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Best Running Shorts for Men of 2024

The best men’s running shorts for road running, trail running, ultrarunning, and everything in between.

By , and on March 7, 2024 | Comments
Best Running Shorts for Men - 2018 Hardrock 100 runners

Ultrarunners during the 2018 Hardrock 100. Photo: iRunFar/Bryon Powell

Nothing is better than running down the trail with a feeling of levity and strength without even noticing the clothes you’re wearing. While comfort is subjective, there are certain qualities common to the best running shorts for men. In trail running and ultrarunning, the combination of feel, function, and personal style is what makes a great pair of shorts.

To compile this buyer’s guide, we tested men’s running shorts from some of the best-known brands in trail running and ultrarunning, some companies in men’s general fitness, and even some whose reach is outside the core running community. Testing included thousands of miles, mainly on trails but also some on the roads and track. It involved running in many climates and settings, from the Rockies of Colorado to rail trails in the Midwest to coastal trails and roads in California.

This guide is for runners seeking the best men’s running shorts in a variety of categories, including budget, fabric technology, storage, comfort, and much more. Learn more about our testing methodology, read our advice for choosing your next running shorts, and see our frequently asked questions about running shorts for men at the bottom of this guide.

Best Running Shorts for Men

Best Running Shorts for Men - running on a ridge

Jeff Rome runs on a ridge in southwest Colorado. Photo: iRunFar/Eszter Horanyi

Overall Best Running Shorts for Men: Patagonia Strider Pro Running Shorts 5″ ($85)

Best Running Shorts for Men - Patagonia Strider Pro Running Shorts 5 inch - product photo

Pros:

  • Great storage
  • Competitively priced, considering all of the fabric technology, recycled content, and manufacturing transparency
  • The outer drawstring is a subtle but ingenious feature that prevents rubbing

Cons:

  •  Sizing runs small. I have a small waist but big legs and find my normal medium a bit restrictive

The Patagonia Strider Pro Running Shorts 5″ are the unanimous favorite of four testers on the iRunFar team. In some ways, it is the short-to-end-all shorts for any type of running. In fact, one member of our team has run only in these for the past five years, his allegiance unchanged, even with an old pair worn to pieces. The price is reasonable at $85. With a hygienic feature (HeiQ anti-odor treatment) not found in other shorts at a similar price and the most stable pocket set-up of all the models we tested, this wins best overall running short.

Available in two lengths, five inches and seven inches, the brief liner provides a secure ride, and the fabric is a perfect weight — substantial enough not to ride up, yet it feels lightweight and airy. In the five pockets, we’ve carried gels, keys, a light, a packable jacket, and even a large cell phone in the rear back pocket. The Strider Pro was updated in early 2023, something even the most strident Strider Pro fan is unlikely to notice, which is a good thing with such a beloved piece of apparel.

Unlike many multi-pocket shorts, when loaded down, the Strider Pro doesn’t bounce around too much. A popular feature of the Strider Pro is the drawstring on the outside of the waistband, a subtle but very useful solution to the chafing or rubbing of interior drawstrings. It is somewhat surprising that Patagonia, which has not traditionally specialized in running clothes, has managed to make a pair of shorts highly appealing to trail runners. As one of the most loved outdoor-apparel companies, the brand has established itself as one of iRunFar’s top picks for Best Running Apparel Brands of 2023.

Inseam: Five inches | Liner type: Brief

Shop the Patagonia Strider Pro Running Shorts 5’’
Best Running Shorts for Men - Patagonia Strider Pro Running Shorts 5 Inch front

A front view of the Patagonia Strider Pro Running Shorts 5’’. Photo: iRunFar/Christin Randall

Best Running Shorts for Men - Patagonia Strider Pro Running Shorts 5 Inch back

A back view of the Patagonia Strider Pro Running Shorts 5’’. Photo: iRunFar/Christin Randall

Best Trail Running Shorts for Men: Ultimate Direction Jason Schlarb Short ($80)

Best Running Shorts for Men - Ultimate Direction Jason Schlarb short - product photo

Pros:

  • Excellent internal storage with a bounce-free design
  • Airy split-short design helps with unrestricted movement and breathability
  • Trekking pole loops can also hold a shirt or jacket

Cons:

