When it comes to women’s running shorts it may (or may not) surprise you that there are really only a few running apparel brands out there making truly great running shorts for women that we rate highly enough to make it onto this list!
Getting a great pair of running shorts that fit you well, stay comfortable and dry with no chafing or riding up while you run the miles on pavement or trails can be a challenge – but don’t worry, that’s why I’m here!
In this guide to the best running shorts for women I’m highlighting a selection of excellent shorts brands and styles that are up to it, whether you run 5ks or 50ks, on roads or trails.
My testing environment for these running shorts
Here at Trail & Kale we’re passionate about testing and reviewing the very best in running gear, and that includes the quest to find the best products that make it onto our running gear buyer’s guides.
I run and test out running shorts, shoes and other gear on the pavements and trails around our local mountains here in Northern California.
I can usually be found cruising our local bike/running paths, working on my speed, and endurance training, and making notes on the pros and cons of the gear I’m reviewing along the way.
The feature requirements to make it onto this ‘best running shorts’ list
This list of the best women’s running shorts includes shorts that are suitable for both road and trail running, so there’s a pair for you on this list whether you enjoy jogging, 5km races, mountain running, marathon racing, or even trail ultramarathons.
When it comes to price, you will not find any budget, or cheap running shorts on this list as in my experience when you pay any less than $30 for a pair of running shorts you get what you pay for – and that’s something that’s not very comfortable, rides up, chafes, lacks durability or simply looks unflattering.
Expect to pay in the region of $60+ for a great pair of running shorts that will fit well and last for a long time.
While compiling this list of the best running shorts for women there are a few key feature requirements for these running shorts that needed to be met in order for them to be worthy of making it onto this list.
Feature requirements include, but are not limited to:
Like all great running gear, your shorts must be made from lightweight, breathable, sweat-wicking material – which is generally either synthetic, wool, or a blend of the two.
Women’s running shorts generally fall into one of two fit types, that is either loose-fitting or tight-fitting.
Any loose-fitting shorts must have a breathable, sweat-wicking, odor neutralizing built-in liner. The liner may be underwear-sized, or it may be more like a pair of under-shorts that sit under a looser top layer. They’re sometimes called 2 in 1, or lined shorts.
You shouldn’t need to wear any other underwear under these running shorts (this is a recipe for crotch chafing – ouch!).
Tight-fitting shorts, which are sometimes referred to as cycling or bike shorts, should also be comfortable without needing underwear and feature gripper strips to hold the bottom of the shorts down and prevent them from riding or rolling up as you run.
Tighter shorts should offer a degree of light compression, which can help with upper leg and glute stability on longer, tougher runs.
The fit should also be flattering. While this is of less importance than other features, it’s possible to have it all and don’t settle for less. Never underestimate the difference a well-fitting, comfortable running outfit makes you feel about your run and general motivation to get those miles in.
Shorts must have storage pockets, either on the outside or attached to the liner. Ideally this should include at least one secure zippered pocket for valuables such as your phone, key or credit card.
That being said, pockets may be of lesser importance to you if you always run with a running belt or hydration pack.
They must have a soft, wide waistband and comfortable adjustment mechanism around the waist. This means no constricting, and conversely no riding up or moving around as you run for long periods of time.
Some great running shorts brands have waistband rise (height) options to choose from depending on your preference and body shape, too.
Getting a great fitting waistband at the right height will help you feel comfortable and prevent fit issues such as the classic ‘muffin-top’.
Must have a mid-range inseam option. Most people are going to be happiest running in shorts with an inseam of between 5 and 7 inches, although shorter or longer inseams may suit some women better so I have included shorts on this list that come with longer or shorter inseams, too.
I personally prefer slightly longer inseams, as will many women who have had past issues with their thighs touching and rubbing together at the top, which is a cause of painful skin chafing. I find that having a longer inseam helps prevent chafing.
Some may also prefer it for more skin coverage, which can help reduce the surface area you need to apply sunscreen to for those hot summer runs when the UV index is high!
