Choosing the correct shorts for your weekly workout shouldn’t be taken lightly – as they can often be the difference between a sub-standard and a successful fitness session. While it can be argued that runners will require athletic shorts that are spacious with a high cut to reduce overheating (and maximising movement), those who put themselves through studio and gym workouts will need a longer leg and coverage for those angled stretches and lunges.
If you’re training indoors you may also want to think about breathable fabrics that draw moisture away from your skin, leaving you feeling fresh and dry during and after exercise. And, just as importantly, you’ll want a pair (or pairs) that are stylish, so as to give the message you’re as serious about your workouts as you are your wardrobe – a statement of intent.
But which shorts are making waves in the international market right now, and what separates one from the other? With so much choice and quality available, we’ve put together this guide to help you discover some of the best gym shorts designs from around the world – all made by the most celebrated sports houses – created to strike that fine balance between performance and style.
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Here are our top picks so you can find a pair of the best workout shorts.
Frequently Asked Questions About Gym Shorts
What are the best athletic shorts?
Lululemon, Nike and Adidas are known to make the best athletic shorts, however, brands like Uniqlo, Outdoor Voices and other emerging brands are making a name for themselves.
Do you need to wear underwear under gym shorts?
It all depends on what sort of gym or workout shorts you have. Most dedicated gym shorts will have some sort of liner, whether it be a pair of compression shorts or a brief-style. These shorts don't require you to wear underwear.
However, some gym shorts are more like generic shorts, so you will need to wear some underwear underneath. Unless you want to go commando, which we don't recommend.
Why are there different lengths of workout shorts?
There are several different lengths of workout shorts, with most ranging from 5-inch to 9-inch. In general, the shorter the short, the faster you will be moving. 4-inch shorts are great for runners, for example, because they do just enough to provide coverage where you need it, while allowing your legs to move to their fullest.
For gym and workout shorts, you should be looking at 7-inch or 9-inch shorts.
With such an extensive range, picking out a pair for you isn't always so easy, but we've singled out the Critical Shorts for their simple approach to short design, with a roomy regular fit and being made from a fabric blend that includes elastane for some added stretch, they'll accompany you everywhere you need to go.
One of their standout pieces is the Mako Unlined workout shorts, designed for those who enjoy variety in their exercise, from yoga and gym to hiking and running. They are made from a four-way stretch, moisture-wicking fabric, and feature a media pocket for small music devices.
Their Rec Shorts have a 7” inseam and are made for both running and gym workouts. They’re lightweight, stylish and stretchable, and are available in four well-considered colourways that will effortlessly slip into your existing sportswear collection.
Their Pace Breaker Shorts are a versatile short made for the serious fitness fanatic who demands comfort and performance.
Suitable for both running and training, they’re made using lightweight, quick-drying fabrics that can be worn comfortably with or without leggings for year-round practicality. And if that wasn’t enough, they’re super stretchable - helping you conquer any type of terrain with maximum movement.
The Eighth Avenue Quad Short is made from a silky-feeling and stretchy Micro Modal Blend fabric, derived from the cellulose of Beech trees. It's incredibly breathable and comfortable, and is environmentally friendly. You'll be looking and feeling a million bucks when pumping some iron.
The Phantom Short is one such pair that can be used across multiple areas. Moisture-wicking, Barbell's Flextek fabric for ultimate comfort and plenty of pockets and zippers to keep essentials close, they're a perfect all-rounder.
Case in point is the True Short. Made from a material blend that integrates fleece into the mix, they still manage to effectively wick sweat away from your body while providing all-day comfort. Reinforced seams mean they won't fail you when you're on the squat rack and zipped pockets will keep your keys and phone close to hand.
These Hybrid Shorts are possibly some of the best around. A little pricier than some competitors, you actually get two pairs of shorts. An outer lightweight pair and an inner pair of compression shorts connect together, or can be worn separately. Both have pockets to increase versatility, and both are made from premium materials that not only help you when running, but provide adequate stretch and breathability when in the gym.
With products such as the Franchise Short, it's easy to see why. Well-styled and providing everything you could need from a capable gym short: stretch, sweat wicking properties, pockets and a breathable lining (and available in multiple lengths), they exhibit all the qualities you need.
The Interval short is a great all-rounder, being lightweight and stretchy enough to be used for wherever you see fit. You can have them lined or unlined, and you can choose from a range of inseam lengths, allowing you to custom-build the perfect pair of gym shorts.
The Kore Short is a go-anywhere, do-anything type. A boxer-brief liner keeps everything where it should be without feeling constricted, while anti-odour, moisture-wicking and quick-drying properties mean you can comfortably where them for several days in a row without feeling too dirty. Available in an extended range of sizes and in multiple good-looking colour options, they're the only short you need.
Their All Over Shorts are an ideal example of this, made to accompany you on a variety of adventures from walking and running to trekking and gym sessions. They’re made from a four-way stretch, water-repellent fabric and feature a handy inner pocket for your car or house key.
Their 9” Training Short is ideal for both regular workouts and casual, laidback days. This mid-thigh length, regular fitting short also features hand and hidden zip pockets. They’re classy, comfortable and seriously on-trend.
These Fortitech 7-inch Tech Shorts look great (we particularly love the subtle camo print on the back pocket) but they offer plenty of substance too, such as 4-way stretch and a fabric that conforms to your body for freer movement. NB DRY technology draws moisture away from your body and quickly gets rid of it and better still, they have recycled materials in their DNA.
The Essentials Training Shorts are just that, essential. Offering everything you need and nothing you don't in a sub-$40 package. They might not have the branding appeal afforded to some others on this list, but when you're hitting new PBs in a pair that cost a fraction of others in the gym, who cares?
This ultra-light running aid has been created with stretch woven fabric for unrestricted movement, with an inner mesh lining promoting optimum breathability. They’re also quick-drying, with added reflective detailing for when the light falls yet the challenge remains.
Those sponsorships mean Reebok has to provide clothing that is up to the task of working to the highest level, and that's exactly what you get, with shorts such as the Workout Ready.
Simple, affordable and versatile, these shorts are all you need for training sessions. Speedwick fabric wicks sweat away from the body, front pockets give you space to store your phone and the recycled polyester fabric moves with your body, meaning you can deadlift, squat and leg press in comfort.
Nike needs little introduction - they’ve led the sportswear revolution for close to 50 years. With these shorts, they have created a sleek and lightweight gym aid that will leave you feeling fresh, focused and confident during every workout.
An elasticated waistband also helps keep the shorts in place when tackling circuits and aerobics workouts.