Best Running Shorts for Women of 2024

iRunFar reviewed the best running shorts for women of 2023 from brands like Oiselle, Black Diamond, Smartwool, Tracksmith, and others.

By and on February 21, 2024 | Comments
Best Women's Running Shorts - running in the desert - feature photo

The right pair of shorts is a critical piece of running gear. Photo: iRunFar/Eszter Horanyi

When choosing the best running shorts for women, not all options are equal — especially regarding trail running, mountain running, and ultrarunning. Trail running and ultrarunning shorts must withstand the rigors of everything — while not chafing — from mid-run alpine lake dips to wind-scoured mountain summits. Synthetic and wool fabrics, flat seams, and storage capacity for fuel or your phone set the best running shorts for women apart from their run-of-the-mill counterparts. Baggy or tight, short or long, thin or thick waistband — different shorts suit different body types, running gaits, and styles. The best shorts for you as an individual will be what’s most comfortable. While running shorts tend to run pretty pricey, there’s something here to suit all budgets.

Our favorite overall women’s running shorts are the Oiselle Featherweight Roga Shorts for their comfort, performance, and overall value. The Ciele Athletics W DLYShort Short Brief was a close runner-up, and the Merrell Women’s Terrain Run Short is our favorite budget pick.

Below is our roundup of our favorite shorts. To learn about what goes into great women’s running shorts or how to decide which shorts are right for you, jump down to our how-to-choose section and our answers to your most frequently asked questions. Lastly, click on our testing and methodology section if you’re curious about the rigors through which we put these shorts.

Best Running Shorts for Women

Best Running Shorts for Women - testing shorts in Colorado

Testing women’s running shorts on a trail run in Colorado. Photo: iRunFar/Eszter Horanyi

Best Overall Running Shorts for Women: Oiselle Featherweight Roga Shorts ($60)

Best Running Shorts for Women - Oiselle Featherweight Roga Shorts - product photo


  • Extremely quick-drying and light
  • Wide and comfortable waistband and useful waistband pocket
  • Good value for the price


  • Heavier items such as a smartphone will bounce in the pocket

The Oiselle Featherweight Roga Shorts let you move freely while offering excellent protection from chafing. They’re light, moisture-wicking, and quick-drying. Plus, these shorts come with a functional waistband pocket and a form-fitting style.

Oiselle’s lightest shorts provide just the right level of breathability for even the hottest summer runs. They truly live up to their featherweight name, yet they remain durable enough to withstand butt-sliding down scree fields. The brand put a lot of thought into the four-way stretch material in the paneling, and these shorts move with the body, whether you’re going up big rock steps or flying down a steep trail.

A wide, compressive waistband fits comfortably in the middle of your waist. An infinity drawstring prevents the dreaded muffin top while letting you adjust the waist to your needs. A mesh pocket running along the back of the waistband offers ample room to stuff those empty wrappers, though the pocket is not ideal for something as heavy as a smartphone. A phone will bounce unless you really cinch the cord.

You won’t even notice the perfectly sized built-in mesh liner. A V-shaped four-inch inseam remains longer at the inner thigh and tapers along the side, maximizing chafe protection and yet enhancing freedom of movement and style. Our primary tester turned to these shorts for every major summer outing, including a 50-mile fastest-known time effort in muggy New Hampshire, multiple races, and backpacking trips.

Inseam: 4 inches | Liner type: Brief

Shop the Oiselle Featherweight Roga Shorts

Best Running Shorts for Women – Runner-Up: Ciele Athletics W DLYShort Short Brief ($75)

Best Running Shorts for Women - Ciele W DLYShort Short Brief - product photoPros:

  • Light and airy
  • Quick drying
  • Incredibly comfortable


  • The rear zip pocket is big enough for a card and key but not much more
  • An internal stash pocket is not helpful
  • Pricey

Covering hundreds of miles over multiple seasons, one iRunFar tester ran in the Ciele Athletics W DLYShort Short Brief almost exclusively while training for the Western States Endurance Run. These shorts are lightweight and breathable and are the kind of shorts you can wear through mid-run alpine lake dips. They will cool you down and then quickly dry and return to feeling light and airy. The mid-rise fit comes up just above the hips and below the belly button, and the soft waistband with a thick drawstring ensures they feel secure without squeezing too tightly. Inside, there’s a comfortable liner that fits snugly but doesn’t squeeze or restrict at all, and it stays in place whether you’re cruising over rolling hills, power hiking a steep incline, taking plunge steps down a scree field, or squatting down to gorge on trailside huckleberries. Additionally, the liner’s seams are reverse stitched to reduce any chance of chafing and treated for wicking performance and odor control.

