I Tried Dozens of Operating Shorts. These Are the Greatest on the Market

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Aside from running shoes, no other piece of gear can make or break my running experience like shorts. t long ago, I just ran in what I had. I played basketball and tennis, so I’d run in shorts made for those sports (think heavy nylon and baggy inseams with no support). Thin, breathable fabrics, zipper pockets, and liners were unknown necessities. w, I actually enjoy running more because I have the appropriate running shorts.

Our favorite running shorts work with your stride, allow you to carry essentials, and remain dry and breathable no matter the activity. w, I worry less about chafing or clanging keys and more about enjoying the sights and sounds of roads and trails.

Related: We Tested Every Hoka Running Shoe—These Are the Best

Best Overall Running Shorts: Roark Bommer 2.0 Shorts 7”

Roark Bommer 2.0 Shorts 7”

I've written numerous gear round-ups, and this was one of the toughest top spots I’ve ever had to choose. In the end, the Roark Bommer 2.0 boasts the best combination of features, comfort, and versatility, making them my favorite running shorts this year.

Bommer has the best boxer-brief lined shorts out there. The liner is supportive, soft, and has a phone pocket. The outer fabric has two magnetic close side pockets for versatile use and two small zippered pockets for keys and essentials. The shorts are well-ventilated in the rear, and the 7” inseam makes for a workhorse running short that can easily be worn around town after your workout. They also make a 3.5” option if you like them shorter for races or speedy workouts.

The liner is slightly thicker than others, so it dries a bit slower. That said, the shorts were comfortable even when I sweat, so this wasn’t a significant issue.


  • Excellent versatility; true one-and-done shorts.
  • Soft and secure liner with built-in pockets/
  • Outer has two magnetic pockets and two zippered pockets.
  • Effective odor protection.
  • Comfortable drawstring.
  • Also available in 3.5” inseam.


  • On the heavier side.
  • t as fast-drying as other brands.

$90 at Roark

Best Upgrade Running Shorts: Goldwin Breathable Shorts (with C3Fit)

Goldwin Breathable Shorts (with C3Fit)

I tested these Goldwin shorts out one a trail run in Washington with professional ultrarunner Dylan Bowman, who's sponsored by the brand. Of course one of the best trail runners in the world wears some of the best running gear. The Goldwin Breathable Shorts featuring the C3fit liner achieve an amazing balance of performance and comfort, albeit at a high price point.

The liner for long runs is great for long runs because it is very compressive and smooth on the skin. That means minimal chafing or rub even over 10 mile-plus runs. The liner also has the most secure phone pocket of all the shorts I tested, which is nice if you like to snap photos or listen to music on long runs. The outer is no slouch either, and the extremely lightweight material is the fastest drying on this list (plus, it features a zippered pocket for keys). The Goldwin Breathable Shorts were half dry just coming out of the washer’s spin cycle!

w, no other shorts on this list are as expensive as this Goldwin pair, but if you want a versatile short for training and racing, then the combined breathability and compression of the shorts and liner make an admirable pair of running shorts.


  • Fastest drying shorts I tested.
  • Super-compressive liner holds everything comfortably in place.
  • Well-vented and flared outer layer is lightweight and unobtrusive.
  • Thigh pocket securely held phone.


  • Expensive.

$119 at Goldwin

Best Value Running Shorts: Nike Flex Stride 2-in-1 5”

Nike Flex Stride 2-in-1 5”

Nathan Lemin

In the 5” inseam option, the Nike Flex Stride 2-in-1 is performance-oriented at a lower price point than other lined shorts. The long liner was secure and comfortable, with excellent breathability.

While the materials aren’t quite as soft to the touch as other options, the moisture-wicking properties and comfort were great for a sub-$60 pair of shorts. The zippered pocket in the rear and side pockets were enough for everyday functionality. I wore these on a few long workouts and experienced zero chafing and no discomfort. That’s certainly a win, especially when you consider that these are often on sale, too!


  • More affordable than similar lined shorts.
  • Lightweight and comfortable.
  • Enough pockets to be versatile.


  • Fit a little tight for bigger runners.
  • Materials don’t feel as premium as competitors.

$40 at Nike$55 at Dick's Sporting Goods

Related: We Tested a Dozen Saucony Running Shoes. These Are Our Favorites

More Running Shorts We Love

Most Comfortable: Ciele M DLYShort Long Brief

Men's Journal Editorial Director Matt Allyn called these “easily the most comfortable shorts [I've] tried.” That alone piqued my interest—and they totally hold up.

Just a few minutes after logging a chill 5 mile run in the Ciele M DLYShorts with the long brief, the shorts are already dry. And with how comfortable the liner is, I don't immediately feel the need to change into other shorts. 

They're soft to the touch while still effectively wicking moisture. The liner is snug but not too snug. And the 5” inseam (with a generously cut side slit) doesn’t feel restrictive to run in or too short to wear around. Those features alone make them a great all around pair, but they also boast two liner pockets big enough for a phone and one zippered waist pocket for keys.