  • Brief liner fabric and waistband storage fabric is a bit bulky and doesn’t breathe well
  • A drawstring would help to dial in the fit when the storage pockets are fully loaded
  • Hem fabric is plastic coated and can make the shorts stick together

The Ultimate Direction Jason Schlarb Short is not only comfortable, but it lets you carry a small hydration bottle in your shorts rather than in your hand or in a pack. When Ultimate Direction’s Hydro Short debuted several years ago, the concept of it was smart (disclosure: I worked for the company during this period). The initial product failed in its execution because to limit the bouncing of a hydration bottle, the fabric tolerances needed to be so high many men couldn’t comfortably pull the shorts over their hips without them ripping. The Jason Schlarb Short takes the Hydro Short foundation but makes it much more comfortable and better performing. While it won’t fully replace a hydration pack, it will make a waist belt redundant. It has 365-degree storage around the waist, with the ability to fit a plus-sized iPhone, a 550-milliliter soft bottle, snacks, and a lightweight jacket. There are two rear loops for storing trekking poles. The short is brief lined, and the sides have splits, which makes it feel very light and airy. As for bounce? The storage pockets have the excellent ability to sort of “spill out” instead of sagging down. And because there is no drawstring, this keeps the shorts from bouncing or falling down. The short looks great in Ultimate Direction’s signature blue and is also available in black.

Inseam: Four inches | Liner type: Brief

Shop the Ultimate Direction Jason Schlarb Short

Best Road Running Shorts for Men: Brooks Elite 3″ Shorts ($75)

Best Running Shorts for Men - Brooks Elite 3 Split Short - Product Photo copy

Pros:

  • Excellent fit and support
  • Lightweight, quick-drying
  • Excellent range of motion

Cons:

  • Not a lot of storage

If you’re looking for a sleek, fast pair of shorts for road or track efforts, look no further than the Brooks Elite 3″ Split Short. This sleek pair of shorts are lightweight, quick-drying, and super comfortable. It hits that perfect balance of adequate support with a barely-there feel. The material for the shorts and liner is a soft mesh and is incredibly comfortable. We like the boosted adjustability with the drawstring and the fact that the shorts are made with 91% recycled materials. Our one qualm is the lack of storage space. You two internal pockets on the hips that are really only big enough to carry a car or house key and maybe one packet of energy gel.

Besides speed sessions, races, and everyday runs, these shorts definitely thrive in hot conditions. Two openings at the hips help with ventilation, and as mentioned above, the shorts are deft at absorbing moisture. Overall, these are excellent shorts for just about any type of run.

Inseam: Three inches | Liner type: Brief

Shop the Brooks Elite 3

Best Marathon Shorts for Men: Rabbit Fuel n’ Fly 3″ Shorts ($75)

Pros:

  • Lightweight, comfy, good at wicking moisture
  • Excellent storage

Cons:

  • Nothing yet

Rabbit’s Fuel n’ Fly 3″ ShortsBest Men's Running Shorts - Rabbit Fuel n' Fly 3" Shorts are excellent for short and long runs alike. Very similar in style and feel to the New Balance Accelerate Three-Inch Split Shorts, we put these as our favorite marathon shorts for their ample pocket space and ability to hold plenty of fuel (as the name suggests). Rabbit employs Polartec’s Power Dry with Fresh Face technology on the liner brief to boost its moisture-wicking capabilities. The brief also features bluesign-certified peppermint oil on the brief liner to help mask stink. We also love that the material of the main portion of the shorts is 99% recycled.

These shorts feature five pockets, including one outer zipped pocket. There’s plenty of room to haul and store fuel like gel packets and keys or cards. They provide the perfect amount of lightweight support that still allows the legs to reach a full range of motion.

Inseam: Three inches | Liner type: Brief

Shop the Rabbit Fuel n' Fly 3

Best Ultrarunning Shorts for Men: Patagonia Strider Pro Running Shorts 5″ ($85)

Best Running Shorts for Men - Patagonia Strider Pro Running Shorts 5 inch - product photo

Pros:

  • Great and copious storage
  • Stands up in all regards on multi-day efforts
  • Long life for thin fabric

Cons:

  • Can we get a discount on a bulk pack?!