With a four-inch inseam, these shorts provide excellent coverage for summer trail and mountain running. They’re constructed from a light, stretch-woven fabric and have a small split design on the side to enhance the range of motion. These shorts will move with you while also staying put. A subtle zippered pocket on the rear can hold one or two small items, like a car key or identification. It is not big enough for a smartphone, and anything heavy would bounce. There’s also a tiny front pocket inside the liner. We’d like to see a key attachment within that pocket to feel more secure about storing a car or house key there.

Inseam: 4 inches | Liner type: Brief

Shop the Ciele Athletics W DLYShort Short Brief

Best Budget Running Shorts for Women: Merrell Women’s Terrain Run Short ($35)

Best Women's Running Shorts - Merrell Women's Terrain Run Short - product photoPros:

  • Lightweight and airy
  • Quick-drying
  • Budget-friendly


  • A great everyday running short but no real standout performance features

If you like loose-fitting, flowy shorts, the Merrell Women’s Terrain Run Short is an excellent choice and a great value. These running shorts are light and airy, with soft, breathable fabric and a mesh liner. They have a comfortable waistband that hits just below the belly button and doesn’t squeeze. The slightly gathered fabric at the waistband helps the shorts hang comfortably at the natural waist, but there’s also an internal drawcord if you need to tighten them further. We found that the three-inch inseam seemed longer than claimed, possibly due to the loose-fitting and non-clingy fabric.

They are made from 100% polyester, so the fabric wicks sweat well and dries quickly. The fabric stretches and moves with you, and the shorts tapers on each side to enhance your range of motion. The mesh liner is also breathable, quick-drying, and doesn’t move or ride up. Finally, these shorts have a small zippered pocket on the back that could hold something small, like a key or coffee money. Overall, nothing about these shorts is a super standout feature in performance; however, they’re great everyday running shorts at a solid value.

Inseam: 3 inches | Liner type: Brief

Shop the Merrell Women's Terrain Run Short

Best Fitted Running Shorts for Women: Tracksmith Allston Shorts ($80)

Best Running Shorts for Women - Tracksmith Allston Shorts - product photoPros:

  • Soft
  • Quick-drying
  • Ample storage
  • Don’t ride up


  • Run small, so size up! Not size inclusive — no true large or extra large size
  • Pricey

The Tracksmith Allston Shorts offer a compressive yet soft feel. The five-inch inseam stays put even on long slogs and snappy hill sprints. Finally, a flattering fitted short with a longer inseam! While Tracksmith continues to engulf the track and road running markets, their high-quality apparel works great on the trails, too. If you’ve been looking for a compressive short you can throw on and not worry about inner thigh chafing or waistband slippage, this short is for you. We appreciated that the pocket easily and securely held a smartphone without bouncing.

Made from a blend of 57% nylon and 43% elastane, the Tracksmith Allston Shorts offer a highly compressive fit. They’re soft and breathable with plenty of stretch and dry in a snap. The high waist keeps it all in — no muffin top, suffocating, or pinching. A thin, soft elastic rib at the bottom of each cuff helps ensure these shorts don’t ride up.

Perhaps surprisingly, Tracksmith nails it with the storage in these shorts for a track-and-field brand. A clever double pocket in the back of a waistband is wide enough to fit a smartphone. The inner pocket can hold something small like a gel. Sizing is our primary complaint with these shorts and Tracksmith in general. These run pretty small, so size up. These shorts also don’t come in true large or extra large sizes. Hopefully, that will change in the future.