However, I have two hesitations. First, the shorts have pretty particular care instructions—cold wash and lay flat to dry. This isn’t a dealbreaker, but adds a step on laundry day. Second, the seam construction was a bit strange. On the liner, they're prominently stitched inside the thighs and around the groin. On easy efforts I didn’t notice too much rub, but during a harder effort, the seams might cause some friction—though Matt happily wore these for last year's New York City Marathon.

However, the drawbacks are minor and the overall performance and comfort from the Ciele DLYShort is excellent.


  • Super soft, long liner.
  • Dual liner pockets, plus zippered rear waist pocket.
  • Wicks moisture well.


  • More particular care instructions than other shorts on this list.
  • Liner seams can cause chafing on longer, harder efforts.

$80 at Ciele

Best Brief-Lined Running Shorts: Tracksmith Session Shorts 5”

Brief-lined shorts had the toughest job of trying to win me over, but the Tracksmith Session shorts were most up to the task. The premium feel of Tracksmith materials converted me to a brief believer. I love these shorts for city runs and everyday training because they look great and breathe well. The heathered blend on the Session is impressive, because while it has all the moisture-wicking chops of a tech-fiber, it looks and feels much more like a natural-fiber short. I wish there was at least one side pocket for a bit of added versatility, but the intention behind these shorts is utilitarian daily training. For those goals, no other brief-lined running shorts do it better.


  • Brief liner and outer material are soft and comfortable.
  • Super lightweight and stayed cool in the heat.
  • Brushed, heathered fabric looks and feels more premium than competitors.


  • Limited storage (just one zippered pocket).
  • Somewhat delicate, not ideal for trail use.

$68 at Tracksmith

Best Unlined: Nathan Essential Unlined 7” Shorts

If you've never bought a pair of running shorts and are scared off by the brief or long liner options, check out the Nathan Essential Unlined shorts. The 7” inseam is short enough to stay out of your stride, but long enough to provide ample coverage. The deep, soft pockets are great for everyday use, and the zippered pocket works fine for keys (though they might bounce a bit).

The shorts feature a straightforward design that doesn’t call attention to you when running. I found myself wearing these all the time in the summer, running or otherwise, due to their moisture wicking and versatility. They aren’t great for faster efforts, as the small side slit plus long inseam equals small leg holes, so they ride up if you’re sprinting. But for everything else the Nathan Essential Unlined is an amazing value.


  • Look great as everyday shorts.
  • Super deep and soft-touch side pockets, plus zippered pocket on rear.
  • Effective drawstring.


  • Zippered pocket placement isn’t great for items like keys.
  • Ride up when running fast.

$60 at Nathan

Best for Trail Running: On Ultra Shorts

For most distances, the On Ultra Shorts eliminate the need to run with a hydration pack or running belt, thanks to the high volume of storage for gear, goo, snacks and hydration.

The On Ultra liner is really soft, and the seams are so minimal that I didn’t chafe. The shorts have six pockets, most of which are tucked into the thick, stretchy waistband—and contents don’t shift while running. The four front pockets are great for quick-stash snacks and the rear zippered pocket is good for keys. The rear pocket overlays a sleeve, which can house a soft flask for hydration on your run. And the side pocket fits a phone with less bounce than I anticipated.

Overall, the pockets are the true star of this short. The outer was a bit stiffer than competitors, and I'd also might size up next time, as I found them slightly less roomy in the seat than others, especially when loaded down with gear.


  • Excellent pocket setup for long trail runs and ultramarathons.
  • Brief liner is soft and lightweight.
  • Eliminates need for hydration pack or running belt.


  • The outer material isn’t as soft as others on this list.
  • t the most roomy fit in the rear.

$120 at On Running

Best Long-Liner (Boxer Brief-Lined): Patagonia Multi-Trail Shorts 8”

Patagonia Multi-Trail Shorts are the perfect option for folks who don’t like the features of many running shorts—namely, super short inseams and overly tech-y liners. The 8” inseam on these shorts makes them the longest on the list, but the extremely comfortable, lightweight liner and soft outer fabric make these accessible for all runners.

While the liner is a little loose, I enjoyed these on easy trail runs or recovery days. The shorts didn’t feel overly tech-y or short, and they clung nicely to my body as I logged easy miles. Plus, the zippered side pockets are useful as standard everyday pockets, or to keep gear secure on your runs. I would’ve loved a liner pocket for my phone, but the lightweight, looser fit might not have supported it well.


  • Comfortable.
  • Lightweight and breathable.
  • Good blend of pockets on outer.
  • Longer inseam makes them versatile everyday shorts.


  • pocket on liner.
  • Liner is a little loose, some may prefer snug fit.

$47 at Patagonia

Also Great for Trail Running: Patagonia Strider Pro 5”

The Patagonia Strider Pro features useful pockets for gear and snacks. While the outer material is super soft and high quality, the overall lightness of this pair of shorts is better suited to mid-distance training. I found once the miles piled up, the somewhat loose-fitting liner rubbed at my inner thighs. Luckily, the material is soft enough that it didn’t irritate me too much.

The quick access pockets make grabbing snacks and goo easy, and the breathability of these shorts is second to none. Additionally, the 5” inseam lies at a nice middle ground of speed and coverage.


