The Best Athletics Shorts for Any Type of Workout, According to Shape Editors

Whether you’re doing HIIT or lounging at home, these are 11 of the best styles out there, including biker shorts and options with built-in liners.

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Editor-Approved-Workout-Shorts
Photo: Courtesy of Merchants

TBH, there's not much leggings can't do. From hitting the gym to running errands, they've become so much of a wardrobe staple, it's nearly impossible to think back on a time when they weren't. And while leggings will always be a cornerstone of leisure and workout gear alike, it's important not to forget what laid the foundation: the workout short. (Related: The Best Black Leggings, According to Reviews)

Whether you've exclusively run in shorts for years or just rediscovered your love for them during what could be called the great bike short resurgence of 2020, a reliable and comfortable pair of workout shorts is not to be underestimated. But before a shiver goes down your spine thinking about the days of Soffee shorts rolled three times in gym class, take a breath and remember that workout shorts have come a long way — and there's something for every comfort level.

The Best Workout Shorts for Women, According to Shopping Experts:

Aside from the length you prefer, there are quite a few things to take into consideration when looking for the perfect pair of athletic shorts. If your workouts tend to amp up the sweat, then a moisture-wicking material may be best. If logging miles is more your thing, then a classic pair of running shorts with a built-in liner that doesn't interfere with your stride should do the trick. (Related: The Best Running Shorts, According to Customer Reviews)

As is the case in the world of leggings, there are plenty of options out there, making it overwhelming to narrow down the best ones. That's why Shape editors and writers helped by sharing their favorites based on factors like comfort, durability, style, and sizing, so you can find a pair that works for you at a variety of price points.

Keep scrolling to see all of the best workout shorts, according to the editors and writers who wear them.

Best Period-Proof: Thinx Training Shorts

Comfy Shorts
Amazon

Where They Shine: Hiking, lifting, HIIT

You'll Love: The added period protection

Keep This In Mind: They run slightly small

Not only do Thinx's training shorts stand up to tough workouts, they also have the ability to absorb up to five tampons worth of menstrual flow. "There's nothing worse than feeling your body begin to leak mid workout — especially if you're outdoors or trapped in the middle of a packed class," says health and wellness ecommerce lead, Braelyn Wood. "The built-in period underwear in these shorts ensures I never have to worry about leaks (or even sweat marks) when I'm wearing them." Aside from their absorbency, Wood also applauds the length of the shorts for preventing painful inner thigh chafing. (Related: Thinx Launched New Period-Friendly Activewear)

Best Spandex: Nike Pro 3-Inch Shorts

Comfy Shorts
Bandier

Where They Shine: Home workouts, strength training, HIIT

You'll Love: How lightweight they are for home workouts or hot outdoor training sesh

Keep This In Mind: They're pretty low coverage

When it comes to Nike shorts, there's nothing as classic as the Nike Pro 3-inch spandex shorts. The moisture-wicking shorts feature the brand's Dri-FIT technology and stand up to even the sweatiest of workouts. "I wore these shorts for years as a cheerleader for practices, but when I started working out at studios and gyms, I 'retired' them in the name of wanting a little more coverage," said Lauren Mazzo, Shape web editor. "Then COVID happened, and I started working out from home or outside — and these shorts became my go-tos again. (It felt silly to put on pants to stay inside my toasty apartment.) They're perfect for living room workouts of any kind, and I've also worn them for yard HIIT workouts and beach training. If you want workout clothes that feel as close to wearing nothing as possible (but still look amazing and make you feel like an athlete), give these a try."

Best With Pockets: Speed Up Mid-Rise Short 4-Inch

Comfy Shorts
LuLu Lemon

Where They Shine: Everyday wear, hiking, running, cycling

You'll Love: Its added back zipper and interior waistband pockets

Keep This In Mind: They also come in a shorter 2.5-inch inseam

Because pockets don't do you any good unless they actually, you know, fit things, pocket features on workout shorts are often more "eh" than impressive. But according to Amazon ecommerce writer, Eden Lichterman, Lululemon's Speed Up Mid-Rise Short flips that script, thanks to a secure back pocket and waistband storage option. "I've had a couple pairs of these shorts for years now, and they still look and feel good as new," shared Lichterman. "I wear them pretty much every day in the summer because they're comfortable enough for lounging around the house, yet cute enough to keep on when I run errands." (Related: The 10 Best Lululemon Dupes You Can Score On Amazon)

Most Comfortable: Meshki Venus V-Back Bike Shorts

VENUS V-Back Bike Shorts - Charcoal
Meshki

Where They Shine: Everyday wear and HIIT

You'll Love: How soft they are

Keep This In Mind: VPL, if you wear underwear with them, and a limited size range

All bike shorts are not created equal. While some leave you ready to tear them off after a sweat sesh, others are comfortable enough to wear to bed, too. According to Shape staff writer Renee Cherry, these ones from Meshki are the latter — but that doesn't mean they slack on compression. "When I got these I was actually taken aback by how nice the fabric is," said Cherry. "It's so soft I wouldn't hesitate to sleep in them, and it's got some thickness to it. My major gripe with other bike shorts has been that they can be too tight at the leg openings, which is uncomfortable for long periods of time and leaves telltale marks on my legs. Not so with these, which offer just the right amount of compression." (Related: The 10 Best Biker Shorts for Women, According to Customer Reviews)