Okay, okay, hear us out. We raved about the Patagonia Strider Pro Running Shorts 5″ above as our all-around favorite shorts for running, but ultrarunning deserves its own special category, and here, we found ourselves reaching for the Strider Pro once again. To date, we’ve never double-dipped on a product in a buyer’s guide, but the Strider Pro 5″ is the everyday AND ultramarathon workhouse of the men here at iRunFar.

Ultrarunners need shorts that remain comfortable in just about every type of weather for many hours on end. They must remain fresh-feeling, somewhat stink-free, and definitely chafe-free — which is why these shorts are also on our list for Best Running Gear for Hot Weather of 2023. We can certainly vouch for the Strider Pros in all these regards as well as their excellent storage. The storage isn’t necessarily sufficient to carry everything you might need in most ultramarathons, but it’s perfect for a good deal of supplementary storage.

Inseam: Five inches | Liner type: Brief

Shop the Patagonia Strider Pro Running Shorts 5’’

Best Running Shorts for Men with Storage: Ultimate Direction Hydro Short ($100)

Best Running Shorts for Men - Ultimate Direction Hydro Short - Product Photo

Pros:

  • Extensive storage, carries very well, and doesn’t bounce
  • Water bottle pockets can be used for anything, not just the included bottles (for example, a windbreaker)
  • Nice styling, and this second generation includes a “Hydro Hammock” liner, which is comfortable and supportive

Cons:

  • High cost
  • Stitching tolerance is awfully tight and must be handled a little more carefully than any other shorts when putting on or adjusting
  • Some might find the bulk around the waist cumbersome

These second-edition shorts have come a long way in the two years since their debut. While the original Ultimate Direction Hydro Short was a good introduction to the brand’s “wearable gear” — a very fitting name for apparel that has built-in carrying capabilities — there were negative reviews of the original model. In that first iteration, the fabric in the crotch was known to chafe, and while the belt (the most crucial component to keeping these shorts from sliding off your butt while loaded with water and gear) worked, it was problematic. Now, this second version has a magnetic clasp and a belt that allows you to cinch from both directions instead of only from the left, like the original version.

In the original model, there wasn’t enough stretch in the belt for many people to hoist the shorts over their hips. This has improved, but the stitching components are still a little tight, and it’s easy to hear the stitches stretching or slightly tearing if you pull too hard, putting them on or off.

Like the original Hydro Short, this updated version is blue, but it’s a bit more jewel-toned than the original, which is an improvement in style. The performance is quite remarkable, considering a runner can carry 24 ounces (600 milliliters) of water in two 300ml water bottles included with and specifically designed for the Hydro Short. These small, hard bottles are unique, and you will have trouble trying to jam non-Ultimate Direction bottles in the pockets. The weight-carrying system doesn’t cause the shorts to bounce or stretch, and using the pockets on the move is no trouble. There is a third pocket in the center back. There is a comfortable inner brief with a pouch feature that is a massive improvement over the original.

The Hydro Short is a thoughtful, meaningful, and innovative product that eliminates the need for a waist belt or hydration pack for most trail running distances.

Ultimate Direction doesn’t use any proprietary fabric technology like Polygiene or recycled materials. Its products are not bluesign certified, and there is no consumer transparency about where or by whom the shorts are manufactured. But they are arguably the most innovative shorts we tested.

Inseam: Four inches | Liner type: Two-in-one inner brief

Shop the Ultimate Direction Hydro Short
Best Running Shorts for Men - Ultimate Direction Hydro Short front

A front view of the Ultimate Direction Hydro Short with its smooth liner. Photo: iRunFar/Christin Randall

Best Running Shorts for Men - Ultimate Direction Hydro Short back

A back view of the Ultimate Direction Hydro Short with the storage area for water. Photo: iRunFar/Christin Randall

Most Stylish Running Shorts for Men: On Lightweight Shorts ($80)

Best Running Shorts for Men - ON Running Lightweight Shorts - product photo

Pros:

  • Super luxurious fabric that looks and feels fantastic
  • Great breathability to shed heat during hot runs, weight is very low

Cons:

  • Drawstring is comfortable and mostly hidden, but it’s sewn together and doesn’t tie

Style is personal and highly subjective, but to me, the On Lightweight Shorts are the best looking in this buyer’s guide. On always emphasizes aesthetic components of their products, and thus is appealing to the general fitness-focused public, not only runners. You see the brand being worn by celebrities and fashion icons — people far outside the core of the trail running community. Compared to the stalwart mountain and trail brands like Black Diamond or La Sportiva, On looks more at home in the athleisure category, similar to Lululemon or Fabletics.

