The best running shorts for men from New Balance, Nike, Under Armour and more

Chafe begone with these top running shorts
Men's running shorts road tested

If there’s one word that can send shivers down the spine of any regular runner, it’s chafing, and we apologise for introducing that word without warning in the first line of this article.

However, we do so for good reason, because one of the best ways to avoid the perils of chafing is to pick up a quality pair of running shorts.

Sure, you can apply swathes of vaseline to all your sensitive areas before a long run, but if you have the right running shorts, the risk is greatly reduced. Rest assured that all the shorts you’ll find on this list are the right kind of running shorts, made from sweat-wicking, quick-drying materials with no irritating seams that can cause a chafing flare up.

Another factor to consider when buying running shorts is their length, which tends to range from three-inch split shorts to seven-inch shorts, with five-inch shorts a common in-between option. You also want to check on the inner layer of the shorts, to see whether it’s a breathable mesh or a full compression layer. The latter can be great for avoiding chafing and providing support, but might be too hot in warmer weather.

Then there’s the non-essential but useful features you should look out for, like reflective details that maximise night-time visibility, and the various storage options that the shorts have.

Many running shorts will only have one tiny pocket, if they have any at all, so you might want to hunt down a pair with bigger pockets or loops to hold gels during races. Finally, it’s worth checking whether the fabric used has any odour control properties – a very useful feature if you’re using the shorts more than once between washes.

You’ll find options covering all of the bases listed below, so here’s a quick run down of our top pairs.

Best all-round running shorts

New Balance Impact Shorts

Buy now: New Balance (UK) / New Balance (US) / Amazon | $44.99

The best running shorts for men

There’s no one standout feature that makes the Impact shorts so good; instead their success is based on how well they tick all of the boxes required. They come in a variety of lengths for both men and women, satisfying both three-inch split-shorts seekers and those who prefer a longer five- or seven-inch set, and there’s a range of designs including a special London Marathon edition, which makes for a particularly useful memento of the big day if you’re racing it.

The material used is lightweight and sweat-wicking, with breathable mash panels on the sides, and there’s an inner brief for added comfort. The storage on offer is pretty good too, with a decent-sized zip pocket for keys and cards, and a drop-in pouch that can take gels or a small smartphone, though anything in the pockets will bounce around a little during your runs. That’s on the five-inch Impact shorts though; if you opt for the three-inch you’re only getting one small back pocket.

There are small reflective strips on the sides of the shorts, and the New Balance logo itself is reflective. We’d have liked to see slightly larger reflective sections, but every little helps, and if you opt for one of the brighter colours there’s little chance you’ll go unseen anyway.

Nike Air Flex Stride

Buy now: Sportsshoes (UK) / Amazon | $38.19

The best running shorts for men

Stretchy, sweat-wicking comfort is what the Nike Air Flex Stride shorts promise, and they deliver on that promise. The shorts are comfortable to wear for your longest runs, with a supportive liner and a relaxed fit that allows you to cut loose as you go.

There is a zipped back pocket that’s large enough for a card, a gel and your keys, but not a phone. This pocket has a protective lining so your stuff doesn’t get too sweaty while you run. There are also two small pouches built into the lining of the shorts. The one on the back is large enough to squeeze another gel of any size into, while the one at the front is really only big enough for a small Gu-style gel (at a push).

These two pouch pockets are great for holding your gels in place so they don’t bounce while you run. Throw in the two open outer pockets as well and the Flex Stride shorts offer an excellent amount of storage, making them a great option for long races where you don’t want to also wear a bulky running belt.

Best running shorts for storage

Under Armour Speedpocket

Buy now: Under Armour (UK) / Under Armour (US) / Amazon | From $30

The best running shorts for men

The simplest way to offer more storage in a pair of running shorts is to add more pockets, but having stuff slapping into your thighs with every stride on a run, which is what happens with loose side pockets, is not a solution most runners will accept.

Under Armour has instead solved the dilemma of what you do with your phone during a run by building an expandable pocket into the waistband of the Speedpocket shorts. This can take a card and your smartphone (within reason, phablets don’t quite fit into it) and it holds them tight against your waist so they don’t move around during a run. Depending on which version of the shorts you get, there are also side pockets or a small zipped pocket on the back.

The Speedpocket shorts come in lengths from 5-inch to 8-inch for men, with shorter options for women, and you can get versions with or without an inner liner, as well as 2-in-1 shorts. The fabric used has four-way stretch properties and is designed to resist odours, though we still found these shorts needed a wash after each sweaty run.

Best budget running shorts

Kalenji Run Dry

Buy now: Decathlon (UK) / Decathlon (US) | $7.99

The best running shorts for men

If the idea of spending double digits on a pair of running shorts infuriates you then may we suggest you first look up chafing online, and then check out this exceptionally cheap pair from Decathlon own-brand Kalenji.

All the main features you need from shorts are present and correct – moisture-wicking, quick-drying fabric and a small pocket for your keys, and there are flat seams and an inner brief to help reduce the risk of chafing. There’s even a decent choice of colours too.

We would definitely suggest that if you’re planning on logging long distances then it’s worth looking at a more comfortable pair of shorts, but for the occasional runner covering 5km to 10km, the Run Dry shorts will do the job well and you’ll save a chunk of cash that you can put towards a nice pair of running shoes.

Best 2-in-1 running shorts

On Hybrid Shorts

Buy now: On (UK) / On (US) | $99.99

The best running shorts for men

All 2-in-1 shorts consist of a lightweight, loose outer layer and a tight inner layer, but what separates the On Hybrid shorts from the pack is not only the quality of the materials used in those layers, but also that you can wear them separately as well as together.

