Let’s talk about running shorts! They are a solid go-to for every runner out there, so let’s discuss how to find the best option for you and what you’re doing on the trails. When it comes to running shorts we need them to do two things — keeping your tush covered and keeping your thighs chafe-free. Of course, they also offer us great perks like pockets, various fits, and a variety of undie-inserts.
We wore these shorts on the trails of the Colorado Rockies and the canyons of New Mexico. This means we got to see how they move in cooler temperatures and the harsh sunshine. Below you’ll find detailed reviews for each pair of shorts with a chart to compare and contrast them near the bottom.
Arc’teryx Lyra Short
The Arc’teryx Lyra short is designed with a synthetic material to provide breathability for your trail runs, perfect for all those moments when you need your full range of motion. The Ourea fabric is incredibly lightweight and quick drying, and cut into a design that promotes air circulation.
While the Lyra shorts don’t provide a full split short, they do have a ¾ split cut on each leg giving you more room to move without feeling the tug of material. When you’re wearing these shorts out on the trail you’ll be comfortable and chafe-free!
What We Loved: The cut and design of these shorts is both comfortable and flattering.
Fit and Feel: Measured into a small and it is a good fit with room to move thanks to a side split on each leg.
Similar Products: Arc’teryx Taema Short+ Arc’teryx Lyra Skort
rabbit lady dukes long-ish
The rabbit lady dukes long-ish shorts are designed with a wide, comfortable waistband, built in briefs and a wider leg opening. The shorts are made with a soft, breathable material with one zipper pocket in the back of the waistband.
The lady duke long-ish shorts are comfortable and they stay in place while you’re out on the trails. The waistband pocket is just large enough to hold your keys/cards or a few small snacks.
What We Loved: The comfortable fit and fun colors.
Fit and Feel: Measured into a medium and the fit is comfortable in the legs as well as inner brief.
Similar Products: rabbit hopper short + rabbit mountain climbers irongate
Title Nine Holy Grail
The Title Nine Holy Grail shorts are designed as…the holy grail! They’re designed with a wicking material to keep you dry on the move. The compression short lining helps combat even the thought of chafing, and stay in place with help from a silicone band around each cuff.
Out on the trail the Holy Grail shorts will keep you feeling confident about how you feel in the moment and how you’ll feel the next day (ie: you won’t feel chafing!). They stayed in place without bunching anywhere and were comfortable throughout the adventures.
What We Loved: The liner shorts were comfortable without being restricting.
Fit and Feel: Measured into a medium and the inner shorts fit well, but the outer shorts are a bit too loose around the hip.
Similar Products: Title Nine Sweet Spot Shorts + Title Nine Quake Run Shorts
Brooks Chaser Shorts
Brooks has a handful of great running shorts, including the Chaser 3” shorts. These shorts have a wide waistband with two hidden pockets for your keys, card or snacks. The design of the shorts offer you a “hidden split short” which gives you full flexibility of a standard split short without the constant exposure.
The material is fitting and flattering, but it does not cling which helps reduce any potential for chafing. The Chaser shorts are incredibly comfortable with a standard brief insert, although you may want to round up when sizing as the brief is quite fitted.
What We Loved: The hidden split short cut gives you the best of both worlds.
Fit and Feel: Measured into a small and it is a good fit, although a medium may also work for a more relaxed fit.
Similar Products: Brooks Chaser 5″ + Brooks Chaser 7″
Under Armour Fly-By Shorts
The Under Armour Fly-By shorts are a pair of standard running shorts with a bit of everything — multiple pockets, comfortable mesh, sweat wicking material and reflective stripes. The Fly-By shorts offer a relaxed, loose fit with three pockets.
When you’re wearing the Fly-By shorts, the elastic waistband will stay in place. The shorts themselves fit comfortably and you will not need to wiggle the shorts or insert around, they just fit right the first time!
What We Loved: The relaxed fit that works for every adventure.
Fit and Feel: Measured into a small and it is a good fit for the relaxed design.
Similar Products: UA Speedpocket Short
Ultimate Direction Hydrolight Short
The Ultimate Direction Hydrolight Shorts are part of the new wearable line of gear created by Ultimate Direction to offer you clothes with hydration options. The waistband of these shorts have two pockets designed to hold a 300ml hard bottle…or a full handful of snacks. There is also a pouch pocket between these two bottle pockets for additional snacks or a light layer.
While filling these pockets will weigh down the shorts a bit, the shorts will still stay in place with help from a rigid waist adjuster belt that secures the shorts. The shorts do stay in place when they’re loaded up and secured; however, you may want to size up a bit when ordering the Hydrolight Shorts as the rigid waist adjuster does restrict the stretch of the shorts.
What We Loved: The extra pockets designed for water bottles offer up all the options!
Fit and Feel: Measured into a small, but the short has a rigid waist adjuster band that made a medium necessary — size up a bit to allow room to fit your hips into the shorts.
Similar Products: UD Hydro Skirt + UD Hydro Skin Short
Columbia Sportswear Sandy Trail Shorts
The Columbia Sportswear Sandy Trail shorts are created with Omni-Wick, a fast wicking material and Omni-Shade, a UV-protecting material. Combined together this creates a pair of shorts that provide protection without restricting your movement.
The Sandy Trail shorts have an elastic waistband and two full pockets on the front. While you’re wearing these shorts on the trails you’ll quickly notice how comfortable they are. However, they do not have any brief or short insert, so plan accordingly.
What We Loved: The comfortable fit and versatility of not having an insert.
Fit and Feel: Measured into a size small and it’s a great fit.
Patagonia Nine Trails Shorts
The Patagonia Nine Trail Shorts have a wide waistband that provides a comfortable fit with a side scoop on each leg for a wider range of motion. The shorts are made of a spandex blend that is coated with “durable water repellent” finish and an odor resistant brief insert.