Despite the sometimes negative connotation of athleisure, I’ll add that I once finished fifth place in the Monte Rosa Sky Race in Italy wearing a pair of On shoes, so I believe the brand is legit. A high performer in the mountains and trails, On is a supporter of phenomenal American mountain runners like Jeff Colt and Allie McLaughlin.

The Lightweight Shorts have a real “business up front/party in the back” vibe since the front, with its faux fly detail and luxurious-looking fabric, belies any visible tech. However, the back, with its black color contrast, is perforated and very breathable. It turns out the front fabric is highly technical as well, without being too flashy. The shorts have no zippers or hard points, so when you’re on the ground stretching, there are no irritating points. This is a small but appreciated detail that other brands in this guide rarely offer.

The elevated styling and feel of these shorts make them stand out, particularly at this price.

Inseam: Seven inches | Liner type: Brief

Shop the On Lightweight Shorts
Best Running Shorts for Men - On Running Lightweight Shorts front

A front view of the On Lightweight Shorts. Photo: iRunFar/Christin Randall

Best Running Shorts for Men - On Running Lightweight Shorts back

A back view of the On Lightweight Shorts. Photo: iRunFar/Christin Randall

Best Basic Running Shorts for Men: Dynafit Sky Shorts ($80)

Best Running Shorts for Men - Dynafit Sky Short - Product Photo

Pros:

  • Minimalist design
  • Exceptional breathability
  • Ultralight

Cons:

  • Doesn’t have longer inseam options
  • Less storage capacity than other shorts

For steep mountain running and racing, most of us want as light and small of shorts as social standards and personal modesty will allow (unless you’re Courtney Dauwalter or François D’haene). Enter the minimalist Dynafit Sky Shorts, which weighs a mere four ounces and has a four-inch inseam. The Sky Shorts’s simple design strips away the extras and utilizes exceptionally breathable, eco-friendly fabrics. You can even reduce the weight by another gram or so once you cut out the 11-page (!) material and care instructions, which comprise the only really bulky attribute of the Sky Shorts.

The shorts borrow much of their exceptional breathability from the foundation created in Dynafit’s now-discontinued Vert 2, which has been my go-to hot weather option for the past two summers. With the Sky Shorts, Dynafit has managed to transfer the Vert 2’s incredible moisture-wicking performance while increasing the size of the two hip pockets, and the Sky Shorts has a much softer, less stiff face fabric. The same zippered pocket is now bigger to accommodate modern smartphones, but the real star of this show is the integrated mesh lining (brief style) with bigger-than-average perforations which move sweat away from the skin and dries quickly. In the Sky Shorts, you’ll go up, up, and away with all the freedom of movement your legs and lungs can muster.

Inseam: Four inches | Liner type: Brief

Shop the Dynafit Sky Shorts

Best Value Running Shorts for Men: Path Projects Graves PX 5″ Short ($49)

Best Running Shorts for Men - Path Projects Graves PX 5 inch short - Product Photo

Pros:

  • High-quality and durable materials at an affordable price
  • Can be worn as a very light, airy, and unlined short or paired with an inner brief of your choice

Cons:

  • May require sorting out the liner/undergarment to wear with them

Path Projects is a brand unlike any other in this buyer’s guide for two reasons: the first is that they are a direct-to-consumer running apparel company which enables them to sell its gear at much more aggressive prices. The second reason is their commitment to “independent suspension.” This is Path Project’s self-described method of pairing an unlined trail running short with a separate base liner short: runners wear two independent pieces that have the freedom to move and be adjusted without one affecting the other.

The system is not a gimmick. I have been running in these shorts for more than a year now. The Path Project Graves PX 5” Short is only $49, which makes it the least expensive trail running short in this buyer’s guide. But the short doesn’t skimp on quality of material and innovation.

This is the only short here with two side zippered pockets and one large enough in the rear center to carry a plus-sized iPhone. It is capable of carrying a lot of gear and weight without being attached to an inner liner, and the fit is much more stable than other shorts when weighted similarly.