The outer shell is made from a durable, tear proof fabric and has a long reflective strip running down the seam on one side. It also has one large side pocket, though when running we reckon you’re better off using the drop-in pouch on the inner layer. This holds your gear close against your thigh to avoid any bouncing and is big enough to squeeze a smartphone into.

In really hot conditions you can remove the inner layer entirely, though the material used for this is sweat-wicking and the support it offers is useful for countering the threat of chafing. Both layers also dry rapidly, though the outer is faster to do so, meaning it might be worth taking off the inner if you’re caught in a storm on your run. It’s also worth noting that the inner layer can be quite tight if you boast massive thighs, so cyclists who also run might find it a tad snug.

Best running shorts for hot weather

Odlo 2-in-1 Shorts Zeroweight Ceramicool

Buy now: Odlo (UK) / | £50

The best running shorts for men

The Ceramicool tech in the material of these shorts offers excellent temperature regulation for running in hot weather, reducing the temperature of your skin by up to 1°C. That makes these 2-in-1 shorts ideal for hot days, because they won’t overheat while still offering a tight inner that provides support and reduces the risk of chafing that can arise when you’re sweating freely on a run.

On top of that the ultra-light mesh used in the outer later also helps to keep you cool, and it has a loose fit that allows for unrestricted movement on the run. There’s not a great deal available in the way of storage, however, though a small zipped pocket on the back of the outer layer will take a set of keys and a card.

It can be hard to get your head round the idea that adding a layer to your shorts will actually make you more comfortable on hot days, but after a couple of runs in the Ceramicool shorts we reckon you’ll be convinced.

Best racing shorts

Soar Elite Race Shorts 3.0

Buy now: Soar (UK) | £75

The best running shorts for men

Nothing says it’s race day like pulling on an exceptionally short pair of shorts, and even if you shy away from split shorts during your training runs it’s worth having a set in your wardrobe for your biggest events, when you’ll value the complete freedom of movement they offer.

Soar's are pricy, especially as you’re not paying for a lot of fabric, but split shorts can be a nightmare when it comes to chafing if you skimp on the materials. The soft inner brief on the Elite Race Shorts 3.0 offers support, and the displaced seams on the inner leg mitigate the risk of chafing in one of the most sensitive areas.

The outer layer is very lightweight and made from a stretchy, fast-drying material. It also has a small zipped pocket on the back that you can cram one or two gels into, though you’ll need to consider other storage solutions if you’re running a marathon.

Tracksmith Twilight Split Shorts

Buy now: Tracksmith | $52

The best running shorts for men

Tracksmith make some of the most stylish running gear in the world, but rest assured that style doesn’t come at the expense of substance. The featherweight fabric used in these split shorts is quick to dry and resists odours, and the cut of the shorts is perfect for providing support without restrictions when you’re running at race pace.

On the inside of the back of the shorts are three pouch pockets, each of which can take a gel (or two, at a squeeze), so you can load up the shorts with all the nutrition you need even for a full marathon. Though if you do fill every pocket to the brim make sure you pull the drawstring nice and tight – all that weight might pull the shorts down otherwise.

The Twilight Split Shorts also come in an impressive range of colours, so you can match them up to your favourite racing vest.

Tracksmith are based in the US, and shipping rates to the UK can be a little steep, but they do sometimes put on pop-ups in London, especially around the London Marathon.

Best compression running shorts

2XU Run Compression Shorts

Buy now: 2XU (UK) / 2XU (US) / Amazon | $64.95

The best running shorts for men

There are many long, long threads on running forums dedicated to the question of whether you should wear a pair of loose shorts over tights or compression shorts. We’re going to leave that debate for elsewhere on the internet, and focus on telling you how great these shorts are, regardless of whether you want to wear them solo or under another pair.

The targeted compression in the 2XU shorts is designed to reduce muscle fatigue during your runs, and wearing them after you’ve finished can help speed up your recovery. The compression is pretty tight, as you should expect, but it’s never uncomfortable even when wearing the shorts over long distances.

There’s a zipped pocket on the back, though its a little small and we’d have liked to see a drop-in pouch on the thighs as well, ideally. The fabric is sweat-wicking and the large logo on it is reflective to increase your visibility on night runs. 2XU also sell shorter compression running shorts that come down to around mid-thigh, as well as a 2-in-1 pair with a short compression liner.

Best running shorts for odour control

Montane Fang Shorts

Buy now: Montane (UK) / Amazon | $60

The best running shorts for men

Different companies used a variety of technologies to create odour-resistant shorts, but we’ve not found any as effective as Polygiene, which is used by Montane (among others) in its trail-running kit. The first time you leave your shorts to air dry after a sweaty run and come back later to find them completely smell-free is an exciting novelty, but it will soon becomes commonplace that you can use the Fang shorts several times without any fear of putting off your running buddies due to an unwelcome stench.

This odour-control tech comes in very handy during multi-stage events, when you don’t want to carry different gear for each day, but also cuts down on washing even if you’re just using them for a few runs a week. Any regular runner will know how quickly the washing can mount up if you’re changing your outfit every time, which isn’t good for durability of the clothes themselves, the environment, or indeed your energy bill.

As well as offering this stellar smell-management the Montane Fang shorts are lightweight, wind-resistant and have both a zipped pocket on the back plus two stretchy drop-in pockets that are great for stuffing gels in for long runs.

Tags:    Running
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