There’s probably a big difference between the best workout shorts for men and the stained sweatpant cutoffs you’ve been wearing for bi-weekly crunches and leg lifts in front of the TV this past year. And if you’ve paused your gym membership (and still haven’t been able to find any adjustable dumbbells in stock) the best use of your monthly stay-somewhat-in-shape budget right now might just be a fresh pair of performance shorts that will get you excited about the idea of moving your body vigorously outdoors on a regular basis.
Over the past several years we’ve sweated in a wide array of different gym and running shorts. To determine the best we’ve considered, price, durability, hand feel, and a host of other variables. Is the stretchy performance fabric actually breathable? If there’s a lining, does it actually stay put or does it ride up after the third deep lunge? Where are the pockets and can they actually succeed at holding the things one needs while doing different kinds of work outs? And, of course, do the shorts look good enough that you wouldn’t mind running some errands in them on the way to the run? Below, here are the 12 best workout shorts for men we’ve found. They should help you make some gains and look pretty good doing it.
The Most Versatile Workout Shorts
Outdoor Voices’ workout shorts were the clear winner of our 2020 fitness awards for a host of reasons. First, a Tik-Tok-approved 5-inch inseam means no extra fabric getting in the way. Second, they’re constructed from extremely tech-y fabric which is both breathable and water-resistant, with a comfy protective built-in liner (that stays put) and plenty of pockets to hold all your essentials whether you’re on a run or lifting at the gym. Think of them as the gym-rat younger brother of the ubiquitous Patagonia Baggies.
The Best Workout Shorts for Getting After It at the Gym
Ten Thousand makes a lot of workout gear, but it got its start back in 2014 with a simple pair of shorts and a shirt. We dug version 1.0, which we tried back in 2015, but the company has spent the intervening years making small tweaks and adjustment to the design that have made it even better. The updates retain the shorts extremely minimalist aesthetic, but add a bunch of little hidden touches, including hidden zipper pockets. The thing you’ll notice the most as you actually use the shorts though is how they move. Thanks to the un-bunchable, pinch-free waistband and extremely flexible shell, the short both somehow molds perfectly to your body and expands easily with your movement. If you’re looking for the best shorts for going absolutely nuts on the battle ropes, look no further.
The Best Workout Shorts for Runners
Serious runners require serious running shorts. And nobody designs more serious running kits than Tracksmith, the Boston label that transplants Chariots of Fire–era aesthetics onto modern marathon-ready gear. Its latest concoction is these thigh-high split shorts inspired by Japan’s Hakone Ekiden—a legendary 218-kilometer relay race—fashioned from plush, antimicrobial mesh. You’re not going to be able to fit your phone into the 2.5-inch inseam, but the shorts manage to make space for two internal pockets that hold your keys or one of those race-day sports goo packets.
The Best All-Around Workout Shorts
The Rhone Mako short is a little bit gymmier than you might want to wear on a day to day basis, but it’s all in service of performance. Their stretchy fabric feels smooth against your skin, and yields that satisfying swish-swish rustling noise with each successive stride. Its full-zip, standalone smartphone hip pocket is the best-executed and most secure version out of all the shorts we tested. They’re available in both 7-inch and 9-inch inseams, so are a good option for shorter guys and/or taller guys who want to show some thigh.