Out on the trails you’ll find that the Patagonia Nine Trail shorts are comfortable and secure, no matter what you’re doing. The shorts themselves offer up a snug fit that provide a clean look and feel on your body whether you’re running, hiking or recovering.
What We Loved: The wide waistband and sleek fit.
Fit and Feel: Measured into a small and it is a good fit.
Similar Products: Strider Pro Running Shorts + Strider Running Shorts
Icebreaker Cool-Lite Impulse Training Shorts
The Icebreaker Cool-Lite Impulse Training Shorts are created with a permeable Pertex Quantum air nylon fabric on the exterior and a Cool-Lite liner. The nylon fabric provides breathability and comfort while the Cool-Lite liner compression shorts keep you comfortable in all temperatures.
The overall fit of the Cool-Lite Impulse shorts has you feeling secure and confident on the trail. Between the soft material and compression fit, you cannot go wrong with these shorts…all of which stay in place.
What We Loved: The soft, comfortable material on top of the compression shorts.
Fit and Feel: Measured into a small and it is a good fit.
Saucony Rush 3” Short
The Saucony Rush 3” is created with a lightweight, stretchy woven fabric. This allows them to provide you with moisture wicking features as well as great comfort. Add in the anti-microbial treatment and you have a solid pair of shorts ready to hit the trails.
The elastic waistband will keep the shorts in place whether you’re throwing down speedwork or roaming remote trails. The shorts are comfortable and an easy go-to for your gear wardrobe.
What We Loved: The relaxed, loose fit is great of all types of trail adventures.
Fit and Feel: Measured into a medium and it was a good, relaxed fit although a small would have been a bit more fitted in the hips.
Similar Products: Saucony Endorphin Split Short
The North Face Better Than Naked Short
The North Face Better Than Naked shorts are…well, better than naked. They’re designed for running with a breathable, lightweight material. They provide a comfortable mid-rise fit with a zippered pocket in the waistband.
While you’re wearing these shorts out on your adventure you’ll have plenty of flexibility. The shorts are designed to give you a lot of room to move while the waistband and liner brief are more fitted — a solid combination.
What We Loved: The balance of fitted and relaxed fits throughout the shorts that give you movement and comfort.
Fit and Feel: Measured into a medium and it is a comfortable fit in the waist and brief with plenty of room to move in the thigh.
Similar Products: North Face Ambition Short + North Face Motivation High Rise Pocket Shorts
Salomon XA Short
The Salomon XA shorts were designed with all trail conditions in mind, with their quick drying material, comfortable fit and array of pockets. The lightweight shorts are designed to do the work for you…at least when the work is all about carrying your hydration and nutrition.
You can easily tuck a hydration flask and/or snacks into the pouch pockets of the waistband. Even when you have these pockets in use, the shorts are secure enough to stay in place while you’re moving along the trails.
What We Loved: The wide waistband that fit quite high without restricting breathing or movement (it also has pockets for the essential snacks!).
Fit and Feel: Measured into a small and it is a good fit.
Similar Products: Agile Short + Agile Skort
When it comes to trail running shorts we each have our own criteria for “perfect,” but there is one thing we really need — comfort. Whether it’s in the moment or a few days later (hello chafing!) the comfort of a pair of shorts will determine if they get worn every day or only on laundry day. Each pair of shorts we reviewed have their own way of reaching the perfect level of comfort, we hope you find the one that is perfect for you!
|Arc’teryx Lyra||4”||Standard Brief|
|rabbit lady dukes||4” & 2.5”||Standard Brief|
|Title Nine Holy Grail||4”||Compression Shorts|
|Brooks Chaser||3”||Standard Brief|
|Under Armour Fly-By||3”||Standard Brief|
|UD Hydrolight Shorts||3”||Compression Shorts|
|Falke Tuxedo Short||3”||None|
|Columbia Sandy Trail||4”||None|
|Patagonia Nine Trail||4”||Standard Brief|
|Icebreaker Training||3”||Compression Shorts|
|Saucony Rush 3”||3”||Standard Brief|
|TNF Better Than Naked||3.5”||Standard Brief|
|Salomon XA Shorts||4”||Standard Brief|
I would have loved to see some options for us larger trail runners who need more coverage. What do you recommend for a longer (6+ inch) lycra running short?
We need some long Courtney approved shorts added to this list!
Agree ! I always laugh to myself that everyone trail runs in short short! Not this great grandma!
Like the thoroughness of the review and the variety of types, large number of brands. Also appreciate the real person photos contrasted with the mfr photos and the table with inseam and liner notes and sizing info. Comments on high/low waist (sit on hips/belly, comfort, how tight you need to tie a drawstring) are always welcome.
I miss the old (2014) TNF BTN shorts, not giving mine up – one zip (keys/key card and lip balm), two mesh pockets (1-2 gels or beans/chews), drawstring, split. I just gotta keep fitting into the ones I’ve got. They are my favorite lightweight racing and running shorts. (didn’t like the new waist when they changed it) Probably my favorite for carrying stuff in a heavier weight are the Oiselle pocket joggers. I use the Koala Clip case to carry my phone at the moment. Maybe in future could do a shorts/capris/tights roundup that’s all about the pockets! (Does it have a zip pocket for keys, how can you carry a phone of what size, how many gels, etc.)
I went to look at a couple of the shorts with pocket like waistbands (TNF, Salomon) that you linked to. They (esp TNF Motivation High Rise) remind me a bit of Raeswear shorts (whole waistband is pocket) that I used for some races in 14-15, small women-owned business, great customer service, even made me a pair in a custom longer length at a reasonable price. (I’m not affiliate or anything, and I haven’t worn the shorts in a while, just mentioning.)