The 11 best compression shorts for runners

One of the most debated subjects in fitness that's said to improve blood circulation and increase proprioception
The 11 best compression shorts for runners

Let’s start by saying compression shorts aren’t for everyone. There will be some runners, gym-goers and sportspeople who just never get on with the feel of compression clothing, which, needless to say, is really very tight.

However, there is a reason for that. Compression gear can improve blood circulation and your proprioception – how aware you are of the position and movement of the parts of your body. That might sound pretty woolly, but it’s why some people like to wear compression garments over areas of the body where they have niggles, because that greater awareness might make them more careful in how they move that part of the body.

While the benefits of compression gear in terms of improving performance are unproven beyond a possible placebo effect – though that’s never something that be underrated when it comes to sporting performance – it has been shown to reduce your recovery times after a hard workout or race.

For an overview on the benefits of compression scroll down to the bottom of this guide.

Best compression shorts for running

Soar Elite Speed Shorts 2.0

The 11 best compression shorts for runners

They may veer heavily towards the premium end of the price spectrum, but 'you get what you pay for' really is an accurate mantra when it comes to Soar's range of kit.

As soon as you take these half tights out of the pack you can instantly feel that there's something special about them. The material is woven instead of knitted and when you put them on they feel a long way off the usual lycra fabric that's found in most compression-wear. It still feels technical, but with a softness that we've rarely seen.

They're supportive without feeling tight and the lightweight structure makes them hardly noticeable while you're wearing them. It's for that reason that they're so popular among high-level runners on race day and although they're pricey, that added level of comfort and technical support is more than worth it.

Soar has also put a lot of effort into the detail of these shorts to ensure that they deliver. The bottom hem is both laser cut and includes a tiny printed silicone gripper to keep them in place when you're running, there's a nicely located back zipper pocket to hold your phone or gels, visually pleasing reflective Soar logos and trim, and the fabric is noticeably breathable when you start to get hot.

If you're on the lookout for the perfect pair of running shorts and you're happy to invest, they're right at the top of our list. It's also important to note that although they offer compressive support, they don't offer medical grade compression like some of the other options in this guide.

2XU Compression Run

A buyer’s guide to the best compression shorts for men

The powerful compression in these shorts is designed to reduce your muscle fatigue during runs and help you recover afterwards, but 2XU has got the balance between compression and comfort right so that the shorts don’t intrude on the enjoyment of your run. That’s especially important if you’re wearing them for long-distance efforts, where the slightest discomfort caused by your clothing can become more and more infuriating as the kilometres roll by.

On the back of the shorts is a pocket that’s large enough to hold your valuables tight against you so they don’t bounce around on the run, though it’s not quite big enough for a smartphone. The large X on the shorts is reflective to increase nighttime visibility. It also runs far enough down the thigh that even if you wear a pair of looser shorts over the top of the 2XU Compression Run shorts part of it will be on show. The fabric is antibacterial as well, which will stop unpleasant odours building up after a tough run.

Skins DNAmic CORE Superpose Half Tights

A buyer’s guide to the best compression shorts for men

Both layers of these shorts have been carefully designed to help boost your performance on the run, with the half tight compression layer paired with a loose, quick-drying upper that protects your modesty and stretches to allows complete freedom of movement as you crank up the pace. The outer also has a small zip pocket on the back that will take your keys and a card.

The compression layer has panels positioned to provide support where it's most required, and it’s important to use Skins’s size guide to make sure you’re getting the exact fit you need to get the most benefit from the shorts. The inner layer also wicks sweat away at a rapid rate to ensure you stay dry and comfortable on the move, as well as reducing the risk of chafing that could end your run on a sour note.

CEP Run Shorts 3.0

Supercharge your training with a pair of fitness-improving compression shorts

When you want the ultimate level of compression available then look no further than these beasts from CEP. As well as being one of the thickest pair of compression shorts we've tried they come with a whole heap of clever design features to help give you as much help as possible when heading out on a run.

Focussing on a graduated level of support for the thigh muscles, the tough material is impressively anti slip, meaning that they stay in position for however you long you plan to run for – even when they get sweaty. That fabric is also extremely breathable, so although they feel chunky it'll stay ventilated when you're putting in maximum effort.

Other features include secure hip pockets for gels and reflective logos for better visibility at night. We've been testing them out over multiple distances and they've very quickly become one of our favorite winter options for compression shorts, being slightly longer than many others on the list.

Take note that when buying medical grade compression kit like the CEP Run Shorts 3.0, it's important to make sure you correctly measure your thighs to ensure they fit perfectly.

dhb Active Run Tight Short

A buyer’s guide to the best compression shorts for men

The level of compression in these shorts is a little less intense than in the 2XU and Skins options above, so they're a good choice for any runners who have found that they don’t get on with really tight shorts during their exercise.

A nifty inner pocket is large enough for cards and keys, which are held close to your body throughout your run. However, that means if you position your keys incorrectly they can jab at you in an unpleasant fashion – so make sure there are no sharp bits pointing your way when you put them in the pocket.

Perhaps the star attraction of the dhb Run Tight shorts is the Polygiene-treated fabric, however, because this excellent anti-odour tech means they will smell fresh even if you use them several times between washes. As with all dhb gear, the shorts also offer great value, even if they’re not an out-and-out budget option.

Zone3 RX3 Medical Grade Compression 2 in 1 Shorts

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

Although the 'medical grade' label attached to these shorts may make them sound a bit on the intense side, they're actually some of the most comfortable compression shorts we've used for running.

