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Our fitness experts found the best gym shorts for men to fit every budget and workout.
It’s a lot easier to enjoy a summit sunrise if you’re not gasping for air and massaging cramps out of your quads. That said, working out in the gym is a good way to prepare for working out outside. And a great pair of gym shorts is key to getting the most fitness and fun out of your workouts in the gym.
We’ve put in countless hours testing shorts through some of the most grueling workouts to find the best gym shorts for men. We put these shorts (and our testers) through a wide range of activities, from weightlifting and powerlifting to running, gymnastics, and kettlebell workouts.
Heck, we even jumped rope to see how these shorts held up. We looked at a variety of factors, including fit and feel, elasticity, durability, and moisture control. Style was also a factor because, hey, if you like how you look, you’ll perform better.
After months of chalk, sweat, and blood (and maybe a tear or two), we’ve found the best workout shorts on the market. The following list represents gym shorts in a range of categories.
If you need more help deciding, be sure to check out our buyer’s guide at the end of our review to unravel just how to choose the best gym shorts. Also, check out our comparison chart to see how our choices stack up against one another and our FAQ section for any lingering questions.
Scroll through to see all of our recommended buys or jump to the category you’re looking for:
Some of our favorite workout shorts are the ones that don’t look like workout shorts at all. The Banks Shorts ($68) from Encinitas-based apparel company Vuori perform like top-tier workout apparel but look like a comfy pair you’d wear to grab coffee with a friend.
This is due in part to the recycled polyester exterior, which gives the shorts a fabric look and texture instead of the smooth shininess that you see in many workout shorts. The scalloped leg openings and contrasting waistband add to the eye-pleasing aesthetic.
In the gym, the Banks just gets better. The elastane provides plenty of stretch, giving wearers a completely free range of motion. During power cleans, the shorts held up to repeated impact and bar friction with no pilling or abrasion.
We soaked them through with sweat during row intervals, but they recovered faster than we did. After 10 minutes, our tester was still sitting on a bench with his head in his hands, but the shorts were bone dry.
So you wanna be a baller? A shot caller? And you want to do it on a budget? Then check out the Champion Mesh Shorts ($15). These are the OG athletic shorts — old-school cool, if you will. They offer a classic style, and at $15, they also offer tremendous value.
Chances are if you played any kind of team sport growing up, you’ve probably owned a pair of Champions’ mesh shorts. While these aren’t the lightest or most technical shorts on the list, champion hits the mark with ample airflow, a full athletic fit, and two front pockets.
At 9 inches, the inseam is definitely on the longer side, but these shorts still fall just above the knee and allow for totally unencumbered movement in any plane. The waistband is comfortable and functional with a simple drawcord to keep them where you want them. Everything you need, nothing you don’t.
If you’re not looking to break the bank on a pair of gym shorts, and you just need something practical and functional to hit the court and then the weight room, look no further than the Champion mesh shorts.
Simply put, the Active Pursuits Shorts ($45) are everything you need in a running short at a reasonable price ($45). Made of polyester and spandex, these shorts offer both unencumbered movement and excellent sweat-wicking. The waistband is comfortable and features a drawstring to keep things in place while you’re putting in the miles.
The recycled polyester liner is comfortable and wicks sweat well, and combined with flat seams to prevent chafing, you’ll be comfortable mile after mile. The active pursuit is an especially good trail short, featuring UPS 50 sun protection and a zippered front key/cash pocket.
While they aren’t as stylish as the Gym Swim, or as comfortable as the Ponto, these are the shorts we’d choose to run and hike in 10 times out of 10. They’re more than happy to pull double duty in the weight room too, where the 4-way stretch and flat seams really shine by offering comfortable, full-range movement for all of your lifts.
If you’re looking for a great trail running short that you can wear to the gym too, look no further than the Active Pursuits Short.
The Chubbies Gym Swim short ($59) is top of the list for best everyday short for a few simple reasons: they look good, they fit well, and they perform great in the gym. If you’re the kind of person who finds yourself stopping by the river after you’ve been at the gym or running errands around town before you hit the weight room, look no further than the Gym Swim.
These shorts feature two front pockets with ample room and a rear zippered pocket to keep your keys and small items stowed safely. Featuring four-way stretch fabric and a comfortable elastic waistband, these unlined shorts will have you feeling as good as you look.
We think unlined shorts are just the ticket on super hot days, but if you prefer a little more support in your day-to-day, be sure to check out Chubbies’ underwear offerings.
Additionally, you’ll have your choice of 5.5-inch or 7-inch inseams depending on your own personal proclivities, though we’d like to take this opportunity to remind you of one of our favorite sayings — “Sky’s out, thighs out.”
The Vuori Ponto Shorts ($78) are very comfortable, and with their four-way stretch and moisture-wicking recycled material, they’re equally at home lounging at the coffee shop or smashing a WOD at your local CrossFit Box.
The Ponto is a four-pocket short, featuring two front hand pockets, a zippered rear pocket, and a fourth zippered key pocket inside the front right pocket. The fit and finish of these shorts truly are a cut above the rest. The waistband and drawstring are part of what make these shorts so comfortable and keep them riding on your waist without pinching or exerting undo pressure.