The real charmer with this short is the main body fabric. It’s a technology called Toray Prime Flex: a new, partially corn-based material that uses much less water for production. It’s also very breathable and soft against the skin. Toray Prime Flex is notable for durability, which I, unfortunately, tested when I tripped and “superman-ed” around a switchback, landing directly on my hip against a slab of rock. I was bloodied and bruised under my short, but remarkably the short was not damaged at all.

Inseam: Five inches | Liner type: None, as it’s recommended to pair these with a Path Projects base liner sold separately

Shop the Path Projects Graves PX 5-inch Short
Best Running Shorts for Men - Path Projects Graves PX 5 inch front

A side view of the Path Projects Graves PX 5” Short with liner. Photo: iRunFar/Christin Randall

Best Running Shorts for Men - Path Projects Graves PX 5 inch short back

A back view of the Path Projects Graves PX 5” Short. Photo: iRunFar/Christin Randall

Most Comfortable Running Shorts for Men: Tracksmith Session Shorts ($68)

Best Running Shorts for Men - Tracksmith Session Shorts - Product Photo

Pros:

  • Incredibly comfortable fabric, high-quality finish
  • Super soft and comfortable liner that is also quick-drying

Cons:

  • Very basic shorts without all but the most essential, key-sized pocket

Nothing is more comfortable against the skin than a well-aged cotton t-shirt. But running in a cotton shirt is disastrous at managing moisture, standing up to odors, and staining. Since its inception, Tracksmith has resolved to bring back the simplicity of early cotton running apparel with more modern touches. What the comfort of a soft cotton t-shirt does for your upper body, the Tracksmith Session Shorts help mimic for your legs.

Though the Session Shorts are the most basic of all running shorts in this buyer’s guide, they are the most comfortable. Unlike simple cotton athletic shorts, the shorts are made by an Italian factory in a blend they call “Veloce,” which means “rapid” in Italian. Similar material and manufacturing processes are showing up in many cottage brands’ running and cycling apparel, and for a good reason: this Veloce fabric blend (86% nylon and 14% elastane) is incredibly soft but has features like ultraviolet protection and moisture-wicking technology.

These shorts have a heather finish and a five-inch inseam with only one small pocket on the rear center. These are the shorts to use when you want to leave the phone at home and just escape into the rhythm of running with nothing but some shoes and shorts.

Inseam: Five inches | Liner type: Brief

Shop the Tracksmith Session Shorts
Best Running Shorts for Men - Tracksmith Session Shorts front

A front view of the very soft Tracksmith Session Shorts. Photo: iRunFar/Christin Randall

Best Running Shorts for Men - Tracksmith Session Shorts back

A back view of the Tracksmith Session Short. Photo: iRunFar/Christin Randall

Comparing the Best Men’s Running Shorts

SHORTS PRICE INSEAM MATERIALS POCKETS
Patagonia Strider Pro Running Shorts 5” $85 5 inches Recycled polyester Yes
Ultimate Direction Jason Schlarb Short $80 4 inches Polyester, spandex Yes
Brooks Elite 3″ Split Short $75 3 inches Recycled polyester Yes
Rabbit Fuel n’ Fly 3″ Shorts $75 3 inches Recycled polyester, spandex Yes
Ultimate Direction Hydro Short $100 4 inches Polyester, Spandex Yes
On Lightweight Shorts $80 9 inches Polyamide, elastane Yes
Dynafit Sky Shorts $80 Not listed Polyamide, elastane Yes
Path Projects Graves PX 5″ Short $58 5 inches Polyester Yes
Tracksmith Session Shorts $68 5 inches Polyamide, elastane Yes

Buyer’s Guide: How to Choose the Best Running Shorts for Men

Running is a fabulously low-tech and relatively low-cost sport compared to other endurance activities (Hello, cycling!). And while it’s true that all you really need to go for a run is a pair of shoes, the next most important gear is running shorts. When it comes to choosing the best running shorts for men, we have seemingly endless options: shorts that are very short or very baggy, shorts with lots of storage or none at all, shorts with brief liners or boxer liners, and all with patterns and colors to suit every individual’s style.

Brands that manufacture men’s shorts for trail running and ultrarunning specifically, though, seem to have settled among a few consistent criteria: shorts that are five to seven inches in length, are always lined (either with a brief or a two-in-one inner brief), include at least one pocket big enough to carry a phone, and, often come in earthy tones like navy blue, dark green, or, most often, plain-old black.