As well as ventilation side panels help to make them breathable, both the inner and outer shorts have an extremely comfortable fit as well as offering enough compression to help prevent chafing.

In addition to two large side pockets, something you rarely see in good technical shorts, there's a large zipped back pocket, some tiny inside pockets for valuables and a very useful smartphone pocket on the inner shorts. Throw in some reflective detailing for safety at night and an effective level of sweat-wicking, and you've got a pair of shorts that'll keep most runners happy from training runs to marathons.

Best compression shorts for the gym

Under Armour Rush Compression Shorts

Supercharge your training with a pair of fitness-improving compression shorts

Many brands boast of the performance-enhancing benefits of their compression gear, but with its Rush range, Under Armour take it a step beyond the usual claims about blood circulation and proprioception. The fabric used for these shorts is infused with minerals, with the aim of improving your strength and endurance, which is some feat for a pair of shorts.

Under Armour say the energy your body emits during a tough workout is absorbed by the minerals and then reflected back into your muscles to provide a boost that can keep you performing at your best.

It’s a hell of a claim, and we love the ambition. We also love the shorts. The fit is just right for whatever you plan on doing in the gym – tight, but comfortable and supportive, so you can move just as easily and without restriction through a weights workout, treadmill run or agility session.

The shorts also have mesh panels to increase breathability during hot workouts, and the fabric contains anti-odour tech to help avoid smells building up in your gym bag. And if you fully buy in to the power of the Rush minerals, you can pick up tees, tights, vests and everything else from the range to enhance your workouts.

Adidas Alphaskin Short Tights

A buyer’s guide to the best compression shorts for men

We should probably start by saying that these shorts do come in more sedate colours than the shocking red pictured here, but it’s certainly nice to see a set of men’s shorts that break away from the black, grey and maybe blue range that many brands assume all guys will be satisfied by.

Whatever colour you do go for, you’ll be getting a great pair of shorts that offer a light amount of compression to help support your muscles during your workouts without feeling at all overbearing. Those who have really taken to the tight fit of shorts from brands like 2XU might be left unsatisfied by this light compression, but if you’re seeking a less oppressive feel then Adidas’s Alphaskin range is worth checking out in general.

The fabric is Polygiene-treated to ensure top-notch odour-resistance and the Climacool tech used wicks sweat away and will keep you cool and dry in hot conditions.

2XU MCS Cross Training Compression Shorts

A buyer’s guide to the best compression shorts for men

The MCS body mapping in these shorts focuses the compression on key areas of your glutes, hamstrings and quads to provide the support you need to excel during a workout, whether you’re powering through a set of barbell back squats, jinking your way through an agility workout or leaping onto boxes as high as your chest. Or indeed smaller boxes, if that seems unrealistic.

That tight compression will also help you recover after intense workouts, and the lightweight, antibacterial fabric dries quickly and doesn’t get so smelly that you’ll shy away from pulling the shorts back on inbetween training sessions to take advantage of this benefit.

For those who like their shorts a little longer, 2XU also have a range of ¾ length tights featuring the MCS body-mapping that might suit you better, along with full length tights.

Best budget compression shorts

Kalenji Run Dry+ Tight Shorts

A buyer’s guide to the best compression shorts for men

There’s no body-mapping tech or any other kind of frills on display here, these are more or less just tight shorts, but the potential value of that shouldn’t be underestimated. The benefits of compression to performance are not well-established beyond a possible placebo effect, and these shorts will fit the bill on that front just as well as a pricier pair, even if you might not get much in the way of improved recovery times by wearing them after your training.

The Kalenji shorts are sweat-wicking and have a fit that’s designed to provide lightweight compression. There’s an inner pocket that you can fit small valuables in, and the fabric dries quickly.

If you’re all in on compression garments this budget pair will do little for you, but for someone keen to try out a closer fit but unsure about spending big money to do that, the Kalenji Run Dry+ Tight shorts are a great bargain option.

Best compression shorts for football

Nike Pro Training Shorts

A buyer’s guide to the best compression shorts for men

Football is a game where short, sharp bursts of effort are the norm, whether you’re sprinting through on goal to put your side ahead or desperately tracking back trying to stop an opposition striker doing the same. This kind of activity can put you at risk of muscle injuries if you’re not properly warmed up, which means compression shorts that help get the blood flowing can be invaluable to a footballer.

Nike’s Pro Training Shorts are great for wearing at the gym as well as whenever you’re kicking a ball around, providing a fairly light level of compression that’s still enough to get your muscles firing. The shorts have flat lock seams that won’t irritate the skin, and mesh sections to increase their breathability.

The benefits of compression

While its performance-boosting credentials remain a matter of debate, compression gear does have an established benefit when worn during your training in that the close fit can help to reduce the risk of chafing, something that can be a problem when it comes to long-distance running in particular. A lot of people worry about their nipples ahead of a marathon, but chafing can strike in even more sensitive areas if you wear the wrong kind of shorts.

Compression shorts are also made from sweat-wicking materials that dry quickly, which is exactly what you want during a workout to keep your cool and comfortable. The shorts can either be worn by themselves, depending on how happy you are with the tight fit being on show to the world, or under a looser pair of shorts. There are also plenty of 2-in-1 shorts you can get that provide both in one handy package.

Most compression shorts will cost around $20 to $30, but the price goes up considerably when you buy from brands that specialise in compression clothing. You will get bang for your buck in terms of quality shorts from these brands, who use body-mapping technology to provide targeted compression to your muscles, but the price can be well over $50. On the other end of the scale you’ll find budget shorts for under $10, which might not be much more than a tight pair of shorts, but that’ll still net you some of the benefits of compression.

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