, you're probably familiar with Alo, a fitness brand known for its stylish yoga activewear. When I tried Alo's high-waisted biker shorts, I could see why its clientele loves these shorts. The shorts are true to size, which was a pleasant surprise since I hadn't tried this brand before. The fabric is moisture-wicking and offers plenty of stretch and has a flattering fit all around. The high waist feels smooth and not too tight, which is a plus when you're going through different yoga flows.
The shorts aren't tight around the thighs either and move with you, which I found to be important. The waist stayed in place during a yoga class and I liked that I didn't have to adjust my shorts constantly like I have with other shorts. They're also stylish enough that I could see myself wearing them to brunch after class. However, one flaw I noticed was that after a few washes, the shorts started to look a little faded, which I wouldn't have expected from a high-end athleisure brand.
Despite this, these are a solid choice if you want a pair of shorts for yoga that move with you and look stylish at the same time.
- Stretchy material and smooth waistband
- Doesn't roll down or up
- Holds you securely during yoga flows
- Color starts fading after several washes
- No pockets
I don't generally spend a lot of money on activewear, so I was happy to discover a brand called Baleaf on Amazon. I'd previously tried Baleaf's leggings and tops and have been a fan ever since because the products are inexpensive and good quality. I ordered a pair of the brand's high-waisted biker shorts and instantly loved them, too. Not only are these shorts super soft, they're true to size. These shorts are available in 8-inch, 6-inch and 10-inch inseam lengths so they can work for people of all heights. They also come in various colors and patterns. I tried the 6-inch style, which was the right length for me -- not too long or too short.
I was impressed by these shorts because they're easily comparable to the Lululemon styles I've also tested. Even though these shorts have tummy control, they felt natural around the waist and I didn't feel too sucked in. I tried these out while running, strength training, walking and indoor cycling and they held up well for each of these activities. After several washes, the shorts haven't fallen apart, pilled or faded, which is a plus. The only downside is that the styles available on Amazon are inconsistent since some have pockets and others don't. So if you purchase a pocketless pair and exercise outdoors, you would need to bring a running belt with you to carry your phone or other items.
If you're on a budget and looking for a solid pair of bike shorts that work for just about every activity, then you'll love Baleaf's high-waisted biker shorts. They're generally about $20, but Amazon usually has sales where you can stock up for even cheaper.
- Well-made and affordable
- Comparable to Lululemon
- Versatile enough for many activities
- Some styles lack pockets
- Amazon storefront has more options than Baleaf's website, so you'll have to mainly shop on Amazon
It's no surprise that Lululemon appears twice on this list. I tested its Wunder Train high-rise shorts and the only reason it didn't beat out the Aligns is that this style doesn't have enough pockets. One thing that makes these shorts different is that the material is made up of Lululemon's Everlux fabric, which is intended to be the company's fastest-drying fabric. It's a thicker material that's still soft and moves with you.
These ended up being my favorites to strength train in because they're squat-proof, stayed put all around and kept me dry during my workout. The 6-inch inseam is my favorite short length, but these shorts are also available in 4-inch and 8-inch lengths, in case you prefer a shorter or longer option. These didn't ride up or roll down during my strength training or HIIT workouts, which was a plus. I even took these for a test run during an hour-long hike and they held up just fine. These shorts have a pocket in the waistband, but I think side pockets are more functional when you're working out and getting from point A to point B. It also had a waistband cord to help you tighten the shorts, which I didn't use and questioned if it was necessary overall since the shorts were the right fit.
Overall, if you're willing to invest in a good pair of shorts that are squat-proof, don't budge during your workout and keep you dry, then you'll like this Lululemon style.
- Made of soft fast-drying fabric
- Various lengths available
- Doesn't ride up or roll down
- Lacks side pockets
Janji's Groundwork Pace shorts are designed specifically for any high-impact activity, staying in place as you move. The shorts come in 3.5- and 7-inch lengths, and they're available in various colors and patterns. I tried the 7-inch length, which I found to be on the longer side for me, and wished Janji had a length that was in the middle. A 5-inch length would have been perfect for this purpose.
