Tips to Choosing The Best Women's Running Shorts

woman running on beach cliff
Women’s running shorts are a particularly sought-after segment of women’s activewear because of the direct impact they can have on running performance. Runners need to have adequate clothing coverage, sufficient wicking away of any sweat and moisture, and minimal restriction of their movement.

Because each runner's body is slightly different, meeting these objectives looks a bit different for each individual runner. There are a few features of running shorts that are worth considering as you select a pair, so that you can make the best choice for your body and gait.

Womens running shorts are specially designed to fit over a woman's hips and thighs, leaving a bit more room for curves. Different features of women's running shorts cater to personal preference and running style.

Running Shorts Fabric

A wide range of fabric options are available for women's running shorts. Overall, these can be classified as either natural or synthetic fibers. Some runners prefer the feel of natural fibers, their sustainability, and their potential for antibacterial properties. Other runners prefer synthetic fibers for their ability to wick moisture away while remaining lightweight and durable.

While considering material, it is worth thinking about color and visibility. Many running shorts even have built-in reflectors that help provide safety features for running in low-light settings.

Running Shorts Length

Every runner has their own preference for length. Longer shorts may provide more support at the expense of airflow; shorter shorts provide greater ease of movement, but may leave runners more exposed than they would like.

Generally, for running on roads or shorter trails, short shorts of less than five inches in length tend to be preferred. Longer distances on roads or trails can make longer shorts more attractive, because they can protect runners from the sun or cold, as well as provide more leg support if an inner short is worn.

The length of shorts is usually expressed in terms of inseam length, or the distance between the crotch and the end of the leg of the short.

Liners vs. Liner-free vs. Compression Shorts

Some runners opt for running shorts with liners instead of wearing underwear, and make the most of a light set-up that still retains moisture-wicking functionality. Other runners prefer to run in liner-free shorts, just because they find liners to be uncomfortable. Still others choose compression shorts under their running shorts, because they can provide muscle support while also preventing chafing.

Some shorts are referred to as "2-n-1 shorts"; these have an outer shell and a fitted inner liner. This inner liner is moisture-wicking and snug, while the outer liner provides coverage while also maximizing air flow.

On the other end of the spectrum is the fitted short, which are made of a stretchy fabric that hugs the hips and thighs. High performance runners often opt for these shorts because they provide free range of movement while also maximizing support and chafe prevention.

Split Running Shorts

Womens running shorts are available with a split on the side, where overlapping fabric is not fully sewn on the sides; these shorts can be fully open from the waistband down, or else remain unsewn for an inch or less. The extent of the split is a matter of personal preference, affecting air flow and freedom of movement.

Running Shorts with Pockets

Many runners bristle at the thought of carrying anything in their pockets because it could slow them down. But particularly with any high waisted running shorts, it could be relatively easy for there to be a hidden pocket in the shorts, particularly along the waistband, that is small yet adequate for carrying a key (or even a phone).

The Waistband

We touched upon the waistband already, but it is an important enough consideration to warrant its own section. Waistbands should be selected to fit securely and hold shorts in place without introducing friction. Wider bands made of stretchy fabric are often considered preferable, but many runners prefer a thin waistband for minimal coverage. Some running shorts even come with a drawcord built into the waistband, for a snug fit on every run.

Once you have thought through your individual preferences, selecting the perfect womens running shorts becomes a little easier.

Always try on your shorts before committing, and always stay aware of the impact your clothing has on your running. The options to optimize are infinite, particularly as women's activewear continues to innovate on everything from design through material.

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