Inseam: 5 inches | Liner type: None

Shop the Tracksmith Allston Shorts

Best Split Running Shorts for Women: Tracksmith Twilight Split Shorts ($65)

Best Women's Running Shorts - Tracksmith Twilight Split Shorts - product photoPros:

  • Lightweight and comfortable
  • Convenient pockets for gels


  • Short inseam split shorts aren’t for everyone

When looking for shorts that look and feel fast, it’s hard to argue with the Tracksmith Twilight Split Shorts. The brand is a mainstay in track and road running, and these shorts definitely have the feel of something straight out of that world. But that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. With a three-inch inseam and a split short design, these shorts are small and allow for a huge and unrestricted range of motion. The thin liner didn’t bunch up or cause any type of chafing. Our tester loved these shorts for marathon training both on the track and the road and deemed them excellent for trail running as well.

These shorts feature the brand’s Bravio fabric, which is a blend of micro-polyester and elastane. It’s stretchy and soft, and we found these shorts to move well with the body throughout a stride. It’s lightweight and antimicrobial and dries quickly, making them perfect shorts for taking a mid-run dip in a river or lake on a mountain run.

While some of the other shorts in this guide have a ton of storage, these provide just enough for a few gels and other small items like keys or a credit card. The internal pockets held snacks snugly against the body to keep anything from bouncing around.

Of all the shorts in this guide, these were on the shorter and smaller side of the range.

Inseam: 3 inches | Liner type: Brief

Best Running Shorts for Women with Storage: Ultimate Direction Women’s Velum Short ($60)

Best Running Shorts for Women - Ultimate Direction Women's Velum Short - product photo


  • A no-bounce, built-in waistband can hold everything you need for a multi-hour outing


  • Shorts may flap up in the wind
  • Long side split and short inseam
  • Tight liner

The Ultimate Direction Women’s Velum Short can fit a full soft flask, a smartphone, and a few gels in the waistband without any bounce or risk of things falling out. We’ve got to admit the storage capacity of these tiny split shorts is quite impressive. Ultimate Direction has essentially taken a pair of classic split shorts and a running belt and combined them into one. There is no need for a tedious belt that rides up your torso or threatens to fall to your feet. Built-in storage around the waistband means you can pack everything you need for several hours of running into your shorts and head down the trail.

If you love split shorts, the full side-split on these allows for a total range of running motion. Our primary complaint with the shorts is the inseam length; 2.75 inches is pretty short for a long mountain outing or for someone who normally prefers longer shorts. Unfortunately, this is the only length option. We would love to see a longer inseam version in the future. The shorts feature a lightweight, quick-drying fabric that keeps you cool and dry on even the hottest days. However, these shorts will flap up on windy mountain summits and may bunch up on long, sweaty outings. The built-in mesh brief is highly breathable, although tighter than ideal.

These shorts are pretty low-rise, and the waistband must remain rather tight to keep everything in. While it’s wide and extremely comfortable, this type of fit is not for everyone. Despite wishing the inseam ran a bit longer and the liner was looser, our primary tester runs in these shorts almost as frequently as our overall top pick, the Oiselle Featherweight Roga Shorts. While initially, many people don’t see the appeal of ditching the waistbelt for a pair of these shorts; it’s hard to go back once you do.

Inseam: 2.75 inches | Liner type: Brief

Shop the Ultimate Direction Velum Short

Best of the Rest Running Shorts for Women: Janji W’s 3″ AFO Middle Short ($64)

Best Running Shorts for Women - Janji W's AFO 3 - product photoPros:

  • Breathable and soft
  • Comfortable liner that doesn’t move
  • Lots of fun print options


  • The inseam is on the short side
  • The waistband hits a bit low on longer torsos
  • Dark, solid colors show salty sweat stains

Super light and breezy, the Janji 3″ W’s AFO Middle Shorts are another favorite pair of shorts that are easy to forget you’re even wearing. These running shorts have some of the softest, smoothest fabric of all the shorts in this guide. Janji’s ultralight AFO woven fabric includes recycled synthetic materials. It feels like air and dries as quickly. Additionally, the liner fits well, feels light and comfortable, and doesn’t shift or ride up. The mid-rise waistband sits comfortably between the hip bones and the natural waist, though it will hit differently depending on your waist length. The waistband is closer to the natural waist on shorter torsos; on longer torsos, it lands across the lower abdomen. Janji’s website has a helpful visual for how these shorts fit different bodies. Regardless, the waistband includes a stretchy knit material that doesn’t squeeze and has an internal drawcord.