  • Materials are superbly comfortable and light.
  • Very breathable brief liner.
  • Clever pocket design for trail-necessities like goo and snacks.


  • Liner is slightly loose, causing some rub

$85 at Patagonia

Best Everyday Shorts to Run in: Roark Serrano 2.0 Shorts 8”

These Roark Serrano 2.0 shorts are very similar to the Nathan Essential above in their versatility. If you can’t justify purchasing a pair of shorts just for running, then the Serrano makes a great pair of everyday shorts that you can also run in. These are now my go-to travel shorts, as they pack down super small, look great around town, and I can still go on runs or hikes in them.

Roark's material is excellent. It’s soft, breathable, and dries out fast. The 8” inseam works for many people and many uses, and the pockets are useful both for running and around town. If I had to bring one pair of shorts on a trip, it would very likely be these Roark Serrano 2.0 shorts.


  • Variety of colorways.
  • Still feature useful zippered running pockets.
  • Roark recycled polyesters are really soft to the touch and wick fast.


  • slit on the side leg, restricting range of motion.
  • A touch long.

$69 at Roark$69 at Amazon

Best Half Tights: Tracksmith Reggie Half Tights (Unlined)

I don’t find half tights that useful for my style of running. But, after trying out the Tracksmith Reggie, I have to say, I’m going to start working these into my training rotation.

I also tested Tracksmith’s speed-oriented half tights, the Allston, but I found the Reggie to be more comfortable, especially because it's unlined. The fabric on these is buttery soft, and I’ve even started wearing these on cold mornings under joggers. The small but crucial inclusion of the zippered pocket on the rear waistband makes carrying keys possible, but everything else about these half tights is super minimal.

Half tights are pretty revealing, and outside of competitive runners, I assume that’s why they aren’t as popular as regular running shorts. However, if you are trying to set PRs, do a lot of track workouts, or like a slimmed down setup for comfort, the Tracksmith Reggie Half Tight is the most comfortable I tested.


  • Incredibly soft.
  • Stayed securely on my waist despite lack of drawstring.
  • Features small zippered pocket for keys.


  • t versatile.
  • Revealing.
  • Thick material doesn't dry as fast as other shorts on this list.

$78 at Tracksmith

Why You Should Trust Me

I’ve tested dozens of running shorts, half tights, and joggers—including pairs from brands like New Balance and Adidas that didn't quite make the list. I run a lot, for enjoyment rather than competition. That means I care more about how I feel when I’m running than how fast I’m going. Sure, it’s fun to improve, and indeed running in well-designed shorts helps achieve better performance. 

My running short needs are representative of a large group of runners. I’m not super slim and I have big legs, which means that I’m prone to chafing. The best running shorts the Men's Journal test team have chosen for this list help men run more comfortably, effectively, and enjoyably.

I tried numerous running shorts in order to find the best performing pair for your everyday training needs.

Nathan Lemin

What We Look for in the Best Running Shorts

To effectively test these shorts, I put them all through various procedures to get a sense of each material's softness, durability and drying speed. On my runs, I tested the zippers and pockets: I took notes on how easy pockets were to open while moving as well as how secure or stable items in the pockets felt during the bounce of running. I’ve also been checking for pilling in the liners. The constant rubbing together of the material can cause cheap running shorts to wear down quickly; the shorts in this list have held up well. And to test drying speed and comfort when wet, I washed all the shorts together and hung them up to dry, noting which liners and outers dried fastest.

I look for a few key details to help choose the best running shorts. Personal preference is certainly a part of the decision, but whether you like lined or unlined shorts, longer inseams or shorter, there are some important aspects that can help you decide what you should shop for. 

Unlined Running Shorts

Unlined shorts are typically less expensive and more versatile. All you need to do is pair them with a pair of decent moisture-wicking underwear or compression shorts for a good running experience. I like my unlined shorts with a slightly longer inseam (usually 7” or more) because then they can more readily be worn as everyday shorts. At least one zippered pocket; traditional side pockets; and soft, stretchy, and breathable material are ideal features for unlined running shorts.

Brief-Lined Running Shorts

I’m not the biggest fan of brief-lined shorts because my thicker thighs tend to rub against each other, causing chafing. That said, well-constructed brief-lined running shorts with a high-quality liner still feel great. Brief-lined shorts are typically race-oriented, with short inseams, lightweight fabrics, and comfort are all priorities here.

Long Liner / Boxer Brief-Lined Running Shorts

My favorite type of running shorts feature boxer brief liners or longer liners with mid-length inseams. These basically feature a compression short liner attached to a running short outer, which is great because the incorporated liner and shorts makes for just one clothing item to run in and launder afterwards. The liners often feature integrated pockets, which are great for heavier items like phones because they are compressed to your thigh. These shorts also help prevent my thighs from chafing and do a great job to keep everything in place—even on long efforts.

Half Tights

Half tights, sometimes called compression shorts, are the liner of a long-lined short, sans the outer fabric. These are designed for racing and speed, cutting out all unnecessary material and weight so there is less chance for rubbing and wind-resistance. While they are often super comfortable, they leave very little to the imagination, so I rarely wear these—save for the occasional track workout or extra long trail run.

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