Outside of this criteria, which we found the Patagonia Strider Pro Running Shorts 5″ pretty much nailed, if your preference falls to three-inch split shorts with a cheetah print, you won’t find much from brands that have traditionally catered to trail runners and ultrarunners.

Best Running Shorts for Men - mountain running testing lifestyle 2

Enjoying a high country running adventure. Photo: iRunFar/Bryon Powell

Style

Trail running and ultrarunning shorts styles have seen some outliers over the years. From Courtney Dauwalter and François D’haene’s long, baggy Salomon shorts to Kilian Jornet’s bright white spandex shorts from the Western States 100 back in the day, the pendulum swings in our sports. However, our picks for the best running shorts for men for this guide do not venture too far from the middle.

Our testing included no specific spandex or compression shorts, pocketless shorts, or super light three-inch shorts more common to road running. Pockets in running shorts are a tradition, but in the old days, it was one small pocket for your house or car key, and that was it. Particularly for trail running and ultrarunning, as well as with the advent of massive cell phones, pockets have proliferated for everything, including bottles, food, and trekking poles. That said, our top pick when it comes to style is the On Lightweight Shorts, thanks to its blend of sleek design, lux material, and technical details.

Material

Along with quick-drying and moisture-wicking fabrics, the best running shorts for men are often made from technical outer fabrics that resist abrasion. And many of them stand up incredibly well to hard falls on dirt or rock or from snagging against bushes and trees. This combination of durable textiles that also are breathable is what makes trail running shorts more expensive than their road counterparts. Fabrics made of blends of polyester and elastane, Tencil, CoolMax, DWR, Powermesh, Polygiene, and four-way stretch are not mandatory but preferred materials for managing moisture, odor, and abrasion. Some shorts also provide paneling in sensitive areas to block wind or cold or perforations in specific high-heat zones for added breathability. Every pair of shorts on our list was chosen for its high-quality material and breathability, though the Tracksmith Session Shorts rose to the top for comfort due to their quick-drying cotton-like material.

Length

It used to be that trail runners were noticeable by their shorts being longer, signaling a more casual and outdoorsy approach. Nowadays, trail running shorts are most commonly in the five- to seven-inch range, with many brands offering five inches. However, there are many purests (like ourselves) out there that still love the three-inch split shorts for road and trail running. So while we included a few of those, most of our top picks for best men’s running shorts have four- or five-inch inseams.

Best Running Shorts for Men - Lifestyle Image

Author and gear tester Craig Randall testing shorts on a chilly sunrise mountain run. Photo: iRunFar/Christin Randall

Waistband

To support the loads carried in modern trail running and ultrarunning, managing the weight of phones, food, water, and other gadgets depends on how secure and stable the waistband is. A poorly constructed waistband means the difference between the loads in your pockets bouncing and your shorts sagging or a nice and tight fit around the waist with all of your goods held firmly.

Waistbands are another point of friction between the shorts and your skin, which over time, can become irritating or painful. Some brands we tested here have opted for outer rather than inner drawstrings or even magnetic-closure buckles. But for most shorts, you still find a very simple, practical, and old-school drawstring that can be cinched, knotted, and tucked inside the shorts. We especially like the waistband on the Patagonia Strider Pro Running Shorts 5, which is designed with the drawstring on the outside to reduce chafing.

Storage

The types of storage offered in trail running and ultrarunning shorts are diverse but generally plentiful since we might need access to everything from hydration, food, phone, hat, gloves, and more on the fly, and not everyone wants to take off their running vest to reach for essential gear. Pocket sizes range from a small key pocket to a phone-specific pocket, to tiny gel storage pockets to (generally) one zippered pocket for security. Some brands have really innovated in their storage designs, as we see with the Ultimate Direction Hydro Short and the waistband that comfortably holds two small water bottles, while others contain hidden pockets on the thigh/hip portion of the shorts or along the waistband.

Liner Versus No Liner

Nearly all men’s trail running and ultrarunning shorts include a liner, so it boils down more to which type of liner you prefer. There are shorts with a liner brief (like underwear) or two-in-one shorts with an inner liner that is more like a boxer brief. One brand we tested offers an independent system of boxer briefs and shorts, which is subtly innovative because both components move independently.