Janji nailed its internal key pocket by including a small elastic cord for attaching a key, a small but thoughtful detail for those of us who worry about leaving a key in an unsecured pocket. Additionally, a small zippered pocket on the back is ideal for carrying identification or a few dollars. These running shorts have a flattering and functional profile that’s slightly longer on the inside to reduce the risk of thigh chafing and shorter on the outside for a full range of motion when striding it out. They also have a subtle side split and are ever-so-slightly longer in the back.

That said, the inseam on these shorts is on the lower end of the selections in this guide. On a hot, dry summer day, one tester took them out on a 40-mile lap around the Timberline Trail in Oregon. While thigh chafing did not become a significant issue that day, the potential was there. Additionally, our tester noted some salty streaks across the black fabric from a day’s worth of sweat. Nonetheless, these gripes are minimal, and the shorts’ performance was impressive. Finally, Janji has many fun colors and prints for these shorts, many of which would make the sweat stains a non-issue.

Inseam: 3 inches | Liner: Brief

Shop the Janji W's 3

Best of the Rest Running Shorts for Women: Ibex Women’s Springbok Shorts ($100)

Best Running Shorts for Women - Ibex Women's Springbok short - product photoPros:

  • Incredibly soft, silky smooth merino Tencel liner
  • Naturally odor-resistant fabrics
  • Stretchy and comfortable


  • They’re fitted, so size up for a looser fit
  • Expensive

One of the softest and silkiest running shorts in this guide, the Ibex Women’s Springbok Shorts are so comfortable you’ll want to go for a run just so you can wear them. The shorts feature a lightweight, stretchy fabric that’s 91% nylon and 9% spandex. However, the liner is what really makes them stand out, featuring a blend of merino wool and Tencel, a fiber from sustainably grown eucalyptus. Merino wool is known for its temperature-regulating, quick-drying, and odor-resistant properties, while the main benefits of Tencel include its softer-than-cotton feel and durability. Tencel is also an excellent fabric for temperature regulation and often feels cool to the touch. Ibex also treated this fabric with a steaming process to make it feel cool against the skin. The result? It’s one of our favorite running short-liners yet.

Like many of the shorts in this guide, the Springbok shorts have a small zippered pocket on the back and a hidden interior pocket on the front. Thankfully, the front pocket includes a loop for attaching a key. The waistband on these shorts hits across the lower abdomen, just above the hip bones, and contains an internal drawstring for securing the fit. Speaking of fit, these shorts are more fitted than your typical running shorts, so we recommend sizing up if you want a looser fit. That said, they stretch nicely and allow uninhibited movement on the trails. For one of our testers, they were her go-to shorts for a summer of running around the mountains of New Zealand, where she found no durability or tearing issues after endless hours of fighting through thick scrub and beech forests.

Inseam: 3.5 inches | Liner: Brief

Shop the Ibex Women's Springbok Shorts

Best of the Rest Running Shorts for Women: Icebreaker Women’s ZoneKnit 3″ Merino Shorts ($120)

Best Running Shorts for Women - Icebreaker Women's ZoneKnit Merino 3 Shorts - product photo


  • Incredibly comfortable liner
  • Incorporates naturally odor-resistant materials
  • Loose, flowy fit and very breathable fabric


  • The waistband hits lower on the hips
  • Shorter inseam increases the potential for thigh chafing
  • Expensive

The Icebreaker Women’s Zoneknit 3″ Merino Shorts are the most breathable shorts in this guide. Icebreaker combines Cool-Lite jersey fabric and eyelet mesh panels to maximize airflow. The fabric is a blend of Tencel and merino wool, which are ideal for temperature regulation, breathability, sweat-wicking, and drying quickly. Additionally, Tencel is known for its soft, cool feel and durability. The liner is super comfortable and doesn’t bunch, ride up, or chafe. It’s a thin but not flimsy mesh made from a merino and Tencel blend, so it’s soft, breathable, and odor-resistant. This material also makes up the ZoneKnit panels on either side of the shorts.

These shorts have a three-inch inseam, which is on the shorter end of the picks in this guide. These shorts may not be the best option if you tend to chafe on the inner thighs or prefer more leg coverage. Additionally, they hit a bit lower than some of our other favorite shorts, right across the hip bones, which won’t meet the fit preferences of those who like a higher rise. An external drawstring makes them easy to adjust on the fly. Finally, they have two pockets: a zippered pocket on the back for one or two small items and a side pocket with a flap over the top that’s perfect for stashing a wrapper or a dog pick-up bag if your running buddy is of the furry variety.

