You don’t need to be a speedy strider to benefit from a technical pair of running shorts. We’ve got some top tips on what you should be looking for, plus our pick of the six best running shorts for women on the market…
By Sarah Sellens
Colour, length, loose or tight fit… there might not seem to be much to running shorts but, as any girl who’s suffered the dreaded ‘rub’ (AKA chafing between the inner thighs) will confirm, buying the right shorts matters. Designed to move freely, running shorts come in more varieties than you may be aware of.
From those with an inner lining, to double-layer (or 2-in-1) types, garments made from a compression fabric, form-fitting designs and ‘skorts’ (a short/skirt combo). Of course, what you choose will depend on the type of running you plan on doing in them, with track runners tending to opt for lightweight pairs that offer the most freedom of movement, trail runners looking for technical options that can stand up to the elements and store plenty of essentials, and road runners often wanting a supportive pair with good sweat-wicking and breathability properties.
Confused? You needn’t be. ‘Choosing the right pair of shorts doesn’t need to be a challenge,’ claim experts at Zone3. ‘We advise that you first find your preferred fit and length, and then decide on whether you need anything more from your shorts. Zipped pockets, external pouches and undershorts are examples of extras that should be considered.’ Here’s a run-down of the elements you may want to think about.
Related: Best running shoes for women
Should running shorts for women be long and loose or short and tight?
For many decades, shorts were just that – short – but now there are a variety of lengths on offer. From those that finish high up the thigh, to medium-length pairs and longer options that are closer to the knee, go for the length you find most comfy.
Loose but long shorts can get in the way when running. But tighter and longer varieties can be useful for minimising the chance of chafing between the legs. Lighter, shorter shorts are often favoured by competitive runners because they offer greater freedom of movement. If you want the best of both worlds, a double-layer short might be best.
Why do women’s running shorts have an inner lining?
Some running shorts have a built-in brief that can reduce the chance of chafing from underwear. Rumour has it the liner exists so that you don’t have to wear underwear, as an additional layer can cause friction that leads to chafing. However, we find the inner brief best for protecting our modesty on faster runs that require greater strides.
What else should I look for in running shorts?
Ultimately, the right running shorts comes down to personal preference, but there are some basic factors to consider. Look for technical fabrics that will wick away sweat and that are breathable, and consider any additional features you might need.
‘The 3” Zone3 Performance 2-in-1 Shorts feature compression undershorts for improved performance, power and muscle support length,’ add the Zone3 experts. ‘They also include a zipped back pocket, reflective detailing and ventilation side panelling.’
Other things you may want to consider include whether there’s an internal drawcord that can be tightened for a custom fit. This will stop your shorts from slipping down! Secondly, think about whether you might need a smartphone-sized pocket, or smaller zip pockets for gels, keys and cash. Here’s our pick of the best running shorts for women this season…
Best running shorts for women 2023
BUY IT NOW:
£60 / zone3.com
Arguably, the perfect length, these 2-in-1 shorts will fast become your go-to summer run essential. Using Zone3’s compression technology, the inner layer is said to support muscles and boost performance by increasing blood circulation and reducing lactic acid build-up. But that aside, these shorts are seriously comfy. This is largely thanks to the deep 7cm waistband that supports the tummy. This, teamed with the drawcord, means these shorts stay firmly put.
The heat-taped hems are pretty snazzy, while a pocket on the undershorts and a zipped pocket at the back mean you have all of the storage you need. They’re probably a bit heavier than you’d consider for track running, but perfect for Sunday long runs or indulgent trail sessions. And the hint of colour down the ventilated side panels adds the right amount of style to these serious shorts.
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£60 / montane.com
A popular product from technical outdoor sports brand Montane, these medium-length trail running shorts are a part of the SS21 collection that concentrates on less complexity and more focus, commitment and adventure. And they live up to the promise, with the 4” CARVICO undershort sitting so close to your skin that you’ll barely know it’s there and can focus completely on your run.
Perfect for high-mileage distances in the mountains and on the trails, these shorts have a pocket for every running essential. There’s a large pocket for a smartphone on the undershort, gel pockets on the waistband and a zip pocket at the back. The loose top player boasts a flattering fit, while the 360° VIA Trail Series reflective details are handy extras.
Note: The Montane Katla Twin Skin Shorts have recently been discontinued. Check out the similar Montane Women’s Katla 4″ Shorts from Montane instead!
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£55 / yogamatters.com
Made for trail running, these shorts feel seriously speedy. The success lies in their form-fitting design. Block coloured and the shortest pair on test, these shorts weigh a moderately lightweight 119g. However, they don’t ride up one bit.
We love that they boast a compressive pocket on each side and one on the back. They pack in a lot and reduce the amount of kit you need to carry. Plus they also have a handy drawcord for a personalised fit. Sure to make you feel as good as they look, the shorts are Fair-Trade-Certified sewn and made from 79 per cent recycled polyester. They can come up a little small, so be sure of your size ahead of purchasing.
BUYT IT NOW:
£79.95 / cepsports.co.uk
If it’s a customised fit you’re after, these long-length shorts have a unique sizing system that requires you measure your quad circumference ahead of purchase. Why? Because they use muscle-boosting compression by medi, one of the leading names in the field of medical compression products. This is said to increase circulation and boost the supply of oxygen and nutrients to the muscle. The net result is that your performance might get a bit of a boost.
There are must-have features, too, including a small zip pocket at the back, two larger phone-sized pockets down the sides, and a drawcord. As the longest running shorts we’ve come across, the length may divide opinion, but they’re pretty handy should you want to go from run to short-distance ride.
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£28 / salomon.com
This purse-friendly pair are a great all-rounder that you’ll want to wear time and time again. The lightest on test, they weigh a mere 86g which makes them perfect for speed sessions on the roads, track and trails, or for times when you’re training with a club. They’ll also work on long-distance runs and trail sessions but you’ll likely need a pack to carry any extras.
Perfect for the summer, they’re super-breathable. Plus, they boast one zipped pocket at the back where you can stash some keys or cash. There’s an inner brief that will protect your modesty and minimise chafing, but no longer underlayer to keep legs covered. Perhaps the best thing about these shorts, however, is that they come in an array of prints and colors. This means you don’t have to settle for the ever-popular plain black.
Note: The Salomon Agile Shorts have now been discontinued – check out the new Cross 5” from Salomon instead, which are built for long runs.
BUY IT NOW:
£50 / runderwear.co.uk
For a good fit around the thighs, these are the perfect buy, and weighing in at a very light 60g, they really will support your speedy runs. Thanks to the silicone grip panelling and anti-loss looped waistband cord, you can tailor the shorts to your fit so that there’s zero chance of them slipping down. Plus, we can vouch that you won’t get any chafing around the inner thigh area when wearing these.
Made from 85 per cent Polyamide and 15 per cent Spandex, they boast a four-way fabric with a great stretch that will move as you do. And when you finish your run, you won’t find yourself dripping with sweat because the moisture-wicking fabric does a fantastic job of keeping legs dry. We could run miles in these!
Note: The Runderwear Ultra-Light Women’s Shorts have now been discontinued – check out the Women’s High Waisted Running Shorts from Runderwear instead!