Comfort comes down to how the liner moves moisture, how well it locks in male anatomy, and how the material prevents chafing. Two-in-one shorts are often a little heavier and don’t move moisture as well, but their benefit comes from not having potentially irritating seams around the leg openings like a brief and offer a little more coverage for modest trail runners. Chafing around the thighs can be minimized with two-in-one shorts’ inner briefs. When constructed well, trail running shorts’ brief liners are very airy and lightweight. Some runners with sensitive skin or while trail running in conditions that go from wet to dry may find an anti-chafe cream or balm helpful to combat skin irritation (an inevitability for even the most comfortable liners).

Reflectivity

Reflectivity has become a near requirement on road running shorts as a simple way to be seen by traffic at dark. Because trail running happens in the pedestrian-friendly confines of nature, reflectivity is a rare detail on our shorts. On some shorts we tested, the Patagonia Strider Pro Running Shorts 5″, very subtle reflectivity is included on the logo.

Price

Shorts for trail running and ultrarunning don’t have to be just ones that claim they are for the job. Many trail runners break the mold by wearing spandex tights (the kind more often seen in track and field) or one- to three-inch shorts lacking liners and pockets (like a road marathoner) and in everything in between (like shorts from Target or the Amazon Essentials brand). The nice thing about buying a pair of running shorts from a manufacturer who really understands the sport is the thoughtful touches, better materials, and more humane manufacturing. These factors add cost, and nearly all of the shorts we tested fall between $70 and $100, and all within $30 of each other. That said, our top choice for value is the Path Projects Graves PX 5″ Short.

While upwards of $70 may sound like a lot of money compared to shorts from Amazon ($20), Target ($24), or BOA’s 1” Elite Split Shorts ($29), you gain storage for carrying the essentials that trail running and ultrarunning demand and the toughness that shorts made for harsh conditions provide.

Best Running Shorts for Men - mountain running testing lifestyle

Trail running in Colorado’s San Juan Mountains. Photo: iRunFar/Bryon Powell

Why You Should Trust Us

To compile this buyer’s guide, we initially researched a wide variety of running shorts and tested 15 pairs in total. We reviewed shorts from known brands in trail running and ultrarunning, along with recognizable companies in men’s fitness. All the shorts were tested on trails and roads in Colorado and California. Five testers from iRunFar’s review team contributed to this guide. The primary tester’s body type is six foot, four inches, and around 180 pounds. Almost all shorts tested were men’s medium or large. The other major contributor and editor is five foot, 10 inches and 135 pounds.

Since the initial publication of this guide, we have continued to test many pairs of men’s running shorts and updated the guide with newer versions of shorts already included or newer models. Our testers regularly run on roads and trails. We do not include a pair of shorts in this guide until we’ve logged at least 100 miles on the pair, including at least one up-tempo run or workout and at least one long run. We tested every pair currently listed in this guide for at least a year.

Best Running Shorts for Men - Luke Nelson Patagonia Strider Pro 5 inch Hardrock 100

Luke Nelson wearing a big smile and iRunFar’s favorite running shorts, the Patagonia Strider Pro 5″, at Hardrock 100. Photo: iRunFar/Bryon Powell

Frequently Asked Questions About the Best Running Shorts for Men

What are the best running shorts for men?

Trail running shorts are, for the most part, only different from road running shorts in two ways: volume of storage (pockets) and liner type. For example, the three-inch split shorts are most commonly associated with speedy roadies looking for “barely there” comfort with no pockets (or, at most, a small hidden key pocket) and optional inner shorts or briefs. Often that barely-there sentiment isn’t just a metaphor for “lightweight” — it’s a preference. While we tested one pair of road running shorts for this buyer’s guide (which is not included above), we only tested a single liner-free short, and it was difficult to find a company that offered one.

Trail running shorts liners tend to come in equal variety between brief and liner, with the latter sometimes offering compression. Since trail runners often run long distances while exposed to the elements, trail running shorts also include fabric technology unnecessary in their road running counterparts, such as water-repellant tech, ripstop, or other durable fabric, and heavy-duty waistbands and drawstrings to keep loaded-down shorts from bouncing. Quick-drying material is also featured to help mitigate the effect of chafing and odors. Our favorite trail running shorts for men are the Ultimate Direction Jason Schlarb Short.

Reflective elements are also rarer with trail running shorts compared to their road running counterparts.

Are certain shorts best for ultrarunning?