The main drawback of these shorts is their price. While they incorporate high-performing, premium materials and a thoughtful design, they are the most expensive shorts in this guide by a lot. That said, price is a more important factor for some than others, and comfort and performance come first for many. One can argue that these shorts are worth the investment.

Inseam: 3 inches | Liner: Brief

Shop the Icebreaker Women's ZoneKnit Merino 3-Inch Shorts

Best Running Shorts for Women - testing the Ciele W DLYShort Short Brief

Testing the Ciele Athletics W DLYShort Short Brief. Photo: iRunFar/Alli Hartz

Comparing the Best Running Shorts for Women

Oiselle Featherweight Roga Shorts $60 4 inches Nylon/spandex Yes
Ciele Athletics W DLYShort Short Brief $75 5 inches Recycled woven fabric Yes
Merrell Women’s Terrain Run Short $35 3 inches Polyester Yes
Tracksmith Allston Shorts $80 5 inches Nylon/elastane Yes
Tracksmith Twilight Split Shorts $65 3 inches Polyester, elastane Yes
Ultimate Direction Women’s Velum Short $60 2.5 inches Polyester/spandex Yes
Janji W’s 3″ AFO Middle Short $64 3 inches Polyester/spandex Yes
Ibex Women’s Springbok Short $100 3.5 inches Merino wool Yes
Icebreaker Women’s ZoneKnit Merino 3″ Shorts $120 3 inches Tencel/merino wool Yes

Buying Advice: How to Choose Running Shorts for Women

Running shorts can make or break your outing. Ill-fitting or poorly made shorts can lead to chafing, inner thigh rubbing, or force you to constantly pull your shorts up on the move. Unlike men’s running shorts, the best running shorts for women seem to have very few commonalities. Some women prefer a fitted style with a short inseam. Some gravitate toward longer, loose-fitting shorts. Others swear by combinations of those qualities.

Finding the best type of shorts for you depends on your body type and personal preferences. Don’t be afraid to try a few styles to see what fits, stays put, and, most importantly, doesn’t chafe.


Trail running and ultrarunning shorts style varies as much as the terrain runners cover. While Courtney Dauwalter won the Western States 100 wearing her signature long, baggy, basketball-style shorts, Clare Gallagher also won the race in her typical fitted shorts.

While we did not test any classic 2.5-inch fitted shorts or standard pocketless three-inch split shorts, we tested several pairs of two-in-one compression shorts with split shorts on the top, but none made the cut for this guide. Our primary complaints with that style of shorts are that they look dorky and feel bulky. Additionally, the compression shorts feel like an afterthought, usually rolling up the leg and negating their purpose of providing inner thigh protection.

As phones have grown larger, pockets have grown accordingly. While you can carry a phone in a pack or belt, sometimes it’s nice to drop it into a shorts pocket and forget about it until you need it on the trail. Shorts like the Ultimate Direction Women’s Velum Short will carry a modern phone and much more without uncomfortable bouncing.


The best running shorts for women pack a lot of properties into one fabric. They are quick-drying and moisture-wicking, yet they are also durable and sometimes even water-repellent. The best fabrics can withstand a hard fall, sliding down scree or snow, or bushwhacking through a willow grove. Creating a durable yet breathable material raises the price of trail running shorts compared to their road running counterparts. Textiles made from polyester and elastane, with four-way stretch, durable water-repellent coatings, and other advanced material technology are unnecessary, but they’re preferable for wicking away moisture, preventing odor, and withstanding wear and tear. The shorts with the most high-tech fabric for breathability and wicking that we tested were the Oiselle Featherweight Roga Shorts.

Inseam Length

Shorter inseams tend to provide the best range of motion. Shorts with longer inseams offer more protection from chafing and the elements. Ultimately, when choosing between a short and long inseam, try each to see what works for you.