These shorts are unlined which is normally a huge plus in our book, but because of the way the material canvases your features, we’d recommend “layering up” if you catch our drift.
At $78, the Ponto is double the price of many shorts on this list, and while they certainly sport a premium fit, finish, and feel, it’s hard not to wonder if the price is worth it, especially with shorts like the Gym Swim on the list.
But hey, if you’ve got the budget and you want to look good and feel even better, take a look at the Ponto Short.
If you find most of your training revolves around logging miles on the trail or pounding pavement, take a look at the Under Armour Launch short ($35). These shorts feature a 7-inch inseam, four-way stretch, and a polyester liner as well as one of the most comfortable waistbands of any shorts on this list.
The anti-odor tech keeps your running funk to a tolerable level during and after long hot runs, which is a plus for running errands post-workout.
The launch shorts come with two front pockets but unfortunately no rear pocket and nowhere else to store small items like keys or gels. They do, however, feature a right-side “power mesh” phone pocket, which certainly helps to keep your phone secure but isn’t exactly practical for dealing with bouncing during running.
The beauty of these shorts ($78) is in the details. Subtle perforated venting along the sides and back waistband, a built-in elastic strap on the waistband to carry your shirt or towel on runs, and zippered pockets all add to the appeal of these shorts.
The four-way stretch outer is accompanied by a super-soft interior boxer brief liner. These combine to make a short that is luxuriously comfortable and provides the same amount of freedom as wearing nothing at all.
But it’s a lot more supportive than wearing nothing. The interior liner keeps everything in place during long runs, burpees, and box jumps. The added support also came in handy during multiple jump roping sessions. The shorts dried well, but the liner takes a little extra time to dry after a workout.
We love the durability — the shorts resisted abrasion well, and after the workout, the chalk brushed right off. And thanks to the flat-lock stitching, we had no chafing or irritation during long runs and hour-long metabolic conditioning.
Nike’s flex woven short ($35) is an excellent option for both runners and lifters but falls short in a few key categories. As the name implies, the Flex Woven short stretches, flexes, and moves well both in the gym and on the track. With an 8-inch inseam, these surprisingly lightweight shorts are reminiscent of our best budget pick, the Champion Mesh shorts but aren’t as practical or as comfortable.
At $35, the Flex Woven short is decently priced, but compared to the $35 Chubbies Gym Swim, these shorts fall flat. The Flex Woven Shorts don’t have pockets and the sizing is definitely off. No pockets, not even for a single key or gel, is a big miss for running shorts, and the lack of even a rear zippered pocket really limits the practicality of these shorts.
Additionally, our tester found the large to fit more like a medium, which lead to a slightly oppressive feeling of limited mobility, especially while squatting. Potential buyers may want to size up or try these shorts on before purchasing.
If you value lightweight flexible shorts with a longer cut and don’t care about pockets or don’t wear workout clothes outside of the gym, the Flex Woven short could be just the ticket. If, like us, you need a little more function and practicality and don’t care about weight, we’d recommend looking at other options like the Chubbies Gym Swim or the Vuori Ponto.
|Vuori Banks Short||$68||Polyester, elastane||7.5″||No|
|Champion Mesh 9in’’ Short||$15||Polyester||9″||No|
|REI Co-op Active Pursuits Shorts||$45||Polyester, spandex||7″||Yes|
|Chubbies Gym Swim Short||$59||Polyester, Spandex||5.5″ or 7″||No|
|Vuori Ponto Short||$78||Polyester, Elastane||7″||No|
|Under Armour Launch Short||$35||Polyester||7″||Yes|
|Rhone 7” Swift Lined Short||$88||Polyester, spandex||7″||Yes|
|Nike Flex Woven Short||$35||Polyester||7″||No|
Here at GearJunkie, our team of experts is literally obsessed with finding the best gear. We spend an embarrassing amount of time combing through the internet to find the best of the best before sending those items to our expert reviewers for careful evaluation and testing.
We look for the same things you look for in a product — value, performance, fit, and finish. Our comprehensive evaluation translates to more time in the gym or on the trail for you and less time pulling your hair out over which product to buy. We strive to create thorough, comprehensive, and helpful reviews to help you find the best gear for your individual needs.
Lead tester and reviewer Paul Mandell is a strength and conditioning coach based in Bishop, California. Paul is no stranger to a good pair of gym shorts, especially when you consider that he wears them every day for work.
The first thing to consider when you’re buying a pair of gym shorts is how you plan to use them. If you tend to favor one kind of workout over others, the pair of shorts you’ll want may be different.
For instance, running shorts tend to be lightweight and shorter. Runners don’t want excess weight and material, and longer hems can cause irritation and chafe over time. If you run often, opt for a pair of shorts that also wicks away sweat and dries quickly.
While quick drying is a great feature, it’s not as necessary in weightlifting shorts. The added weight isn’t as much of an issue, and there’s less risk of chafing. With gym shorts, your priority should be on flexibility and, for heavy lifters, durability.