The sport of trail running is diverse. Different runners like steep, short trails, while others prefer less vert and more distance. Some like to mix it all. Since ultrarunning combines all of these aspects, the best shorts for trail running require long-term comfort, the right amount of storage (to complement storage from handhelds or packs), and, potentially, rare features like trekking pole holders or shirt loops.

We found that the Patagonia Strider Pro Running Shorts 5″ check all our boxes for ultrarunning and are overwhelmingly voted the best running shorts for men at iRunFar. However, it’s worth noting that several brands in this buyer’s guide included special venting zones and extra perforations for quick-drying performance and maximum breathability, which is essential in running shorts that will be worn for many hours on trail. While length isn’t a crucial factor when selecting ultrarunning shorts, we factor in storage and durability as additional priorities.

Best Running Shorts for Men - Patagonia Strider Pro Running shorts 5 inch Lifestyle

Bryon Powell of iRunFar testing the Patagonia Strider Pro Running Shorts 5″ in Colorado’s San Juan Mountains. Photo: iRunFar/Meghan Hicks

Should I wear running shorts with a liner?

You’d be hard-pressed to find trail running shorts without a liner, and wearing underwear beneath running shorts is a quick way to chafe (don’t do it!). Fortunately, the liners of trail running and ultrarunning shorts are made for moisture management, heat transfer, and providing support in the groin.

A supportive liner is essential since we’re often leaping or jumping onto rocks or over tree limbs and running steep downhills with lots of bouncing. The liner is meant to cradle the midsection and prevent discomfort. We tested both brief-style liners and two-in-one inner shorts liners. The benefit of a brief is moisture management and minimal fabric to reduce overall weight while offering better comfort in hot conditions because of less material. Tight-fitting and sometimes extending beyond the outer running short, liner briefs can offer mild leg compression, added support, and warmth during colder runs. Also, liner briefs are sometimes used to help reinforce shorts with a lot of pockets and, thus, a lot of weight to carry. Liner briefs reinforce the harness to create stability under load.

What can I do to prevent chafing?

Sizing your trail running shorts correctly is the single most effective way to prevent chafing. All modern trail shorts liners use synthetic or wool fabrics, which are exceptional at moisture transfer and drying. Brief and two-in-one liners are both adept at preventing chafing though some runners will prefer longer inner shorts to avoid any rubbing around the inner thigh where the leg seams are on briefs.

When fit correctly, chafing should be minimal. Too small or too big, and you will find that the bulk of extra fabric or the cinch of fabric is too tight and might lead to rubbing, chafing, and discomfort, especially when it becomes wet. Shorts with outer drawstrings like the Patagonia Strider Pro Running Shorts 5″, while rare, are also effective at reducing discomfort from rubbing at the waist, and this should be considered before purchasing trail running shorts.

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Craig Randall

Craig Randall is a Gear Editor and Buyer’s Guide Writer at iRunFar. Craig has been writing about trail running apparel and shoes, the sport of trail running, and fastest known times for four years. Aside from iRunFar, Craig Randall founded Outdoor Inventory, an e-commerce platform and environmentally-driven second-hand apparel business. Based in Boulder, Colorado, Craig Randall is a trail runner who has competed in races, personal projects, and FKTs.


Craig Randall

Alli Hartz is a member of the gear review team at iRunFar. She’s been writing about outdoor gear, outdoor adventure, and adventure travel for 10 years. Aside from iRunFar, Alli contributes gear reviews and adventure stories to Switchback Travel, Travel Oregon, and other outlets. She also works as a ski guide during the winter season and has dabbled in run-skiing on the Cascade volcanoes. Alli is based in Bend, Oregon, where she loves to run from her front door up into the Three Sisters Wilderness.


Craig Randall

Eszter Horanyi identifies as a Runner Under Duress, in that she’ll run if it gets her deep into the mountains or canyons faster than walking would, but she’ll most likely complain about it. A retired long-distance bike racer, she gave ultra foot racing a go and finished the Ouray 100 in 2017, but ultimately decided that she prefers a slower pace of life of taking photos during long days in the mountains and smelling the flowers while being outside for as many hours of the day as possible. Eszter will take any opportunity to go adventuring in the mountains or desert by foot, bike, or boat, and has lived the digital nomad lifestyle throughout the west for the past seven years.