It’s not easy to find a pair of good-fitting running shorts for women, which tick both the comfort as well as practicality box. Then, you’ve got to consider sizing, length, pockets, material, style… it’s a minefield! If you’re keen to level up your performance and the spec of your gear, then there’s some brilliant women’s running shorts out there, and we’ve been testing the best of the bunch.
So, let’s take it back to basics. Above all, we want a pair of running shorts that will fit us well. There's more to consider here than for men's running shorts. For those women who are prone to the dreaded thigh chafe, length is a key consideration here.
You may want to look for a 2in1 pair of running shorts, or some that’ll sit snug to the skin and provide a protective layer between the legs as you run. Grab a tape-measure and decide the length of in-step on yourself that would work for your needs and style preferences (tip: you’ll likely want 4” inseam minimum).
Once that’s out of the way, you need to consider what style you like best. If you’re prone to overheating and hate anything tight-fitting, there’s plenty of options in this article which offer a loose fit for maximum ventilation, and even some verging on baggy. Only once you've found the perfect pair of running shorts, should you worry about other gear like lightweight running tops, good running base layers, and of course, running leggings for the colder months.
Montane Slipstream Twin Skin Shorts Women’s – Best in Test
Fohn Trail Women’s Lightweight Short – Best Value
Dryad Eido – Best for Sustainability
Rab Women’s Talus Trail Light Shorts – Best for hot weather
Rab Women’s Talus Ultra Shorts – Recommended for 2in1
On Running Essentials Shorts Women’s – Best for a run/hike versatility
Inov-8 Trailfly Ultra 3” 2in1 Short Women’s – Recommended
Ronhill Tech Distance Twin Short- Recommended
Icebreaker Women’s Zoneknit Merino Shorts – Recommended
Don’t forget to take note of what features you’ll need in a pair of running shorts. Maybe you like to be minimal, but some sort of pocket capacity always comes in handy, even if it is just a tiny pouch for your keys. Also think about whether you’d like a secure phone pocket, zip pocket for valuables, or maybe even gel loops for race purposes. This article will show you a range of shorts with all of the above.
Lastly, but by no means least important, pay keen attention to the materials used and their sustainability. These days, whether running kit is made from and by eco-friendly materials and practices is an important consideration if we want to make a collective move away from fast-fashion, and towards supporting good-quality and long-lasting running gear that can really be relied upon on the trails.
Best women's running shorts
When it comes to feeling most at home in a pair of women's running shorts, the Slipstream Twin
- Extremely comfortable
- Fits well with good coverage
- Plenty of pocket options
- Non-bounce phone pouch
- A touch heavier and less breathable than others here
A great pick for those who prioritise their shorts being lightweight and short, these trail
- Lightweight and breathable
- Soft and comfortable
- High waistband
- Affordable price
- Could feel too short/not provide enough coverage for some
Dryad is a community-driven sportswear company based in Wales, with a focus on providing
- Sustainably produced using recycled materials
- Comfortable and supportive high waist
- Plenty of pocket capacity
- No zip pocket for peace of mind
The lightest pair of running shorts on test by quite a stretch at 77g, the Rab Talus Trail Light
- Super lightweight and breathable
- Plenty of pocket capacity
- Nice style and design
- Not long enough to prevent thigh chafe
The Rab Talus Ultra Shorts have a similar look and build to Rab’s Talus Trail Light Short (see
- Good coverage while remaining breathable
- Comfortable materials and waistband
- Could do with more secure pockets
These On Running Essentials Shorts are a simple pair of workout shorts that perform best over
- Run shorts which also double-up as walking/everyday shorts
- Secure key pocket
- Stylish and comfy, relaxed fit
- Two main pockets not secure for running
The Inov-8 Trailfly Ultra 3" shorts are a pair of short running shorts made for longer distances,
- Good-quality materials and build
- Decent pocket capacity
- Thick fabric not very breathable
- Sizing runs a bit small
If you love standing out from the crowd and wearing bright and bold colours, then the Ronhill Tech
- Very aerated and breathable
- Two side phone pockets
- Long inseam for coverage
- Highly visible
- Colourways may not be to everyone's taste
- Front loops too loose to secure one gel
The Icebreaker Zoneknit Shorts stand out from the crowd with their use of the naturally breathable
- Supremely soft material
- Made from merino wool
- Feels lightweight
- Sizing runs a bit small
- Not loads of pocket options
- Less affordable than others
What to look for in women’s running shorts
Length: What length you go for in running shorts will depend on your personal comfort preference and style. Shorter ones should feel less hot and heavy, especially if they’re not skin-tight. Longer shorts will help prevent thigh chafe, as well as provide more coverage and protection from the elements.
Material: Trail running shorts are typically made of lightweight, breathable, and moisture-wicking fabrics such as polyester or nylon blends. These materials help keep you dry and comfortable during your runs.
Inner liner/brief: Many trail running shorts have an inner liner made of a stretchy and moisture-wicking material like mesh or synthetic fabric. The liner helps provide support and prevents chafing by reducing friction between your thighs.
Outer shell: For those 2in1 shorts with a lining will have an outer shell, which will be designed to be abrasion-resistant and lightweight. It may have features like reinforced stitching or panels in high-wear areas to enhance durability.
Pockets: Most running shorts will have pockets to store small essentials like keys, energy gels, or a smartphone. These pockets can be located on the sides, back, or even integrated into the waistband. If you’re one to run with your phone, look for large thigh pockets or secure waistband ones.
Adjustable waistband: Most trail running shorts feature an elastic or drawstring waistband that allows you to adjust the fit according to your preference. This helps keep them secure and comfortable while running.
Ventilation: Trail running shorts often incorporate mesh panels or vents in strategic areas to promote airflow and improve ventilation. This helps regulate body temperature and prevents overheating during intense workouts.