In a gym setting, you’re going to be going through a wide range of motions, so a pair of shorts with a lot of stretch is very handy. Lunges, jumps, sprints, and lateral movements all require a wide range of motion.
The same goes for yoga and other mobility workouts. And heaven forbid you split your pants doing a squat. We can tell you from experience — it’s not fun.
If your training entails Olympic lifts like the clean and jerk or deadlifts, durability is key. With these movements, the bar frequently comes into contact with your shorts.
Most bars have diamond patterns on the gripping areas called knurling. These abrasive sections are there to help you grip the bar, but they can also wreak havoc on shorts. Climbing ropes can also put a lot of strain on shorts as well, especially if you tend to slide down from the top.
Think about how you plan to use your shorts and choose an appropriate pair.
Most shorts are made of a synthetic material like polyester or nylon mixed with a stretchy material like elastane or spandex. The synthetic material is great for wicking away sweat, while the elastic material provides stretch. If you want the feel of something more natural, we’ve included a great poly-cotton blend short in the list above.
How the material is cut and sewn is as important as the material itself. Mesh vents are useful for allowing excess heat to escape, and scalloped hems give you even more freedom to move. Flat seams prevent chafing. Think carefully about what you’ll be using your shorts for, and choose accordingly.
When it comes to gym shorts, fit goes in the realm of personal preference. Most gymgoers tend to choose a slimmer fit, as slim shorts are less likely to snag on equipment. A sleeker short also tends to be more supportive, particularly if it has a good liner.
Baggier shorts are popular for the freedom of movement they provide. However, with the stretch that most shorts offer, that isn’t as much of an issue. If you make sure that your shorts have plenty of stretch and they fit your waist, you should be comfortable.
Fit definitely also ventures into the realm of style, so think about what you want folks to see you wearing.
Speaking of style, do you know about the three S’s? Essential for having a great gym session, the three S’s are Style, Safety, and Style. In that order.
Maybe you don’t care as much about your running shorts as you do about looking good in your gym shorts. Maybe you want people to know what true power looks like (hint: it’s your glutes), or maybe you just want clean shorts that are equally at home in the gym and at the coffee shop. Either way, be sure you’re going to look and feel good in whatever you choose.
The most common inseam lengths for workout shorts are 5, 7, and 9 inches. Runners often go for a higher hem to minimize material, so they tend to go for the 5-inch inseam.
If you lift a lot, the 9-inch inseam provides more coverage and protection from the barbell. The 7-inch inseam is a good blend of the two. So, if you do a bit of everything, that’s a solid choice.
One big exception to the rule is lifters who focus primarily on deadlifts. Clothing adds friction, so if you are near the higher end of your strength level, longer shorts may hinder you. Many lifters wear shorter hemmed shorts or roll their shorts up before a heavy deadlift. Though at a certain point, deadlifting or doing any Olympic work in shorts is just asking for bloody shins. Consider yourself warned.
You generally don’t lift weights with stuff in your pockets, but a rear pocket and two front pockets are ideal for any time you wear your shorts outside the gym. Runners generally carry a few necessities with them, like keys, some cash or cards, and energy gels, so zippered pockets are almost certainly mandatory.
Make sure that at least one pocket zips shut to prevent anything from falling out. If you’re the kind of person who changes at the gym, pockets probably aren’t a high priority for you. Take a minute to think about what you need from your shorts and choose accordingly.
The best gym shorts are the ones that you don’t realize you’re wearing. These shorts stay out of your way and let you forget about them while you train.
The main thing to look for in a good pair of shorts is plenty of stretch so they don’t limit your movement. Ideally, your shorts will also be made of a sweat-wicking material that pulls sweat away from you and dries quickly. This prevents the shorts from absorbing sweat and weighing you down while you work out.
After those necessities, look for additional perks that will make them more comfortable. Shorts with flat (or no) seams minimize irritation spots, and zippered pockets keep your keys, cash, and cards safe on runs. Also, drawstrings keep your shorts from falling off when you’re doing burpees.
For linerless athletic shorts, we recommend wearing a pair of briefs or boxer briefs over loose boxers or going commando. There are two main reasons for this. One, you are going to appreciate the extra support on runs or double-unders. Keeping the bouncing to a minimum is key to a comfortable workout.
Two, nobody wants to see your bits. Wearing snug and comfortable underwear under your workout shorts will prevent any accidental flashing while you work out.
If your training shorts have a good liner, you can forgo any extra underwear. The liner will provide the support and modesty that a pair of briefs will.
In general, synthetic material is best for sport shorts. Materials like polyester tend to be lighter, wick sweat away from your body, and they tend to dry more quickly.
A good pair of shorts will also have an amount of elastic material as well. This gives the shorts some stretch, which allows you a full range of motion during your workouts.
If you prefer natural fibers, there are also wool and cotton shorts on the market. If you go this route, make sure the material is blended with an elastic-like elastane. This will give those shorts the stretch that you’ll need for your workout.