Best Running Shorts for Women - testing the Janji AFO 3 shorts

Author Alli Hartz takes the Janji AFO 3″ shorts for a spin. Photo: iRunFar/Alli Hartz

Loose Versus Fitted

The choice between loose split shorts and form-fitting shorts is mainly a style preference, although some women find that one type provides more protection against chafing than the other. Loose shorts with slits up the sides may provide a greater range of motion. Splits come in quarter, half, and three-quarters lengths, so you can choose the amount of freedom you want. The higher the split rises, the wider the panels of the shorts open up, allowing your legs to move freely. Scalloped and contoured hems and V-shaped shorts also allow for increased mobility and are less likely to flap in the breeze on a blustery day. If you’re looking for a split short — with a ton of storage capacity as a bonus — try the Ultimate Direction Women’s Velum Short.

Fitted shorts offer a stretchy, sometimes compression construction for a snug fit. This style is very popular within elite road and track running circles and also makes its way into the trail and ultra world. Fitted shorts allow for storage down the sides of the legs, as with the Tracksmith Allston Shorts.

Finally, don’t underestimate the power of confidence. Do these shorts make you feel strong and capable? If not, consider trying something else. As one of our tester’s college teammates used to say before every race, “Look good, feel good.”


Waistband width plays a significant role in determining your shorts’ comfort, fit, and security. Thinner waistbands offer a more minimal option and less coverage, while wider waistbands tend to give a more flattering silhouette that conforms to your profile and doesn’t dig into your waist or squeeze a sometimes-sensitive lower abdomen. Most shorts come with a drawcord or infinity band that allows you to adjust the fit, which proves especially important if you’ve loaded up the pockets. We love how the Merrell Women’s Terrain Run Short hangs loosely off the waist and the wide, soft waistband of the Tracksmith Allston Shorts.

Best Running Shorts for Women - Merrell Trail Shorts

The Merrell Women’s Terrain Shorts are our favorite budget pair of running shorts. Photo: iRunFar/Alli Hartz


The variety of storage options in women’s running shorts ranges from none to basically everything you need for a run lasting a couple of hours. To decide what storage option works best for you, consider what other storage you prefer to bring on a run. If you wear a hydration pack, storage may be less important. However, we love having a little bit of storage in the waistband to carry identification or even a phone.

If you wear a waistbelt, waistband storage is less important. However, you may be able to replace the need for a belt with the right pair of shorts. If you’re a handheld kind of gal, you may want to optimize shorts storage to carry your calories and layers. If you opt for higher-capacity storage options, make sure you test the shorts for yourself to ensure they don’t fall down, add weight in cumbersome areas, or limit your range of motion. The Ultimate Direction Women’s Velum Short had the most storage of all the shorts we tested and, impressively, did not bounce or slide down.

Liner Versus No Liner

Most loose-fitting women’s running shorts include a liner. There are two types from which to choose: a liner brief, like underwear, or two-in-one shorts with an inner liner that is more like a pair of compression shorts. Our primary tester has yet to find a pair of the latter she likes, whose liner does not roll up her legs and negate the purpose. Perhaps you will have better luck! Two-in-one shorts are also heavier — you’re effectively wearing twice as many pairs of shorts as needed — and they tend to trap moisture.

Liner briefs are lightweight and breathable. However, not all liner briefs are created equal. Rough seams or liners that are too tight can cause irritation and chafing. A mesh or moisture-wicking fabric also maximizes breathability and keeps you dry and comfortable. Our favorite liners were in the Ciele Athletics W DLYShort Short Brief, Janji W’s AFO 3″ Middle Short, and the Ibex Women’s Springbok Shorts.


While reflectivity has grown ubiquitous among road running shorts, the need to be seen in the dark by oncoming cars is less imperative in trail running. Some shorts we tested, like the Ciele Athletics W DLYShort Short Brief, contained small reflective elements, which are a nice bonus but not necessary unless you plan on doing a lot of training on the roads.

Best Women's Running shorts - running in split shorts

Split shorts allow for unrestricted movement throughout an entire stride. Photo: iRunFar/Eszter Horanyi

Why You Should Trust Us

We began this guide by researching women’s running shorts from the most trusted brands in running, premier outdoor brands, and major companies in the women’s run category. We also extensively polled the large iRunFar team and friends to find out which women’s running shorts they preferred and did not prefer. That narrowed our choices to about two dozen shorts, which we took to the field for a season of testing. Since that initial round of testing, the iRunFar team has continued testing new and updated women’s running shorts as they come onto the market.