For tight-fitting bike-style shorts I like them longer (between 7 and 9 inches) as they don’t tend to ride up my thighs like shorter versions can do.
The Best Running Shorts For Women
Lululemon Speed Up Shorts – The Best Women’s Lined Running Shorts
- Pockets: Rear zippered pocket, front gel pockets
- Inseam length(s): 4″, 2.5″
- Cost: $68
- Sizes: 0 to 14
These Speed Up shorts are great for running anything from a quick neighborhood loop to the toughest trail marathon and 50k races.
Why? Firstly, they’re available in high, mid, and low rise waist, and 4 or 2.5 inch length. My personal choice is the mid-rise, 4 inch length, which provides a comfortable, flattering fit.
Combine that with a wide waistband, soft, 4-way stretch quick-drying material and several pockets including a low back zippered pocket for essentials, and you have pretty much the perfect women’s running shorts.
They’re exceptionally well-made (as you would expect from such a premium brand like lululemon), well-designed and come in a range of colors (including black, of course, as well as brights).
Lululemon also sells other great running shorts – visit our guide to the best Lululemon women’s running shorts for more details on those.
Rabbit Dirt Pounders 2.0
- Pockets: Rear zippered pocket, 2x side trash pockets, 2x front waist pockets
- Inseam length(s): 4″
- Cost: $68
- Sizes: XS to XL
With a 4″ inseam, plenty of pockets for your must-haves and split legs for freedom of movement, Rabbit’s Dirt Pounders 2.0 women’s running shorts are designed for trail running and are super comfortable for many miles on the trails or roads.
The mid-rise waist, wide waistband and brief liner all contribute to a comfortable, chafe-free run, every time.
Brooks Chaser 5″ 2-In-1 Short – Double Layer Short
- Pockets: 5, including a rear one to fit your phone
- Inseam length(s): 5″
- Cost: $72
- Sizes: XS to XXL
If you prefer the idea of a longer liner in a shorts-style rather than bikini-brief style, then the Brooks Chaser 2 in 1 women’s running shorts are a great choice.
They’re available in a wide range of sizes and variety of colors, including, of course, black.
Brooks also makes their Chaser Shorts with brief liners rather than short liners, in 3″, 5″ and 7″ lengths.
REI Co-op Swiftland running shorts
- Pockets: Rear zippered pocket, 1 internal key pocket and 2x waistband pockets
- Inseam length(s): 3″ or 5″
- Cost: $59.95
- Sizes: XS to 3X
Available in a wide range of sizes through to 3X and several great color options, REI’s women’s Swiftland running shorts are one item in a whole range of road and trail-running apparel launched by REI in recent years.
The Swiftland shorts are soft, lightweight, and in my experience stay put without riding up, making them a great option for running as well as the gym, hiking and other sweaty activities.
Ultimate Direction Women’s Velum Short – Short 2.5″ Inseam
- Pockets: 360 degree pocket
- Inseam length(s): 2.5″
- Cost: $59.95
- Sizes: XS to XL
The Velum running short from Ultimate Direction is built for ultimate freedom of movement, with side splits and a lightweight, breathable material with an anti-chafe hem.
It also features a 360 degree pocket for small essentials including your phone.
Oiselle Pocket Jogger Shorts – Tight Fitting Women’s Running Shorts
- Pockets: 5 including rear zipper and drop-in thigh pockets
- Inseam length(s): 5.25″, 7″, 8.25″
- Cost: $66
- Sizes: 2 to 14, 16/18, 20/22, 24/26
If you want the ultimate in anti-chafe running shorts with a choice of lengths for coverage options, then Oiselle’s Pocket Jogger Shorts are IT!
These tight-fitting bike style shorts are available in 3 lengths, and each version comes with 5 pockets that hold your stuff secure without jiggle. My personal favorite length is the 7″ ‘mid length’ pocket jogger shorts.
I hope you found this post helpful in your quest to find the best women’s running shorts for you.
If you’re gearing up for running, or on the hunt for more great new women’s running gear, also check out our guide to the best sports bras for running, running hydration packs and, of course, road running and trail running shoes.