Most Sustainable: Girlfriend Collective Moss Gazelle Short

Comfy Shorts
Girlfriend

Where They Shine: Running, walking, everyday wear

You'll Love: The sweat-wicking material and size range

Keep This In Mind: They have a slightly loose fit, but there's a drawstring waist

If shopping sustainably is of importance to you, then look no further than Girlfriend Collective. These running shorts are made from 100 percent recycled water bottles (each pair uses 29 bottles, to be exact!) and feature a sweat-wicking material. "The built-in liner and zippered pockets are convenient touches, while the variety of colors sets them apart from your average black running shorts," says ecommerce writer, Madeline Diamond, of her favorite pair. (Related: 11 Sustainable Activewear Brands Worth Breaking a Sweat In)

Best High-Waist: AE The Everything Pocket Highest Waist 7-Inch Bike Short

Comfy Shorts
Ae

Where They Shine: Running (and running errands), hiking, HIIT

You'll Love: The support and coverage

Keep This In Mind: The high-waist can cause some inevitable camel toe moments

It's hard to imagine a time when high-waisted workout shorts didn't exist, but that doesn't mean the options out there now are all on the same playing field. If you're a fan of higher-than-high-rise bike shorts that pair expertly with cropped bra tops and sports bras, then American Eagle's Everything pocket bike shorts should be on your radar. "I love them for their compression and length," said buying guide writer, Emily Belfiore, of her favorite shorts. "They're supportive without being restrictive and show off enough leg without riding up my thighs when I'm out and about."

Best Moisture-Wicking: Fast and Free High-Rise Short

Comfy Shorts
LuLu Lemon

Where They Shine: Everyday wear and spinning

You'll Love: The spacious pockets and quick-drying

Keep This In Mind: They also come in two shorter inseams

Workout shorts can be the most comfortable in the world, but if they don't hold up to sweat, then what's the point? According to lifestyle ecommerce writer, Nina Huang, Lululemon's deliver on both comfort and standing up to the sweat test with their incredible moisture-wicking and sateen-like material. "They come with huge pockets on the side that fit my keys, hand sanitizer, and phone, and dry so quickly that they're perfect for super sweaty workouts," said Huang. "I love wearing them when I spin on my Peloton bike, but they're also flattering for everyday wear." (Related: The Best Peloton Bike Alternatives On Amazon, According to Reviews)

Most Durable: Under Armour Fly By 2.0 Running Shorts

Comfy Shorts
Amazon

Where They Shine: Lifting walking, hiking, everyday wear

You'll Love: The built-in liner and comfortable fit

Keep This In Mind: They fit more low-waisted

According to branded ecommerce writer, Megan Mowery, if you want a pair of shorts that will hold up to wash and wear, then look no further than these Under Armour running shorts. "Maybe this is a bit embarrassing, but I've been wearing these shorts since middle school," said Mowery. "Like, the same exact pair. For 10 years, they've held up with barely a loose string and no fading, stretching out, or becoming 'gross' from frequent workouts. They're also insanely comfortable and never tight or restrictive even with the built-in liner. They're my go-to shorts for wearing around the house."

Most Versatile: Outdoor Voices Warmup 5-Inch Shorts

Comfy Shorts
Outdoor Voices

Where They Shine: Running, hiking, cycling, HIIT, yoga, and even for a day out

You'll Love: The compressive and moisture-wicking material

Keep This In Mind: Sizing only goes up to XL

You're probably familiar with Outdoor Voices leggings, but the brand also has an impressive range of workout shorts including these 5-inch inseam ones that feature the same compressive material. "The fabric of these shorts never rides up, so I don't have to deal with chafing or awkward bunching when I wear them," said Tess Garcia, ecommerce writer. "They're also super moisture-wicking, and the colorblocked styles are like nothing else on the market." (Related: You Can Now Shop Outdoor Voices' Best-Selling Styles at Nordstrom)

Best Compression: Sincerely Jules for Bandier Bryn Lifestyle 7-Inch Biker Short

Comfy Shorts
Bandier

Where They Shine: Boxing, strength training/weights, bike riding, rock climbing, hikes and every day

You'll Love: Their ability to stay out and the added shaping

Keep This In Mind: The collab tends to sell out frequently

Not all workout collaborations are worth the hype, but according to creative content producer, Jaclyn Mastropasqua, this one between Sincerely Jules and Bandier is. "Other than being extremely self-conscious, I've always hated when biker shorts would roll up my thighs. Since the summer weather has been brutal, I made the dive and fell head over heels with my Bandier shorts," she said of her favorite bike shorts. "They're super comfy, and flattering – pulling everything in while also being soft and breathable. These have been a lifesaver and the ultimate wash-and-wear gear of the summer." (Related: Even Lululemon Fanatics Are Obsessed with These $20 Bike Shorts)

Best for Running: Hoka Performance Woven 4-Inch Short

Comfy Shorts
Hoka

Where They Shine: Running, hiking, and doing errands

You'll Love: The soft waistband and breezy fit

Keep This In Mind: They also come in a shorter inseam

If I could only run in one pair of shorts for the rest of my life, it would be this pair from Hoka. The brand behind my favorite running sneakers (and Britney Spears', too!) expanded the same expertise into apparel, which is why these shorts fit like a dream. The thick waistband is incredibly soft without feeling constricting and stays put throughout even longer trail runs. Plus, the high-waist fit makes them perfect for pairing with sports bras and cropped bra tops in the heat.

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