Despite the length issue, I noticed how much intention went into designing these shorts. There are silicone grippers on the inside of the hem of the shorts, which keep them in place and prevent them from riding up. At times you can feel this feature, which can be annoying, but I think that's more of a personal preference since I would prefer to not be aware of the extra support my shorts provide me. The good thing is they served their purpose when I took them for a test run and they stayed in place. The waistband also stays in place and doesn't roll down.
Another aspect that I liked about these shorts were the two side pockets. These were probably the one pair of shorts I tried with the deepest pockets: I was able to store an iPhone 13 and a Galaxy S21 comfortably without any bouncing. These shorts also have back pockets that can hold energy supplements or extra gear, like a lightweight shirt in case you get overheated during your run.
The functionality of these shorts can be enjoyed by both runners and cyclists alike. If you want a moisture-wicking pair of shorts for a mid-distance run or ride that you won't need to constantly adjust, then these are a good pick. The only reason I wouldn't pick these for long distance adventures is because of another pair of shorts I tried that made a better impression on me (more on that later).
Another plus is that Janji uses sustainable materials for their products. The Groundwork's knit fabric has been Bluesign certified, which means it's free of harmful chemicals and has minimal environmental impact.
- Deep no-bounce pockets
- Don't roll down or up
- Made of sustainable materials
- Limited length options
- Silicone grippers on shorts may be distracting and uncomfortable to some
The Wolaco Distance half tight are compression shorts that can be used for running, cycling, Olympic lifting and other high-intensity workouts. I found them a little big in the waist. This could also be attributed to my petite height, since these shorts are on the longer side with a 10-inch inseam. I was able to tighten them up thanks to the drawstring waistband, which made a world of difference.
I'm used to wearing Nike and Under Armour compression clothing and I was expecting about the same quality from Wolaco. Instead it felt like an upgrade. These shorts have compression, but you barely feel them when you have them on. They're well-lined enough to be squat proof, and made of a double-layered premium Italian fabric.
The shorts also have various pockets to securely store your keys, phone and fuel, and even a T-shirt loop to secure a light layer. These compartments had the most unique design of all the shorts I tested, with a larger pocket on one side, a smaller pocket at the bottom of the hem on the opposite side, and separate mesh pockets in the back of the waistband.
Compared to the Janji Groundwork Pace shorts, which are intended to be used for the same types of activity, the Distance half tights felt like they're made of a higher quality fabric -- they're practically fuss-free and feel like a second skin, so you aren't constantly adjusting them while working out.
I took these shorts on a four mile run and also incorporated some bodyweight HIIT exercises to see how they held up. Not only did they hold me in place, but my phone, keys and other accessories were bounce-free and felt secure too. I also stayed dry the whole time. I'd definitely consider wearing the Distance half tight's during my next long distance race in the fall or spring. I can see cyclists also enjoying these shorts because of how comfortable they are and because the many compartments mean they don't have to worry about carrying a backpack.
The other downside to these shorts (besides sizing), is that there are fewer color options than I would have liked, and I'd like to see more length options as well. Otherwise, I'd recommend these if you want a workhorse short that has the right amount of compression and is worth every penny.
- High-quality compression material
- Many pockets
- Stays put during vigorous exercise
- Sizing could be more inclusive for different heights
- Lacks color selection
The UA Fly-By 2.0 shorts are a solid pick if you're looking for a comfortable track short. They have a 3.5-inch inseam and are lightweight with a built-in-brief. These tend to run on the small side, so size up if you don't like your shorts too tight around the waist. I tested a couple of other track shorts for this list and this style had the best design. Track shorts tend to be shorter than I'd like, but this pair was the right length without making me feel self-conscious. Some of the other track shorts I'd tested were shorter or about the same length as the UA Fly-By 2.0 and didn't have quite as much coverage as I would have liked.
I took these shorts on a test run at my local track and liked how they stayed put and felt light and airy. The mesh on the sides of the shorts provided good ventilation, which is ideal on hot days or if you're looking to pick up the pace during a run without feeling restricted.
I've washed these shorts several times already and they've held up well, which is important when adding a pair of your shorts to your rotation. Another plus is that these shorts are affordable and retail for just $25. You can even find them for less when they go on sale on the Under Armour website or on Amazon.
A downside to these shorts is the lack of pockets. According to loyal Under Armour shoppers, the previous version of these shorts had pockets and it was a disappointment that they were removed. If you're only planning on using these shorts for the sole purpose of doing some speed work then they will suffice. If you want a pair of shorts with pockets then there are other options you can pick from on this list.