Product models are routinely discontinued in the running world, while new ones frequently come to market. At the same time, we here at iRunFar often use our top picks in our daily running … they’re our top picks, after all! Sometimes, that continued use results in uncovering product failures. With all this — product discontinuations, product introductions, and product failures — in mind, we routinely update our buyer’s guides based on past and ongoing testing and research by our authors and editorial team. While these updates can appear to be us pushing the newest product, it’s anything but that. Most products will likely remain the same when we update any buyer’s guide. That matches our goal: to get you in the best gear you’ll use for a long time.

Frequently Asked Questions about Running Shorts for Women

What shorts are best for trail running?

Women’s trail running and ultrarunning shorts tend to differ from road running shorts in two key ways: storage and durability. On the roads where light and fast tend to be valued above all else, you can get away with flimsy shorts that flap in the wind and provide little coverage or storage. However, you may find that barely-there shorts don’t provide the chafing protection, storage options, or weather protection you want on super long runs and mountain days.

While women’s trail running and ultrarunning shorts come in loose and fitted varieties, both tend to come with at least one or two pockets for holding calories or a phone. Some, such as the Ultimate Direction Women’s Velum Short, can hold much more. You’re also more likely to see higher-tech fabrics like a water-repellent coating, ripstop, or other materials built to withstand the elements, bushwhacking through vegetation, and sliding down rocks. We find that a durable waistband or drawstring proves more important on the trails to keep loaded-down shorts from slipping or bouncing. Fast-drying fabric helps prevent chafing and smell and keeps you warm and comfortable after afternoon monsoons or on those high-humidity days.

Thanks to the virtue of trail running and ultrarunning taking place in nature and away from cars, reflective elements are less common on trail running shorts than road running varieties. However, a few of the shorts we tested do have reflective hits in key spots.

What shorts are best for ultrarunning?

Ultrarunning inherently means long days moving outside. While it remains a matter of personal preference, many ultrarunners prefer heavy-duty shorts with more storage capacity to complement the rest of their kit, such as a pack or handheld bottle. Shorts made from a quick-drying fabric, like the Oiselle Featherweight Roga Shorts, are also a great option that will help keep you comfortable and prevent chafing. Try a few styles to see if shorter or longer inseams work best for you.

Best Women's Running Shorts - running on dirt road in shorts and sports bra

On hot days, shorts that provide a “barely there” feeling can help with comfort and temperature control. Photo: iRunFar/Eszter Horanyi

Are running shorts gender-specific?

Yes. Women’s running shorts better fit a female’s waist, hips, and thighs. They also tend to have a shorter inseam. The liner design in women’s shorts also tends to be tailored to female physiology. Women may find men’s shorts too tight on the hips and too baggy in the crotch. Many of the shorts in this guide, including the Merrell Women’s Terrain Run Short, have an equivalent option for men.

What do runners wear under their shorts?

This totally depends on the style of running shorts. Like almost all options in this guide, shoes with a built-in liner negate the need for additional underwear. In fact, wearing another pair of underwear enhances the likelihood of chafing. While some women wear underwear under fitted shorts, most do not. Fitted shorts, like the Tracksmith Allston Shorts, should give you a secure fit that acts like a boxer brief. If you wear shorts without a liner, opt for performance underwear made of synthetic or wool material that will wick moisture and provide ventilation.

How do I prevent chafing from my running shorts?

Finding the correct size and style of shorts is the best way to prevent chafing. All modern running shorts liners use synthetic or wool fabrics, which are exceptional at moisture transfer and drying. Various factors cause chafing: shorts that are too big or too small, rough seams, fitted shorts that slide up your thighs, or waistbands that bunch. To be safe, apply some anti-chafe product between your thighs, the back of the waistband, and any other hotspots. Some runners who experience thigh chafing fare better with longer, fitted shorts like the Tracksmith Allston Shorts or a similar style with an even longer inseam.

Call for Comments

  • Do you have any experience with the shorts in this guide?
  • What is your most important element in a great pair of running shorts?
  • Tell us about your favorite pair we might have missed so we can test them.
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Abby Levene
Abby Levene is a writer, editor, and podcast producer for Gaia GPS. In her free time you can find her sweating in the mountains by foot, bike, and skis, or hiding at home painting or curled up with a book.
Abby Levene

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.