- Lightweight and breathable
- Has built-in-brief
- Good for speed work
- Could be too short for some people
- Runs small
- No pockets
Other workout shorts tested
Wolaco North Moore biker shorts: I wasn't the biggest fan of this Wolaco style because this short was reminiscent of a traditional compression short. It has a nylon elastic waistband and I found myself adjusting it more than I liked. It also seemed to ride up in the crotch which was uncomfortable during testing and something the Distance Half Tight did not do.
Alo 3-inch high-waist Airlift shorts: Not only were these too short for my taste, despite having decent compression, it still rode up and down too much during testing. I think if this short were a little longer and used different materials that it would be a better pick since it's already well-lined.
Janji 3-inch AFO-Vent multishorts: I expect track shorts to be short and airy, but I found these too short, and the split short made me feel too exposed. I think they would've benefited from having a built-in short rather than a brief because of the length. The outside material also felt paper-thin and made me question the overall quality of the shorts.
Koral Alice crepe shorts: Although these shorts were plush and comfortable, the track short style was not as functional as the Under Armour Fly-By 2.0 shorts. These shorts are better as athleisure wear because they're more stylish. When I tested them during a run, the pockets were too shallow and couldn't hold my phone, and the built-in shorts sometimes rode up against my thighs.
Athleta Salutation Stash Pocket II 5-inch shorts: This style of bike short did not make my top list because the other styles fit more comfortably and seemed to be designed better. Although the compression and material of the shorts were good, I found these shorts rolled down in the waist during most activities.
Baleaf The Laureate UPF 50+ high-rise board shorts: These initially looked like they could be a good pair of midrange shorts for hiking. They ended up being bigger than my normal size and seemed more appropriate as a swimwear cover up than for exercising.
Baleaf Flyleaf compression two-in-one shorts: Of the track shorts I tested, I found this design to fall short. The pockets on the built-in shorts seemed great at first, but they were not secure enough to hold my phone, which fell out at one point.
Baleaf Flyleaf high-rise seamless shorts: I thought these would be similar to Athleta's Transcend shorts, but they were too thin and see-through.
Baleaf Flyleaf high-rise padded shorts: Serious cyclists like bike shorts that offer plenty of support and cushioning to withstand long bike rides. These shorts had the right idea, but the padding on the crotch is too thick to be worn comfortably.
How we picked
Material: I looked for material that's sweat-wicking, breathable, comfortable and durable.
Style: Shorts come in various styles, so I made sure to test a variety of cuts and designs. I also took into account whether the shorts look stylish.
Function: I looked at the purpose of the shorts and whether they worked well for specific activities. I also observed their versatility and if they could function for different forms of exercise.
Length: I made sure that most of the picks on this list offer different lengths to accommodate different heights and preferences.
Factors to consider
- Decide how much you're willing to spend on a pair of workout shorts, because they can range from as low as $15 to more than $100.
- Figure out if you'd like a sport-specific type of workout short or a pair that's more versatile.
- Determine the length you're comfortable with because some can be as short as 2 inches or as long as 8 inches.
- Know that just because a brand is expensive, it doesn't always mean it's better. You can find a good pair of quality shorts without breaking the bank.
Workout shorts FAQs
What materials should workout shorts be made out of?
Like most of your workout clothes, your workout shorts should be made of a variation of sweat wicking material such as polyester, nylon, spandex and polypropylene. A big plus is if it's odor-resistant.
How should you care for workout shorts?
If you're investing in a good pair of workout shorts, then you want to make sure you wash and care for them the way you would any of your other workout clothes. When tossing them in the washing machine make sure you set up a delicate cycle with cold water. Avoid hot water and fabric softener which can ruin your activewear's ability to function properly.
How do I pick the right workout shorts?
Consider what type of workouts you plan on doing while wearing these shorts. There are many types that are sport-specific, such as running and basketball shorts, and then there are others like bike shorts that are versatile enough to use at the gym, yoga class or boxing studio.
Also consider if you like a high waist or mid waist style. If you're concerned about chafing around your thighs, you'll want a material that does a good job wicking moisture from the area.
The information contained in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as health or medical advice. Always consult a physician or other qualified health provider regarding any questions you may have about a medical condition or health objectives.